June 24, 2018

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Holiday Greetings and Gift Etiquette For Search Firms and Recruiters

One recent posting on an electronic recruiting forum rather astoundingly revealed that the dispute over holiday cards had intensified into “ … a rage threatening the existence of the office itself …” and was on the verge of requiring SWAT negotiators.


Here are basic etiquette procedures I established at our offices many years ago which have eliminated all such problems. I guarantee following these business etiquette fundamentals will ensure that you have a truly “Happy Holiday Season” and not one that is “Code Orange” like the search firm that posted the S.O.S. describing their office tension level over such holiday arguments.


What began as 'Christmas Cards' are now politically referred to as 'Holiday Cards' or 'Seasons Greetings' cards.

As such a holiday or season's greeting card is supposed to accomplish what the name suggests: Send a message of 'greetings' or 'holiday wishes'.


If we include a business card it becomes 'Pseudo Holiday Card’ for the purposes of blatant business exploitation. While that might be an acceptable approach for my stockbroker each year (who’s every communication with me includes all his phone numbers even on the birthday cards he sends me) or the local realtor or insurance agent … our business deals with business to business clientele, not the general public. As such, ours requires heightened sensitivity (this shows how the services I just listed rate in my opinion).

Sending or including a business card within a Holiday Card smacks of desperation. My thought would be 'How desperate are these guys to have to put their business card and phone number under my nose in the disguise of a Holiday Card?'

You should not be asking for business. You should be thanking them for business that has already transpired as well as providing holiday wishes. Opportunities for interviews that did not result in a placement still justifies sending holiday wishes.

There will be plenty of opportunities for promoting your business using the same list in January and beyond next year.

Our cards were just mailed Monday, the first week of December. I could not be happier. Every year it is an ordeal that starts in November and finishes by the end of the first week of December.

I personally signed each of the 150 or so cards as I do every single year (we only send to the clients of the last 12-24 months, otherwise the list gets ridiculously long).

In our case the IRES logo is at the bottom of the card … and that’s it.

No Web site.

No Address (it’s on the envelope anyway).

No Phone.

Our clients appreciate it as it comes across more genuinely.


At one time, I used to send "small gifts".

Then they became "bigger gifts" (both in size and value) such as Mont Blanc pens, gift baskets suitable for the entire HR department ... etc, etc.

That practice resulted in backfiring in a big way one year when I got a call from an HR manager who said:

" Frank … I can't believe Eileen got a silk scarf and I didn't ... I gave IRES job orders you filled last year even though we had no need this year ... I should have received one too!"

Oh brother.

I received another "complaint" that same year:

"Frank ... I'm not supposed to accept any gift at my office and yours arrived prominently displayed on my desk where my boss was walking past several times this morning until I got in late today ..."

Ouch. That did it.

For the last seven years I have sent NOTHING but a greeting card and made sure IRES employees are clearly aware of the policy.

I will close by adding it's been blissfully 100% complaint and dispute free during the holidays ever since establishing this procedure.

- Frank G. Risalvato, CPC

Risalvato has appeared on radio and TV business segments and has been considered a respected authority on hiring and staffing trends since 1987. He has written countless articles on the subject of careers, job searching, recruiting & more since founding IRES, Inc. in 1991 · Call 973-300-1010 and be the first to read his yet unreleased book “The Kentucky Fried Secret Recipe to Recruiting Millions®” · · Email: