10 Tips For Hiring Seasonal Retail Employees

Dan Westmoreland

Dan Westmoreland

Marketing Campaigns Manager

November 17, 2017

10 Tips For Hiring Seasonal Retail Employees

Dan Westmoreland, Marketing Campaigns Manager
November 17, 2017


According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales in November and December 2017 will increase between 3.6% and 4%, representing a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion. This prediction tops last year’s growth of $655.8 billion.


In its 2017 Holiday Hiring Outlook, outplacement firm, Challenger Gray & Christmas, stated that, across all industries, retailers planned the most hiring announcements (248,000).

The following companies are among the retailers hiring seasonal employees in 2017:

  • Target are adding 100,000 holiday staff
  • Michaels are taking on 15,000 holiday workers  
  • 1-800-Flowers will recruit 8,000 staff for the holidays

Competition to hire the best seasonal retail employees is fierce, so it’s important to get your hiring strategy right. Here are some tips that will help you get the best people to cover seasonal business spikes.


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1. Start early.

A last-minute approach to hiring seasonal retail employees can leave your business short-staffed at the busiest times of the year. Like any other business initiative, you should create a strategy for your seasonal hiring. If you already have a general recruitment strategy, this should be updated to include seasonal recruitment details, such as:

  • Timelines for hiring
  • Qualifications required
  • Relevant competencies to perform the work

Plan to bring on seasonal staff at least three weeks before the busy period starts. Getting seasonal staff onboard early prevents the chaos of your full-time staff trying to train during the busiest time. Late hiring will affect productivity and profits as there will be an increased likelihood of the seasonal employee making mistakes.

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To get the best out of your seasonal workers, give them as much time as possible to get used to your business. This acclimatization period works two ways because you can also use the extra time to find out which new hires aren’t a good fit for your store.

It’s recommended that screening seasonal workers for the holiday season starts in September with a view to adding them to your team in October. This will allow your new recruits enough time to learn the ropes before the full-on holiday season rolls around.


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2. Take on extra HR Help.

Hiring seasonal staff for the shop floor or warehouse isn’t the only consideration for retailers. The influx of applications and interviews mean you’ll need some extra HR hands on deck. It’s worth thinking about hiring seasonal HR employees as this could be crucial to meeting your recruitment goals. This is especially given the tight recruitment window for retailers during the holidays.

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The extra HR personnel can be assistants, contractors or interns. You can also choose to outsource the hiring process to a recruitment firm. A fully prepared HR department can make the difference between recruiting the crème de la crème of the candidates in the market and applicants who scrape the bottom of the barrel.


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3. Analyze trends.

To create a successful seasonal hiring strategy, you need to be in a position to anticipate your business needs. If this isn’t the first time you’re hiring seasonal employees, review previous sales and staff records. Analyzing trends will help you forecast the number of workers needed for the year.

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Your records should contain information gained from tracking your seasonal employees’ hours. Cross-reference hours worked and sales to identify areas where you were understaffed and overstaffed. Use this information to learn from any mistakes and make adjustments. After you’ve analyzed the seasonal trends, you’ll have an easier time scheduling your seasonal employees after they’ve been hired.

Accurate record-keeping should be part of your seasonal hiring strategy. Your records will be the blueprint for successful seasonal hiring in the future.
You also need to keep up to date with what’s happening outside your business. Analyzing trends in the retail industry as a whole should also inform your seasonal hiring strategy. Look out for patterns in both e commerce and offline. The National Retail Federation is a good source for the latest goings-on in the retail industry.


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4. Update job descriptions.

Review job descriptions for seasonal hires to make sure they’re up to date. Job descriptions that are more than a couple of years old will most likely contain obsolete or missing tasks. Ask the job description writer to shadow a permanent staff member who is doing the work that the seasonal employee will be doing. This will ensure that all the competencies required to successfully complete the job are included in the job description.

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Gaps in a job description can lead to unintentional poor hires. The process of updating the job description also makes task allocation easier when the seasonal employee begins work. Starting from the job description, your customers shouldn’t know the difference between permanent and seasonal staff.

Your job descriptions should be up to date and accurate so that seasonal hires know exactly what’s expected of them. Be sure to avoid the most common job description turn-offs.


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5. Keep hiring standards high.

It can be tempting to let hiring standards slip when taking on seasonal employees. The temporary nature of retail seasonal workers can make it easy to overlook their importance. Viewing seasonal employees as placeholders is ill-advised.

Hiring employees that aren’t a good fit for your retail company carries a heavy cost, irrespective of whether they’re permanent or temporary. Research by the Society For Human Resource Management found bad hires cost companies in terms of decreased productivity, low morale and financial costs.

To prevent bad hires negatively affecting customers and your profits, seasonal employees should meet the same criteria as permanent staff.

Keeping recruitment standards high when hiring retail seasonal employees will go a long way in preventing headaches down the line. Your customers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between permanent and temporary employees. The costs of bad customer service can be high, so seasonal employees should meet yours (and your customers’) standards of success.

