I received the following message from a reader about how far in advance to apply for jobs (personal details changed):
I am a Registered Nurse and plan on relocating from New York to Austin TX in June 2015. When 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 have interviews coming up and don’t want to leave anything to chance, I’ve created a new guide where you can copy my exact step-by-step method for getting job offers. You can get more details here.