How to Hire Seasonal Employees

For industries like retail, increased demand for seasonal employees in Q4 is a holiday tradition as cherished as pumpkin pie. But in recent years, the hiring landscape has changed, and employers are finding it more challenging than ever to fill their open roles. 

If your business needs seasonal help during this busy time of year, it’s important to have a plan for recruiting the right people for your team. 

Let’s break down each of these tips so that you can up your recruiting game and find the right seasonal employees. 

1. Attract more applicants.

Our recent Recruiting Metrics Report showed that though job postings increased this year across all industries, application counts actually decreased. 

Since job seekers have more options these days, it’s not enough to simply rely on people wanting to make some extra money for the holidays. Instead, you need to take steps to stand out from the sea of other open jobs and make more applicants choose yours. 

One big tip is to offer competitive pay and include compensation in the job posting. Applicants will typically be more likely to apply to a company that shows what the pay will be. 

Highlight any benefits and perks in your job posting as well. Are you offering flexible scheduling? How about a holiday bonus? In-store discounts can also be enticing this time of year. 

Lastly, keep in mind that COVID safety measures are still important to many seasonal job seekers. 33% of U.S. employees are concerned about being exposed to the virus at work. If you have health and safety precautions in place, mention them in your job posting to make job seekers feel more comfortable. 

Though you may not be able to offer all the same incentives as the big box stores, it can be helpful to look at how they are approaching hiring this holiday season. 

Belk is attracting more applicants by offering competitive pay, flexible schedules, a 20% discount and double discount days. Burlington is guaranteeing COVID safety measures like plexiglass partitions at check-out, and Kohl’s is offering bonuses to all employees for working through the holidays. 

2. Reduce your time-to-hire. 

Because the holiday shopping season begins sooner every year, you’ll want to get your job postings up as soon as possible. We found that retail businesses took an average of 19 days to make one hire. Hiring managers will need to reduce that figure significantly for the holiday season.

Some ways to hire more quickly

Try to communicate with candidates immediately after they apply. Not only will this help you get to them faster, it will also contribute to a great candidate experience: We found that applicants consider prompt and frequent communication with their potential employer to be a major positive factor in the candidate experience.

One way to automate communication with candidates is by using an applicant tracking system that automatically sends interview invitations to your ideal candidates. You can also automate sending polite rejection emails for applicants who don’t check all your boxes. 

Consider using text recruiting to save even more time. Text messaging has a response rate eight times faster than email, making it an easy way to reach more applicants sooner.

3. Diversify applicant sources. 

While job boards can obviously be a great source of candidates during the holiday season, it’s important to keep in mind that though job boards produce quantity, they don’t always produce the most quality applicants. 

Our data shows that job boards produce 72% of applications, but less than half of hires, while referrals and custom sources produce hires at a much higher rate. We found that candidates from employee referrals were 18 times more likely to be hired than applicants from job boards and applicants from custom sources were 17 times more likely to be hired. This means that employee referrals and custom sources (like Facebook Groups, Craigslist, and niche job boards) should be a major part of your recruiting strategy all the time, not just during the holidays. 

Now is also a good time to take a look at your careers page and make sure it effectively highlights your employer brand since career pages produce hires at a higher rate as well. 

4. Consider recruiting former employees.

Another recruiting strategy that can help cut down on hiring time is boomerang hiring, or rehiring former employees who have previously left the company. Boomerang employees are hired faster, ramped up faster, and result in fewer surprises. 

Pro tip: Seasonal roles can also be a great employment option for college students who may have previously left your company due to scheduling conflicts with classes. Reach out to them and see if their current class schedule will work with your staffing needs, or if they’d be interested in working during their winter breaks. 

5. Ask pre-screen questions that determine applicant availability.

We spoke with retail management expert Josh Alexander, who advises that when it comes to seasonal employees, hiring for flexibility in schedule is key. “Many of your employees will usually ask for time off here and there during the holiday season, so hiring seasonal employees with open schedules can help fill the gaps,” he says.

