When should you focus your job-search efforts? Is there a specific hiring season?

Strawberry lemonade provides refreshment during the scorching summer, pumpkin-spiced lattes are better in the fall, and mint mocha takes the bite out of winter; there is a season for just about everything — including your job search. Applicants often wonder if there is a best time of the year to look for a new job or advance their career.

The rumor is to stay clear of companies during the holiday season and the slow period at the beginning of each year. Meanwhile, recruiters often recommend searching for new jobs in the summer or end of the fiscal year, so it seems jobs are easier to find during certain months. Here is a breakdown of common hiring season patterns and the best and worst times of the year to find a job.

Best time of year to apply for a job

New Year rewards new jobs: January and February

January and February are two of the best months to look for long-term, full-time jobs since these are the months most companies receive updated budgets and sales forecasts. Executives have a better idea of what they need and whether they can afford to hire new team members, which leads career advisors to consider these the top months for hiring.

Keep in mind January starts slow for most people; employees returning from holiday vacations take a few weeks to reorganize their workflow. Accordingly, wait until the middle or latter part of January to start sending out your resume and submitting applications. Also, remember to search the company's job board frequently during these months because most companies delay hiring during December, making job boards ripe for the picking.

The biggest downside to the beginning of the year hiring is the slow pace. The company has plenty of money, time, and resources to choose the right candidate so finalizing the interview and signing the contract may take longer than expected.

Spring into more jobs: March, April, and May

Even though companies hire more new team members in January and February, spring still is a good time to apply for jobs. The late winter hiring season surge typically lasts well into early summer, allowing hiring managers time to advertise new jobs.

On the other hand, the good job openings are filled earlier in spring, and waiting until April or May will yield less promising roles.

Yet, the biggest benefit of applying for a job during May is the sense of urgency. Many hiring managers are planning their summer vacations, while executives spend more time networking, raising funds, and planning the release of new products and services. They simply do not have the time to take their time with each candidate, which means the hiring process may be faster and less in-depth. 

Jobs take vacations, too: June, July, and August

Unfortunately, summertime is not the best time of year for job searching. Most companies spend their human resources budget well before the summer hits.

This means hiring managers and recruiters no longer actively search for candidates during the hottest months. Whether this is due to lack of resources or busier schedules, it depends on the company. Most major corporations spend their summer months preparing for seasonal hires, analyzing trends, and preparing reports for the C-suite.

Job applicants should expect very few positive opportunities during these months. If companies do list open positions, they more likely will be entry-level and minimum wage.

Instead, use this time to look at companies you would like to consider by researching their environment, talking to a few employees, and taking the time to reach out to hiring managers. These early steps give you a head start when they begin hiring.

For those who are determined to find a new career, recently lost their job, or just can't work at their present company anymore, there are a few options. The summer job search slowdown doesn't mean that there a zero jobs, nor does it mean you won't find a great opportunity. You just have to search harder.

Applicants who use job boards have a better chance than job seekers using the newspaper or local resources. Another great resource during the job hunt is LinkedIn. Many recruiters actively search LinkedIn for potential candidates, even during a hiring freeze.

Harvest more jobs: September and October

As we continue to go through the year, you've probably spotted a recurring pattern — the hiring season happens in waves. And autumn represents the third, and final, hiring spree of the year.

As families return from vacation, schools reopen after a three-month hiatus, and work resumes its normal course, hiring managers face less downtime and more availability for interviews and applicant screening. During these months, everyone tends to be more refreshed and relaxed, making the entire process smoother and faster.

Another pro to autumn hiring is also the desire to use all resources. Executives figure positions still open at the end of the year are redundant and useless; many hiring managers face a decision to fill positions or lose them entirely and human resources are pressed to fill vacant positions for those who fled soon after being hired earlier in the year.

The winter plague: November and December

Unless you're looking for a seasonal job or a position that pays the bills, the beginning of winter marks the start of fewer job opportunities. November for most families is the beginning of the holiday season and may be the best time to look for a job. There are shopping lists to complete, travel arrangements to make, and parties to plan.

As our personal calendar enlarges, our professional life takes a backseat. This means hiring managers start putting off recruitment and hiring tasks until the following year.

There are other roadblocks barricading hiring managers from selecting new candidates, as well. Human resources often face budget constraints during the last two months of each year and are forced to wait for new finances and expanding opportunities before moving forward.

Also, not to mention, most of the company's positions are likely filled this late in the game. Plus, who wants to work during the holidays. Winter brings more than cold air and snow; for many, it's a time to relax and spend time with loved ones.

Preparing for the job search

Now, you don't have to stop your job search just because it's not the best time of the year to look for a job. The slow hiring months can be optimal for preparing for your search and increasing your chances of winning that key position. Here are some tips to prepare for the job search:

1. Keep your resume updated. One of the most important aspects of any job search is updating your resume — don't wait until the last minute. Keep an updated resume template that you can easily customize your resume to the specific job.  Try to update your resume quarterly or, at the very least, once a year, scheduling the time in your calendar to help you remember and stay committed to the task.

2. Increase your skills or add new experiences. Education is a never-ending story. We must continuously upgrade our skills and learn about new areas to advance in our careers. Increase your marketability by taking a certification course. Or add new abilities to your portfolio by taking a night business class at your local college. Have you thought of getting another degree? There are several reputable online universities that help professionals.

3. Don't give up. Sometimes, the hardest part of job hunting is simply getting started. You may draw a blank while editing your resume, and many times our schedules get in the way of preparation and career advancement. Schedule some time each month to upgrade your skills or practice a mock interview.

And most importantly, never give up. Starting the search, regardless of the time of year, isn't easy; it takes time and patience to succeed. Rome wasn't built in a day, and your job search won't end in a day either.

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