,   |  October 2, 2012

If you’re graduating this year, when should you start looking for a job?

If you are waiting to graduate, you may be wondering when the appropriate time to start looking for a job is.  Like many job seekers, you are probably eager to get your resume out there and start interviewing!  However, in this case, there is a such thing as “too early”.

[For the purposes of this post, we’re going to exclude hiring that happens through a formal program or through campus recruiting.  Those processes have different rules and timelines]

When it comes to applying for roles that aren’t part of campus recruiting or a structured entry level program, the right time to start looking is about 2 months prior to your “ready-to-start” date.

3 months prior is probably too early but could be worth a shot and 1 month is probably the most optimal.  Either way, every company’s recruiting timeline is a bit different so it’s good to work with a range.

The logic for this timing is found in the recruiting process.  A sample process is illustrated below.

In many organizations, these are the different steps in the interview process.  It is whole lot of steps and none of them happen over night.  For example, one would have you leave at least a few days in between posting the role and gathering the applications because people need to see the posting and apply!  Same thing between screening the resumes and then picking up the phone to do an initial phone screen.  Not only does each step take a significant amount of time, but recruiters are usually juggling this same process with 10+ roles at a time.  Between finding time to screen, schedule, and actually do the interviews, you can see how the process can drag out over the course of a few months.

In my experience, the recruiting lifecycle is anywhere between 45-90 days.  Even in the best possible scenario, it’d be tough to get someone on board in under a month when you consider the 2 weeks notice they will probably need to give and all the steps above.  Recruiters know this, and so most are open to talking to someone 1-2 months away from graduating and relocating.  Some won’t be.

Openness to this can depend on a few factors:

  1. The urgency they are feeling to fill the job – No matter how you swing it, dealing with travel and/or school schedules will take longer than if a candidate is unemployed, local, and ready to come in at any time.  If the recruiter is feeling time pressure, they may only want to see candidates that are 100% available.
  2. How unique your skill set is – If it is a difficult job to fill and your skill set is exactly what is being asked for, the recruiter is likely to work around you location and timelines.
  3. If their goal to fill with a recent grad – For many roles, the recruiter may be looking specifically for a recent grad.  If that is the case, they will be 100% aware and willing to work around graduation and relocation timelines.

While it’s tempting to get stressed out and start applying everywhere, try to enjoy yourself instead.  Look for formal programs and participate in the campus recruiting process early on.  After that, wait til a few months before graduation.  There is no use in applying for a “live” role posted on an employers website 7 months in advance.  So enjoy yourself, and save your energy for crunch time… which is just around the corner.

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