Taking the recruitment of seasonal staff seriously may also have an added benefit of higher productivity because they’ll feel appreciated and not like a spare part.


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6. Make the process short and to the point.

Maintaining high standards when hiring seasonal employees doesn’t have to mean a long drawn-out process for you or the candidate. Your recruitment process should match the level of skill you require. If you’re hiring for the shop floor or the warehouse, putting candidates through a lengthy round of interviews and tests can be off-putting.

Long application forms can also be a turnoff and candidates may simply look for work elsewhere. An application should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete.

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Use online applications to shorten the screening process. To identify and highlight suitable applicants early on, include ‘knockout questions’ (questions that prevent the application from going further). An example of a knockout question is a choice of the different shifts a candidate is willing to work. If they can’t work a shift that’s crucial to your business needs, they’ll be eliminated from the process. Applicant tracking software can automate screening based on your chosen criteria.

A brief phone interview can be used to screen candidates before you meet face-to-face. This will prevent unsuitable applicants wasting your time (and theirs) attending an interview in person. The face-to-face interview doesn’t need to last for hours. Ideally, the seasonal job hiring process for retail should only consist of one round of interviews.


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7. Only promise what you can deliver.

Seasonal employees may be eager for the chance to transition to a full-time position after the holiday work is over. If applicable, mention the fact that a permanent position may be available after the seasonal work period is complete. The promise of a full-time position may be the driving factor for some applications. To avoid disappointment, it’s best not to guarantee long-term work if you’re not absolutely sure this will be possible.

The application form should clearly state how long the job is expected to last. This information should be repeated during the interview itself. During the interview, it’s recommended that you ask whether the candidate wants a temporary position or whether they’re just accepting this job because it’s the first opportunity that came along. It’s best to hire people who are just looking to work for the holidays because they are less likely to leave the job because a permanent opportunity has come up.

While no promises can be made about long-term work, it’s a good idea to find out about the candidate’s career aspirations. This information will come in handy if they’re a good worker and a full-time position opens up, especially given the fact that hourly store employees have a high turnover rate of 65%.


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8. Contact previous seasonal employees.

Your previous seasonal hires should be part of your talent pool that you can call on when you need extra help. If you’ve hired seasonal employees before, contact the ones that did a good job to find out whether they’re available. Reaching out to them before you advertise the vacant positions is a good idea as you never know whether they’re in the market for extra work.

Contacting people you’re familiar with has several advantages. You already know that you can trust them to do the job and you’ll also spend less time and resources on hiring and training.

Contacting previous seasonal employees reduces the unknown factor of hiring someone new. Given the seasonal worker had a positive experience working for your retail company, it’s likely that they would prefer to go back to a job that they’re familiar with rather than start the application process all over again.


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9. Use social media.

The fast pace of social media makes it an obvious choice for filling seasonal vacancies. Social media also opens up job opportunities to applicants who may not be actively looking, but are still a good fit. The demographic is narrowed to active job seekers when only job boards are used to advertise seasonal vacancies. However, social media puts the vacancies in front of customers who might think “why not earn some extra cash over the holidays while working somewhere I shop?”

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Social media gives people who are thinking of applying a glimpse of what it’s like to work for your company. Behind-the-scenes photos and videos will help to entice millennials and the younger generation.

Geo-targeting is another plus point of social media. Most retail jobs are location- specific and social media makes it easy to target candidates in your local area. When your company has used social media to recruit seasonal employees once, workers will be on the lookout for more opportunities for recurring seasonal positions.


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10. Ask employees for help.

Reach out to employees to find out whether anyone in their network is interested in seasonal work. Your employees should know what you expect and so are likely to refer people who will do a good job. According to a Gallup study, more than 40% of internal referrals were more likely to be successful at interview and be offered a job than candidates who applied through the company’s media channels.

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Your employee referral program should motivate current staff by offering rewards for recommendations. If you are going to offer rewards, be clear on the terms and conditions. For example, if you’re providing money or gift cards, state that the employee will only be compensated if the person they referred stays for the duration of the seasonal work. Setting rules prevents abuse of the referral system. Although this should go without saying, stress to your employees that they should only suggest people who will work well with the team.

After all the planning that goes into recruiting the right seasonal employees for your retail company, it’s time to make your new hires glad they chose you. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make sure their schedules are accurate and they have access to changes. Deputy’s scheduling feature allows you to publish schedules and employees can be notified by email, SMS or push notification.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Westmoreland
As Director of Inbound Marketing, Dan handles all things PR, content, SEO, and marketing campaigns for Deputy Americas. He also brings 10+ years of experience in B2B technology and SaaS to the team. Dan provides marketing thought leadership as a contributor at Business 2 Community. In his free time, he loves supporting Atlanta sports teams and hanging out with his kiddos.
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