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When is the right time for a college senior to start looking for a job?


starting blocksMatt from Seminole State University asked:

Like many of my fellow May 2014 graduates, I am hoping to have a position lined up when I graduate. I am completing a B.S. in Construction Management.  When is the best time to apply for a full time position before I graduate? Also, how do I indicate in a cover letter that I won’t be available for a full time position until after graduation?

Hi Matt –

A lot of students have these same questions.  Your first question has a variety of answers; the second is pretty straightforward.

When should you start looking for a job?

The shorthand answer:  When you are in a position to say “yes” if you are offered the job?

Companies recruit in different ways and on different time frames for different types of positions.  So, your timing depends upon the kinds of work and the types of employers you are targeting.

If you are targeting corporate employment (the kinds of jobs that dominate on-campus interviewing schedules on college campuses), they you should start actively applying in September and October because that is when those employers are recruiting to fill those kinds of positions.  When large corporations are setting targets for their entry-level hiring for the year, they plan months in advance because they can.  Smaller organizations do not have that flexibility.

In most cases, employers hire when they have immediate vacancies to fill, and they try to fill these vacancies as quickly as possible; that usually means within 4-8 weeks of the position being posted.  They have an immediate need, and they need candidates who can start in the immediate future – not 6-8 months later, after they graduate.

Look at the industries you are targeting.  How do employers hire in these industries?  Do they recruit entry-level candidates and make offers well in advance or do they hire “just-in-time” to meet their needs?

Some employers have the latitude to recruit candidates in the fall for jobs that will not start until the following summer. If these are the employers you are targeting, your job search should have started already.

Most employers hire when they have positions to fill and look for candidates who can say “yes” and start soon thereafter. If this is your case, your job search should really start picking up steam about 6-8 weeks before you graduate.

How do I indicate in a cover letter that I won’t be available for a full time position until after graduation?


In presenting your qualifications in cover letters. state clearly when you will complete your degree and be available for full-time employment.  Statements like the following:

In May 2014, I will complete a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management and will be available for full-time employment beginning June 2, 2014.


I am available immediately to interview in-person, via phone or via Skype.  I will graduate in May and can start work at any time after May 23rd.


As I am currently completing my degree requirements, I am available immediately for part-time/contract work and can begin full-time employment starting June 2, 2014.

These are just a few examples of how you might address the “availability” issue in cover letters.  Be honest and take the opportunity to tell employers when you are available to interview and begin work.

Good Luck,



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