The December 2018 U.S. employment report was more robust than expected, with the economy adding an estimated 312,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate moved up to 3.9%. At the same time, CEOs report that their top worry is finding the right talent. So, it’s clear that talented job-search candidates have the upper hand right now.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t better times to search for a job than others. If landing a new job is part of your 2019 plan, some experts advise that timing can give you an advantage.
The Q1 effect
The first quarter of the calendar year–early January and even into early in the second quarter–is typically a great time to look for a job. “Company budgets are locked and loaded and hiring managers are focused on getting budgeted positions filled–so they don’t lose them and they can achieve their goals,” says Kris Dunn, CHRO and partner at Kinetix HR, a recruitment process outsourcing firm based in Atlanta.
It’s also likely that hiring was slow toward the end of the year and the company needs to fill positions that have been open, Dunn adds. In some cases, if organizations aren’t hitting their numbers, they may delay filling open positions or even enact a hiring freeze to save money, he says. At the start of a new calendar year–and a new budget–companies are often eager to staff up, he says.
But keep in mind that “first quarter” falls at different times for different companies, he says. If a company runs on a fiscal year that isn’t aligned with the calendar year, their hiring may ramp up shortly after their “new year” begins. For example, all but four U.S. state governments have fiscal years that end June 30, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Apple’s fourth quarter ends in September. Barnes and Noble’s fiscal year ends in April. So, if you are targeting a particular company, include their fiscal year as part of your data-gathering.
Various industries have seasonality that may drive peak hiring times, says Julia Pollak, a labor economist with ZipRecruiter, a job-search platform based in Santa Monica, California. The platform’s data show that, while some industries such as mining, some wholesale sectors, and some professional services may show little seasonality, ZipRecruiter’s data shows the following peak hiring times:
- April: Construction
- May/June: Arts and entertainment
- June: Manufacturing, finance and insurance, real estate, and personal care services
- August: Education
- October: Retail
- November: Transportation and warehousing
These hiring seasons are preceded by a jump in job listings, typically a month earlier, Pollak says. “So, if you’re looking for a job in construction, ideally you want to be looking at postings at least a month earlier,” she adds.
Within specific companies, there may be circumstances or situations that may create new hiring pushes, says Laura Handrick, careers and workplace specialist with FitSmallBusiness.com, based in New York City. Staffing up for a new project or initiative, preparing for or managing growth, or other situations may mean that companies need to hire. If you have target companies, work on developing contacts who can give you a heads-up about internal opportunities. Many job search websites allow you to set alerts that will send you a notification when a new position at a particular company (or for a specific type of job) is posted, which can help you respond quickly.
Pollak recommends keeping your job-hunting tools up-to-date to be able to capitalize quickly on these opportunities. “Try to update your resume as often as you change your smoke alarm batteries—twice a year,” she says.
It’s a good idea to update your LinkedIn profile at the same time to be sure there are no discrepancies between the two. But make sure your privacy settings are adjusted so you don’t broadcast your updates to your LinkedIn contacts, which likely include your colleagues. If your co-workers or boss suddenly see a LinkedIn makeover, they may assume you’re looking for a new job. That’s fine if you’re interested in sharing such information, but if you’re trying to keep your search confidential, then watch those settings, he says.
While December is much-maligned as a time to look for a job both because it’s the end of the fiscal year for many companies and because the holidays can be a drag for productivity, it’s not a time to be overlooked, says Kathleen Steffey, founder and chief talent officer at Naviga Recruiting and Executive Search, a recruitment and executive search firm based in Tampa. She says her December is often hectic because job-hunters are trying to get a jump on the new year. And that’s a good idea, she says.
“The climate in general is crazy ideal for candidates because of the low unemployment rate They’ve got the upper hand, but right now, they need to get moving if they’re interested,” she says.
Handrick is also a fan of December job-hunting. “[Y]ou want to be in the pipeline with recruiters when [companies] get the green light to resume hiring in January,” she says.