If you kicked off 2017 by browsing the online job boards, beefing up your resume, and submitting a few applications, you’re not alone.
January is one of, if not the, busiest times of the year for job applications. Nine out of 10 of Monster.com’s busiest days for job applications last year were during the first month of the year, with the most significant spike landing on January 27, a day when the number of job applications grew to 75% above the daily average.
Monster.com’s careers expert, Vicki Salemi, adds that there was also a dramatic increase during the first week of last year. “In the first week [of the year] people have a lot of momentum toward their job searches, but then they get back into a regular routine at their current job,” she says, adding that job seekers typically follow up with another round of applications on the final days of the month.
There are a wide variety of factors that collide at the start of the year that send employers and employees to job boards en masse. Most obvious are the psychological reasons, such as New Year’s resolutions, and the fact that many Americans spend the holiday season discussing their career ambitions and frustrations with family.
“A lot of folks use that as a time of reflection,” says Jamie Chafel, a recruiter in the software technology search division at Boston-based recruiting agency WinterWyman. “There’s a lot more interaction with friends and family, and one of the questions that comes up is, ‘How’s work going? How are you liking it?’”
Another reason why job applications often skyrocket in January comes down to timing. Both employers and job seekers tend to hold off until after the holiday lull, knowing there will be fewer opportunities and applicants right before the break. This often leads to a higher volume of applicants and job postings at the start of the year.
The final driver of January job application sprees is purely economical. Employees typically avoid jumping ship right before their year-end bonus arrives, while employers often set new targets, hiring budgets, and identify areas of need for the coming year at around the same time.
As a result January is a time of greater opportunity and competition for both job seekers and employers. Chafel says it’s extra important for candidates to be as visible as possible during this period on as many platforms as possible, including job boards, social media, and through networking.
“Understand that there’s that many more applicants out there, so there’s probably even less time being spent reviewing your resume before deciding whether to schedule an interview,” he says. “You need to catch the reader’s attention very quickly.”
Salemi adds that edgy fonts and layouts aren’t always the best approach when trying to stand out in a crowded field, advising applicants to err on the side of professionalism. Instead she says it’s best to use as many numbers as possible at the top of your resume. “If you’re managing a team, how many people on your team? How often do you meet? What’s the annual budget that you manage? How much money did you save in the budget last year?” she says.
Salemi adds that during the busiest recruiting month of the year, applicants should apply as soon as they see a job posting that interests them. “The sooner you apply, the better; you can’t assume the job will still be there tomorrow,” she says. On the flip side, Salemi says that candidates should prepare for slower response times at the start of the year.
As job seekers prepare for an application frenzy, employers should also take this opportunity to improve their retention policies and employer brand, suggests Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst for Glassdoor. “They should really be paying attention to employee feedback right now,” he says, adding that now is the right time to respond to feedback and implement changes. “Job seekers will notice, and you will reap the rewards year-round by seeing stronger applicants and more resumes.”
Dobroski adds that while January is a good time for job seekers to reassess their resumes and employers to reassess their retention policies, neither should limit those efforts to the start of the year. “Regardless of what the calendar says, if it’s a good job market, it’s a good job market, period,” he says.