The best and worst times of the year to look for a tech job in banking

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Outside of having a sterling resume and a strong network, the most important factor in landing a new job may be timing. Understanding when the market is hot and cold can create both opportunity and leverage, particularly with tech jobs at banks where the need for new talent seems to spike and soften rather suddenly. So when’s the best time of year to float your resume out there? And when might you be better off waiting it out?

To get a better idea, we looked at the total number of U.S. tech jobs that were posted across all corners of the Internet by big banks over the last year and broke them down by month, courtesy of analytics provider Burning Glass. We included data from Bank of America, Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Nomura and UBS. We defined tech postings as those that list at least one of a dozen different popular banking programming languages as a prerequisite, including Python, Java and C++. Job postings that listed multiple programming languages (of which there were many) were only counted once.

As you can see, the pattern isn’t at all random. Like with most industries, hiring slows down around the holidays. But in U.S. banking, the downturn in tech-related job postings begins sooner than one may think. Recruiting efforts also don’t pick up immediately after the New Year, bucking the general national trend. The ten banks collectively posted more jobs in December than they did in January. One New York headhunter who does retained tech searches for banks and hedge funds wasn’t surprised by the data.

“The job market in banking is quietly controlled by bonus schedules,” she said. “People often wait to leave until after their bonus is paid out.” Typically, banks announce bonuses in late January and pay them out in February or March, often sparking a mass exodus. Post-bonus turnover helps create the uptick in job postings that begins in February and steadily increases through the spring. Once autumn gives way to winter, most bonus-eligible bank employees are willing to wait until they receive their next big paycheck before jumping to a new gig or leaving the industry altogether

“If you’re a passive candidate, the best time to look is after the smoke from post-bonus defections clears,” the headhunter said. However, the trends are a bit different in tech. Banks tend to concentrate their early-year recruiting on filling revenue-generating positions before they prioritize senior tech hiring, she said. This explains why the spike in tech-related job postings doesn’t hit until July and lasts through September, before rapidly falling off in October.

"Desperation shifts from the front-office to the back-office in late spring/early summer,” she said. That’s the best time to turn up the heat on your job search.

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