best time to apply for jobs and look for a job

The Two Best Times to Apply for Jobs (And When to Avoid)

best time to apply for jobs and look for a job

Is There A Best Time To Look For Jobs?

Yep, there are certain times in the year that are far better than others to apply for jobs. After finishing this article you will know the best times to apply for jobs, as well as the worst times of the year to apply.

We’re going to go month-by-month so you’ll also be able to evaluate how strong or weak any given month is.

#1 Best Time to Apply for Jobs: January and February

The beginning of the calendar year (January and February) is a great time for hiring and interviewing in most industries. In fact it’s probably the best time to apply for jobs all year. Industries will differ from each other slightly of course, but January and February are strong months overall.

January tends to start slowly as hiring managers often don’t come back from their holiday vacations until the 2nd week of the month. But once that happens, hiring activities pick up rapidly and interviewing starts to happen with higher frequency.

This is the time of year when the greatest number of decision-makers are in the office at the same time. Things get done and things move quickly! That’s great news for any job seeker.

Another big reason for the boost in hiring activities in these late winter months is that companies often get their new budgets for the year in January, and a lot of the hiring activity that was delayed in November and December can now move forward. Companies pay bonuses in December or January often as well, so it’s a known fact that employees don’t like to make moves before this happens. Many industries have adjusted to this and just accepted the fact that December is slow, and January/February are a great time to do some hiring.

Still Very Good: March, April, May

The initial spike of hiring activity from Jan and Feb usually provides momentum until the summer months, when large numbers of people start taking vacations.

That means March, April and May are still excellent times to apply for new positions and line up as many interviews as possible.

As you approach the summer months, companies are eager to complete the hiring process too, so that could work in your favor.

Example: You start the interview process in early May. After a couple of rounds of interviews, it’s near the end of May, and two key members of the team including the hiring manager are going on vacation early next month. They’re likely to put an emphasis on finishing the process with you before they leave! Whereas they might drag their feet otherwise (if you’ve interviewed enough you’ll know that sometimes companies take FOREVER to finalize things).

They might not set your start date until they get back from vacation. But they’ll finalize the paperwork, make you an offer, and hope to get your acceptance before they take off. All good news.

This won’t always happen but it’s a likely scenario that can work in your favor. Obviously each company is different and it’s entirely possible a hiring manager will say, ‘let’s finish this up as soon as I return from vacation.’ In my experience this is less likely to be the approach they take. And regardless, March, April and May are still above average months to job hunt.

Bad Time to Look for a Job: June, July, August

The summer months are definitely NOT one of the best times to apply for jobs. These months tend to see a drop off in hiring and interviewing activity. Managers tend to take vacations more often during this time of year, and it’s harder to get a team together to conduct a face-to-face interview. Companies also fill many of their open positions during the hiring push that occurs at the beginning of the year (In January and February), so there’s less of a need by the time June, July, and August come around.

It’s only natural that after a spike in hiring activity, there will be a dip in hiring activity. Unfortunately for summer job seekers, the big spike in activity in January and February will leave you with less options in the summer.

So, this isn’t the best time to look for a job. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any jobs to be had; you just have to search a little bit harder.

Overall, summer can be challenging for job seekers and hiring managers alike, because it’s tough to get the right collection of decision-makers to be present at the same time. However, you might be able to stand out due to the fact that there are less applicants during the summer months. Because of this, it’s still worthwhile to do some job hunting in the summertime.

#2 Best Time to Apply for Jobs: September, October

You’re probably starting to see a pattern here- hiring happens in waves. Just like summer was slow, the early fall season sees an increase in hiring as more of the hiring managers return from vacation. This allows interviews to occur with less downtime in between the interview steps. The hiring process is smoother overall during this time of year.

This period might is almost as great for hiring and interviewing as the early winter months listed at the beginning of this article. Depending on the company or industry it might even be better. So September and October are definitely in the conversation for the best time to look for a job.

Bad Time to Apply for Jobs: November, December

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that January and February are the best time to apply for jobs. Because of that, the end of December is a great time to send out job applications and start planning your search! I don’t want this last piece of the article to discourage anyone from starting the job search process and getting a leg up on the competition.

That said, November and December and typically pretty bad times if you’re hoping to get a lot of interviews and see job offers fast. Here’s why…

As the middle of November arrives, hiring managers and HR departments tend to put aside their hiring goals, opting to save the bulk of their hiring activities until the beginning of the next calendar year when new budgets are in place and it’s easier to schedule interviews and get everyone together for meetings.

Late November is a popular time for vacations, and so is all of December. The odds of finding common availability to schedule an interview or meeting during this period simply isn’t very high.

The final two weeks of December are extremely popular vacation weeks, and even the beginning of December often sees a very large drop in hiring activity in anticipation of these upcoming breaks.

However, like I mentioned at the start of this section, you might still consider submitting your job applications in December so that you’re ahead of the competition when everyone returns to the office in January!

At any given time, at least someone from HR will be in the office. Just don’t expect to receive a whole lot of interviews right away, aside from the initial phone call maybe. If you do get some, it’ll be a pleasant surprise. As long as you don’t mind that, the end of December can be a great strategic time to start your job search.

UPDATE: If you have interviews coming up, I’ve created an easy step-by-step method to give you a big boost over the competition and get you hired faster. If this sounds interesting you can learn more about it here.

