Demographics

Timing Matters In the Job Search


By Andrew Flowers and Daniel Culbertson

Timing matters in business, in sports, in politics—and no less so in the hiring process. In today’s tight labor market, employers face stiff competition for talent, so it’s important that job postings reach the widest possible audience. Posting a job at the right time just might improve your chances of making a great hire.

What do we actually know about the timing of job searches? One place to get an answer is the American Time Use Survey, which just released 2016 data. The survey found, on an average day, 1.2% of Americans are searching for a job. Those looking for work spend 2.5 hours per day searching or interviewing—up from 1.8 hours in 2006. That means millions of Americans are spending several hours each day on the job hunt. But what time of day and on which days of the week are most people searching?

Indeed is in a unique position to answer these questions thanks to the vast quantity of data on our site. Indeed attracts over 200 million unique visitors per month from over 60 countries. In the US alone, tens of millions of job seekers use Indeed every week. Indeed data and analysis of the 37.5 million resumes uploaded to our US site can tell us much about these job seekers. By mining this data, we are able to determine the timing of job searches and how search patterns vary depending on job-seeker characteristics.

To get a clearer picture of the day-to-day job-hunting routine in the US, we examined every job search conducted on Indeed’s US site in 2016:

  • Job searches peak at midday, track lower during commuting hours and then pick up after dinnertime. Searches are highest Monday through Wednesday. The peak hour for the entire week is 11am-12pm Tuesday.
  • Job seekers tend to take the weekend off. Searches are low from Thursday evening through most of the weekend. But, by Sunday evening, with the workweek looming, searches pick up again, especially for job seekers with at least a four-year college degree. It seems that not everyone is watching Game of Thrones at 10pm Sunday.
  • Having a job means you’re less likely to look for a new one during the workday. Employed people’s peak search period is in the evening, specifically from 7-10pm Monday through Wednesday. By contrast, the unemployed do most of their searching during the afternoon and take the evening off.

Beginning of the week is the busiest time for the job search

To uncover the weekly job search pattern, we looked hour by hour at an entire year of search traffic, calculating each hour’s job search volume as a share of total traffic for the week. That allowed us to determine how popular each hour was for job searching relative to the week as a whole. To condense an entire year of job search traffic into a representative week, we chose the median value of the share of total weekly job search traffic for each hour of the week. For example, the value listed at 10am Wednesday is the median value of the share of job search traffic for every 10am Wednesday hour over the course of the year.

During the typical weekday, search activity follows a logical pattern. Each day, the peak is in the late-morning to early-afternoon period from about 10am until about 2pm. After that, job searches decline through the afternoon. In the evening, after most people have completed their workday, activity picks up again.

The most popular days for searching are at the beginning of the week. Tuesday is the busiest and activity is noticeably lower in the second half of the week. As the weekend approaches, looking for a job doesn’t appear to be on the minds of many. The drop between Thursday and Friday is sharp and the typical evening spike is absent Friday as most job seekers cut loose for the weekend.

The search for new employment is noticeably less intense on the weekend. Saturday is easily the least popular day for job seekers. Activity is flat throughout the day and at a much lower level than on weekdays. Sunday searches start just as slowly, but rise throughout the afternoon before peaking around 9pm. On Sunday evenings—with the upcoming workweek staring them in the face—many people spring into action.

These general patterns vary depending on job seeker characteristics. To delve deeper, we used data from resumes uploaded to Indeed and investigated how search time patterns varied according to employment status and education. Extracting this data from the resumes was no easy feat, so here’s a shout-out to Indeed’s engineers, who did yeoman’s work obtaining this information.

Employed people look for new jobs at night

First, a shocker: People with jobs generally have to work during the day and can’t spend their time electronically pounding the pavement. Thus, the peak search time for employed job seekers is in the evening early in the workweek—from 7-10pm Monday through Wednesday. Searching is lower from Thursday evening through the weekend, but rises sharply between 6-9pm Sunday night.

Unemployed people look for work midday

In a sense, the unemployed job seeker does have a job: looking for work! Those without a job who are looking for a job tend to keep regular working hours, doing nearly all their hunting 10am-4pm Monday through Thursday. Activity for this group shows no evening peaks on weekdays and no Sunday night uptick, but they sure are busy in the middle of the day. Among the unemployed, the shares of lunchtime job searches are about 50% higher than for people with a job.

Highly educated job seekers are active in the evenings and on Sunday night

Search patterns also differ depending on education level. The search patterns of job seekers with bachelor’s degrees or higher, whether or not they have jobs, are similar to those of the employed. On Monday and Tuesday, there is a midday rise, followed by a fall during commuting hours and a climb back up in the evening. And, more than any other subgroup, educated workers demonstrate an explosive search uptick Sunday night. So, if you’re an employer hoping to lure highly educated applicants, post jobs Sunday evening.

Less-educated job seekers are active later in the day—and not Sunday night

Finally, we looked at job seekers with an associate’s degree or high school diploma. Once again, the correlation between education and employment is clear: Like the unemployed, those without a four-year degree do most of their searching midday and are comparatively less active weekday evenings. The Sunday evening peak is there, but it’s not as pronounced as with employed and better-educated job seekers.  


Methodology

This blog focuses on Indeed job search traffic for the calendar year 2016. To ensure accuracy of job search time of day across the country, the data were adjusted for time zone based on which state the IP address used to execute the search was located in. States with multiple time zones were assigned to the zone in which most of their populations resided. The data were also adjusted for daylight savings time.
The year’s job search volume was segmented by hour of search. To get a sense of how popular different hours of the week were for searching, we calculated each hour’s share of total searches for that week. To condense an entire year of job search activity into one representative week, we calculated the median share of weekly job searches over the year.
Time search patterns for employed, unemployed, college-educated and noncollege-educated job seekers were taken from subsets of all Indeed job searches. Some job searches on Indeed are carried out by people who haven’t uploaded a resume. For the millions who have done an upload, employment status and educational background were inferred based on information in their resumes. For these charts, average, not median, weekly job search share is presented hour-by-hour and linked to resume data.

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