October 22, 2015

A Guide to Hiring Seasonal Employees Properly


It’s the time of seasonal hiring again. Businesses all around the country are getting ready to hire thousands of seasonal employees from now until January to deal with the increased demands of the holiday season, especially in retail.

This time of year is very exciting for all kinds of business owners, no matter what they are selling. It’s a time of big promotions, big crowds, and hopefully, big profits. With all of the increased business coming in, it’s important to make sure that you have enough staff to handle it properly.

The number of seasonal workers hired last year increased significantly from 2013 and that trend will most likely continue this year. Package delivery giant UPS alone hired more than 95,000 seasonal workers last year to meet demands!

If you find yourself in a similar position and need to hire additional helping hands this holiday season to make sure that your business flourishes over the next several months, here are some tips that you need take into consideration if you want to do it right.

Analyze Trends from the Past to Plan Accordingly

One of the biggest factors in successfully being able to get through the holiday season is having the ability to anticipate your needs. This probably isn’t the first time you are tackling the holiday season as a manager. Make sure that you are keeping records of what your sales and staff situation has looked like over the past several years so that you will be able to successfully forecast this year’s needs.

Keeping good records of what your past holiday seasons looked like will enable you to uncover trends that will ultimately point you in the direction you need to go this year. Were you understaffed the last two years on Black Friday? Was getting through the last week before Christmas a nightmare? Learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly for this year.

If you didn’t have enough people working the floor last year, make sure that changes this year. If your stock room employees struggled last December, make sure you add more hands this December. In order to evaluate and forecast your needs better this year, keeping good records and being able to analyze your past performances will ensure that you aren’t making the same mistakes over again.

Really, You Should Have Already Started Hiring

If you’re reading this with less than ten days left in October and still haven’t started the process of looking for and seasonal hiring, you’re probably already way behind your competition. Learn from this mistake if that’s the case and begin the process in September next year.

Remember, whenever you are hiring new people there needs to be a period of acclimation. If you are hiring them in November, you are throwing them right into the fire without really knowing what they are made of just yet.

By already screening potential new employees in September and introducing the best candidates into your team in October, you are allowing them to find their footing before the holiday seasons kicks into full gear and you are also able to see how good of a fit they will be with your team before crunch time rolls around.

Where to Start with Seasonal Hiring?

Check your floater list first. For those of you that aren’t hip to the terminology, that’s a list of former part-time employees that have worked for you in the past and that might be available to help you out this season.

It’s always a good idea to first contact people who you are already familiar with, especially if you previously had a great experience with them. Not only do you know that you would be getting a trustworthy and capable worker, you don’t have to worry about training them up and showing them the ropes, since they’ve already climbed them.

Having recurring seasonal workers who are familiar with your business is the best possible option when it comes to seeking additional help during the holidays.

Train the Heck Out of Them

When it comes to getting seasonal employees ready, training is incredibly important. Remember, these new staff members don’t have a lot of time to get acquainted with what you sell. You need to make sure that they know just as much about your business as your regular employees do, and you don’t have much time to get them ready.

If you’re hiring more employees without giving them the proper training, you’re not doing yourself any favors. It doesn’t matter how many staff members who have out on the floor if they don’t have the expertise needed to help your customers.

Let’s not sugar-coat things. Training for a seasonal employee must be rigorous. They need to know your products inside and out, regardless of the shortened time-frame they have to study up. Get your more experienced employees involved and turn them into mentors for your seasonal additions.

Hopefully, you have hired people that know how to sell, so you don’t have to teach them that. Focus on getting them as familiar and knowledgeable about the products as possible. When hiring seasonal employees, you aren’t simply adding extra bodies, you want extra minds on your team as well.

Be Clear About the Timetable

When you are interviewing potential hires, it’s very important to be very direct and open about what kind of a job it is and how long it will last. If you are writing job ads and posting them online, make sure to clearly state that this is seasonal work, so that you can be sure that people looking for a long-term position are not applying for it.

It’s a good idea to ask the people you are interviewing whether they are specifically looking for a seasonal job or are simply settling for one because there is nothing else available to them. Honestly, it’s better to hire people who are sincerely interested in working part-time for a few months, because that will decrease the chances of a seasonal employee potentially leaving halfway through the season if they happen to find something more long-term in the meantime.

Of course, it’s a good idea to ask them about their career goals and whether they would be interested in working full-time for you in the future. You never know when you might need to hire another full-time employee, and it would be good to be able to pick from a list of good seasonal employees who earlier expressed interest in joining your team on a more regular basis.

Keep Your Books Clean

One thing that you have to pay special attention to is categorizing your seasonal employees correctly so that you don’t end up running into trouble with the IRS. You really should be putting all of them on your payroll as part-time employees.

Many business owners think that they can get away with paying seasonal workers in cash as “freelancers” to save some money and avoid paperwork, but you really are better off not cutting corners if you want to avoid being penalized.

You don’t need to offer them health care or other benefits that full-time staff employee get, but they need to be on the books. Of course, if you do decide to give these seasonal employees a full-time position once January rolls around, you are going to have to reclassify them and offer them all of the same benefits that are afforded to the rest of your staff.


It’s important to look at the seasonal hiring as a necessity, not as an inconvenience. Judging by recent trends, the economy is recovering and people want to spend their money more than ever during the holidays. Just look at retail giants Amazon. They are adding 100,000 seasonal workers this year!

Treat this process like any other process important to the success of your business. Make sure you put in the effort needed to hire and prepare the best seasonal staff you can in order to make the most of this year’s, and every year’s, holiday shopping frenzy.