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16 thoughts on “The Two Best Times to Apply for Jobs (And When to Avoid)

    • Good point. Recent grads would probably find the most success job hunting during the summer and early fall, when employers expect them to be job-hunting. Companies know when most people tend to graduate, and they choose that time of year to try to recruit at college campuses and interview recent grads for their entry-level positions.

  1. The summer months are also represented by the third quarter for most companies. if they hire someone in the third quarter they will have them trained up before the fourth quarter, fiscal year end. Most companies are on the fiscal calendar. Exception being a few large MNC or accelerated SEC filers in the US. The fourth quarter is not a good time to let a person loose on some projects or accounts or whatever and let them make a bunch of mistakes so they can learn via trial and error. The learning curve is a lot smaller at year end. So it is not fair to the new hire or the manager they are assigned to. Not a lot of margin for error or room from trial and error at year end. If a company has capacity to extend a persons training into the fourth quarter the new hire still see’s all the other people who are not as lucky as you. Sometimes they even look at a new hire with jealousy or contempt as they do not need to stay as late or work with a hammer over their heads. Lots of people get let go or quit during year end. Companies like to recycle their work force during this time or cut all the loose ends also. This means there are more discontent people hanging around the common areas saying negative things about the company and management also. New hires who get exposed to this sort of thing too early often become concerned about their own security or job satisfaction in the near future. They might start looking for a new job right away. They train a person up spend all kinds of time and effort with them and then they leave. No one wins if this happens. Better to just wait until the beginning of the year. Really skilled people are hired at year end still though.

  2. I’m a hiring manager and I’d say the best time all year to apply for jobs is September when everybody gets back from vacation and things pick up again in most office settings- or at least any office setting I have worked in.

    January hasn’t been that great in my experience, we don’t hire much in January. February is okay so I do agree with that.

    • It’s my experience both personally and through years of advising job seekers and helping companies hire in multiple industries.

      I haven’t recorded statistical data on this although it might make for an interesting case study in the future.

    • Hi Jorge,

      I don’t have as much direct experience in the contract/freelance staffing world but I’ve collaborated with people who have and I think it holds true, at least to some extent.

      I also spoke with a freelancer recently who had read my article and commented on how it was accurate to his business as well. He’s a freelance writer. So I think these hiring cycles are likely to hold true for many types of freelance workers, but I bet you could find some exceptions too so don’t take me word for it, apply for jobs and track the trends for your own freelance business to see what works best.

    • Hey Marcus,

      Good question, I guess I left a gap in my rundown and April was the victim. I’d say it’s a great month. The momentum that was built in late January and throughout February is still largely intact come April. There isn’t a big slowdown until June typically. If I were looking for a new job in late spring or April in particular I’d be pretty confident/excited about my prospects. Good luck!

  3. This list seems more like the most popular times for hiring, not the best times of year to look for a job. If it is a quieter time for hiring and getting hired, like the summer months, wouldn’t you have an advantage potentially because nobody else is looking? If I’m looking for the best time of year to hunt for jobs I’d want to see data on how many applicants are active each month of the year. That’d be really helpful. Thanks, Clifford.

  4. Biron , what happens if I start the process in the “good” months, let’s say March or April for example (right now basically) an dthen the whole interview schedule drags on so long that it becomes June and nothing has finalized. This type of delay seems to happen a lot because I work in an industry that’ highly regulated and it’s normal for an interview to have 2 or 3 rounds onsite at the company and then it can be a few more weeks for a decision. Either that’s normal or I’ve just had very bad luck in my last couple job searches. So, am I too late to start looking now, assuming it’ll take 1-2 months to finish because I think it likely will, as crazy as that sounds.

    • Hi Megan… each case is different so I don’t know exactly what’ll happen but my advice is you should go full steam ahead and apply for jobs, start your interviews, etc. Most companies will be motivated to finish the process before the summer lull in hiring. They’ll at least try. What if they can’t? You’ll be left waiting a bit but when things pick back up, or when they find a week or two where everybody is in the office during the “bad” months, you’ll be the priority. You’ll definitely have an advantage over any new applicants during those months. So I think it’s a win-win and I don’t see any reason NOT to apply with full effort right now.

  5. If you had to choose one specific month as the best time to look for new job overall what would it be and why? Just wondering

  6. Howdy Biron.

    I just read on a few other sites that December is the best time to look for jobs. One was Business Insider. The very first thing they mentioned was that although other people are out of the office in December, HR people are often still there. So they said it’s a common myth that nobody is in the office. Care to comment?

    • Really glad you mentioned this John! Thanks for reading and asking. I read that article too.

      Here’s my take: The only way you’re getting hired just by talking to HR is if it’s an HR job. Even then it’s unlikely.

      So it doesn’t matter if HR is in the office when nobody else is.

      Statistically speaking, the key decision-makers tend to be out of the office in December.

      The Director of the department… the person you’d report to… the coworkers you’d be working alongside… and even the CEO if it’s a small company and he/she meets with each job candidate.

      HR is a support function within a company. The idea that “December is a great time to find a job because many HR people are here,” is crazy to me, since in almost every hiring process I’ve seen, HR exists to help and support the department that’s hiring. The body can’t operate without a brain. And HR isn’t the brain most of the time.

      I actually edited the article recently at the bottom to account for this by the way… I mention that the end of Dec is a fine time to submit applications (so that HR can start looking through it), but just don’t expect the process to be completed super quickly.

      This answer got pretty long . I hope it helps though =)

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