Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer, and Career Coach
Frankly, if you need a job, the best time to apply for one is right now. But, regardless of timing, the competition is fierce and job seekers should do everything they can to score an advantage. Understanding when companies hire, the typical hiring season trends, and the right time of year to apply for jobs will give you the best chance at success.
The secret? Most companies hire in stages—usually in the new year when their recruiting budget is flush with cash. This means there are good times and bad times to apply for jobs. Read on to learn how to take advantage of the hiring frenzy and find yourself in a new role faster than expected.
When Companies Hire the Most (And The Least)
To understand the job search, you must think like a recruiter—meaning, you must know when companies hire most. Times when you’re most likely to land a job fluctuates, as peak “hiring season” only lasts so long. Let’s break down the recruiting cycle to pinpoint exactly when to apply for jobs for the best results.
Winter: New budgets mean new job openings. While December can be rough, considering holidays and paid time off, the hiring process speeds up in mid-to-late January and February as employers get back into their regular workflow.
Spring: The hiring surge continues through March and April. Expect more competition to land a job because companies will get more aggressive in reviewing applications in hopes of filling vacancies before summer vacations start. Recent grads should also take note, as recruiting cycles tend to favor entry-level positions during this time.
Summer: Recruiting slows in the summer months as most companies have spent or allocated their budgets by June and July. Quality jobs are still available, but the interview process will drag on for longer, thanks to more frequent vacations and flexible summer schedules. This season is a great time to focus on networking and professional development.
Fall: Hiring managers are eager to fill positions before the end of the year and the holiday craze—making September another best time of the year to apply for jobs. Start thinking about freshening up your resume with things you accomplished throughout the year around November when things historically begin to slow again.
Why The Beginning Of The Year Is The Best Time To Apply For Jobs
In most industries, January and February is a great time for getting hired. It’s actually the best time to look for jobs all year. Decision-makers have returned from holiday break, armed with big budgets and a corporate “green light” to fill needed roles.
January will start slow (it takes a bit to recover from the holidays, after all), but once hiring managers dive into their workflows, they’ll be busier than ever sourcing candidates for open roles. Use the first two weeks of the year to freshen up your resume. While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile, identify a few companies you’d like to target, and watch those job boards with an eagle eye. Then, start sending your resume and submitting applications in the latter half of the month.
February is the peak hiring month. Rather than diving in with everyone else in January, ZipRecruiter found that job seekers have the best shot at landing a new gig if they wait until February. During this time, the total number of active jobs tends to increase while the number of applicants declines.
Remember, if you currently have a job, it’s not always beneficial to tell your boss that you’re job searching right away. One of the biggest reasons is that you can’t expect a quick hire. Companies have plenty of money, time, and resources to choose the right candidate all year, so the process may take longer than expected.
When To Apply For Jobs According to Data: A Strategy
Ideally, you should apply to a job listing within a week or two of the posting. Career gods reward the eager applicant—according to data, at least. A report from Brazen says that 43% of all job openings are filled during the first 30 days. Candidates who actively search for job opportunities and apply when the postings first open have a greater chance of getting in on the first wave of interviews.
If you want to get really technical, consider the day of the week when applying for jobs. A SmartRecruiters study found that Tuesday is not only the most popular day for companies to post jobs, it’s also the day when the highest number of people apply for jobs and the most popular day to get hired. These jobs tend to post around 11 a.m., so applicants looking to get in ahead of the curve may want to dedicate some of their lunch break to the application process.
March, April, and May are Pretty Decent, Too
Not only does the hiring surge tend to keep momentum through spring, but recruiters also snatch up soon-to-be college graduates. Many companies launch their recruiting efforts in April so they can have entry-level candidates in place by June.
Despite the lingering push, spring is hardly the time to dilly-dally. If you see an open role, apply as soon as possible. Hiring teams are in a time crunch to fill their slots and settle into a rhythm before summer hits.
Jobs Take a Vacation in June, July, and August
By June, most companies’ human resources budgets are depleted. Plus, managers tend to take more vacations in the summer and delay making any important hiring decisions. Week-long out-of-office emails and the start of those official (or unofficial) “half-day Friday” schedules could make connecting with a hiring manager harder.
