The Recruiting Cycle

The Recruiting Cycle

Understanding the recruiting cycle

The recruiting process is complicated for both companies and students. As recruiters, we plan our on-campus activities in the summer and begin working with students in September. The number of open positions is constantly changing as students are receiving and accepting offers. When I was in management, I would try to find my students as early as possible so I wouldn’t lose the hiring opportunity altogether. It’s like a race between managers to fill the open positions.

As students, you don’t need to understand how the hiring process works inside a company. You just need to focus on making it work best for you and focusing on the better months will be to your advantage.

What is the best time to look for a job?

I would say the best chance to get a job is in October and November. That is when there are the most hiring opportunities available. But as managers fill positions, the number of openings goes down. The second best chance to get a job is between January and early March. There is very little recruiting going on in December and after April. Many students think that only permanent positions are filled in the Fall and summer hiring is done in the Winter. This is true for some companies, but many companies fill both permanent and summer positions at the same time starting in the Fall. I would assume you can talk to a company about summer jobs in October unless they tell you otherwise.

What if you miss that window?

So what happens if you don’t have a job lined up by April? The ball switches over to your court. You have to contact recruiters yourself. It’s a good idea when you are talking to recruiters in the Fall and Winter terms to ask for contact information. A recruiter may formally give it to you or you can just look it up yourself online if you know their name.

Last summer, I had a student contact me because he followed his fiance out to California where she was going to get her PhD. Having settled into their new life, he still needed a job. It was July so I told him we would include him in the Fall hiring and he would have a jump on all of the other students. So he went from no job to first in line just because he knew my contact information.

Sometimes there is a new project that needs staffing and these can occur at any time during the year. This past April, I was contacted by a manager who was staffing up a new project and they wanted students from my university. By April, the problem for me was I no longer knew whether the students I interviewed were still looking for jobs. It’s really hard for me to identify available students so late in the recruiting cycle.

What questions can you ask a recruiter?

When you contact a recruiter, there are many ways to start the conversation. For example, you could say, “I’m just following up to see if you have any current job openings.” Or, “my plans changed, I won’t be taking a summer course and I would like to find a summer job.” Or, “I decided not to attend graduate school, so now I need to find a permanent position.” So if you are still looking for a job in April, take the initiative and contact the recruiters you have met. They may also want to connect with you.

To read more, see my Paperback/Kindle book on

“My Recruiting Secrets for Engineering Students” (Published Sept, 2013)

It all starts with the Resume. A great resume opens the “recruiting door” to Career Fairs and Interviews. This book has three chapters (80 pages) devoted to creating the best BS, MS and Ph.D. resumes. With a great resume, you will exhibit confidence with recruiters at the Career Fair, during a technical or Behavioral Interview, and during your Internship, Co-op, and Full-time job. This book contains over 40 illustrations for the major sections of a well-formatted resume.

K. Cao

Thanks for the information! I have a question about the company office hours. Some companies have office hours before the career fair, and I was invited to one to have an one-to-one talk with a recruiter. Although it is not an interview, I think it should serve as a screening purpose and will determine if I will be selected for an interview. So I am wondering what I should talk about during this office hour to make a better impression and get a better chance to succeed.

Glenn Galler

K. Cao,

Companies provide a lot of services through “office hours” (ex. resume reviews). In this case, I think the company is using the “office hours” as a clever way to get a jump on the career fair for students that they know meet their entrance criteria and needs. They probably identified you from the resume books that are provided by the Engineering School and by student groups. The one-on-one meeting is going to be a combination of the company selling you on their open positions while at the same time evaluating you as a possible candidate. I suspect that if this one-on-one meeting goes well, they will skip the on-campus interview and move you to the next step in their recruiting process which could be a phone interview with a specific hiring manager or an onsite interview.

Your question is whether you should treat this as an interview or just an information meeting. This is definitely an interview. It may be less formal than a normal interview, but it is serving the same purpose. I would prepare for this meeting in the same way I would prepare for an interview by researching the company on the internet, bringing a resume, and having a well-thought out 30-second response to “tell me about yourself”. If is not clear to you now, I would recommend going back to the company before your one-on-one meeting and ask for more information on the types of positions they want to talk to you about. Also, as you do in an interview, come prepared with some questions about their company to show that you are interested in them and have taken the time to research their company.

K Cao

Thanks for your quick and informative reply, Glenn! I will get prepared for this office hour and treat it as an interview. The recruiter also give me his phone number for contact. I think it might be wise to call him before hand to get more information about the position, as the office hour is actually before the career fair. Do you think if it is a proper way to get more information?

Glenn Galler


If the recruiter gave you their phone number, then it is okay to use it. However, I think it is better to contact them through eMail because it gives the recruiter a chance to formulate a good response to you. They might provide you with links to company information or job descriptions. Since there isn’t much time before your one-on-one meeting, you could start with an eMail and followup with a phone call if you don’t get a response.