The economy has been improving in the last few years, which means that the job market has been getting better. Even though companies may be looking to hire continuously, the truth is, there are better times to make a move than others. Recruitment is very strategic and rhythmic; job seekers should also take this into consideration and be sure to follow the flow. I'll talk about what the timeline looks like from the recruiting perspective.
Q1 (January - March)
Q1 is always a big quarter, especially in recruiting industry level candidates. This past Q1, I personally had about 7 friends interview, get job offers, and make the move (about half of them ended up moving up to the Bay Area).
Industry candidates: Q1 is a great time to kick off your job search because companies often forecast at the beginning of the year, and designate headcount for the remainder of the year. Recruitment efforts are at full blast, so take advantage of this!
New grads & interns: if you haven't started on your search for a summer internship, you better get on it fast! This is also a busy season for intern recruitment, since most companies will finalize their interns by the end of this quarter (latest), though the strongest interns will have something lined up already at the end of the previous year. New grads should get on it as well (see Q4 section).
International candidates: If you are an international candidate and want to move to the US, you should be in your interviewing process in the early part of the year (because all paperwork needs to be submitted by April 1st). Some companies have long, extensive interviewing processes, so get started early (see Q4 section). If the company is nimble and can move fast, they should be able to get things done in Q1.
Note: I've found that if you are relocating, rent does tend to spike up around this time (especially in Bay Area). Just something to keep in mind. Actually, 3 out of the 4 companies that I've worked at all started in Q1!
Q2 (April - June)
For industry candidates, Q2 is still a busy season for hiring. I find that the beginning of Q2 is just as busy recruitment wise, but most candidates who are looking to move usually would have accepted something by the end of the quarter. It does tend to slow down a bit during the summer, as employees start taking vacations and perhaps leaving earlier in the day.
New graduates: New grad recruiting starts to slow down drastically around summertime. Most new grad hires should have been placed by May (latest), and the team is gearing for new hire orientations to start in the summer. In recruiting, there also seems to be a stigma that new grads who don't have jobs lined up after graduation are not as strong, so that's also something to consider!
Intern candidates: Internship placements should have been finalized and made by April already, and the HR/Recruiting team should be focused on the program management of these interns.
Q3 (July - September)
Q3 is an important quarter for university recruiting and new grads. Recruiters normally need to start career fair planning this quarter (for example, which colleges to go to, arrange logistics, order swag, get prepared for the sudden uptick in candidates). For companies like Google, Q3 is the time where interns go through conversion interviews from their previous internships to see whether they will get a return offer.
New grad candidates: If you are a senior and graduating next year, make sure to attend the career fairs in the fall! Take the time to polish up your resume and interviewing skills sometime in the summer, but definitely make sure you are ready before the career fairs. Be sure to add in your most recent internship experience into your resume (hopefully you gained some experience during the summer). This also applies to interns.
Q4 (October - December)
The beginning of the quarter tends to be pretty busy (especially for University recruiters), but as the year comes to a close, recruitment tends to slow down during the holidays (Thanksgiving and onward).
New grad candidates: Focus on your full time job search NOW. A lot of students may think that they have a lot of time and think "why should I interview now when I'm graduating in 9 months? Keep in mind that large companies have general recruitment windows, and the strongest new graduates would have done a majority of their interviews in September/October/November, receiving offers before the end of the year. Some will continue interviewing in January/February, but I've seen the best candidates usually make their decision before the year end. This is important to note because if you are a new grad and late to the game, the company may no longer have headcount.
If you are interviewing with multiple companies, recruiters may try to press you for a decision sooner than you are ready to commit. Check to see if your school has a recruitment policy to push back for more time (for example, MIT's policy states that employers cannot impose exploding offers).
Intern candidates: Interns should also start their search in Q4 as well. Interns usually have the end of Q4 and beginning of Q1 to do their interviews for an internship.
International candidates: Q4 is a busy time for international recruitment as well, as companies with longer interviewing processes should start their interviewing process early.
Of course, this could vary from company to company, but this is just the general flow! These are just timeframes for the ups and downs of the recruitment season. If the economy is doing well and strong, industry recruitment should be going strong at all times of the year. Hopefully this is helpful and will give you a better understanding of how timing plays a crucial role in the recruitment process.