The right time to look for a job

When is the best time to look for a new job?

One of the most common questions that I get asked by candidates is, “Is this a good time to be looking for a new job?”

Getting hired is often a case of being in the right place at the right time, but there are lots of things that can influence your job search. Seasonal variations, the economy, staff turnover rates, company earnings and many more factors can affect recruitment, so how can you maximise your chances of finding the right job?

Annual recruitment patterns

Traditionally, the New Year is a good time to be looking for a new role, as lots of companies rush to fill vacancies. Many people wait until January to change jobs, having waited to receive their annual bonus in December or having made a New Year’s resolution to find a new role, leaving lots of open vacancies. Companies also often start new hiring budgets in January, so any hiring that was put on hold at the end of the previous year can now move forward.

This period of recruitment lasts for the first half of the year; dying down around the Easter break and then fading off completely in the summer. There is then a second wave of jobs around mid-September as hiring managers return from holiday and pick up any recruitment that was delayed. Turnover is also often high around this period as employees who feel miserable to be back at work after their holidays immediately start looking for something else. This momentum carries the recruitment market forward until late November.

Something to bear in mind is that although these peak periods have the most jobs available, there are also the most candidates around competing for those jobs. Companies still have to hire during the rest of the year, and jobseekers who apply then may be able to stand out among fewer applicants. You might just need a bit more patience as holidays can interrupt the recruitment process and make things take longer.

Economic factors

The recruitment market also moves in much slower cycles over years, as the balance of power shifts between employers and employees. In 2019, the job market is very much in favour of the candidate:

  • The UK unemployment rate is 3.8% – the lowest it has been since 1974. Even accounting for high numbers of part-time and shift workers, there are still fewer jobseekers applying for roles.
    ONS Labour Market Overview May 2019
  • The number of vacancies in the UK has been steadily increasing since 2012. Companies are creating new jobs at the very time that there are fewer people to fill them.
    ONS Labour Market Overview May 2019
  • More than half of employers (53%) have increased starting salaries for at least a minority of vacancies, as a response to their struggle to fill vacancies.
    CIPD Labour Market Outlook Spring 2019

Looking purely at the numbers, 2019 may be the best time to find a new job in decades

Do your research

If there’s a particular company or sector you’re interested in, doing some research could help you find out when they are likely to be hiring. Looking through industry press, company websites and social media pages can help you establish if that business or industry is healthy and looking to bring in new employees or experiencing difficulties and in a hiring freeze. Look for news announcements that might precede a batch of new hires, such as expansions or office openings, new product launches or an influx of capital funding.

Researching individual companies may help you establish if they have any particular patterns for hiring new staff. Using a tool like LinkedIn, you may even be able to reach out to someone who works for the business to ask about any upcoming rounds of recruitment.

If possible, stay in your current job

Looking for a new job often seems like a full-time role in itself, with research, trawling job boards, creating tailored CVs and cover letters, filling out application forms and interviewing. It can be tempting to hand in your notice just to free up some time.

However, the results of a recent study support the conventional wisdom that it’s easier to get hired when you’re already in a job. The research shows both that employed candidates received more job offers relative to the amount of time they spent applying, and that unemployed jobseekers received worse offers, with lower salaries and fewer benefits.

Even if the market conditions are perfect, it can still take a while to find your ideal new role. Staying in your current role can take the pressure off the job hunt, allowing you to take your time and stay in control, rather than having to accept the first role that’s offered.

Keep looking

Even if you are looking for a new role at exactly the time when the market is at its peak, that is no guarantee that you’ll find the perfect job that meets all your requirements in that time frame. If there is one thing I learned from my own experience as a candidate, it is that the two-month window I had to find a new role was not necessarily the same two months that my ideal next company would need to hire someone at my level and with my salary expectations.

So if the job market is only really good if there is a role with your name on it out there, the best way to improve your chances is to never stop looking for the right move. No matter when you decide to move on, the best approach is to hope for a sprint, but plan for a marathon. And like preparing for a marathon, you need to train daily. Make sure you always have an up to date CV that is ready to go if your perfect role appears, regularly visit job boards and key industry or company websites and keep your recruitment partner up to date with your search.

That way the market suits you, rather than you trying to suit the market. The right role may well arrive in the middle of August in the middle of a recession – just don’t let it pass you by…

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