Q4 vs Q1: The Pros and Cons of When to Make the Hire

By: Matt Gainsford

Author

Energized by the summer and heading towards the holidays, Q4 can be one of the most challenging times of the year. Depending on where you are, you could be having a phenomenal year, or you may be playing catch up to hit those end of year targets.  

As November and December approaches, life for your team members reflects that. You may have employees striving to hit their numbers and make their bonuses as well as those who are looking to slow down, embrace the holiday season, and will use the remainder of their time off to wrap up their year. Shorter holiday weeks can affect productivity and availability for both team members and potential hires (but not always in the way you might think). 

So, hiring in Q4. Is it possible, and if so, is it even a good idea? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of hiring in Q4 compared to hiring in Q1. 

Q1. January 1st. New Year. New Year’s resolutions. Fresh starts. Drop the holiday 15; plan out the book list for the year; set the goals… let’s see where you are in 2-3 weeks. It’s widely known that it takes an average 6 weeks to form a new habit. Now put that into perspective for ramping up your new hire. If you bring them on board in the first week of January then 10% of the year could be gone before they are on their way to being ramped up, and how does that impact their first-year goals? Maybe it doesn’t have a big impact, but maybe hiring them prior to Q1 makes all the difference in the world – setting them up to have a strong start to the new year.  

What are some other potential advantages to hiring in Q4? 

  • Increased access to and availability of candidates. 
    • Candidates taking time off, shorter holiday weeks, and the ability to target people who already have an eye on next year and may be planning accordingly can give you an advantage in scheduling key conversations. 
  • More availability for focused interviews. 
    • With technical projects wrapping up, Q1 on the horizon and corresponding strategizing taking place, there are often gaps where more focused time can be given to exploring candidates in a much more comprehensive way  
  • Candidates are looking for job security in the new year (particularly after expensive holidays). 
    • Blue Monday, that second Monday after New Year’s Day where the festivities are in the rear-view mirror and the credit card statement lands on the doormat. Why is this important? Job security at this time is paramount and (the thought of) rolling into the new year in a new role (that likely includes a compensation bump) could be very appealing. Add into that the new challenge, deepened engagement, and you are setting yourself and your candidates up for a head start. 
  • Budgets that need to be satisfied. 
    • Depending on the organization and the matrix there may be budgets that, if not used, will impact the following year. If the resources are there, then it can be a great chance to support that head start into Q1. 
  • Get a head start on your competition. 
    • There’s that phrase again, “head start”. Hiring in Q4, especially with the passive candidate recruitment strategies that we employ, can make a world of difference in the ability to engage top talent. Top performers move for challenge, impact, and growth and by finding and approaching these candidates in Q4 you can (as long as you have an engaging and compelling value proposition) put yourself in pole position as a potential destination for these candidates.  

So now that we’ve laid out some of the pros for hiring in Q4 compared to Q1, let’s take a look at some of the potential cons and drawbacks. 

  • Bonuses.  
    • Are candidates (especially passive candidates, the ones we want to speak to) heading towards a bonus that they will miss out on if they jump ship in Q4? Can you weave their bonus into a sign on bonus or golden handshake?  
  • Hiring managers being unavailable due to taking time off/engaging in end of year reviews (if you had quarterly conversations you wouldn’t need to do this, but that’s a different blog topic).  
    • The ideal is embracing the idea of “little and often”, or to take a holiday approach, not leaving all your Christmas shopping to December 24th and realizing you can’t get what you need because it’s not available. From a candidate perspective, are you missing out on great people because your hiring manager is unavailable? 
  • The competition. 
    • With the majority of companies setting their sights on Q1 there may be more of an openness to exploring new opportunities from candidates, which means more competition for top talent. 
  • Budgets.  
    • There may not be the budgets available to make the hire at a competitive rate. 
  • Onboarding new employees into a team where people are taking time off can be a challenge. 

Whether you hire in Q4 or Q1 there are always going to be benefits and challenges. All of the insights above are centered in and around a holistic, passive candidate approach that focuses on securing the services of top performers and providing them with opportunities to thrive! Here at Titus Talent, we want to take the fear out of the hiring process. We sit on your side of the table and offer an approach that we believe is true partner-based approach to putting the right people in the right seats.  

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