When is the best time to look for a job or internship?

Yes, there is such a thing as the job hunting season. Here are a few tips on when to apply, and what to do when looking for internships and graduate positions at the right (and the wrong) time.


The idea of “timing” your search for a job might sound a bit odd.

After all, we tend to look for jobs or internships when we need them.

We start looking for jobs for a variety of reasons:

  • Earning money to pay the bills during your studies
  • Gaining relevant work experience
  • Silencing those incessant questions from friends and relatives about whether you have found a job yet
  • Joining the labour market and looking for your first graduate job

These needs may seem pretty randomly distributed through your student life, but when you examine the data it’s actually possible to spot some patterns.

Knowing when companies are most likely to start hiring, and when other jobseekers tend to be applying for work, will help you optimize your job search. When applying, you should be aware of whether you are doing so in the “off season” or during a peak recruitment period.

Knowing when to apply for an internship or a job will also help you plan for the future and make the right choices in the present.

Let’s first take a look at what we know about the job hunting season.

Google has the answers

Jobseekers tends to start off the year strong, and lose enthusiasm toward the beginning of the holiday period and the onset of winter.

In particular, during the month of January the average number of Google searches including “internship” is between 20% and 30% higher than in November or February.

In general, online job searches peak in January. This may be a result of ambitious New Year’s resolutions and a renewed sense of enthusiasm following the festive period. (Similar to how gym membership subscriptions tend to peak in January).

This trend is quite consistent when viewed across different years, languages, and countries.

As are others. For example, searches for graduate schemes rise in September and keep track through to November, while searches for summer internships and traineeships peak in March and continue strongly throughout April.

On the other hand, students jobs are most sought after at the start of every new semester (September-October and January-February).

Graduate positions and entry-level jobs maintain a constantly high search volume throughout the summer months.

Should you go with or against the crowds?

Here the data confirms what might be already assumed. But though these insights come easy, they are not often considered by jobseekers.

Job hunting during the off season will have implications for the likelihood of your success, and it may be worth your while to take the time to prepare applications rather than spend time looking for openings.

On the other hand, thanks to reduced competition, applying for jobs outside peak seasons may increase your chances of getting hired.

When should you apply for an internship?

Internships, traineeships, and work experience placements are not as competitive as ordinary recruitment processes, so the old saying that the “early bird catches the worm” is relevant here.

If you come too late, you may find your options limited – or exhausted altogether. With the knowledge that internships are most popular in January, and summer traineeships will be recruited for in advance, you can plan for your applications ahead of time.

Job hunting during the off season

Peak season can be strategically avoided, allowing you to turn the lack of activity among your peers to your advantage.

At the end of the day, you only need to find one job that’s right for you.

While students often focus their job hunting activities around their university schedules (semester breaks, holidays, graduation), companies and the public sector tend to be governed by different timelines.

It’s worth staying active throughout the year, keeping an eye on new postings and opportunities, while also using the time to prepare yourself for the busier peak periods.

Consider the following:

  • Find out about industry schedules. Accounting firms have most of their work during the beginning of the year, while retail and e-commerce make most of their revenue around November and December. The travel industry is busiest during the summer months. So find out when those peaks are and make sure you’re prepared and looking in the right places when they are most likely to be in need of extra help. Use company events or career fairs to inquire about when particular companies typically need the most extra hands on deck.
  • Consider holiday seasons. During the typical holiday months for summer, winter, and easter time it’s unlikely companies will be looking to bring in someone new as an intern, trainee, or work experience, as they often need a bedding in period and continuity to stay productive. If your plans clash with the local schedule, consider going further afield.
  • Prepare in advance. While there are fewer job openings springing up, spend time working on your applications. There will be plenty you can do to improve and optimize your CV. It may also be worth spending longer on writing cover letters for jobs during the off season, honing your skills and creating templates to work from when more positions become available in a few months’ time.

Job hunting during peak seasons

While many recruitment decisions are made due to short-term need, graduate jobs and internships in particular are often created at times that will increase the chances of them being filled by the best candidate.

In short, expect more opportunities and fiercer competition during the peak seasons.

As soon as you land a job, you’ll soon forget how competitive it was. But while you push through interviews and applications, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are many qualified candidates going for the same positions are you are.

If you’ve prepared yourself during the off season (see the previous section), you’ll be well placed to land yourself a great opportunity.

There are only a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Prepare for additional application requirements. Due to the increase in competition, companies will add additional steps to the recruitment process to handle the bulk of applicants and identify the best possible candidate. Expect to go above and beyond to get your dream job. Have a look at the application requirements a couple of weeks before the deadline, too. If your dream job requires a video application that needs to be edited and uploaded, you don’t want to find that out with 6 hours to go until the deadline.
  • Tweak and update your CV and career profiles as you go. Even if you have a strong CV and cover letter prepared, each job – and each employer – is different. Customising your CV and cover letter needs to become routine for every job application – without letting mistakes or typos creep in. As long as this is always prioritized and factored in you should be able to cope with the extra workload required to meet a succession of deadlines.

While job hunting always involves an element of luck, by planning ahead and preparing in advance for peak job hunting seasons your odds should be significantly improved.