Is there a right time on the calendar to search for a job?

Is there a right time on the calendar to search for a job?

For many people, a job move may be sensible but not urgent providing them the opportunity to delay or accelerate their efforts to enter the job market at a certain time of year.  But just because they can, should they?  And if the calendar can influence your likelihood of landing that perfect job, what is the best time of the year to be looking?

Like most things in job hunting, there is no universal truth, but there are many cases where you might gain some edge (or at least reduce some frustration) by pursuing an opportunity at one time of the year instead of another.  For example:

  • Beginning vs end of the year – Companies who align their fiscal calendar with the calendar year often find themselves budget-constrained at the end of the year and unable to hire until they enter a new budget cycle at the beginning of the year.  Alternatively, they may find themselves with available budget at the end of the year and no guarantee of renewal next year so they seek to create and fill positions before the end of the year.
  • Holidays vs vacation period – The holiday season at the end of the year commonly adds stress to businesses.  This is exacerbated if the financial year also ends with the calendar year.  So some companies opt to limit the burden on employees (especially leadership), by focusing hiring in the summer and early fall months when businesses are often slower due to the natural vacation cycle.
  • Spring vs fall – For many companies there is an unintentional cadence of optimization and focus on growth early in the fiscal year followed by risk aversion and cost consciousness near the end as final performance numbers come into focus.  This leads companies to be more prone hiring in the spring versus the fall/winter.

If you read carefully, you realize that you could talk yourself into thinking any time of year is good or bad depending on the assumptions you want to make.  Furthermore, when a company adds headcount and when they launch a search process can be very different times.  Thus if you wait to explore opportunities till the company is ready to add headcount, you’ve probably missed the opportunity because they have already been searching for candidates for a while.  Add to that the confusion that hiring is more tied to the fiscal calendar than the actual calendar and many companies choose not to align the two and you can reasonably argue that any time is good or bad for job searching.

While you could extensively research the company and attempt to refine your assumptions, rather than trying to align the timing your job search to the convenience of an employer, focus on timing it to fit your personal situation.  After all, if you can reduce stress and/or give yourself appropriate time to prepare for the search effort, you should present yourself in the best light possible which should have a greater positive impact than any timing optimization.

In general, if you are not considering positions that require relocation, there is rarely a reason to wait to start a search once you have determined that making an external move may be the right answer for you.  Even if you find a great company that isn’t ready to hire you, it is always better for them to know of you early than for you to be too late to the process to get consideration.

However, if you are considering positions that would require relocation, you might want to think consider some of the following since you need to be willing to accept an offer when you receive the right one:

  • School schedule for children – If you have children, it may be preferable to relocate that at a semester break either in the winter or summer
  • Holiday impact – Whether holidays add stress to your life or liberate you with time away from your current job consider that impact
  • Vacation plans – If you have substantial vacation plans, know that those could be disrupted if they fall close to the transition between jobs
  • Seasons – When the transition between cities creates a significant change in weather, it can be strategic to move during the time of year with better weather to get acclimated to the new city when weather is least challenging

Ultimately, if you are spending a significant amount of effort worrying about the time of the year to apply to a job, you are probably misusing your time.  Employers and candidates alike become very adept at making things work when a really great fit is found.  Focus on finding the right fit and the timing will most likely work itself out.

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