Have candidates submit their availability as a prequalifying question on your job postings. Using an applicant tracking system makes it easy to add pre-qualifying questions like this to the application and automatically fast-track applicants who have the availability you need and politely reject those who don’t. This can help save you precious time while also ensuring you’re getting the right people for your seasonal staffing needs.

6. Seek out candidates who already have industry experience.

Alexander also advises: “If the candidate has some experience in the industry, it helps them get up to speed faster so you don’t have to spend as much time training them on the basics.” 

For example, while point-of-sale (POS) software might differ from one store to another, chances are the same basic skills will transfer over to whichever software you use. 

Other questions that can signal existing experience:

  • Do they know your brand well?
  • Do they know your products well?
  • Do they have experience working with customers?

You can add these (and any custom questions you need) as pre-screening questions to your applications to better pre-qualify your candidates and save more time in the process. 

Furthermore, since you may not be able to devote as much time to your training seasonal employees, experienced professionals can naturally lead by example for any newbies you might put onto a sales floor during the busy holiday shopping season. 

7. Try creative interview methods to save time. 

When you need to evaluate a large applicant pool quickly, you may need to get creative with your interview formats. Group interviews can be an effective way to save time. These can include a discussion portion where you ask the group questions that candidates answer individually and group exercises so you can evaluate their ability to work on a team.  

You might also consider doing video interviews rather than in-person interviews. Not only are video interviews a more convenient option for many people, they can be more efficient and easier to coordinate in terms of scheduling.

One thing we do not recommend is one-way video interviews, in which job seekers record themselves answering a set of questions for the hiring manager to view later. The job seekers have spoken – they absolutely hate one-way video interviews, and using them could be bad for your candidate experience.

For more tips on how to hire remotely, check out the video below from CareerPlug’s Senior Director of People, Natalie Morgan:

8. Don’t forget the candidate experience.

In our annual Candidate Experience Report, we found that 67% of all job seekers have had a negative experience during a hiring process within the past year and 58% of job seekers had declined a job offer due to poor experience.

Check out the graph below to see some of the top reasons that job seekers turned down job offers. 

When you’ve got to hire the right people quickly, you can’t risk losing them to a negative candidate experience that’s entirely within your ability to control. Put your best foot forward when recruiting and hiring seasonal employees just as you would with any other employee.

For more tips for creating a positive candidate experience, check out another video from Natalie: 

9. Standardize your onboarding process before you make offers.

If there’s one theme to this guide, it’s speed, speed, speed! And having a standardized onboarding process in place before you make job offers will allow your new seasonal employees to hit the ground running immediately. In fact, a standard onboarding process results in a 50% increase in productivity.

Remember that you may not be able to simply throw last year’s onboarding and training materials at your new seasonal workers. You may need to provide updated materials and safety guidance. Take the time upfront to structure your onboarding process so that it can run like a well-oiled machine the moment your new team members walk through the door. You’ll thank yourself later.

For more onboarding tips, check out the video below:

10. Hire like you’re hiring for permanent employees.

This is the most important piece of advice on our list. Don’t fall into the trap of cutting corners because “it will just be temporary.” 

Josh Alexander advises: “Hire like you are going to keep them. If you find exceptional people in a seasonal role, do whatever you can to offer them a permanent role. You should always be looking for the right people who can help your business grow.”

That’s why it’s important to hire seasonal workers who match your core values and who fit your typical ideal candidate profile

At the end of the day, the people you hire are going to represent your company, even if only for a season. Make sure they add value to your team and aren’t just a warm body there to do a temporary job. 

And if you are willing to turn some positions into permanent ones, market that in your job postings to make them even more attractive to job seekers.

Need more guidance on making the right hires fast?

Try CareerPlug to learn how an applicant tracking system can help you hire during this holiday season and beyond.


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