Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees

As a small business owner, you know that you might need extra hands-on deck during the winter holiday season, the summer months, or whenever you have your “peak” season.” But the seasonal hiring process can be daunting. Unfortunately, this is true now more than ever.  

For example, hospitality businesses that reopened in the summer of 2021 saw throngs of eager vacationing customers but struggled to attract and keep seasonal employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, although winter holiday spending typically supports the need for additional staff members, they too may be challenging to find. You’re likely to have a better chance to hire the right temporary workers for your busy seasons if you start now.  

In some ways, hiring seasonal workers is much like hiring permanent ones. Recruiting the right employees can make a significant difference in the success of your business—and whether you thrive or fail.

Writing the Right Ad 

Once you’ve decided when and for how long you’ll need additional workers, the next step is to write an ad designed to attract the largest pool of candidates. Whether you’re looking for summer or winter holiday employees, it’s essential to be clear and specific about the following: 

  • Basic information, such as the fact that the position is temporary; whether it is full- or part-time; whether there’s a minimum age requirement; and whether evening, weekend, or holiday work hours are expected. Be upfront about the pay rate as well. 
  • Which positions you’re hiring for and exactly what they will entail (write a separate ad for each position to avoid confusion). Clearly indicate job duties, necessary skills or personality traits, and any physical requirements. 
  • Seasonal workers (and those who work for fewer than 90 days) are not legally eligible for employee benefits. Try to make up for this by advertising other perks, such as discounts, in-demand software or skills training, or a flexible schedule. 
  • Post the job on a variety of media. If students are a good fit for you (their availability is likely to align with your needs, especially in summer), post the ad on Craigslist and social media, and traditional job ad sites. In addition, consider advertising on high school and college job boards.
  • Alternatively, if you’ve had high-performing temporary employees in the past, consider reaching out to them again. The more known quantities you can add to your team, the better. 

Best Hiring Practices 

Look for Potential, Not Just Experience 

Given the possible scarcity of post-pandemic seasonal workers, it’s all the more important to use savvy and creative hiring practices. For example, instead of ignoring candidates who have no previous experience with the exact role at hand, look for those with transferable skills. In addition, prospective employees may seize the opportunity to build their skills.  

Ask About Motivation and Future Plans  

Ask all applicants why they’re interested in the particular role you’re trying to fill. For example, they might be considering a career change, have previous positive experiences in the same industry, or simply be looking for something new to try. Depending on their motivation and character, you may even find good candidates for long-term work in the future. 

Be Flexible About the Interview Process 

To make it easier for applicants to schedule an interview, offer them the choice of a video interview using the app of your choice or an in-person visit to your brick-and-mortar location. Be sure to communicate all pertinent instructions for each option. 

Know and Understand Applicable Hiring Laws 

Labor laws impact everything from who you can legally hire at what age to safety precautions implemented in the workplace. For a complete list of federal and state hiring laws, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website. Legal frameworks to consider include: 

  • Federal and state employment regulations concerning seasonal workers 
  • Foreign Labor Laws 
  • Child Labor Laws 
  • Internship program laws, if applicable 

Mistakes to Avoid 

Just because the workers you’re looking for are temporary doesn’t mean their impact on your small business will be. In the same way that you keep an eye out for seasonal employees who might benefit your company as permanent ones, so too should you avoid those who can be detrimental in the short or long run. Some of the most costly mistakes to avoid include: 

  • Hiring unqualified applicants. It’s crucial to ask all candidates detailed questions about how they would handle key aspects of the job and solve problems to avoid major issues during the busy seasons. 
  • Skipping or Skimping on Training. Even though a seasonal employee’s tenure with your company may be short, improperly trained temporary employees can result in costly mistakes. In addition, training them properly now will save time on doing this later, particularly if they’re likely to be a good long-term match. 
  • Not Communicating Key Parameters of the Position. To avoid unnecessary stress for all staff during the busy season, it’s essential to be sure you and temporary workers are on the same page upfront about daily job expectations. 
  • Treating Seasonal Employees as Less Valuable than Regular Employees. Give seasonal employees the same quality of training, pay, and benefits as regular employees at the same level. It will reflect well on you as an employer, exemplify fairness in your company culture, and likely result in increased loyalty and work ethic from your short-term hires. 

Now you’re ready to get your business on track for a successful busy season. Our business and hiring resources are available to help you with all your business needs. 

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Disclaimer:  the information provided on this page is meant for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current resources and recommendations available. Please consult with your financial, tax, legal, and other relevant advisors when making decisions about your small business.