When to Start Applying For Jobs: How Far in Advance Should You Apply?

how far in advance should i apply for a jobI received the following message from a reader of the blog (with a few minor details changed for privacy):

I am a Registered Nurse and plan on relocating from New York to Austin TX in June 2015. How soon should I start applying for jobs in Texas? My friend says I should start applying now in January but I’m afraid most employers won’t be able to predict their needs for June right now.

So… How Far in Advance Should You Apply for a Job?

In short, I’d recommend starting 3-4 months before you plan on needing a job. This can depend a lot on the economy in the city you’re moving to, and how in-demand your skillset is.

For the reader above, I actually recommended 2-3 months maximum because Nurses usually have no trouble finding interested employers.

So start with a figure of 3-4 months of lead time, and adjust upward or downward a bit depending on your industry and the size of company you’re looking at (large companies often have a longer and more complicated hiring process).

Note: For senior level positions or upper management roles, you might need way more time. Use your judgement depending on your experience level. The rest of the advice below will still be relevant though.

What happens if you time it wrong?

Hopefully the info above helped you figure out how far in advance you should apply for jobs.

But it’s not an exact science as you can probably tell. It’ll take some guesswork.

So to make the decision easier, let’s look at what happens if you time things wrong. This will give you a better idea of the risks and will help you make your decision.

What can go wrong if you start your job search too early?

You won’t have intensity or focus if you start way sooner than needed. You’ll have a sense of comfort and you’ll just go through the motions without any urgency. Waste of time.

Also, if you start searching for jobs prematurely, you risk losing the interest of many companies simply because they aren’t willing to wait that long for you.

You might have gotten a great response if you waited 2 months to apply, but because you applied in January, your resume gets thrown in a ‘hold’ pile and you never receive a call back (papers get lost, HR people aren’t perfect, etc.)

If you’re applying extremely early, you’re running the risk of eliminating some employers that would have seriously considered you if you were ready to start within 2-3 months.

The obvious solution, and the reason I made the recommendations above, is just wait until you’re 2-3 months away from needing the job.

What can go wrong if you start your job search too late?

This is a bit more obvious. If you start too late, you run the risk of not having a job lined up on the target date. You might have a few interviews in process, or maybe nothing at all lined up depending on how late you started your search.

In the end, you need to weigh the risks of both. Do you have a lot of savings and don’t mind spending a bit of time with no job? Will you enjoy having a gap to conduct a careful job search without stressing? Start a bit later.

Do you care mostly about having some type of job lined up on your target date, no matter what? Start earlier and apply for a wide variety of jobs.

How to kick off your job search effectively

Once it’s time to start, you have to attack the job search 100%. Full effort. Apply for jobs every day. Apply via job boards, apply via LinkedIn, go to company websites and submit your resume via their “careers” page or via email.

This is why I don’t want somebody to start looking with 5-6 months to spare. You’ll half-ass the job search and spend a few minutes per week casually looking around instead of staying focused on the mission. It’s human nature.

UPDATE: If you’re going on interviews, I created a new step-by-step interview guide based on the exact methods I’ve seen work as a Recruiter for the past 6+ years. If you want to be 100% ready and confident in your next interview, click here to find read more.

 

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Leave a Comment:

8 comments
Dan says February 17, 2015

Great piece Biron! I don’t remember that I’ve read a lot of articles about this topic so it was especially interesting for me.

Reply
    Biron says February 17, 2015

    Thanks Dan.

    Reply
Jay says December 15, 2015

This validated a lot of the things I was feelings. Thanks for this informative post. Hopefully it brings me good results in my upcoming search.

Reply
Rod says March 24, 2016

I have a question about timing my job search later this year. I really want to get a new job this summer because things are not going well at work but I have a big family vacation planned for 2 weeks and my current employer approved it. I doubt some other company will hrie me and then let me get 2 weeks right away. What do you think? Am I overthinking the timing of all of this? I thought of maybe applying for jobs before I left and then setting up interviews right when I get back from my vacation but that seems a little shady to do that to my current employer as well. Will that burn a bridge?

Reply
    Biron says March 25, 2016

    Hi Rod,

    Some employers will be fine with a vacation right after they hire you. The key is to tell them during the interview process, or before you accept an offer. It’s one thing to land a new job and decide to go on vacation that month, but having something pre-planned is different! So you could start applying for jobs right now and just be clear with them about the vacation that’s already scheduled. If you don’t like your current employer that’s what I’d do. I think it’s more comfortable and honest, at least in terms of how I’d feel in my own career, compared with going on a long vacation and then coming back and quitting right away. But, it wouldn’t be too bad to come back from vacation at your current job, and then start applying for jobs and figure it’ll take a month or two to secure a position. Then you’re not quitting immediately after. The one thing I would NOT do is line up a new job, don’t tell your employer, go on vacation and then quit the week you get back. Not a good look!

    Best,
    Biron

    Reply
Devon says August 30, 2016

This is great Biron. Exactly what I wanted.

I was wondering how early I should apply for a job that I want, but am not ready to move to immediately. Looks like I was thinking of jumping the gun and doing things earlier than you’d recommend so I’m going to wait and stick to your timeline!

Reply
Elise says January 11, 2017

Thanks for the information! So you apply about 3-4 months ahead of time. On the “when can you start” application question, would you still put a date three months out?
This may be a silly question, but I have been told before to put the following month with the assumption the company won’t actually want you that early.
Thank you!

Reply
    Biron says January 11, 2017

    Hey Elise,

    Don’t try to guess when they’ll be ready to hire you when you tell them when you can start. Tell them honestly how soon you could be available.

    Like this:

    “2 week notice required from the time an offer is made”
    “2 week notice plus 2 weeks for relocation”
    “Available to start 1 week after an offer is made”

    Relate it to the point in time an offer is made. That’s what they really want to know. Don’t try to guess when they’ll be done interviewing you, etc.

    Let me know if this makes sense.

    edit: Or if you do have a certain date you can start, tell them. If it’s January and you cannot take a new job until March 1st, say “Available to start March 1, 2017. 2 week notice is required from the time an offer is made”.

    Reply
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