1. Career

How Far in Advance Should You Apply for a Job

Knowing when to apply is a great way of making sure you’re opening yourself up to the plethora of available jobs.

Why? It’s because some companies begin to seek applicants months down the road, while others start their recruiting process quite early.

Determine how far in advance should you apply for a job, as discussed by experts.

Simon Royston

Simon Royston

Founder and Managing Director, The Recruitment Lab

The sooner you submit your application, the quicker it can be considered

Broadly speaking, I can think of a few reasons why you would delay an application for a job. In most cases, the recruitment process will only run as long as it actually takes to find the right candidate and so with that in mind delaying your application just limits your chances of success.

There are though some exceptions to this. I have had applications from university students in the final year of their studies applying for roles and telling me they’ll be available in six to nine months’ time.

In many cases, their application simply does not interest my client – they want the position filled as soon as possible.

If you are applying for jobs while completing your studies your applications should be aimed at corporations who have graduate recruitment schemes.

But even then, you are not delaying your application you are in fact tailoring your approach to an organization already mindful of your timelines.

Related: How to Get an Entry-Level Job with No Qualifications or Experience

Maybe you are not going to be available for an interview for a couple of weeks due to a vacation. Just highlight that on your application and/or covering letter.

You may miss out due to your availability, but if you are the perfect candidate you’d be surprised how suddenly there is flexibility in terms of timelines and making decisions.

Simply put, you have to be in it to win it. Being unavailable for a week or so is rarely a deal-breaker even being unavailable for six months could work in some circumstances, but only for those organizations with a long term recruitment vision.

Therefore be smart in your applications, if you are only available to start in nine months’ time, there is no point applying to an organization seeking a waiter/waitress to start Friday night!

James Westhoff

James Westhoff

Director of Career Services, Husson University’s Center for Student Success

Four to six months in advance of when you want to start a position

However, I think it is very important to start your job search process a year to a year-and-a-half before you want to start. The reason I recommend this is to allow time for networking and connecting with people. These connections are a crucial aspect of the job search process.

The reason I recommend applying 4-6 months ahead is that you never know how long the selection process is going to take. I have heard of very extensive interviewing processes that include numerous interviews.

Conversely, I have also heard of processes that include just one or two interviews. The only exception to this recommendation is when a job posting informs you of the organization you are applying to wants to fill the position by a specific date. If that date is much earlier than when you will be ready to accept the position, I would encourage you not to apply.

Eva Weiss

Eva Weiss

Chief Operating Officer, ECG Resources

Three to four months

On a general basis, we advise allowing between 12 and 16 weeks to provide sufficient time for you to source relevant positions, submit your application, complete the interview process, receive or accept a job offer, and give notice.

A few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Garden leave. If your current firm has a Garden Leave policy of 30-90 days, make sure to start the process earlier.
  • Tenure at the current firm. It’s always important to leave things on a positive note with your current employer. If you’ve been with the same firm for a long time, it may be appropriate to give more than the standard 2 weeks’ notice to minimize transition difficulties for your current employer.
  • Geographical considerations. If you are in a position to relocate to a different state, that can add another 2 months to the process –interstate flights during the interview process, house sale/hunting, researching educational options, etc.
  • Familial/Personal considerations. If you have any extenuating circumstances that may require additional transition time, factor those in to allow for a non-pressuring move. Examples include – spousal/partner agreement, an older or unwell family member, or a demanding work schedule that will make it more challenging to find time to interview.
  • Current work situation. If you are currently out of work, or your current employer is aware that you are considering a change and is on-board with that, or you have the ability to make a quick decision and move – the time needed may be reduced.
  • Setting expectations. It’s important to be transparent and upfront with potential employers regarding your anticipated timeline. Most of the time, employers are glad to accommodate your needs – as long as they are communicated respectfully and clearly from the beginning. Don’t wait until an offer comes out to tell an employer that you have a 90 day Garden Leave, or that you’re required to give 30 days’ notice.
  • Working with a consultant. There are numerous benefits to working with a recruiter specializing in your market. Aside from having valuable industry insights, an outside recruiter will be able to give you a sense of anticipated timing for a position, based on their direct communication with those doing the hiring.

Matt Erhard

Matt Erhard

Managing Partner, Summit Search Group

Three months in advance

I usually advise candidates to begin looking for a job a full quarter before they want to start their new position—roughly 3 months in advance, on average.