If you’ve experienced a sharp decline in activity (or you’ve been ghosted) through August, this could be why. But there IS a bright side. Everyone takes vacations during the summer. So, you stand a better chance of applying earlier, with less competition, especially if you keep applying at a steady, regular cadence. Keep casting your reel, but plan for the interview process to take a bit longer if you get a bite this time of year.
September and October are Your Second-Best Bet
As the fiscal year closes, companies push through the final hiring spree of the year. The roles they can’t fill now will likely have to wait until the new year, so don’t be surprised if you see an uptick in activity this fall as they rush to meet pre-set objectives. Update your resume and visit job boards daily so you can land somewhere before the holiday season has people scrambling for answers.
It’s Dull in November and December
Like summer, hiring managers and HR departments try to wrap up loose ends and save their hiring sprint for the new year. Most companies get new hiring budgets in January, which means they can use the winter months to formulate a hiring strategy while the world takes some time to rest and rejuvenate with loved ones.
We all feel it, the urge to put off new tasks until January. (I’ll diet next year, I swear!) So, if you need a break, take one. Your dream job will likely wait until after the ball drops, anyway.
The one exception is seasonal jobs. Many companies in retail and warehousing will bring on temporary workers to account for the holiday rush. More on this below.
Things Could Vary from Industry to Industry
While recruiting cycles tend to follow a pattern, the best time to land a job will vary by industry. Teachers and other school employees interview mostly in the spring and early summer as campuses try to fill vacancies from people who decide not to return for the following school year. Tax and accounting professionals might have better luck in January and February before the busy season kicks in.
Events and marketing companies experience their busiest season during the run-up to Christmas. Seasonal retail, delivery, and warehouse workers are usually in high demand this time of year when consumerism is at an all-time high but will fall out in January as the demand slows.
If you’re a union worker, you might be able to just avoid hiring trends altogether. Depending on the industry, you might find a job via a union hall, referral, or a union-affiliated employer who hires based on demand.
The macro economy can also influence openings. For example, construction and real estate positions fluctuate based on the housing market and rarely follow a recruiting schedule. We even saw a push by media conglomerates to hire finance experts and contributors to discuss cryptocurrency as the topic dominated news headlines in late 2022.
Is It the Same for Internships As Well?
Most internships occur when school is not in session, like during the winter and summer breaks. For summer internships, the recruiting cycle usually begins in January or February. Winter internships commonly seek applicants in August and September.
But here’s the catch: Most companies post open internship positions well before the actual recruiting and interviewing starts. So, it benefits students to network whenever possible and prepare their resumes early — much earlier than an experienced job seeker might start. College campuses tend to hold career fairs and networking socials during the fall. Recruiting cycles might vary by industry, so use these opportunities to connect with company representatives and ask to get on their email list for future opportunities.
If you want to land an internship next summer, you should start preparing the summer prior. Research certain industries and chat with the school advisors about the best sectors for your major or career interests. Consider paid versus unpaid internships and the skills you’ll need to muster to succeed.
How to Prepare for Hiring Season
1. Think ahead. Regardless of when you search for jobs, the process will take some time—around five months. Don’t wait until winter to send out resumes if you want to start a new job in January. Instead, start browsing during the fall.
2. Network during “off months.” Networking during the calmer summer months and the holiday season when people have more time to connect can yield better results. Schedule informational interviews, send your colleagues well wishes, and job search at a more relaxed pace.
3. Keep your resume updated. An updated resume is an effective resume. Utilize a modern resume template you can easily update monthly, or at the very least, quarterly to ensure you’re leading with your best foot forward at all times.
4. Prepare other key application docs. Your professional portfolio is more than just your resume. Compile a list of references and personal recommendation letters before you start sending applications. Also, ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date, as you’ll likely leverage the platform for networking and job hunting.
5. Look when it suits you. The best time to search for a job is, well, when you need one. Don’t let the “when do companies hire” trends and data points stop you from applying to your dream job during what may be deemed a “slow” or “worst” time of year to find a job. There might be seasons or months when it’s easier to make a switch, but the process continues until you find the perfect fit.