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For many businesses, hiring seasonal employees is key to staying afloat during busy periods. Retail stores, for example, usually need a larger workforce around the holidays, while businesses in the tourism or hospitality industries may need extra hands during peak visiting months.
And, the demand for seasonal workers is only increasing. In 2017, the number of seasonal employees U.S. retailers hired increased by more than 4% from 2016 and expert predictions for 2018 were even higher, with retailers expected to employ more than 700,000 seasonal workers for the holidays.
Finding qualified individuals for temporary work is challenging enough, but it can be especially daunting to scout for seasonal help with such tough competition. Fortunately, a little preparation and resourcefulness go a long way. Follow these six steps to find, vet, and hire stellar seasonal employees.
First, get clear on what type of role you need to fill. Start by making a list of tasks and responsibilities that come with the job, then determine which particular skills and qualifications are necessary to do that work. Compiling this information can help you better understand what type of employee you’re looking for and how you can best appeal to them.
Try to keep the job description short and sweet, says Nate Masterson, CEO of Maple Holistics, a company that sells natural personal care products. “Write bullet points rather than paragraphs,” he says, “and make sure that the information gives an accurate description of the job.”
Include specifics about the start date, weekly schedule, and pay. “By being clear about the expectations and hours required of the position, you’ll end up weeding out less-qualified candidates,” says Atif Siddiqi, CEO of Branch Messenger, a mobile scheduling tool for hourly employees. More transparency around the job saves you time sorting through applications and scheduling interviews.
Make sure your job description provides more than just logistical details, though. In addition to explaining the benefits of the job, Masterson says you should consider adding a fun graphic or pun. Injecting some personality into the description gives job seekers a glimpse into your company culture and can help you stand out from the competition.
Employees are more likely to apply to jobs—and stick around—when companies offer benefits or perks. A survey from Justworks found that one in four employees consider work perks important when evaluating a job. What’s more, according to Glassdoor’s 2015 Employment Confidence survey, 75% of employees would prefer additional benefits and perks to a pay raise.
Beyond offering a competitive wage, Siddiqi says he’s seen many businesses offer perks like gift cards, meals, bonuses, or vacation time. If offering additional benefits strains your budget, though, see if you can at least offer flexible work hours, he suggests.
Many seasonal employees have commitments that don’t allow them to take on a full-time job, so offering flexible hours goes a long way toward attracting and retaining candidates. According to Clutch, 41% of workers said they valued flexible working hours more than any other job perk they had. Not only are employees more likely to work for less if the hours are preferable, says Siddiqi, but they may also be more productive on the job if their workplace satisfaction is higher.
It’s a good idea to start advertising for seasonal positions several months in advance. “You’ll have more time to field better candidates and adjust for unexpected staffing changes,” says Siddiqi.
Writing a job ad is only one half of the equation, though—where you post that listing affects the quality and volume of applicants you receive. Beth Tucker, president and CEO of KNF&T Staffing Resources, a leading women-owned staffing company in Boston, recommends posting ads on major employment search engines like Indeed.com. According to a 2018 Glassdoor survey, most job seekers (51%) prefer to use established job listing sites to search for new opportunities.
“It can also be beneficial to post it on social media sites to catch the attention of a more passive audience and increase the chances it’s shared,” Tucker says. Just make sure you add in relevant keywords to improve SEO, she adds.
Once you have those bases covered, think about your target employee demographic. Where do those people spend their time, and how can you get your ad in front of them? If you plan to hire local college students for the summer, for example, try posting fliers on campuses and sending your job ad to college career centers, says Masterson.
Another approach is to look internally for help. “Sometimes it works best to leverage your existing employee base for referrals,” Siddiqi says. Forward the job description to your current full-time employees, and ask them to pass it along to any qualified candidates they may know.
When interviewing seasonal workers, “one of the most important things to consider,” Tucker says, “is their willingness to learn and their ability to take feedback.” During your company’s busiest period of the year, you likely won’t have time to train employees from the ground up, reevaluate their skills as they go, or deal with mishaps. You need effective, adaptable workers from the start.
Candidates who’ve worked in your industry or have experience in a similar role are ideal, but if you can’t find anyone who meets these qualifications, look for people who’ve held other seasonal jobs in the past. They’re more likely to understand the fast-paced nature of the work and take instruction well.
Training new employees can eat up considerable time and resources, so it helps to plan ahead.
Before you even hire candidates, take some time to create an employee handbook that explains your company’s rules and policies for seasonal workers, as well as the dos and don’ts of the job. Include a copy of the work schedule, information on which managers to report to, HR contacts, and instructions for how to log your work hours and collect pay.
Tucker also recommends creating a “cheat sheet” with tips and rules so employees “have a quick reference once things are in full swing.”
As for in-person training, Masterson suggests holding mass orientations—instead of conducting individual or small group training—to save time. Depending on the number of employees you’re hiring, this could be one orientation or five, either scheduled into one week or spread out over the course of a couple months prior to the season’s start date. Preliminary online orientations can also help cut down on costs and resources, Masterson adds.
Make sure to utilize the help of full-time employees, too. “The seasonal rush can get particularly chaotic,” says Siddiqi, “so also empower your current employees to train and support seasonal workers when possible.”
While you’re hiring for a temporary position, it’s smart to think about the bigger picture. “Be open to retaining your seasonal employee,” says Siddiqi, “and highlight opportunities for longer-term employment depending on performance.”
Staying open-minded and conveying a job’s growth potential to applicants can serve your company well both in the short term and long term. That way you can “keep top talent if you so choose,” says Siddiqi, “but also offer an incentive to top performers for choosing your seasonal job opening over others.”
However, regardless of whether you decide to convert a seasonal position into a permanent one, it’s still important to aim for high retention rates. Treat your seasonal employees with the same kindness, attentiveness, and respect you give to full-time employees. If you provide seasonal workers with a positive, enriching experience, they’ll be more likely to return the following year or recommend the opportunity to others.
And the more returning seasonal workers you have, the less time you have to spend interviewing and training new people, and the more time you can dedicate to growing your business. Satisfied, dependable employees are an investment in the health of the company. A greater number of savvy, experienced seasonal workers mean smoother operations, increased productivity, and more profit potential. That’s a win-win-win.
Finding seasonal employees is an annual undertaking for many businesses, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you start early, advertise strategically, and focus on hiring smart, adaptable workers, your efforts will pay off right away and years down the line.