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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

The best time to apply for jobs

11 min read
The best time to apply for jobs
Artwork by:Antonina Kasyanikova
Should you send that application during the summer or over winter holiday? Over the weekend or first thing Monday? Timing may not be everything, but it can make a difference in your application. We look at the best time to apply for jobs to make the most of your search.

When you’re searching for a job, you want every advantage you can get. A great resume and cover letter will take you a long way, but knowing when your application has the best chance of being seen and acted upon can give you the edge you need to land an interview.

So, what is the best time to apply? Of course, if you need a job now, you’re not going to wait for the optimal time of year to apply, but you can time your applications for the best time of day or the best day of the week in which to hit send and maximize your opportunities. What are those times? Read on to learn:

  • Why when you apply matters
  • The best and worst times of year to apply for a job
  • The best and worst days of the week to apply for a job
  • The best and worst times of day to apply for a job
  • Tips for spending your time wisely during your job hunt

Why when you apply matters

You’re looking for a job and an employer has posted a job. Shouldn’t you apply right then? That depends on why you’re looking for a job.

If you have a job and want a better one, you should time your search for when employers are hiring the most people and prioritize the hiring process. Otherwise, your resume may languish in an ever-growing pile of application documents. Of course, if you are scanning job listings and happen to come across the job of your dreams, apply right away. You don’t want that one to slip away.

If you’ve lost your job or are entering the market for the first time, you should consider the best times of day and the best day of the week to apply for that job. You’re certainly not going to wait months, but you can optimize your timing to have a better chance that the HR department will be receptive to your application.

Calendar with the months in orange and grey
Calendar with the months in orange and grey 

The best and worst times of year to apply for a job

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for individuals – many companies also want a fresh start or begin new initiatives after the winter holiday season, including creating new positions or gearing up hiring that’s been put on hold while many employees are on vacation.

The best times: the beginning of the year and late spring

Yes, you guessed it: January and February are great times to dive into your job hunt in earnest if you’re looking for the broadest range of opportunities. Although not every company is on a budget cycle that ends close to the end of the year, many are. That means new positions may have been approved just before Thanksgiving – and many scheduled vacations and office closing days – rolls around. Those jobs may be posted in December, but it’s a good bet that hiring won’t ramp up until January.

New Year’s resolutions also lead some people who aren’t satisfied in their positions to move on and they may be moving on from just the right job for you. 

The lead-up to school graduations is also a good time to focus on your job hunt.  Employers know that many students want to hit the ground running with their first jobs, so they post positions in March, April, and May. Plus, fewer HR people are likely to be on vacation so the hiring process moves more quickly.

The worst times: end of the year and late summer

The worst time? In late December and August, when most workers take a vacation, business life slows down. December is the most popular vacation month, followed closely by July and August. Unless, of course, you are in retail or travel, when your busy times are opposite of the business world.

The best and worst days of the week to apply for a job

OK, you’re definitely going to use your new year’s resolution to look for a new job, but so are many other employment seekers. Are there days of the week that boost your chances of rising to the top of the heap?

The best: Monday

LinkedIn says studies have found that most people apply for jobs on Tuesdays, but do you want to be lumped in with most people? Although 37 percent of resumes arrive on a Tuesday, those applicants have only a 20 percent success rate. Instead, polish your resume and cover letter over the weekend and hit the send button on Monday – the most productive day of the week for 28 percent of workers – or late Sunday evening when 30 percent of applicants moved on to the interview process. 

The worst: Friday

Days of the week are tougher to predict because every HR department has a different work rhythm, but you can bet that Friday, especially Friday afternoon, is not when people concentrate hardest on new applicants. Likewise, it’s not the best idea to send an application on Saturday, even if that’s the day you’ve set aside for completing applications. You don’t want to get buried at the bottom of an inbox underneath a pile of spam and unsolicited sales pitches.

Expert tip

What about the other days of the week?

If you find a job that seems like a perfect fit on a Wednesday, should you wait? Our recommendation is to go ahead and send in your application package. The highest volume of responses to job ads comes within 2-5 days of posting. Your resume may be reviewed if you’re an outlier, but if the recruiter already has a pile of qualified candidates to choose from, they may not look any further.

On the other hand, don’t hit the send button minutes after the job is posted. You may think that shows you really want the job, but what it does is tell recruiters that you haven’t thought through what skills the position requires or have done any research on the company. It also means you have just sent a generic resume and cover letter, instead of one tailored to the job.

The best and worst times of day to apply for a job

You can’t sleep because you’re worried about your job situation so you get on the computer and start scanning job sites (again). Should you send your application at 3 a.m.? One factor to consider is how truly awake you are because you definitely don’t want to send an application containing errors.

The second factor is when the HR person will look at your resume. It’s likely your response will pass through an Applicant Tracking System before reaching a recruiter’s inbox, which means that they have probably set aside some time to cull through all the resumes that have passed this first test. In that case, the point may be moot, but if you are responding directly to an individual, the best time of day to apply for a job is important.

The average worker is most productive at about 11 a.m., according to a data analysis by Quartz. If you think your application may be looked at immediately, aim to get it there by about 10:30 a.m. to give the recruiter time to compile the applications they want to read in depth. After lunch, our productivity trails off and we really start watching the clock and not the in-box by 4 p.m.

Tips for spending your time wisely during your job hunt

Let’s face it: you can’t spend all day, every day searching for and applying to jobs. So what else should you be doing?

  • Take an honest assessment of your skills. If you haven’t already, create a Master List of every bit of job-related knowledge and every skill that you have. Are you missing some that you have noticed on the job listings you’re reading? Take a class or get a certificate in those skills to boost your desirability as a candidate.
  • Review your resume. Do you have some of those skills, but you haven’t made it clear in your application? Have you inserted keywords that the ATS will pick up so your resume makes it into the hands of the recruiter? Is your resume outdated because all you did was add your latest position to the top of your employment history section? Maybe it’s time for a total overhaul or to hire a resume-writing service.
  • Do some research. Ask for informational interviews with people who recruit in your profession or with higher-ups in your field to see what impresses them in a candidate. You can even ask them to critique your resume and cover letter.
  • Spruce up your social media. Many recruiters seek out your LinkedIn and other professional profiles to get a broader picture of who you are.

Key takeaways

  • Timing matters, but your situation matters more.
  • If you have the option, the best months to apply for jobs are January through May, so double down on your job search at the beginning of the year or the spring.
  • Avoid sending your resume on Saturdays and aim for the best day to apply for jobs: Monday.
  • While you wait for the interview invitations to roll in, you can be bolstering your chances by gaining new skills and revamping your application documents.
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