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Peak recruitment seasons by industry that international students should know

interstride logo by Interstride
May 15, 2024

Are you a college student wondering when to start applying for a full-time job? In the US, the timing of when you should apply for jobs varies widely depending on the industry. It’s important to understand recruitment seasons so that you have enough time to properly prepare for the job-seeking process which includes researching potential employers and roles, networking, and drafting and tailoring your resume and cover letter. 

Why it’s good to know peak hiring timelines

International students have to navigate not only a new culture and education system but a new job market. Knowing peak hiring seasons will allow you to research and apply for job positions in a timely manner. The more you plan ahead, the more prepared and informed you will be to find a job that fits your long-term goals. 

For example, large tech and consulting companies are often willing to sponsor international talent for work visas and green cards because they already have experience with sponsorship. They also typically have a standard recruiting schedule, so you may want to focus on these companies ahead of time. If you wait until your final semester of school or after graduation to start looking for work, these companies may have already filled all open positions. F-1 students who do not secure a job within 90 days of the start of OPT will lose their OPT work authorization.

Additionally, knowing what the recruitment and hiring timelines are and how they differ by industry allows you to make deliberate choices about your networking and application strategy. This means you can more effectively leverage your school’s career fairs as well because you will have an idea of which recruiters you should prioritize talking to based on their recruitment timelines. 

Interstride tip! When you are applying for jobs as an international student, there is a lot to learn. Once you understand recruitment timelines, consider doing research on what questions recruiters can legally ask you about your immigration status.

Peak recruitment seasons to know 

Overall, the most popular month for recruitment on college campuses is October for jobs beginning the following summer. This includes summer internships and full-time positions for students who are graduating. Other popular recruitment months are September and February. Recruiting and hiring usually slow down in November and December during the holiday season and again in July and August due to summer vacation. 

Below, we highlight recruiting timelines for college students in various industries. Keep in mind that these timelines are specifically for students and recent graduates, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Other types of recruitment may occur at different times. For each industry in the timeline below, you can find information on the months of peak recruitment and examples of jobs for international students within that industry.

Art, media, and entertainment

Peak recruitment: January – June

Entertainment and media is a large industry in the US, particularly in Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta, Georgia. Common entry-level positions in these industries include production assistant, social media manager, and light or sound technician.

Advertising, marketing, and PR

Peak recruitment: February – May

These jobs help brands and companies grow their business, increase revenue, and/or manage their reputation. With a short recruiting season, international students interested in these industries should be prepared to spend a lot of time focusing on job searching starting in February. Potential jobs include public relations coordinator and marketing analyst. 


Peak recruitment: January – June

The architecture industry is responsible for the planning and building of commercial and residential buildings. Entry-level architects often work as designers under the supervision of senior architects, engineers, and managers. 

BioTech and pharmaceuticals

Peak recruitment: August – December

Some biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies start recruiting at the beginning of the school year with the intent to hire students who will be graduating the following May. Careers in these industries range greatly from lab technicians to sales positions. 

Consumer products and retail

Peak recruitment: September – January

The retail industry refers to any business that sells products to consumers in a storefront such as a clothing store or an online store such as Amazon. Retail jobs for college graduates may include management positions, customer experience specialists, and purchasing associates. 

Finance and consulting

Peak recruitment: July – December

The finance and consulting industries are popular among international students and graduates and offer high earning potential. Entry-level jobs include accountant and data analyst. While finance jobs may be found across the US, the industry is centered in New York City.

Education (K-12)

Peak recruitment: January – June

In the US, K-12 education refers to teachers and other professionals who work with students in elementary school through high school. The recruiting timeline is fairly consistent across the industry no matter where you are in the country. 

Engineering and tech

Peak recruitment: August – March

Engineering and technology are by far the most popular industries for international students in the US. Many companies, especially large companies, will be eager to start the recruitment process as early as possible as they often have long hiring processes with multiple, complex interviews for each position.


Peak recruitment: September – March

Many areas of the US are facing shortages of qualified healthcare workers. International students have a unique opportunity to fill this gap. The recruitment season lasts most of the school year giving you more opportunities to find the best fit job for you.

Higher education

Peak recruitment: September – March

Higher education refers to college and university professors and staff. There are benefits for international students to seek jobs in higher education because many of these employers are exempt from the H-1B visa lottery making it easier to get sponsorship after graduation.  

Law and legal services

Peak recruitment: September – June

For international students in law school, recruitment often starts during the first semester of your academic program for summer positions. Large firms tend to finalize hiring by the end of the fall semester while smaller firms and government agencies usually start hiring in the winter or spring.

Real estate

Peak recruitment: August – May

The real estate industry in the US is growing and has become appealing to many international students. It may be an ideal career for students studying business, finance, or marketing. Real estate is not just selling houses but includes acquisitions and consulting roles. 

Sustainability and conservation

Peak recruitment: February – June

Sustainability and conservation are also growing industries in the US. Many jobs in these industries qualify for STEM OPT such as environmental scientist, hydrologist, marine biologist, and zoologist. Students with eligible STEM degrees can stay in the US for up to three years after graduation.

Interstride tip! These recruitment timelines are meant to serve as guidelines, not strict deadlines. There are exceptions, and smaller companies often have more flexibility. International students must do their own research to confirm recruitment dates and job application deadlines.

Wrap up on how early to apply for jobs

The answer to when should I start applying for jobs if I graduate in May depends on the industry you are applying to work in and on the specific company you are applying for. Some industries have a very short recruiting season while others may recruit for over half the year. The recruitment for consulting and finance starts as early as July of the previous year while recruitment for sustainability and conservation jobs often happens late in the school year, starting around March. 

Keep in mind that these recruitment timelines assume that you will graduate from college in May as most students do, and they generally only apply to large companies and intuitions. Lastly, small businesses may be more flexible and recruit all year or have their own specific recruitment windows. Find more job search advice catered specifically to international students in the US on Interstride’s blog.