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5 Ways Small Businesses Can Win at Seasonal Hiring

In Hiring Strategy — by Erin Engstrom

seasonal hiring |

Many folks look forward to the holiday season or the summertime as a time to kick back and relax, catch up with family and ease themselves away from the daily grind. But for others, the work is just getting started. November and December, as well the summer months, represent two times of the year when the demand for seasonal workers is at its highest.

In a recent survey of over 1,000 U.S. hiring managers, hourly jobs site Snagajob found that 65 percent of employers consider online job postings to be the best way of sourcing seasonal candidates. Amazon alone is adding 100,000 holiday jobs to its workforce, with Macy’s and Wal-Mart adding 85,000 and 60,000 holiday jobs, respectively. Combined, those three retailers account for almost a third of all holiday hiring across the industry!

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Of course, small businesses have seasonal hiring needs, too. Posting jobs online may work great for behemoths, but it’s not necessarily the best method for small businesses. In the war for seasonal talent, it can be hard for small businesses to compete. Here are some tips to ensure that your seasonal hiring experience is a successful one.

Ask Around

You’ve built an incredible team and you couldn’t run your business without them. So tap into their network. When Angie Stocklin is looking to hire seasonal employees, the first place she looks is her existing ones. “The very best method to source seasonal candidates is through current team members,” says the co-founder and COO of One Click, an ecommerce company specializing in eyewear. “Once the holiday season is in full swing, you don’t have time to replace unreliable team members. We have to hire people that we trust, and the best way to do that is through personal referrals.”

To ensure a steady pipeline of referral candidates, consider implementing a formal employee referral program. One of the benefits often cited of such programs is that employee retention tends to be higher with referred candidates. But even if you’re looking to bring on an employee short-term, employee referral programs can still be an effective tool.

Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company, brings on additional childcare providers every holiday season and relies on current sitters at her agency for referrals. “We keep our sitters very happy, busy and offer incentives for referring other great sitters to our company,” she says. After all, who doesn’t need a little extra holiday spending money?

[Tweet “Once the holiday season is in full swing, you don’t have time to replace unreliable team members.”]

Go Back to School

Remember how awesome college was? The friends, the lack of responsibility and especially the long, frequent breaks? Well, a lot of students are looking to fill those breaks with seasonal work. Not all students return home for breaks, and many of them are local to begin with. Plus, college campuses are teeming with people who are young, energetic and well-educated. They’re pretty much the perfect recruiting ground for seasonal workers.

“We’ve always had good luck with college students,” says Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation, a document filing company. “They’re great for seasonal positions, or internships, because the position has a definite ending date.” She advises businesses to not just advertise on campus but to also post on college job recruitment sites.

Organize an Event

Hosting a job fair at the office takes some serious planning – not just to organize the fair itself, but also to spread word of the event. But if your seasonal hiring volume is high enough, it’s one of the fastest, most efficient ways to source candidates. You’re able to connect with scores of candidates all in one day, and the candidates have the opportunity to scope out the work environment.

Spreadshirt, a custom T-shirt company, doubles its staff during the holiday season. The company sources the majority of its holiday employees at its annual job fair. “Hosting onsite job fairs has been a great success for us and I highly recommend small businesses doing the same thing,” says Laura Platt, Spreadshirt’s human resources manager. “Do not keep your open positions to yourself, make sure you get the word out by contacting and advertising with local universities, news stations, and newspapers.”

Start Early

If you need to staff up for summer and you start sourcing in May, well, good luck to you. It’s good to figure out your seasonal staffing needs early and get your ducks in a row accordingly. Spreadshirt begins to put its holiday hiring process during the summer, when production managers conduct several meetings and put together a hiring plan. Their job fair is planned two months in advance.

Getting a head start is important not just for hiring, but for training. “If you start hiring too late in the season, you will not only miss out on the best candidates, you will also likely miss your opportunity to properly train your seasonal staff,” says Stocklin of One Click. “It is unrealistic to think that your seasonal staff members can start the week before Thanksgiving and be able to add significant value during your busiest weeks.”

[Tweet “If you start hiring too late, you’ll miss your opportunity to properly train your seasonal staff.”]

Maintain the Bond

Securing high-quality talent is a challenge for almost all employers. If a seasonal hire proves themselves to be a great employee, try to maintain the relationship. According to the Snagajob survey, 67 percent of seasonal hires will be “rehires,” or folks who worked the same job the previous year. And 68 percent of employers plan to keep staff on even once the holiday season is over.

Five years ago, Stocklin hired a seasonal summer employee. He made the transition from seasonal to part-time, and then part-time to full-time. Recently he was promoted to an inventory team lead position at One Click. Stocklin tries to develop longstanding relationships with all of her successful seasonal hires.

“If possible, we like to keep great team members involved in the business throughout the entire year,” she says. “Even if they only work a few hours per month, it helps keep them trained on new processes and software, and creates stronger personal bonds between team members. Then when the holiday season hits, they can step right in and add value to our team.”

[Tweet “68% of employers plan to keep staff on even once the holiday season is over.”]

Every year, businesses add millions of seasonal employees to their payrolls. Without the name recognition and resources of large chains, it can be challenging for small businesses to compete for seasonal talent. But it can be done. Employ some creative sourcing tactics that go beyond the online job posting, start your talent search early and nurture long-term relationships with seasonal hires. That’s how small businesses can build a winning seasonal hiring strategy.

photo: Luke Jones

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