A Guide to Hiring for the Busy Holiday Season

The end-of-the-year is a popular time for gatherings and shopping. Retail sales around the world continue to grow yearly, and in 2019, holiday retail sales in the United States alone were an estimated 729 billion U.S. dollars.

Thankfully, it’s also a time when many people are shopping for a job. Students have more time to pick up shifts and it’s not uncommon for parents to seek temporary work for extra cash during this time, too.

Who’s Hiring for the Holidays?

Whether it’s full-time or part-time, seasonal hiring is often necessary to keep pace with the wave of demand during this busy season. Certain industries require more hiring for the holidays than others:

  • Retail stores need more cashiers, customer service representatives, shelf stockers/merchandisers, and warehouse associates. This includes grocery stores, which often need more bakers and food prep workers to fulfill large catering orders.
  • Delivery services such as Amazon, UPS, and FedEx need more workers to make sure people get their gifts in the mail in time for the holidays.
  • The hospitality industry (especially restaurants and bars since the season is closely tied to food and drink) need more extra hosts, cooks, and servers to accommodate holiday parties.
  • Non-profit organizations hoping to raise money when people are in the spirit of giving look for more volunteers than usual.
  • Season-specific positions such as gift wrappers—even Santa and his elves—are required but once a year!

Even some progressive companies that aren’t overly busy over the holidays amp up their hiring as a perk for their valued permanent staff. By hiring temporary workers, team members who have worked hard the rest of the year are able to take some well-deserved time off.

The Challenges of Seasonal Recruitment

The holiday season pushes employers to hire dozens of seasonal workers in a short period of time. This high-volume recruiting effort usually results in either:

  • Underwhelm: Not enough people apply, so employers begin to worry about how they’ll possibly fill the positions.
  • Overwhelm: Too many people apply, so hiring managers stress over how they’ll properly screen all candidates.

Some of the other challenges associated with seasonal recruitment include:

  • Competing with other companies looking for seasonal workers
  • Applicants fail to understand the requirements of the job (including being available for specific shifts)
  • Lack of candidate experience (there is very little time for seasonal team members to learn on the job)

How to Overcome the Stress of Holiday Hiring

  • Write More Explanatory Job Descriptions

One of the most frustrating aspects of holiday hiring is when new employees quit shortly after they’ve been hired. Recruiters can minimize this by using the job description to clearly spell out responsibilities, the number of hours/days needed, expected shift times, and the compensation workers will receive. Be as detailed as possible so job seekers know exactly what’s expected of them. This way only truly interested people apply.

  • Promote the Vacancies

Advertise jobs on your company website, social media channels, and on as many job boards as possible. This will increase the chances of the right people learning about the opportunities available to them. You may also want to ask current employees if they know anyone reliable looking for work over the holidays. Referrals are often the best hires!

  • Streamline & Automate the Hiring Process

Technology is a recruiter’s best friend. Applicant tracking systems (ATS), automated interview scheduling, and automatic reference checks do wonders to speed up seasonal hiring. It also helps to create a virtual record that recruiters can reference year after year.

  • Host Your Own Hiring Event

In an effort to stand out from other companies, some employers are hosting their own hiring events. For example, UPS attempted to recruit 50,000 people in just one day during its third annual “Brown Friday.” Make it more convenient for everyone (especially those who have other jobs) by creating a virtual job fair instead. Video interviews make this so easy!

  • Plan Far in Advance

If you’ve put off your seasonal recruitment a little longer than you should have this year, let that be a lesson. Don’t let it happen again in 2020.

Make Holiday Hiring Easier Every Year

Once the busy season wraps up, be sure to thank all the holiday workers for their efforts and find a way to stay in touch with them throughout the year in case you need them again. If they’ve been an exceptionally good worker, you may want to proactively offer them a job for next year—or even extend an offer of permanent employment.

Hiring a few extra helping hands can make all the difference during the holidays. The tips in this article should help make the seasonal hiring process easier for you—even during the most hectic time of the year.

Headshot of Jessica Newman

Jessica Newman
Jessica is a VidCruiter writer who cares about connecting people with meaningful work. She writes about talent attraction, HR challenges, and hiring best practices.