This allows you time to go through the application and interview process with a sense of urgency but without feeling overwhelmed, and also catches employers/hiring managers at the time they’ll be looking to fill positions.

Apply too early, and your resume might simply get shuffled into a stack and not get the attention it deserves; apply too late, and HR will already be in the midst of interviewing candidates, so you’ll only get a call-back if you’re significantly better qualified or if another candidate drops out. It’s never good when your success is dependent on others failing.

This number does change depending on the type and level of work you’re looking for. Executive searches are longer processes, for example, and companies are also more willing to wait for the perfect candidate if they can’t start exactly on the planned date.

If you’re looking for C-level positions, I don’t think it’s possible to start the search too early. Also, keep in mind that some companies and industries hire on a regular schedule and you’ll need to plan your timing around that.

The most obvious example I can think of is work in academia, where teachers and other staff have a set start date based on their semester or quarter schedule.

You may also run into this with corporate jobs that do training on a set schedule, so you’ll want to research that before you decide when to start your search.

One last thing: if you’re planning to move and looking for a position in your new city, you may want to cut down that lead time to 1-2 months in advance.

This may leave you with a week or two of down-time before your new job starts but that can be a good thing, letting you focus on the move first and saving you some stress.

Ralph Chapman

Ralph Chapman

CEO, HR Search Pros, Inc.

Two to three months in advance

There are a lot of factors when considering how far in advance you should apply for a job. In general, I recommend applying around 2-3 months in advance. This allows time for all the interviews, giving notice, and handling any unexpected issues that may come up.

With that said, here are a few things to consider as to when you should apply for a role:

  • The level of the role: Typically, the higher the level of the role the longer the interview process usually takes. The interview process for senior roles can take up to 3-6 months; sometimes even more.
  • The economy: Right now with so many people working from home and lots of video interviews, we are seeing the interview processes take 2-5 weeks longer than normal.
  • The location: If you are looking for a job that will require you to relocate, you will want to apply anywhere from 1-3 months earlier than you normally would.
  • The industry: Various industries sometimes take longer the others – this has to be considered and it is a good idea to do some research on this to know when to apply.
  • The size of the company: On many occasions, the larger the company the longer the interview process takes. So, you will want to allow an extra 1-2 weeks if you are applying to a big company.
  • Giving notice to your current company: Usually, people with give a 2 weeks’ notice to their current employer; however, some people will give 3-4 weeks’ notice. The length of notice you will be giving needs to be taken into account.

Sara Jane McDonald

Sara Jane McDonald

Director of Talent Acquisition for North America, Lionbridge

Act quickly

When you find a job opportunity that you would like to be considered for, act quickly. You have nothing to lose by applying to a job that has been posted for only a few days.

Remember, the longer you wait to apply for a role, the more applicants are ahead of you being reviewed by a recruiter. Being proactive is key in finding a career that is right for you.

First, do your homework, and research the employer that you’d like to work for; dig into their company culture and employee testimonials.

Second, it’s important to have your resume updated so that you can tailor it to the job that you are applying for.

Third, if you have a company that you would really like to be part of, but they don’t have any current open roles that fit your background, check out their career page. Many companies have a talent network or a place to sign up for job alerts.

Finally, network, network, network. Reach out by sending a light introduction to a member of the recruiting team for future opportunities.

Remember, being focused on your job search now will help you to narrow in on the roles that will drive your career forward tomorrow!

Related: How to Reach out to a Recruiter

Mark Frietch

Mark Frietch

Founder & President, Frietch Consulting Group

It is never to early to apply for a job

In a “normal” recruiting funnel, each position can receive well over 100 applicants and that obviously increases in these crisis times where unemployment skyrockets.

I always recommend to job seekers to keep a list of targeted companies and roles and utilize job alerts so that they can get notified when those roles open. Sadly, that can still be too late as most recruiters have received referrals for positions prior to posting.

Build a strong network within the companies you are targeting. That way you are able to hear about a role before it is posted. This gives you a huge advantage hen your in your job search.

Laura Handrick

Laura Handrick

Contributing HR Professional, Choosing Therapy

One to two weeks

If you’re wanting a job in a high-turnover industry (restaurant server, retail clerk), you can often wait to start looking until about 2 weeks before you need work. Those industries have an ongoing need for workers. They’re always on the hunt for people with common sense, a positive attitude, and solid customer service skills.

