If you’re among the nearly half of Americans that a recent Gallup survey identified as actively job searching, you may be wondering when the best time of year to search for a job is. The good news? After a slow hiring period last year, employers have a record number of job openings available (some 10.9 million, according to recent government figures) and are clamoring to fill them.
Still, if you’re holding out for the right job versus just the next job, it pays to be strategic about when you ramp up your search. Below, four career experts share their views on the best times of year to search for a job, as well their tips if you’re looking for a job right now.
The best months to job search
If you’ve got your eye set on a very specific role or industry, you’ll want to find that sweet spot where plenty of companies in your field are hiring but fewer people are applying.
“As a recruiter, the busiest time is definitely the start of the new year, January and February,” says Zahria Little, an executive recruiter at Clarke Caniff Strategic Search. “Companies and their HR departments often get their fresh budgets and are ready to start ramping up hiring again.” She adds that the September to October time frame is another ramp-up period as, “Once the summer ends, companies are ready to make additional hires before the holiday season.”
But do these old rules still apply in today’s hiring landscape? According to leadership coach Kelly Poulson, not much has changed when it comes to seasonal hiring trends, even in light of the pandemic. “Holidays and summers still tend to be quieter on the hiring front,” Poulson says. “The interesting thing about now is that everywhere is hiring and it's tough to find people, which could bode well for any folks looking to make a change.”
Even if holidays and summer vacations tend to be slower for hiring, Poulson says that changes in budgets can still upend the trends. “If we've learned nothing in the last two years, sometimes what we plan for isn't what happens,” Poulson says. “For instance, places may have thought they'd only be hiring for X amount of roles but that number could be five times that amount if they've got a lot of turnover occurring.”
How to job search right now
So, what is the best way to job search if you’re looking right now? Career coach Alyson Garrido says it’s more important than ever to be proactive. “Speak with people at target companies before a role is posted rather than applying when you see a job online,” she says. “You want to be the person who gets a call as jobs are posted, rather than applying with so many others.”
Poulson says the way we network has also changed due to our need to keep things virtual whenever possible, and it’s likely that this trend will continue. “Connecting with people is what's most important, so finding your way to do that will serve you well,” she adds.
In today’s environment, it’s also likely you’re getting more recruiter emails than ever. Poulson warns against switching jobs without waiting for the right opportunity. “It's really easy when recruiters are tapping you on the shoulder to jump ship for more money or a title without taking the time to step back and remind yourself of what you really want.”
She suggests asking yourself the following questions when considering a job opportunity:
- Does this role use your strengths?
- Does it align with your values?
- Will it let you live the life you want to live?
“Especially when we're tired or frustrated at our current gig — the grass is greener really applies — slow it down and be thoughtful with your decision,” Poulson says. “The last thing you want is to be feeling the same way in six months into your new gig because you didn't take the time to reflect.”
Staying flexible with your search timeframe
If you’re not happy with your current position, you don’t have to wait for a “right time” — and you can start a passive job search anytime. “I recommended job searchers always keep their eyes open throughout the year. Despite any slowdowns or upticks, you never know when the right job for you will open up,” says Ralph Chapman, CEO and owner of HR Search Pros, Inc. “There are lots of companies that are growing and need people.”