By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: I am a laid-off project manager who is worn down by weeks of hunting for new employment. My friends tell me to take the rest of the year off and recharge. They say maybe I should take a break and change the scenery, but my budget doesn't cover travel at this time.

Is it true that most managers are so focused on year-end deadlines, strategy meetings, employee reviews and the like -- plus holiday parties -- that they are annoyed if you approach them for meetings and hiring? Is job-hunting during the holiday season a waste of time? -- W.J.

Yes, some managers will blow you off until January as they race to wind up the year's business to avoid scolding from their bosses -- especially managers in big business who have a long line of bosses.

But wait. The other side of the issue is presented by a leading career authority who urges job seekers to use this holiday season to avoid the January rush.

"In today's poor economy, job seekers should not take the holiday season off," says Tony Lee, legendary publisher of Adicio's, a popular job and advice site. Among Lee's reasons:

Less competition. Many job seekers stop out of the job market during the holidays. Most of those who are hoping to change jobs usually stay put into the new year to make sure they receive the bonuses and vacation they're owed.

Managers on deck. Less likely to travel during the holiday season, hiring managers are easier to reach.

Cheerier networking contacts. Effects of the holiday spirit make contacts -- including new ones who turn up at the season's parties -- less harried and more willing to help job hunters.

Smart timing. New employees who start work early in the new year had to interview in November or December, not in January. Candidates already on a company's short list of prospects to possibly hire will be in the right place at the right time, in case a new staffing need pops up quickly in January.

Upshot: I agree with Lee. A former editor for the Wall Street Journal, Lee knows far more about the issue than friends who urge you to shut down your job search over the holidays.


DEAR JOYCE: I've been told that for a forthcoming job interview, the questions will be competency-based. What is this? -- L.J.J.

Competency-based interviews zero in on specific talents, skills and abilities you've developed. Competencies may be industry-based or general, such as five core personal competencies identified in a new book by Linda Matias, "201 Knockout Answers to Tough Interview Questions: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-based Interview Style" (AMACOM,; $13.95).

Matias describes personal competencies as:

-- Individual responsibility -- decisiveness, independence, flexibility, career goals.

-- Managerial/leadership skills -- leadership, employee motivation, ability to delegate, strategic planning.

-- Personal motivation -- ambition, initiative.

-- Analytical skills -- problem solving, attention to detail.

-- People skills -- communications skills, teamwork ability, customer service awareness.

Competency-based interviewing focuses on your actions in a specific workplace situation. The model makes you say why you are qualified to meet a particular requirement for doing well in the position. (Often the questions are expressed as statements requesting a response.)

Competency questions often begin with "What qualifications ... ?" or "Describe ... ." A sample question: "Tell me about a time when you had competing deadlines and had to choose one to miss."

By contrast, traditional types of interview questions allow general and non-specific answers. A sample question: "How would you describe yourself?"

Competency-based interviewing seems to be picking up steam at the nation's larger employers. If you have a crucial interview coming up, here's my recommendation: Spend some quality time with Matias' 195-page book -- the best I've seen on the topic.


Should You Job-Hunt During the Holidays | Jobs & Careers

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