Tis’ the season for holiday hiring and while you might still be brainstorming ideas for this year’s Halloween costume, employers are well into recruiting their seasonal staff. So, if your plans include earning a little extra cash (and maybe a sweet employee discount!) this year, here’s what you need to know:
- Many employers wrap up their holiday hiring by the end of October. In seasonal industries, the early bird catches the worm. Since new hires need to be trained, employers focus on filling spots as soon as possible with applicants who meet the necessary job requirements. They don’t have the luxury of dragging out the hiring process since time is of the essence in seasonal hiring, which is a big plus for job seekers in this market.
- Start with what you know. If you patronize local businesses and enjoy their products or services, they might be a great place to apply for seasonal work. You have the benefit of being familiar with the merchandise, and likely it’s convenient to your home or day job, which will make your commute a little easier. Seasonal hires are crucial to smooth business operations during busy times, so reliability, including being on time for all shifts, is important. It’s wise to consider your transportation options (and possibly the weather conditions depending on where you live) when choosing a potential employer.
- Assess the fit. Employers look for hires who are enthusiastic about their industry and a fit with their culture. Even though your tenure will likely be temporary, this qualification carries over to seasonal employment as well. Some roles will place a premium on customer service, while others will need employees who can endure physical challenges like lugging heavy boxes or standing for long periods of time. Know what you’re getting into and ensure it’s a commitment that you can keep.
- Be proactive. While you can look online for seasonal roles, don’t underestimate searching for “Help Wanted” signs in the mall, or even stopping in local stores you frequent to ask if they plan to bring on seasonal help. An in-person inquiry can show initiative and drive, particularly in smaller businesses who may not have the bandwidth to advertise. And, if you’re applying to large department stores, hospitality chains or shipping companies, remember that just like in a permanent position, an internal referral can go far in helping you stand out from the other applicants and get selected for an interview.
- Flexibility is the key to being a serious candidate. While a seasonal job can have a number of benefits like extra cash and an in-store discount, what employers are really seeking is someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves, take initiative and be available during their busiest times, which unfortunately are usually weekends and days surrounding major holidays such as Black Friday. If you have legitimate limitations such as classes or child care constraints, be up front. If you stretch the truth to get hired, you may find yourself out of a job before your Thanksgiving turkey becomes leftovers, at which point it may be too late to pursue other seasonal opportunities.
- Prepare for the interview. Seriously. While a perk of the role might be gaining early access to sales and earning holiday spending money, this is not what a hiring manager wants to hear (and trust me, they’ve heard it a million times). Even if these are your primary reasons, there are other benefits of seasonal work including building customer service skills, expanding your network, learning about a new industry and exercising skill sets that you may not get to use in your daily life. So, be prepared to answer questions about why you’re interested in a short-term gig and what you can offer to the team. Stand out with your responses and you’ll likely earn the offer.
- Make yourself indispensable. Getting the job is a great start, but keeping the job may be harder than you think. Many seasonal workers underestimate the need to be on time, flexible and engaged. Even if you don’t intend to extend your tenure beyond early January, remember that the regular staff considers this their career and won’t be impressed by your inability to take the job seriously. Look around and see what needs to be done or ask permanent team members how you can assist. Do your best to be friendly to impatient customers, and find a solution to their problem. While you’re a member of the team, even temporarily, remember that you represent the employer and can have a major impact on their image and reputation.
- Don’t underestimate likability. If you’re looking to extend your tenure beyond mid-January when most holiday positions phase out, your best shot is going above and beyond to show your commitment. Yes, expressing your desire to make a longer-term career out of your role will also be a key step, but actions speak louder than words. Change your mindset and view yourself as a contributing team member with a career rather than a temporary worker doing a job. Go out of your way to learn about the market, procedures, products or services and network with other employees to learn the ropes (while also completing the tasks expected of you). Ask for feedback and implement suggestions. Be approachable, agile and proactive and you may find a permanent role waiting for you when the rest of the seasonal staff leaves.
And lastly, attitude makes all the difference. If you view your temporary role as a “have to” versus a “choose to,” you’ll feel drained and miss out on some of the benefits. Seasonal work can be fun, lucrative and educational. Learning about a business from the inside will bring a new perspective to you as a customer and may even spark an interest you didn’t realize you had.