Can you wait till the application deadline to apply? Don’t be so sure

When a job listing says you have a month to submit your cover letter and resume, can you wait until the deadline to apply? Some of us may see the date and think, “Sweet, I have weeks to prepare my cover letter to be the best it can be,” but career experts caution against waiting too long. The application deadline you see on the job listing may not be the one in hiring managers’ minds.

Here’s how you should approach job application deadlines:

How flexible are application deadlines? It depends

As soon as you see a job you want, you should start hustling to finish the application, regardless of the long deadline, Ask a Manager’s Alison Green suggests, because you never know how many strong candidates the employer has already seen. Green notes that many hiring managers are forced to put down a deadline date even if that does not reflect how they are interviewing candidates.

“If the employer is actually looking at applications as they come in and talking to good candidates on a rolling basis, when you apply in four weeks, they may have already assembled a group of finalists they’re excited about, and thus the bar is going to be a lot higher for adding someone else in last-minute,” she advises. Maybe, in a perfect world, each candidate would get an equal chance of having their application read after the deadline closes. But this is just one more factor in a long list of other factors outside of your power to control in the job hunt.

Recruiters suggest submitting early if you want to be at the top of their mind. “You’re always better applying earlier rather than later,” Seattle-based recruiter Kory Ferbet advised. “The majority of the time, they’re going to extend the offer to the first well-qualified candidate, who is also a team fit, regardless of how much time is or isn’t left in the deadline.”

Then again, if the deadline has come and past, do not be afraid to shoot your shot and apply for the job. Former recruiter Vicki Salem said that you should still apply past the stated deadline precisely because you never know what employers are thinking.

“Maybe the deadline got extended; maybe someone on the team is leaving soon but hasn’t officially resigned so the job is still open,” Salem writes. “You never know the situation behind the scenes, and the cool thing is that it doesn’t matter. If the job is still posted past the deadline, go for it.” Recruiters want to hear from awesome job candidates at every time of the year.