It’s similar in construction jobs. If you have a smidge of experience, know how to use tools, and are reliable, contact the hiring manager or job site supervisor to let them know you’re looking to work. You’ll often be able to snag a new role in a matter of weeks.

Four to six weeks

On the flip side are executive-level jobs. I recommend starting your search 4-6 months in advance because in those types of roles you’ll need to be just the right fit for the job.

For example, a hospital will want a finance executive with hospital and insurance experience, whereas a bank will want a finance executive with banking and loan experience.

You’ll need to apply for jobs, perhaps use the services of a professional recruiter, and go through several interviews to determine whether your skills, temperament, education, and experience are a solid match.

In addition, those roles tend to be held by incumbents and often find and recruit managers from within.

Nicolle Merrill

nicolle merrill

Former Yale School of Management Career Coach |
Author, “Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots

Apply as soon as the job is posted

We are in a period of mass layoffs, so competition is fierce. The sooner you apply, the quicker a recruiter can fill their role. You make the recruiter’s job easier by applying earlier.

I’ll never forget when, as a career coach at Yale School of Management, I invited a recruiter from a Fortune 500 company to talk about the recruiting process. He told a class of MBA students that he only phone screened the first 20 applicants to a job. If he found someone in that batch, he didn’t look at the rest. Keep in mind, the average job posting gets over 200 applications.

Jonathan H. Phillips

CEO, Magellan International, L.P.

Start immediately by applying for opportunities that are good fits

When job hunting, use the time to your advantage. Be sure to use vocabulary in your application that matches the position description to get through applicant tracking systems. Then there are two crucial points to consider that you have complete control over.

The first is to think through any and all long term career objectives that matter to you both professionally and personally.

The second is to reach out to your own network both personal and professional and share your journey with them. You will be pleasantly surprised to find real advocates for your career there. And the opportunities that come from your own network are often far more rewarding than those found at random.

Michele Mavi

Michele Mavi

Career Strategist & Executive Coach, Monumental Me

Submit the application as early as possible

It’s wise to assume that by the time a job is posted, it’s an opening that an organization is intent on filling and filling fast.

The longer a job stays open the further behind an organization gets in terms of productivity, not just in that one role, but in others, as various employees may need to jump in to pick up the slack.

It’s also good to keep in mind that recruiters want to fill their open positions as soon as possible so they can cross it off their list and focus on their other openings that need their attention. Therefore, the earlier you apply to a job the better.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the earlier you apply, the less competition you have, and the greater the chance of your resume getting seen.

If a job has been open for a long time, you run the risk of being one of the hundreds of resumes in a recruiter’s inbox in response to that open role. By that time many resumes don’t even get reviewed.

Additionally, if the organization has already started interviewing and have interest in a few candidates, they may stop reviewing new applications altogether.

As with most things, the faster you get to market, the greater your chance of success.

Shawna Newman, MBA

Shawna Newman

Career Coach, SAHM Jobs Center

Two months before the layoff date

Before applying for a new job, you need to assess your current situation. Are you moving to a new city or have you been given a layoff date at your current job? If so, use that date to determine when you should start job hunting.

A good rule of thumb is two months before that date, assuming that you have some money in savings if you don’t secure a job by that date. Don’t have the savings? Then start searching three to four months in advance.

If you are just interested in getting a new job instead of needing to find new employment, then time is in your favor. You can start looking immediately for new opportunities.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the more senior the role, then the longer lead time you need to look for the job. For instance, landing a new job as a receptionist won’t take as long as an upper management position.

Thalia Toha

Thalia Toha

CEO, Good Grow Great

You can get in front of the line if you are strategic. Two-weeks is really not good enough. Most companies take 2-4 weeks just to turn papers around. The key is to be strategic.

Instead of looking for opportunities, think of ways to create opportunities

If you think about it, most opportunities that are posted publicly will create a feeding frenzy. The key is to be in the insider circle of companies long (at least 6-months) before you ever needed it.

Create a value-adding calendar where you plan to reach out to companies that align with what you want to do (months before you ever needed the job). By value-adding, I don’t mean giving them what you think is valuable. But rather, take time to research what’s valuable to them.

Start connecting with multiple levels of their organization. Connecting with HR is one thing, and going straight to the top is, while a great achievement, is not always the most strategic.

