Chris Ryan—Getty Images
By Martha C. White
December 27, 2019

New year, new you… new job? January is a popular time for job seekers, according to career experts.

“January is the peak month for job searching,” says Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor. “In January, there are 22 percent more job applications started on Glassdoor than in a typical month.”

Employers could be on the lookout for you, too. “The beginning of the year is a time when many employers are looking to bring in new talent,” says Michelle Armer, chief people officer at CareerBuilder. CareerBuilder’s own research found that last year, nearly four in 10 companies planned to add to their head count in the first quarter.

So if you’re thinking about starting 2020 with a job change, you’ll have a lot of opportunity — but you’ll have a lot of company, too. Here are the steps you should take right now to make yourself stand out in a sea of applications, according to experts.

Create the best resume — by streamlining it.

It’s a myth that you list every job you’ve ever held on your resume, Armer says. “If you’re 10 years into your career as a software engineer, you don’t need to list your time working at an ice cream shop in high school,” she says. “Dedicate more space to the sections that matter so you can give stronger detail about the experiences you’ve had that make you a strong candidate,” she says, adding that you also shouldn’t overlook leadership and collaboration skills. “Often, employers will give equal or more weight to soft skills like your ability to work well with a team or think critically,” she says.

When you update your resume, start at the top.

“During a job search, hiring managers look at resumes for an average of three seconds before they make a decision on the candidate, so it’s imperative to include impressive statistics prominently on the top,” says Andrew Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. So what should you include in your resume, right at the top? Figures or accomplishments you might consider highlighting could include cost savings you initiated, incremental revenue you earned, or productivity improvements you implemented.

Use holiday “down time” to contact hiring managers.

In many industries, the period around Christmas and New Year’s is slow; in fact, some companies may shut their doors entirely. If you’re looking for a job, though, this is no time to take a vacation. “Hiring managers are likely receiving fewer resumes during this time period, so it could be a great time to apply,” Armer says. You might even have more luck getting on the radar of a busy hiring manager if your inquiry or application arrives when their inbox isn’t as full.

Tailor individual pitches for each employer.

“Do your research to find out what jobs and companies are the right fit for you,” Zhao says. “Customize your application to show that you understand that company and its needs. The key, once January rolls around, is really going to be differentiation.” A cookie-cutter resume isn’t going to stand out, but a targeted approach will make hiring managers take notice.

Take advantage of networking opportunities.

“Job seekers should take this time to network with new or existing contacts. Go to holiday parties, go to your friends’ or partner’s holiday parties,” Challenger says. The holidays are a natural time to reconnect or make new connections; use that to your advantage. “People are generally in good moods around the holidays,” he adds. “You never know who may be in the holiday spirit and in a position to help you land a new role.”

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