Closing, Closing, Closing; Pushing a Hire at Year’s End

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By Tom Barnes – Managing Partner, San Francisco –

On reflecting back over the last 14 years of being in the senior recruitment business, we have seen assignment completion rates to be almost double in December than in the mean average of any other month in the calendar.  It seems important, psychologically and organizationally, to get things to happen before we sing Auld Lang Syne and stumble into the next year.  Does this somewhat artificial divide focus our collective minds to get loose ends tied up in a satisfying and sensible manner or does this haste sometimes drive us to decisions that we might yet regret?

There is no doubt that knowing where one will be turning up for work at the start of the New Year gives a sense of calm and accomplishment as one goes into the holiday break, just as there is no doubt that one’s new company will feel that there is something ordered and sane about starting new executives fresh in the New Year.  That said, I have had numerous conversations this past week with Chairpeople, CEOs, Chief People Officers, and assorted CXOs, posing the question:  

“Has haste for getting a new recruit locked in, before the holiday break and end of year, ever led to a hire that you otherwise might not have made and, in turn, ended up going badly?” 

Of twenty four such questions being posed, the answer came back in the affirmative only once.  Anecdotally, this seems like really good news.

However, it seems to me that we are currently in a candidate’s marketplace and that the demand for the right leadership outstrips the supply of it.  This tends to put the candidate in the driver’s seat and we are certainly seeing package levels inch steadily up.  The motivation to get deals closed by the end of the year only exacerbates that further.  Indeed, we have seen a distinct uptick in package numbers in December for the last 3 years, when compared with similar roles across the other months.

Therefore, I would strongly advise, wherever possible, to not make the aforementioned end of year motivation too clear to the candidate or the likelihood of package inflation will be even higher.  If you need to get the deal closed before December 31st, obviously do so.  If you can get it done by December 15th, or even earlier in the year, you are likely to get a better deal.  I’m sure you’ll find something to spend the difference on.  It’s just that time of year.