A former colleague was once asked by a journalist, “When’s the best time to hire?” They replied, “When you need to hire someone.”
Their answer didn’t make it into the article about the best part of the year to recruit IT Project talent.
While this may have been an unsatisfactory answer for the journalist looking to fill column inches, you cannot argue with the logic. Yes, there are hiring seasons and solid reasons behind these seasonal recruitment trends but, ultimately, the best time to recruit a Business Analyst is when you have identified the need for a BA and the best time to recruit an IT Project Manager is when you need a PM!
The consensus is that January is ‘the best time to hire’. The start of the year does see a spike in job opportunities and available candidates. Sure, individuals make resolutions to change their career paths and business leaders get their new budgets, but if you need a Project Manager in July, imagine the state your projects would be in if you waited six months for this ‘perfect hiring time’ to come round.
Actually, a business I work with gets great results by recruiting IT Project talent in February and March. To be honest, in their case, it’s more luck than judgement, their financial year happens to start in March. It’s working for them though and they are convinced that candidates looking for a new gig in February or March are the ones who decided to move on at Christmas, made a New Year resolution, but out of loyalty gave their old gig the benefit of the doubt and another chance through January. As the CIO puts it, “It can get stressful here, we need people who’ll stick it out ‘another month’ and help us make things right rather than jumping ship at the first sign of a challenge”.
There is a more scientific reason why this time of year works well for hiring IT Project talent.
Notice periods and negotiations!
Imagine your perfect candidate has decided to move on. They’ve arrived back at work after the Christmas break and want to make a career change in the New Year. Spending time with friends and family crystallises determination to look for a new gig, so the first week of the year is when many people find themselves making good on their resolutions.
They go back into work early January and hand in their notice. Usually, one of two things happen then. Either;
The resignation is accepted, and the notice period starts. Sometimes that notice period is a month, more often we see three months so, in this case, your ideal candidate won’t be available until April.
Or more likely, if they’re worth keeping, their manager will seek to retain them. A negotiation will begin, more money will be offered, better conditions, more responsibility, a promotion, etc, etc.
January, February, March, April – The Perfect IT Project Talent Hiring Season?
So, January is a great time to attract talent whose resignations were accepted without challenge and candidates who waited to receive their December bonus before handing in their notice.
February and March (and April too) are great months for attracting candidates whose previous employers really tried to hold on to their services. In other words, NOW is the time to attract someone really rated by their last gig!
But as my colleague said to that journalist, the best time to recruit - is when you need to.
Whether you’re recruiting in January, March or December, the real secret is to make this the best time for hiring and there are things that you can do to make sure that you attract the best candidates. Here are just five …
1 - Avoid copy pasted or generic job descriptions, specs and recruitment ads
Especially in months that are perceived to be ‘less good’ for recruitment, lots of project manager vacancy ads seem to be copied/pasted from previous recruitment drives – either the company’s own, a competitor’s or from a recruitment firm’s! Or even worse, I saw one this year that looked so generic in nature that I can only assume it had been copied out of a project manager training textbook. What a great way to not make your opportunity stand out from the crowd!!!
2 - First step in recruitment – be clear who you really need
Did you ever go to the supermarket without a shopping list? I do it all the time and I usually come back having spent way more than I should, with a vague sense of disappointment in my purchases … and far too many chocolate biscuits!
Be specific! While it is true that every project manager I know could probably manage any IT Project I’ve encountered, some are more naturally suited to certain types of project. They’re human, they enjoy them more. When you take time to describe aspects and details of the actual project or your portfolio you stand a greater chance of attracting talent best suited to them. Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who enjoys that type of project to lead your team?!
3 - Ensure the application process sells what a great place to work yours is!
Don’t ask essay questions – discuss.
A candidate we placed recently was telling a colleague about an application process that he’d started with a large corporation where the online form was littered with essay type questions. “In no more than 500 words, describe a time when you led project planning, execution, delivery and end-user training”, “In 500 words or less, what makes you a great leader” and “In no more than 500 words what makes you unique as a project leader”.
These are great interview questions, but in an online application form you run the risk of putting candidates off. Remember, it’s a candidate-driven market, your next perfect hire is probably looking at a number of opportunities right now – don’t make yours feel like they’re back at school. This candidate wrote “Happy to discuss this in an interview but not in an online application form”.
This is a dramatic example, and rare, but a worthwhile reminder that the whole process from job ad to application to interview should demonstrate what a great place to work yours is.
4 - Specialist IT project recruiters are the best at recruiting specialist IT project talent.
Who knew? I mean, I would say this, wouldn’t I? The thing is though, we’ve been there! Access Talent was created out of the frustration felt by our sister company! Stoneseed, the IT project services, was getting increasingly poor returns from recruitment drives with traditional partners. The talent was out there but the recruiters weren’t attracting them, and the same tired CVs kept looping around.
Reach and speed are two key elements you want – ask your recruitment partner to describe how well they can deliver against these pretty basic hiring metrics and if their answer is a bit vague - move on!
At Access Talent we maintain ongoing contact with previously interviewed and placed talent, pride ourselves on knowing where talent is ‘hanging out’ and have innovative and creative ways to target passive talent (your next perfect hire might not even know they’re looking for a new gig).
5 - Subject matter expertise attracts subject matter experts
There are few things more attractive to a candidate than talking with ‘someone who speaks my language’ in the interview process. Conversely, there are few greater turn-offs than coming away from an interview feeling flat and that you may as well just have interviewed to be a cleaner or delivery driver, given the amount of empathy the interviewer or panel had for the role you were up for.
The input of subject matter experts (SMEs) in your hiring process will attract more SMEs. Like attracts like. If you have an SME in-house rope them in, have them help craft job descriptions, ads and consider making them part of your interviewing panel. If you don’t have an SME and are using a recruitment partner – insist your recruitment partner uses SMEs and peer profiling techniques!
In conclusion, the takeaway from all of this is that February, March and April are actually great hiring months for IT Project talent … because whatever time of year you’re entering the market, there are things that you can do to stack fortune in your favour. Find out more at accesstalent.co.uk or call Access Talent on 01623 888466 to discuss your IT Project Recruitment needs
3 Innovate Mews, Lake View Drive, Sherwood Park, Nottingham, NG15 0EA
Phone: 01623 888466