Seasons change - here's the prime time for your job search

Just as business profits rise and fall in predictable cycles throughout the year, hiring is also cyclical: some months may be flush with new job postings while other months may be more quiet in the staffing department. So, with the season a big influence on your job search success, when's the best time of the year to look for a job in the UK? Here's a breakdown of the hiring trends per month:

January to February = good time to apply 

According to research by recruiter Michael Page, more than half of UK workers see the new year as a new start, with 22% wanting to kickstart 2024 with a new job. The start of the year does signify a rise in new job postings, making January and February among the ideal times of the year to look for a job. 

There are a few reasons for this. First, companies are gearing up for a new year, so they have updated budgets and sales forecasts. This means that HR managers have a better idea of what new roles they need to fill and how many new people they can hire. In addition, when hirings that needed to happen in November and December get delayed, there's a backlog of new roles that HR managers have to post.

March to May = good time to apply 

Hiring typically stays strong in the spring. In March, applicants benefit from the same first-quarter bump in hiring that January and February bring. By May, you're likely to hit the pre-summer rush. These make March and May also among the best times of the year to look for a new job.

As HR managers are planning their holidays, they need to fill roles before the office slows down in the summer. Even the most meticulous of HR departments may speed up their reviews of applications at this time, to make sure that roles are filled before employees disperse for the holidays.

Some industries pick up their pre-summer hiring for other reasons ‒ in sectors like construction, agriculture, hospitality, and tourism, hiring swells during this time because of the need to quickly fill these upcoming, seasonally dependent roles.

June to August = poor time to apply 

Summer is typically a low point for hiring. Employees are away on holidays, making it harder to coordinate hiring new team members. In addition, HR managers have often maxed out on their hiring budgets by the time summer rolls around. 

The roles that are going to be posted around this time will likely be entry-level and minimum wage positions. This is beneficial for recent graduates looking for a job, but for more experienced hires, there may be fewer options available.

Because of this lull, the summer is not the best time of the year to look for a job. It is, however, a good time to focus on building your network, conducting informational interviews, and scoping out the companies you're interested in. These early steps will give you leverage come autumn, when hiring picks up again.

September to October = best time to apply 

With a change in the leaves comes a refreshed attitude towards hiring. As HR managers sit back down to their desks after a busy summer, recruiting new talent is again pushed towards the top of the agenda. Employees are recharged and motivated after the summer, making for a clearer and more efficient hiring process. In addition, industries like retail and e-commerce often start hiring at this point to prepare for the Christmas holiday rush.

51% of recruiters say that they want new hires to start in January. For that reason, autumn may be the best time of the year to look for a job. This takes into consideration the fact that it takes an average of 33 days from applying for a role to landing it. If you also factor in the average one-month notice that workers have to serve, that may take you to the January starting point. 

November to December = worst time to apply 

November and December are, unfortunately, the worst time to look for a job. For one, there's the same effect at play as in the summer ‒ employees are planning their leave around the Christmas holidays, so there's less focus on pulling in new members for the team. Even if they're not travelling, preparation for the holidays often eclipses the focus of employees, leaving them more likely to concentrate on the bare essentials.

Additionally, budgets for hiring have typically run out and HR is sitting on their hands waiting for new forecasts and budgets to come in for the new year. 

You can, however, start getting your CV in gear and scoping out the companies and roles you're interested in, so that come the January hiring season, you're ready to pounce on the available opportunities.

The best (and worst) time to find a job

Here's a summary of the application periods, ranked from best to worst:

  1. September to October

  2. January to February

  3. March to May

  4. June to August

  5. November to December

How long do job adverts stay live?

Do you have your eye on a job posting? Even if it's not the best time to apply, it won't hurt to submit your application for that dream role. But make sure you move quickly as postings on online job boards stay live for as little as 30 days – you don't want to hesitate for too long and miss the opportunity!

Stay job ready all year round

It's good to be aware of the best time of the year to look for a job. But you don't need to put your job search on hold just because it's August or December. Even when there aren't many roles popping up, you can cultivate your network and get ready for your next role. Why not spruce up your CV and get started on your job hunt now?

Whether it's the job search lull or highest peak, a quality CV is a necessity. Submit yours for a free CV review to find out if it's ready for prime application time.

This article was originally written by Lillian Childress and has been updated by Charlotte Grainger.

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