Is it possible to find work in off-peak season?


By Alla Panasenko

Comments by Dmitry Larin, Head of Recruitment and Outplacement at Intercomp

Finding a suitable job can sometimes take an inordinate amount of time. What’s amiss? People often wonder, polishing for the hundredth times an already flawless resume, as they are indeed at a loss when this occurs. Often, though, it takes a long time to find suitable work because applicants are job hunting in off-peak seasons.

Dmitry Larin
Head of Recruitment and Outplacement at Intercomp

Off-peak and peak periods

The lull or off-peak season usually starts in December-January so a lot of people are in no hurry to resign before the New Year. First, most Russian companies are busy wrapping-up the year and fulfil annual plans left “up in the air” in the previous months. Second, a lot of time is devoted to the preparation of corporate parties, and everybody is looking forward to the holidays so it is difficult to allocate any time to the recruitment of new employees during the flurry of activity before the holiday season.

New Year bonuses such as, for example, a thirteenth-month salary, additional benefits or gifts are other reasons for people not to hurry to resign at this time of the year.

“If an employee needs to choose when to terminate his employment either at the end of the year or after the holiday season, it would make more sense to work at least until mid-January. The labor market recovers only in March so it would be preferable to plan a change of job in the spring” notes Svetlana Beloded, head of HR department at QBF.

Some people will be unpleasantly surprised after the holiday season as they might be dismissed and, alas, it will not be up to them.

“Some specialists will be compelled to join unwillingly the ranks of job applicants at the beginning of the year on the back of a wave of layoffs that traditionally occur in the second half of January. Companies review the results of the year in December, and if financial indicators are not as good as anticipated, company executives may decide to reduce staff. I know of one instance where employees were told about their dismissal at their New Year’s corporate party” adds Svetlana Beloded.

According to Alexander Shcherbakov, professor of the Department of Labor and Social Policy at the Institute of State Service and Management of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, jobs are actively created in February-March, as well as in the autumn when the summer holidays are over (the period from July to August is also deemed to be an off-peak period).

However, Alexander also emphasizes that the distinction between peak and off-peak season is provisional as there is, for example, no lull in industries with continuous production cycle.

“The sales volume in steel and chemical industries practically does not change so seasonal variations are less likely” explains Alexander Shcherbakov.

Exceptions to the rule

It is sometimes possible to find a good job even in off-peak season, and the lucky ones can then boast about their successful interview that got them hired.

“The financial year in international companies does not coincide with the calendar year and usually ends in March-April. However, if the financial year ends in December, this may be an incentive for recruiters to “introduce” a new employee in December, thus closing any open vacancy in the outgoing year. This allows not carrying over the budget allocated to recruitment in the current year to the next” comments Olga Lokshinskaya, senior recruitment consultant at HR holding ANCHOR.

Dmitry Larin, head of recruitment and outplacement at Intercomp, considers that an active job seeker will find work in any period, and that the concept of off-peak season was invented by people inclined to justify their procrastination.

“The labor market is always in flux: people are looking for new career opportunities and leave permanent jobs for interesting projects and prospects after hearing the proposals made by headhunters even if they are not looking to change job. In addition, employees retire or take maternity leave in peak as well as in off-peak season. Employers also change structures and seek to hire more efficient employees” says Dmitry Larin.

Dmitry also notes that the question of expansion of staff and of start-up companies has not often been raised in recent years.

“But this is a general trend for almost all industries except IT, which continues developing, and even the pharmaceutical industry, which has always hired a lot of people, has slightly moderated its appetite. In any case, 2014-2015 are now very far from the sharp decline that occurred in the labor market in 2008-2009. Companies from most industries reported budget fulfilment in 2017, and further optimization was rarely mentioned. When hiring, employers base their decision more on specific tasks than seasons” comments Dmitry Larin.

Advice to job seekers

Olga Lokshinskaya, senior recruitment consultant at HR holding ANCHOR

Few job seekers start looking for a job in off-peak season as they understand that recruitment in companies is almost completely “frozen” until the end of January. It is important to understand that no new positions are created from mid-December to mid-January, while recruitment for already existing positions slows down (interviews and final hiring decisions are postponed in most cases).

Applicants, who still want to find a job in off-peak season, should lower their salary expectations and be prepared for a limited choice of positions. Even if successful, they risk to lose out to more interesting and better offer that will probably be available when full activity resumes.

Talking about the current economic situation as a whole, the beginning of a certain revival was noted on the labor market in 2017: candidates became bolder, and there were more proposals. We are seeing more and more candidates boldly accepting risky job offers from small companies and startups, while successful highly qualified professionals seeking a new job can choose offers from two or three employers.

Svetlana Beloded, head of HR department at QBF

Today, even experienced job applicants will need three to four months – and sometimes six months or more – to find a suitable job. As a rule, highly qualified professionals attempt to find a company offering optimal working conditions before resigning.

Dmitry Larin, head of recruitment and outplacement at Intercomp

It is typical for most industries to experience a certain lull in hiring over the periods January-February and July-August, but this does not mean that it is impossible to find a new job at that time. Depending on the industry, hiring at the beginning of the year, during the vacation season as well as during industry-specific periods may be 10% to 40% lower than in peak season (seasonality is, for example, slightly more pronounced in retail, auto, and hospitality, and less so in IT, telecom, and banking). So, although there are fewer opportunities, there is also less competition as most job seekers also kick back after the New Year and summer holidays.

It follows that reviewing what’s on offer on the labor market or purposefully seeking a new job may and should be done even in off-peak season when there is both more energy and time to do so. You snooze, you lose. So, as in any case, the main thing when looking for a new job is to start, and understand that this is a full-time occupation in itself requiring both time, energy and skills.