Fall is here and the recruiters are gathering
Kim MacKrael
The Globe and Mail, September 2011

img-fall-recruiters-gathering-madison-macarthurTwo years ago, Joe Parent left his job as a marketing executive in the telecommunications industry so he could spend more time with his family.

He found work with a firm that required less travel and fewer hours, but soon realized the pace and limited growth opportunities weren’t for him. “In retrospect, it was a mistake. But it’s all part of the learning process you go through,” Mr. Parent now says.

.He quit that job after six months and used the time to care for his ailing mother, volunteer and do some occasional consulting. This fall, he’s re-entering the job market, and is on the hunt for another executive position in the high-tech or telecommunications industry.

Recruiters in Canada say Mr. Parent has picked a good time to look for work again, pointing to an annual fall uptick in hiring and recent signs of growing confidence among business leaders about the state of Canada’s economy.

“We’re already seeing it now. We have advance meetings with clients telling us they’re going to be making changes, and we’ve already begun a number of confidential searches,” said Sylvia MacArthur, who runs Toronto-based executive search firm Madison MacArthur.

She said her clients have gradually increased hiring rates over the past year, but added that it’s difficult to tell whether the trend will continue given recent shocks to global markets and a worrying slew of weak economic data that has emerged over the past several weeks.

Canada’s economy shrank 0.4 per cent on an annualized basis in the second quarter, the first time it has contracted since the recession. That dismal showing added to a series of weak GDP numbers from some of the world’s largest developed economies.

But Mark Reidl, president of Acchuman Executive Search Inc., which specializes in the financial services industry, said many companies recognize that they can’t continue to operate successfully without filling some key positions.

“For a lot of companies, there’s been a lack of hiring over the last two years, or they’ve cut back or streamlined efforts and decided to run with a leaner force,” he said. “Now that they have all these vacancies and needs, they’re willing to reach out.”

That’s good news for Mr. Parent, who says he’s optimistic that he’ll find the right job.

“My goal is to find an environment that suits me,” he said. “I’m a mission-oriented kind of guy, and I’d like to find an opportunity where I have the sense I’m doing something that’s bigger than me.”

Mr. Parent plans to ramp up his search after Labour Day, the same time of year many executive recruiters are at their busiest.

Most recruiters say that while job seekers should keep their ears to the ground for new opportunities throughout the year, fall is one of two times of year that sees a regular annual spike in hiring for all levels of work. The other occurs early in the new year.

A lot of people see September as a good time for a fresh start, particularly as they watch their kids head back to school, said Laura Machan, a recruiter with Ian Martin Ltd. And for some companies, following several months of overlapping vacations, September might be the first time all members of a hiring committee are back in the office together.

“Even if you post a job in June, the logistics of getting everyone involved into the same room can be unrealistic. So you wait, and finally in September, someone says ‘People, let’s get it together,’” Ms. Machan said.

There’s another reason new hires are common in the fall, she added. It’s the third quarter of the year, and one of the last opportunities for a company to make changes that can be reflected in its annual report.

“Toward the end of the year, if [a company is]anticipating poor results, they want to be seen as making the necessary changes. They might also do it enough in advance to write off the costs in a poor year,” she said.

But while firms tend to do more hiring in the fall than most other times of the year, Ms. Machan cautioned that there’s much more variation at the industry level.

And opportunities will vary, depending on where you are in the country, said Terry Leighton, vice-president and managing officer of Alberta-based 100K Jobs Co. “Realistically, any time is a good time. Especially if you’re in the oil patch,” he said.

If you have the luxury of choosing when to start looking for work, one strategy is to make calls in the summer or in December, when most of the competition is taking time off.

For his part, Mr. Parent says he’ll be glad to benefit from any improvement in hiring attitudes, but that he doesn’t put too much stock in seasonal hiring cycles. “If you’re of the mind that change is always good and there’s always great opportunities out there, then there’s really never a bad time to be looking.”