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Now or Then? Tricks to timing your job search

by Carolyn Heinze, Contributing Editor

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In your quest for a job, hard work and due diligence pays off, but there is something to be said for timing. What’s the best time to find a job? That depends.

Chris Forman, founder of StartWire, a Lebanon, New Hampshire-based Internet company, believes that while there really is no bad time to look for a job, more favorable periods of the year exist-particularly when private sector organizations are refreshing their budgets.

“If they are on a fiscal calendar year where it runs from January to December, starting in August, they start looking at their budgets and their plans and their headcounts, and there is back and forth and people are arguing about resources,” he explained. At some point, the budget is approved, usually producing the following results: “Either they get to start recruiting for their new positions immediately. Or, as soon as the fiscal year starts, let’s say January 1, they get to start recruiting for their new positions.” He adds that approaching a company at the beginning of its fiscal year is always a good bet, because budgets rarely survive an entire year. “You want to hit when everything is fresh and new, and there is always a spike that comes up.”

It’s also useful to gain an understanding of business cycles as they apply to specific industries. The holiday season is a prime example. Retailers begin hiring for it in September and October. The pharmaceutical industry ramps up hiring when a drug is approved and ready to be sold or marketed.

“If you are in the pharmaceutical industry, and if a drug that has widespread appeal is going through its Phase Three approvals, they are going to be hiring a sales force to go sell that drug at some point in the next three, six or eight months,” Forman illustrated. “There are cycles in every industry.”

But what if circumstances are such that you are seeking a job during a specific industry’s downtime?

“Then it’s a numbers game,” Forman said. “Somebody is always hiring.” This even applies to organizations that may have recently announced layoffs, he points out. “Even when companies do that, 6 out of 10 times, they are hiring someplace else. They might be shutting down the third shift, but they may still need five maintenance people for the first shift.”

The same goes for the holiday season or the summer: just because the majority of hiring professionals are on vacation doesn’t mean that hiring is on hold everywhere. “Somebody has got a problem that they need to have solved. It just means that you’ve got to spend more time getting yourself in front of businesspeople that have problems that need to be solved by someone like you.”

Carolyn Thompson, author of Ten Easy Steps to a Perfect Resume (BookSurge); Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job (BookSurge); and Ten Secrets to Getting Promoted (CreateSpace), has worked in executive recruiting for over 20 years. In her experience, companies do most of their hiring between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. She also notes that February, rather than January, is a good month to look for a job, because the amount of competition among job seekers is somewhat decreased. However, she underscores that the best way to find a job at any time of the year is through networking with other veterans.

“Those people have been in the same situation, and you already have something in common with them - not the people who are transitioning military members or are still in the military, but those who have successfully left,” she said. “And, they are willing to help.”

Forman urges transitioning military members to make contact with fellow vets through social media networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as via more veteran-specific sites. His reasoning is similar to Thompson’s: Having the military in common with someone who has already established themselves in the civilian workforce can go a long way to getting your resume considered. “What gets you to the top of the resume pile is someone in that organization walks over to HR, or walks over to the hiring manager, and says, ‘Hey, would you be sure to check out Bob?’ That’s all they have to say. They don’t have to say, ‘I endorse Bob’, they don’t have to say, ‘I love Bob.’ They just have to say, ‘Hey listen, he was in the service with me,’ or, ‘He’s a fellow Army vet - be sure to give him a look.’” This simple statement can serve to shuffle a resume that was in the middle of the pile straight to the top.

This is important, Forman notes, because of the sheer volume of resumes that human resources professionals receive. “If they have a stack of 100 resumes and they’ve got a position for a customer service manager, they are going to start at the top of that stack and they are going to go through it until they get seven or eight really qualified candidates that they are willing to phone screen,” he explained. If they find those first seven or eight qualified candidates in the first 10 resumes at the top, they will often stop there. “They’re not going to go through the whole pile. Their policy may say that they should. The best practice may say that they should. But if you’ve got 25 open positions (to fill) on your desk, you are going to do the minimum amount of work on each to finish the job. If your resume is not in the top 10, you’re not going to get there.”

While timing and networking definitely assist in working various leads, if you aren’t prepared to demonstrate the value that you can offer an organization, it’s doubtful that your job search will bear much fruit. As a job seeker, your “job,” then, is to make it clear that you are the solution to their need - a qualified, skilled employee. For veterans, Forman believes that this should come naturally. “In the military, everybody gets that they are there to do a job and to solve a problem, and it’s very outcomes-focused,” he said. “That is something that is an incredibly valuable asset to private employers.”

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.

 

Return to January/February 2013 Issue