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Don’t Be SAD: How Recruiters Beat Holiday Recruiting Blues

SAD About Holiday Recruiting?

Here’s Something to be Jolly About

For recruiters and job seekers both, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be exacerbated by the Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day holiday season. A depression brought on by the change of seasons, SAD most often appears during the fall and winter, when days are shorter and sunshine scarcer. For those alone and out of work, the holidays can be an especially lonely, stressful time. For recruiters with urgent jobs to fill, it often seems the worst time of year.

What’s the Holiday Hiring Problem?

Recruiters face three obstacles:

  1. Many job seekers take a job-hunt hiatus, to travel for family gatherings;
  2. Hiring managers and other decision-makers are out on holiday break;
  3. The greatest obstacle, however, is a large number of candidates who don’t search for jobs because they’ve been told that employers aren’t hiring during the holidays.

If you can surmount these obstacles, however, the holidays can be your best-ever hiring season. It’s the ideal time to engage warmly, even humorously, with active and passive candidates, and a great opportunity to showcase your diversity emphasis.

Tech recruiters, who typically focus on May, June and July recruitment of spring graduates and have, by far, the steepest uphill recruiting climb, shouldn’t despair of finding holiday hires, either. Key points to remember: Most employees in technical positions are not full-time graduates. While you probably can’t rearrange hiring manager vacations, you can bring reluctant and vacationing job seekers into your hiring fold during the holiday season. Should your technical recruiters be the vacationing decision makers, you might turn to recruitment services such as eTeki, which offers industry experts as savvy video-interview stand ins.  Passive candidates are especially ripe prospects. Many will have easier workloads, with supervisors away from the office. They’re likely to respond quickly to an intriguing career contact without waiting until break time.

Here, then, are Ideas “yule” find helpful in stuffing your stockings with quality candidates.


Ramp up your mobile application. Prospective candidates in airports, train terminals, and bus stations will be glued to their smartphones, with time to kill. Intrigue them with the right “jolly ol’” message, complete with or gruesome grinch caricature or romping reindeer, and you’ll likely get an application.

Hiring for a tech position or one requiring critical thinking and problem-solving skills? Invite candidates to create a seasonal avatar and screen name, solve a holiday-themed puzzle, and be recognized, rated and even rewarded in an online community of competitors.

Whether an app or mobile-optimized career site, make the application succinct, with no more than 5 pre-selection questions, and easy resume upload.   Remember, 85 percent of job candidates search openings on their smartphone, and their number one complaint is the cumbersome process. Don’t drive them to your job post only to have them be one of the 60 percent that drops off midway because it was too lengthy or too difficult. Consider bypassing the resume request, and opt instead for a link to their LinkedIn or GitHub profile. Automate a confirmation, inviting the candidate to an immediate one-way on-demand video interview, with the opportunity to schedule for later if they’re about to board, or the background is bedlam. Include a faith-agnostic holiday greeting and easy redirect to employee day-in-the-life videos.  Better yet, get those employees to do their holiday garb, the funnier the better.

Ask for text opt-in, to provide scheduled status updates. CareerBuilder was told by 81 percent of the 5,000 U.S. and Canadian job seekers that took part in its Candidate Experience Study that continual communication of status updates would do much to Improve their application experience and attitude towards the employer. Ready to invite to a live interview? Automate the scheduling, and then text the confirmation.

A traveling job seeker who applies in O’Hare Airport’s Gate A-23 waiting room, records her one-way video interview while waiting to board, gets a warm holiday greeting and invitation to live interview while visiting mom and dad in Trenton, and can schedule that interview when vacation is over, is far less likely to be wooed by others during this same time frame. He is also far more likely to share the pleasant hiring event with friends, family, and other prospective candidates.

Consider a scheduler prompt that says something like “About to board that plane, start that road trip? Have a great holiday. Click here to let us know when you’ll be back to talk.  We too might have a gift for you!”

Be of Good Cheer

Everything you do to connect with prospective candidates should be holiday themed, with variation to take in all major holidays, starting with Thanksgiving. Remember, this is an opportunity to be diverse! Beyond Christmas, December celebrations include the Mexican Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe; the Swedish St. Lucia Day; Hanukkah, a Jewish celebration; Boxing Day in Canada and Australia; the African-American Kwanzaa; Omisoka, a Japanese festivity; and the two pagan feasts of Yule and Saturnalia. You might post socially to commemorate and explain each, and even include with your pre-screen or one-way on-demand video interview a tongue-in-cheek’ request for “holiday horror story” or “worst gift ever.”  It would send a message that you’re a fun group of folks and provide feedback on the candidate’s originality and personality.

Giftwrap your job posts! Include, with automated confirmation of successful pre-screen, a gift wrapped box which, when clicked, gives them their choice of free Udemy course, or online subscription. Tech opening? Offer “Upgrading your C++ skills class” or a three-month subscription to Wired. Hiring an RN? Perhaps the latest white paper on telemedicine or a digital copy of Davis’ Drug Guide for Nurses.

For a subtler approach, turn this on its head a bit, making the offer the primary approach: “Unwrap our gift to you.” Highlight the class or subscription, but include an announcement that you’re hiring, and one-click to the application and/or social share. Your own paid Webinars or podcasts might make great cost-free gifts, or you might approach sites, publishers, online tutors, Fiverr entrepreneurs, and so forth, about a bulk discount to you for their opportunity to market themselves to your candidates.  

Remote-jobs online marketplace leader FlexJobs put together a simple but emulatable online holiday contest, to engage non-subscribers.   

“For our November contest, we want to know what your holiday job search plan looks like,” the FlexJobs folks posted. “Leave a comment with your ideas for keeping your job search on track during the holidays, and you might win this month’s prize!”

Rather than making it about the best comment, they held a random draw of publicly-posted entries, with the five picks winning a free one-month FlexJobs subscription.

Your career site and talent community, your social profiles, even your company home page, would be great places to promote something similar.  You might also gather entries at the mall, as part of the promotion we mention below. The prize might be your own product or something valued by job seekers, such as business card printing, resume makeover, or one-hour career-coach session. Offer as many prizes as your budget allows.  

Take to the local mall, with holiday-themed sandwich boards announcing your openings. As shoppers rack up credit card bills, in the back of their mind might be thoughts of paying them after the holidays. These promoters could have a grab bag of holiday trivia questions which, when answered correctly (so easy they’re laughable), qualifies the contestant to step into the nearby privacy booth to apply, and perhaps be redirected to their one-way video job interview.

Laugh it up

Host a “holiday horror story” or “ugliest holiday sweater” contest on your talent community, mobile job apply app, and career website, and include a link to the contest with every job announcement. Give every registered site member a vote, including your current employees, and let them get to know each other. Draw the contest out, narrowing down the contestants a la American Idol. Even more amusing would be a singing application, to the tune of their favorite holiday song. You will, of course, assure them that “No, your application won’t be withdrawn if you can’t carry a tune.”

Rewards for best (maybe top ten) song, story or sweater? Invitation to the company holiday party. If the timing is not quite right, throw an after-holiday or Super Bowl party. Don’t make it about those who qualified to move forward with their application for this particular job. Focus instead on creating your candidate and referrer database, for this or future openings. Even passive candidates will see this as a super opportunity to mingle with your staff and management in a non-threatening environment. Remember, too, that your current employees are likely your best cheerleaders. What better way to introduce your great firm to prospective candidates than having them party with your staff?

Focus your holiday recruiting on giving gifts of information, career help, humor, and warm invitations to your company family, and your seasonal recruitment will be far less SAD.