Middle management is usually a great place to start because they are great connectors. If HR got forwarded an email from you from their managers, chances are, they’ll connect with you first rather than any random person from the internet who submits their resume.

Keep in mind, during this period before you apply, your goal is to be their go-to person for specific expert topics. Top of mind does not mind pinging them constantly with low-value questions like: “Following up on my resume” or “Checking in on the interview results”.

Becoming an expert means connecting the dots, sharing valuable resources, articles, or giving valuable bullet-pointed executive summaries on potential ways to solve targeted problems that benefit them.

Dana Case

Dana Case

Director of Operations, MyCorporation.com

There is no wrong time when applying for a job

I don’t think there’s a ‘wrong’ time to begin looking for and applying for a job, especially in the current COVID-19 climate.

Depending on the industry you’re in and what you do, you may need to study in advance or take courses that can make you a stronger applicant for the role you’re applying for.

Consider the industry you’re in and the one you want to enter as you look for jobs. This will factor in how quickly you can begin applying for work and presenting yourself as a suitable candidate for the role.

Parker McCumber

Parker McCumber

Entrepreneur, Old Glory Flag Pole | US Army Veteran

How far in advance you apply for a job totally depends on the job

There are a number of factors that go into any companies hiring process, but you can get a good feel of how far out you should be applying based on the level of the position, and the type of work the position is for.

For example, applying to stock shelves at a grocery store or start at a fast-food restaurant typically doesn’t have any real barrier to entry. Nearly everyone is capable of learning how to perform those tasks and because of that, the business doesn’t have very strict hiring parameters for those positions.

For a low-level position, you should apply as soon as possible, because there will be a large selection of qualified applicants in the competition.

If you are looking at a position within a trade, or with some specialized training, I would recommend contacting potential employers a few weeks to two months away from your certification to let them know of your availability and express your interest.

They may ask you to submit a resume then or explain to you how they wish you to proceed and their timeline for hiring to fill a position of interest.

For levels that require higher levels of education or specialized training, I recommend starting to apply as soon as you know you will be searching for a new position.

For example, a university student may start applying during the last semester of their senior year. This gives them plenty of time to find an employer and make arrangements.

For those already in the workforce, I recommend a few weeks to a month out and depending on your personal situation, try to secure new income and employment prior to leaving your current position.

If you see a position that you want to fill, apply for it. Go through the interview process, and explain your situation, it doesn’t hurt to say, “I have given my two weeks notice at my current employer” or something to that effect.

An advantage to applying sooner, is that the company may not be able to wait weeks or months for someone to fill the vacancy, they may need someone ASAP and that could work for your benefit.

Lastly, for senior-level positions, I recommend at least applying a full month out if you can. Positions of upper-level management or a VP of a department go through much more thorough and rigorous screening and selection. This takes time, and they will compare you to other applicants and competitors.

Last-minute applications may not even be reviewed due to the screening. So when you find a position like this, I recommend moving quickly to prepare yourself, your resume and any needed information or samples, and apply!

I have never heard of a negative experience if you call the company and speak to their hiring manager of HR and inquire about their timelines and the position prior to an application. It will let them know your serious, as well as show that you are interested in meeting their timelines and needs.

Zhen Tang

Zhen Tang

Chief Operating Officer, AiLaw

It depends on your field and availability

I think it depends on your field and availability and you need to plan it accordingly. However, it is good to apply 1-2 months before you expect to leave your job. But up to 3 months if you feel as though you might experience difficulties landing a position.

Almost six months is the norm for senior positions and highly paid jobs.

The harder a job is to fill, the sooner you can feel free to apply. They’ll be glad to know you’re coming available in some months. In fact, they may wait for you for a few months.

As a recruiter filling highly specialized and senior-level positions in medical, IT, and life sciences, I assure you that anything other than basic jobs (clerical, secretary, retail, etc.) should pursue at least three months out.

Do not listen to anyone telling you to get interview experience off the backs of others. Be honest about your timelines.

If it is appropriate to work in an interview for you based on that (and your skills and qualifications), the employer will schedule you for that.

Otherwise, don’t waste people’s time. It’ll create resentment if you reject an offer because you can’t start soon, but never even hinted at that at the onset.

Chane Steiner

Chane Steiner

CEO, Crediful

The short answer is as soon as possible

Realistically, you should apply to a job as soon as you see it come up as an opportunity. The fact is, you never know how many openings a company has, and if you wait too long, those open positions might be filled before you even have the opportunity to show your strength as a candidate.

