During busy holiday seasons, one in eight adult Americans are proactively searching for a seasonal job. The last few months of the year can be both a gift and a challenge—you’ll likely get a healthy boost in sales, but that comes with a stark influx of visitors that can put a strain on operations. Hiring enough seasonal employees to help you through the holiday rush can turn a potentially stressful several months into an efficient season of success.
How to find potential employees
The pillars of hiring still apply during your business’s high season, whether that is the holidays or another time of year. Below are a few extra strategies you can apply as you begin searching for seasonal employees to pad your holiday schedules.
Hire your biggest fans
One of the many benefits of being a local business is the opportunity to personally connect with customers. During the holidays, you can transform those relationships into hiring possibilities.
Drawing from your loyal customer base can produce enthusiastic candidates who are passionate about your business’s mission, values, and products or services. They might even have valuable, creative ideas for connecting with customers as a result of being long-time customers themselves.
Corporate behemoths like Amazon, Target, and Walmart are primed to hire in droves for the holidays, but small business owners need not fret. In fact, some people prefer working at small businesses over corporations. These types of employees are likely to care most about good management and helping directly impact the company’s success.
Communicate with current and past employees
By communicating with your current employees and close network about your desire to bring on additional help this season, you open the door for people familiar with the brand to assist in recruitment.
Seasonal hiring is crucial for entrepreneurs like Chris Hohenstein, owner of City Tree Delivery, a Christmas tree service based in Chicago. Dormant for the majority of the year, Chris’s business opens the weekend before Thanksgiving, offering full-service setup and dismantling of their trees. Each year, his search for employees plays a big part in determining how the business will fare that season.
“I started off [looking] around the neighborhood, kids that used to live in the neighborhood. I got them from word of mouth, people I know, and they’ve told their friends. They come back every year. There’s a lot of hospitality workers, there’s some firemen, there’s some policemen, artists, students, college students,” Chris said.
The diversity of his staff’s backgrounds shows that seasonal opportunities bring even the most unexpected people together. They make a little extra cash and help propel a local business through its high season.
Driving the hiring process
To attract quality applicants, consider drafting job descriptions that are ultra-specific. Applicants may be looking for something in particular, whether that’s product discounts, overtime pay, or holiday bonuses. Being upfront about what you can offer helps deter incompatible applicants and attract the kind of help you’re looking for.
Additionally, you can tighten your hiring process prior to the busy season to prioritize efficiency. Instead of a sequence of interviews, consider having just one casual interview where a manager or other leader can get to know the potential employee and determine their enthusiasm and availability. Hiring for a good attitude can be just as important as hiring for aptitude, since this employee will likely only be with the business for a short period of time.
“When I interview and meet people, my first impression of that person—that’s what I feel that is what the guest is going to get from that employee,” said Robert Meir, partner and general manager of the Mediterranean restaurant, CALA. “So it’s important to me how I feel in that interview, how the connection was, because that’s how they’re going to connect to the guests.”
Training your new hires
16% of new hires leave their job after the first week—but proper training and a welcoming environment can help with retention.
The first couple weeks on the job can make or break a new hire’s experience. Efficient onboarding is key. Because seasonal hires will be around for just a few short months, there often isn’t time to give them the full rundown to prepare them for work—but there are strategies to make the process easier for everyone involved.
- Ease seasonal employees into the workflow. It can be tempting to give new hires all their responsibilities and requisite information up front, but doing so without the context of being on the floor (or shadowing a full-time employee) first can do more harm than good.
- Develop a seasonal employee handbook that details everything a new hire might need to know during their months at your business. Having written and accessible processes and policies facilitates communication about expectations between business owners, managers, and staff.
- Pairing is caring—match new employees with full-timers or those who have worked seasonally in the past. They’ll be equipped to show newcomers the ropes in real time, helping maintain a level of support throughout the season and the team. With fluctuating inventory levels, customer demands, and holiday specials, business needs can be volatile. A mentor system reduces the amount of time managers spend explaining procedures to each new employee and gives new hires the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with their teammates.
Post-holidays: What now?
Other than the immediate staffing benefits, bringing on seasonal employees can benefit your business in other ways. You’ll have an opportunity to gain deeper insight into your customers’ needs and create a possible contact to rehire the following season (or full-time).
If you hope to hire for the long-term, their seasonal performance can stand in for a formal interview process. You’ll have a good gauge on their personality and work ethic during one of the most challenging times of the year, and will save time interviewing additional outside candidates.
If you aren’t looking to hire, but the employee made a good impression on you, remember to exchange contact information. You’ll need seasonal employees again the following year, and you’ll already have a solid candidate. Holding exit interviews to gauge future interest and understand what they enjoyed, or what needs to be improved upon, can help managers and business owners develop their seasonal hiring processes.
To make future holiday seasons a breeze, take extra steps to maintain good relationships with current and past employees—whether that’s introducing a holiday bonus, keeping in touch throughout the year, or both. It’ll pay off down the road, saving you both time and effort during future recruitment.
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