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By Jessica Elliott Updated on September 12, 2022

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Hiring

Holiday hiring this year is more challenging than in previous years. But there are steps you can take to attract temporary employees. Use these strategies to improve your seasonal hiring process.

Holiday Hiring Outlook

Insider Intelligence expects a 3.3% increase in holiday sales for the 2022 season, a growth of $1.262 trillion. Brick-and-mortar sales specifically are expected to increase 0.9% to $1.026 trillion, while ecommerce sales are projected to rise 15.5%, generating $235.86 billion.  

For many employers, this means they need to hire more staff than in previous years. However, as Forbes notes, the trend of “quiet quitting” coupled with remote work may make it harder for many retailers to attract talent this holiday season. Indeed, 71% of retailers are concerned about labor shortages, according to omnichannel commerce company Radial

Many employers hope older workers who retired during the pandemic will seek employment, notes NPR. Additionally, teen employment has also grown in demand, according to WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station. 

Despite this hiring pool, retailers will need to get creative to overcome the labor shortage. For example, they may offer higher wages, better benefits and more flexible work schedules to attract workers. Additionally, a recent hiring trends report shows that many retailers are now evaluating applicants more on the skill set they bring versus their experience.

Santa’s workshop at the North Pole has a big sign on the window that reads “Help Wanted.”

When Do Stores Start Hiring for Holiday Help?

Retail positions today take 40 days to fill, according to iCIMS. That said, holiday retail hiring often starts in September to fill jobs during November and December.

In short, if you haven’t started hiring for seasonal positions, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on critical job candidates.

Who Hires Seasonal Employees?

The retail sector does the majority of holiday hiring. While many jobs are specific to retail, this time of year is also busy for marketers, content writers and social media consultants. 

Typical segments hiring seasonal employees include:

  • Warehouses
  • Call and customer care centers
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Retail stores
  • Shipping and receiving hubs
  • Transportation and logistics

How to Attract Seasonal Employees: 7 Tips and Best Practices

Filling temporary job positions isn’t easy, especially for small business owners who often can’t afford to give sign-on bonuses or increased wages. But you can take steps to enhance your process and secure a seasonal workforce.

1. Reimagine Seasonal Roles

The National Retail Federation (NRF) found 37% of part-time retail employees take a retail job because they’re in school and need scheduling flexibility, while 21% work another job and 11% need the flexibility because they’re stay-at-home parents.

Yet many temporary positions have demanding hours. Companies that adjust job roles and initial expectations will have a better chance at attracting a seasonal workforce. 

Think about your temporary positions and see if it’s possible to: 

  • Pay a higher rate for nights, weekends and holidays
  • Offer later (or earlier) start times to accommodate school, other jobs or family duties
  • Make the position remote or hybrid whenever possible

2. Craft an Informative and Captivating Job Description

Job applicants have plenty of options, so being opaque regarding pay or hours won’t help you recruit talent. The same goes for listing a bunch of skills and experience requirements. 

Improve your job ad with these tips:

  • Define the application process: Show that you value people’s time by telling them how long it usually takes to complete the application and how soon they’ll hear from you. 
  • State pay clearly: Provide your hourly rate, including any differences for less-popular shifts. Plus, note if this number is flexible based on experience.
  • Give time frames: Tell applicants how long the contract is, if you offer part-time and full-time hours and potential start dates.
  • Tout the benefits: Highlight perks, such as an employee discount or a sign-on bonus. In addition, talk about scheduling flexibility and the tools used, such as mobile apps.
  • Use keywords: Make it easy for individuals to find your job ad with a search-optimized job post. Include words such as seasonal, temporary, holiday work and seasonal roles.
  • Drop requirements:  Consider hiring trainable candidates with the right skill sets but no previous retail experience.

3. Appeal to Your Target Market

An iCIMS 2022 Workforce Report says in general 18-24-year-olds make up the largest talent pool, accounting for one-third of all applicants. If your workers tend to skew Gen Z, keep that in mind.   

After all, a job ad tailored to a student on winter break from college should look different from one targeting people looking for a second job or stay-at-home parents wanting extra cash for the holidays. 

Take into account your target audience each time you write a job post for social media or create an advertisement. Think about who applies for your seasonal positions and speak to their challenges and needs. 

Consider highlighting your:

  • Dedication to worker safety
  • Small business status or connection to the community
  • Brand mission and values
  • Tools used to help workers swap or pick up shifts
  • Off-peak interview hours

4. Simplify Your Holiday Hiring Process

Here’s the thing: If you’re still asking applicants to stop by or call your store, you’re losing out on potential job candidates. If your methods take days instead of hours, those job candidates will likely get hired elsewhere.

Create an efficient system for hiring seasonal employees by: 

  • Using an applicant tracking system to monitor applicants and respond quickly
  • Providing the ability to apply via text message
  • Offering a mobile-optimized website application
  • Having a chatbot or live chat assistance on your application page
  • Being ready to hire on the spot with same-day job offers
  • Putting new employee forms and your onboarding process online

Two signs (one is labeled “Perks!” and the other says “Benefits!”) are posted in a snowy landscape.

5. Offer Competitive Pay and Perks

Dealing with the public has become much more difficult since the pandemic. Not surprisingly, many workers are dealing with burnout

Attract a contingent workforce by: 

  • Creating a tiered bonus program: Motivate employees by giving small bonuses at weekly intervals or when they show up to work after a busy holiday weekend.
  • Giving higher pay rates than competitors: Nearly every employer has a story about losing a new hire because a competitor offered them a dollar more per hour. Look at rates in your area and increase them accordingly.
  • Providing discounts: Offer a regular employee discount with special double discount days. Plus, consider providing special shopping hours for your staff and a couple of guests.

6. Create a Campaign and Expand Your Hiring Efforts

The days of tossing out a job ad and waiting for applicants to flock to your store are over, at least for the time being. Treat your recruitment efforts like a marketing campaign, where you woo candidates with words, images and video. 

Holiday hiring employee recruitment strategies include: 

  • Creating TikTok videos showing your staff, workplace and benefits
  • Asking people to share your Facebook post
  • Reaching out to your network, including past employees, friends and family
  • Requesting and rewarding referrals from current or previous staff members
  • Using a recruiter or staffing agency to fill a large number of jobs
  • Working with schools and nonprofits to reach underrepresented people
  • Writing a press release about your hiring initiatives
  • Hosting a virtual job fair with breakout sessions for interviews
  • Using in-store hiring events during the day and evening
  • Asking current staff for testimonials and adding these to your marketing assets

Related: 16 Holiday Marketing Ideas to Bring Your Business Cheer This Season

7. Consider the Open Hiring Model

The Body Shop made the news after adopting an open hiring model. Instead of lengthy applications, interviews and background checks, the Body Shop puts all candidates on a list according to their application date.

When a position opens, the Body Shop connects with applicants and asks three questions “to confirm they are eligible and physically able to fulfill the requirements of the role.” This method helps reduce unconscious bias in hiring and better serve underrepresented populations.

Enhance Your Efforts to Find Seasonal Employees

Fill retail positions this holiday season by improving your recruiting strategy. Reach out to your audience with targeted content and well-defined job ads while highlighting the benefits of working for your small business. Who knows? A holiday hire could turn into a dedicated employee who stays with you over the long term.

Jessica is a business-to-business content strategist and consultant with 24 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. She writes about technology, marketing and finance.
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