It’s also important to apply as far in advance as possible because some companies take several weeks or even several months to get back to you after applying.

Whether you’re leaving your current job soon or you’re unemployed and surviving on savings, you don’t want to be applying for jobs out of desperation.

Instead, you should start applying for work opportunities at least a month or two before you actually need a new job. This way you leave yourself plenty of time to not only seek out different openings but also to account for any extra time the employer might take to get back to you about your application.

Stephanie Thoma

Stephanie Thoma

Networking Strategy Coach, The Confident Introvert

Apply for a job for more than one month but less than two months from the time you’d like to begin.

Chances are it will take a few weeks to fill the role, assuming there are other candidates and the person currently in the role provided one month’s notice.

Alternatively, if this is a new role, hiring managers may be identifying what skills applicants bring to the table in order to tweak the new listing to maximize ROI.

This is standard for more entry and mid-level corporate roles, however, there are sometimes exceptions. Someone could have quit without notice and an immediate replacement is needed. Or perhaps the role is a nice-to-have but not necessary and the company’s bottom line plummets leaving the role on hold.

The key is to be flexible and open to the changing work climate with varying timelines.

Jacob Dayan

Jacob Dayan

CEO and Co-founder, Community Tax

Give yourself a few months

Whether you want to take some time after college before applying for a job or you want to start work right after graduating, make sure to give yourself a few months to apply, conduct interviews, and hopefully land a job.

If you wait too long, you run the risk of not getting your application in soon enough, potentially missing out on a dream job because someone else applied sooner, or you might end up taking a job that you may not have wanted because you did not give yourself enough time.

If you want to travel or take some time post-college before starting your career, look into any part-time job. This will help you earn some money and be able to save while applying for a full-time job. Additionally, it will show employers that you are hardworking, a go-getter, and have great time management.

Praveen Latchamsetty

Praveen Latchamsetty

Founder, MPL Enterprises

I would be sure to approach each job opening with an open and fresh perspective. If there is a need-based job opening, you should apply immediately. Of course, you will not always know if a job posting is due to an urgent need.

One clue can be if a recruiter reaches out to you about a specific position, it is likely a position that needs to be filled sooner than later.

If the job posting lists a start date that is within the next 1-2 months, also consider applying immediately. Another solid candidate could be offered the job before you get very far in the application and interview process.

Companies may leave a posting up even after making an offer because they are not certain on whether the candidate will accept. So in these more urgent need-based situations, the sooner you can apply the better

On the flip side, if there’s a position where it is clear there is no immediate need, I would approach it differently.

For instance, if you know about an annual summer internship program, consider trying to find out when hiring decisions are made, and work back by 2 months. A short, friendly inquisitive email to HR cannot hurt.

If summer internship resumes aren’t being looked at until March and you apply in October, it could fall off the radar. Aim to apply in early February in that case. If you have to guess as to when a hiring decision is to be made, I’d apply about 3-4 months before the job is set to begin.

Generally, I think it’s better to aim at the early side than to be on the later side when offers are already being made.

Mack Dudayev

Mack Dudayev

Founder and Realtor, Chance Realty, LLC

The timing will depend on the position and the field you’re applying for

For instance, most applications for highly specialized or senior positions should be applied for 3 to 6 months in advance. The reason is that there is a higher probability of needing to relocate, a longer interview process, and certain job specifics.

Other opportunities can be applied for anywhere from 1.5 to 2 months. This will give ample time to wrap up with the previous employer, prepare for interviews, and start a new position.

Ty Stewart

Ty Stewart

CEO & President, Simple Life Insure

It’s never too early to apply for a job

Staying up-to-date on job opportunities is important to career hygiene, and it’s never too early to apply for a job.

The key is to be strategic. Know in advance the types of opportunities that would make a career move worthwhile given your current circumstances, and don’t waste your time on opportunities that don’t make the cut.

I recommend jotting down some key yes/no questions that apply to your career path:

  • Does the job opportunity represent the key learning and skills development I need?
  • Does the job opportunity offer a significant jump in salary or title?
  • Does the job opportunity get me closer to where I want to live geographically?
  • Does the job opportunity allow me to work with someone I admire in my field?
  • Does the job opportunity provide prestige or status on my resume?

If an opportunity is significant enough, go ahead and apply.