It’s mid-December. If you want to hire people in January, but you have not yet finalized your job description and recruiting strategy, you will probably succeed … in April.

It’s nothing personal, I’m confident that you are above average in every way. It’s just that most employers underestimate the importance of December planning and overestimate their ability to make things happen in early January. When they say  “I plan to hire in January”  they really mean they will “finalize their plans for hiring” in January. Big difference. Finishing the planning in December means you can actually start recruiting on January second. “Finalizing your plans for hiring in January” means that  you will post your ads (or start your recruiting) in late January. Then stack up some resumes and begin the interviews in late February, and then, by the time references are checked and notice is given, maybe your new hire will start work in April. And with a bit of luck, they should begin to be productive about the time your summer vacation rolls around.

I know. You are different. That kind of delay is not your intent. But I’ve seen it every year for the 25 years I’ve been in the search business, so yeah, I’m pretty confident that I’m right about this.

You see, December is a wonderful time of year…to put off work until January. You can hear the sweet, sweet lure of procrastination it in every work conversation. “We’ll get on that right after the holidays” and “Let’s set a meeting to tackle that in early January.”  Right now, it feels like you are just delaying by a week or two … it’s no big deal, right?

Except recruiting does not work that way. Not in January. January is different from every other month of the year in recruiting. It is the only month you can get a significant competitive advantage over everyone else. If you do your planning in December, and start recruiting aggressively on January 2nd, you can make your job offers before you have any serious competition from other firms. But when you miss that window, everything takes longer. And the only way to get the January advantage is by finalizing your recruiting plans in December.

Think about it: Your ideal future employees are just like your current employees. Busy, hardworking, stressed-out and looking for a break. And they will take break over the holidays. On a long drive they will reflect on what they want from their careers. Over eggnog they will make New Years Resolutions to go find it. And they will be primed, refreshed, and ready to be recruited in very early January.

But you won’t be recruiting in early January–you’ll be in meetings. Meetings to hammer out the dull job description with HR, waiting for your boss to sign off on the hiring requisition, checking in with some other department who wanted to “get with you” to review how their restructuring that might affect this position, and oh yeah, the CFO had a quick question about how this hire will fit in your budget.

So you’ll start recruiting in February, right when everyone else is recruiting. When recruiting takes longer because it is one of the most competitive recruiting months of the year. Hey good luck with that.

For want of a December meeting the job spec was not done.
For want of a job spec the recruiting was not done.
For want of recruiting the new hire was not found.
For want of a new hire your goals were not met.
For want of results your summer vacation was ruined.
And all for the want of a December meeting.