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Hiring Seasonal Workers? How to Hire the Right Candidate

Published: July 19, 2017 In: Interview Tips


Hiring a staff of seasonal workers can be tough. Whether you are a restaurant getting ready for a busy summer tourism season or a retail store that does half its annual business near the holidays, you likely face the same hiring challenges every year.

You need to find people who are willing to take jobs that might only last a few months, which can drastically reduce the size and depth of your applicant pool. You also have to hire and on-board people fast enough that they are ready to reach full productivity in time for peak season traffic, but not so fast that you make mistakes. And, on top of everything else, you aim to find people who will be able to come back year after year so you don’t have to keep repeating the process of seasonal recruitment.

These factors make seasonal hiring a tough balancing act. By following the tips and strategies laid out below, your business can fill seasonal positions quickly without sacrificing quality or missing red flags.

  1. Run background checks: Yes, running criminal background checks on the people you hire costs money. Yes, it takes time. But, no, you can’t skip it just because you are hiring someone for two months. Seasonal workers are prevalent in customer service industries like retail, hospitality, and dining. In each of these industries, they often end up interfacing with customers more than the owners and managers ever do. These people are going to be the face of your company for a few months. Invest in background checks to make sure they aren’t hiding violent histories or other high-risk red flags.

  2. Start the search early: Hiring staff for Black Friday and Christmas? Start posting job openings in September or October. Looking for summer help? March isn’t too early to post that “Help Wanted” sign. Many seasonal roles—particularly in the summertime—end up being filled by students on break from high school or college. These individuals want to have jobs lined up already by the time summer rolls around, which means that they start looking in early spring. Beginning the search for seasonal employees early means grabbing the most qualified and experienced workers before someone else can.

  3. Look outside of your full-time demographic: Your business may benefit from hiring outside of its typical full-time employee demographic. If you need to hire a team of seasonal employees, plan to look for college or high school students or retirees. People in these demographics are not always looking for full-time jobs and may be interested in making some extra cash in the summertime or around the holidays. They can also bring a lot of value to your business. Young people are enthusiastic and ready to learn, while retirees bring decades of experience and knowledge to the table. Both groups typically have flexible schedules and can return for seasonal roles a few years in a row.


  4. Look for relevant experience: When companies are in a rush to hire seasonal workers, they don’t have the luxury of high standards. Therein lies one of the benefits of starting your hiring process well ahead of the season where you need extra help. With an early start, you can be a pickier about who you hire. Look for people who have relevant experience, whether that means past jobs waiting tables, selling to customers, or landscaping yards. Sometimes it’s great to give an inexperienced worker an opportunity to gain skills and work experience. For the most part, the highest-quality hires will be the ones who have some level of experience with the job at hand.

  5. Check references: Experience isn’t everything, particularly in a seasonal job that involves working as part of a team or interacting heavily with customers. Just because someone said they waited tables for a summer doesn’t mean they are automatically a good hire for a seasonal job at your restaurant. Check references to find out about that person’s work ethic, teamwork mentality, customer service acumen, and personality. Checking references is especially important if you are hiring someone who doesn’t have much experience in the position you are filling. A glowing character reference for an inexperienced worker should get the job over someone who got a lukewarm review from a past employer, even if the latter candidate has more relevant experience.

  6. Consider company culture: Particularly for the peak season rush, you want to establish a brand tone and identity that will endear your business to customers and keep them coming back. For instance, during the holidays, a retail store where every worker is cheerful and welcoming will perform better than one where the employees seem to have the holiday blues. Keep this fact in mind while you hire seasonal workers, and look for people whose personalities fit the tone and identity you are trying to establish for your brand. You can tell a lot about a person’s demeanor and attitude through interviews or reference checks. Meet in person when possible to avoid a rude or morose hire who ruins the culture of your business.

Hiring seasonal workers doesn’t have to be an annual slog. With proper time, planning, and care, your seasonal hire process can inject new life and personality into your business. Seasonal hires can bring new perspectives and attitudes to your business, which can in turn enliven full-time workers who may have grown disenchanted with their work. A top-tier seasonal hire might even end up being someone you consider for a longer-term role in the future. There is much to be gained from finding the right candidate for a seasonal job, and these strategies will help your business to make it happen.


Tags: Interview Tips, Recruitment Best Practices

Written by: Michael Klazema

Michael Klazema has been developing products for criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

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