Fall 2013 Hiring Holiday Help

There’s a lot of work involved with finding and hiring holiday employees. Getting the right people into place before the bells start jingling is a critical component to having a successful close to the year.

Have you struggled with finding seasonal employees? Is your hiring process designed to do everything it can to ensure you get the right people hired and trained before the madness ensues? Once on board, are you keeping them engaged and getting the most out of them?

Here are ten tips that can help you find, hire, and maximize your seasonal help.

How to Find The Best Workers

1. Job description


Hiring people with the wrong expectations can spell disaster come Black Friday. There’s nothing worse than a new employee being hired, and then finding out the job wasn’t what they thought it would be. Don’t set incorrect expectations, especially since you need to avoid turnover during this critical time of year.

Consider updating your job descriptions. Having an official job description can help you write an accurate “help wanted” ad, guide your interview questions, and keep training and expectations on track.

2. Repeat performance

Reach out to last year’s seasonal help. The competition heats up when it comes to hiring the best seasonal workers. Why not focus on people you already have a relationship with? You’ve already trained them; you know their strengths, and you can focus on the ones who were the most productive and reliable.

3. Fan mail

Ask your biggest fans—your customers! They live nearby. They’re familiar with your products. They are your target demographic, so they understand your audience. And they’re already brand ambassadors.

Signs at the entrance and near the cash registers offer great visibility, and a colorful flyer in every bag will stand out. If you have a mailing list, send a postcard or email with information.

HINT: Make sure to emphasize the employee discount they’ll be getting. That discount can be very attractive to customers who are looking for ways to save (and earn) extra money for the holidays.

4. Employee incentives

Your employees are a great source for referrals. Encourage them to spread the word to their friends and family about any open positions, and offer them an incentive for each worker you hire.

How to Hire the Best Workers

5. Structured interviews

Many hiring managers believe that a less “formal”  interview process allows them to get better answers. In reality, an unstructured interview often doesn’t focus on job-related questions, and it can open the door to bias and possible legal ramifications.

Structured interviews follow a set of job-related questions, which are identical for every candidate applying for a position, making interviewing fast and consistent. The candidates’ answers are rated based on a predetermined scale, and those ratings are used to determine who moves to the next step in the process. This ensures that everyone is treated fairly.

6. References matter

While time- consuming, reference checking is a very important step in the hiring process. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “past performance is predictive of future results.”

Find out if your applicants were reliable, were able to learn quickly, and had a great attitude. Also, you’ll want to make sure to take into consideration if you’re speaking with a previous supervisor or merely a family friend, and only ask job-related questions.

7. Pre-employment tests 

The most common problem when hiring seasonal help is reliability and shrink. Both of these issues, along with many others, can be addressed with an integrity test.

Other areas you might want to assess are skills (math and language are both critical components of many positions such as cashiers, shipping, and warehouse workers), cognitive ability (discover how quickly they can be trained to save your store time and money), and personality (how they will handle the stress of holiday work).

How to Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Staff

8. Training tools 

Getting new employees up to speed is always an important task, but this time of year it becomes more difficult. Everyone is busy making preparations for the upcoming shopping frenzy and may not have the time needed to devote to thoroughly training new employees. Have dedicated staff on hand for training in critical areas. Security, technology, processes…find out what will need the most attention and have employees at the ready to get your new crew up to speed.

Train in groups whenever possible. Not everything requires one-on-one interaction. When training for tasks that require customer interaction, new employees can participate by role-playing.

9. Treat them well 

Your new employees might be temporary, but you want their time with you to be a success for both parties.

Be fair with scheduling. Make sure all departments are covered appropriately, and don’t expect a handful of workers to cover the least desirable shifts (unless that was in the job description!).

Pay well. You’re going to have a lot of competition for these workers, so make sure the pay is competitive enough to attract and retain them.

Be up front about the separation process. Everyone involved knows this is a temporary job, but no one likes to wonder. Make sure each employee knows exactly when their last day is, when they can expect their last paycheck, and what to do with company property.

Offer great discounts. One of the most attractive perks for holiday workers is getting an employee discount. L.L. Bean offers  a 40% discount for their holiday workers. The company has a great retention rate when it comes to rehiring those workers year after year.

10. Engaged and interested 

Employee engagement is crucial to a company’s bottom line, and even seasonal workers can make a difference. You don’t have to throw a party every time they walk in the door, but you should make them feel like they matter (because they do!). Welcome their suggestions and feedback, and show appreciation when they go above and beyond.

Editor’s Note
For a handy printable version of the infographic shown, visit

Ken Silber

Ken Silber is the Executive Vice President of Sales for Wonderlic, Inc. and a regular contributor to the company’s HR advice blog. He assists organizations of all sizes with reducing employee turnover, improving engagement, and driving customer satisfaction. Silber can be reached at For more information about the company, please visit
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