Despite all of the apocalyptic talk about the demise of some retail giants, seasonal hiring is in full swing for the 2017 holidays. With Macy’s, the iconic department store, hiring more than 80,000 people for temporary roles, and Target’s plans to hire more than 100,000 people for the holiday rush, retailers are hiring armies of temp workers to keep up with all of Santa’s helpers. In short, there are plenty of opportunities for those looking for work… and lots of challenges ahead for the busy recruiters who are charged with filling all of those roles.
It’s not just retail. During the holidays, shopping on eCommerce sites booms as well and, as a result, so does the demand on couriers and delivery services. While it hasn’t announced 2017 numbers, in 2016 Amazon brought on 120,000 people to fill roles in its fulfillment centers. To deliver all that loot, this year UPS plans one of its highest seasonal hiring numbers ever: up to 95,000 temporary workers will be hired to work in its warehouses and on its trucks to get holiday gifts and treats where they need to go.
This represents a historical high in seasonal hiring, according to Paul Tanguay, Global Director of Recruitment Strategies for UPS.
“Right now, we are getting started in some areas, and over the next few weeks we will ramp up hiring across the country,” he said. “By mid-November, UPS will be finishing up our hiring so that we are ready for peak season, which typically begins right around Thanksgiving.”
Whether you are hiring 12, 120, or 120,000 for seasonal roles, it’s all relative to the size of your business. For Molly Fuller, co-founder and president of Hands on Gourmet, a San Francisco company that specializes in corporate culinary team building events and private cooking parties, holiday hiring is a challenge every year because her company increases its staff of chefs by 50 percent to accommodate increased holiday activity.
“We have about 20 chefs on call throughout the year, but during the holidays we need to add roughly 10 additional chefs to our roster,” she said. “We hustle to hire, and it’s not easy since we are increasing our staffing by such a large percentage every year.”
So, regardless of whether you are hiring for a huge corporation or a mom and pop business, hiring for the holidays can be a logistical nightmare. This year, as the U.S. experiences a period of near full employment, competition for qualified candidates is expected to be particularly stiff.
Don’t fret. We’ve collected tips and advice and interviewed holiday hiring veterans from companies large and small to help your business make high-volume holiday hiring easier and more efficient this year.
Start early to get the best applicants
If starting your holiday hiring right after Labor Day feels premature, think again. Depending on the nature of your business, “the holiday season” could begin as early as October or November. Regardless of when your rush starts, you’ll want to have your staff interviewed and trained early so that the players can take their positions as soon as you need them. Not only will starting early ensure you have the volume of people you need when you need them, it will also ensure that you are choosing from top candidates and not the dregs who have left applying for seasonal work until the last minute.
Rely on referrals
You already have a stable of highly qualified year-round workers. Use them to help you identify suitable holiday candidates this season. Typically, full-time workers will only recommend people that they know will work hard and perform well. After all, no one wants to put their reputation on the line by referring their employer a less-than-stellar jobseeker. If you don’t already have an employee referral program, consider giving your employees an incentive to recommend friends and acquaintances for seasonal roles, such as a small bonus, an extra vacation day, or a gift card. Think about your staff and identify a reward that might be valuable to them.
While UPS does have an employee referral program, the terms of the program vary from area to area. Some regions – or “districts,” as UPS calls them – offer cash rewards to employees who make a referral that ends in a hire, while others enter employees who refer successful candidates into a raffle with a chance to win high-ticket items, such as an iPad. As an incentive to recommend qualified chefs during its busy season, Hands on Gourmet has begun offering cash incentives to employees in exchange for referrals for seasonal hires.
Use social media
While UPS utilized what Tanguay calls “a very multi-pronged approach” to hiring, which includes print and television advertising as well as job ads on online job boards, he cites social media as a powerful tool in UPS’s toolbox.
“We have a very aggressive social media hiring strategy in our organization,” he said. “We use more traditional methods as well, such as print and television ads, and we also rely on referrals quite a bit to bring people on board. There is no magic wand, per say, but our approach is very persistent, very analyzed, and we are constantly making adjustments to it. I would tell companies not to be afraid to get out there on social media. Today’s applicants are very connected to social media and having visibility in that area brings a lot of credibility to your organization.”
Be upfront about the terms of employment
When conducting seasonal hiring, be specific about the timeframe and scope of the roles in your job descriptions. Lots of different types of jobseekers apply for seasonal work, including those looking to supplement their income, retirees, and those who want to get a foot in the door at your company. To avoid confusion, make it clear that the role you are hiring for is temporary and be specific about how long candidates can expect employment if they are hired.
While UPS estimates that about 35 percent of its seasonal employees wind up becoming regular employees of the company, it isn’t a guarantee. Often, he said, holiday drivers who are interested in a full-time role will come back several years in a row on a temporary basis before becoming a permanent hire.
Attract specific groups who may need flexible work
Take this page out of UPSs hiring playbook, which uses flexibility as a selling point when seeking holiday workers. While it doesn’t target specific groups to hire, the company does appeal to college students, parents, veterans, and other groups who are looking for part-time work with flexible hours to accommodate their schedules. With roles driving trucks and handling packages this holiday season, there are a variety of opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.
Also, each year UPS introduces “Driver Helper” positions during the holiday season to help during the holiday crush. Like its name suggests, those in these temporary roles work with drivers to help expedite the delivery of packages on the trucks.
“It’s a really good job for people who are looking for short-term, seasonal work,” he said. “We get a lot of college students in these roles who can come work for UPS for 7-10 days right before the holidays, get some great hours, and make really good money in a short period of time,” he said.
Make it easy to apply
To make it easy for seasonal employees to apply, consider hosting a hiring event. Later this month, Target will host its second annual seasonal hiring events from Oct. 13-15, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., at every one of its Target stores, according to a recent press release. During the weekend, candidates walk in to their local store for onsite interviews for a variety of store positions. Some applicants will even walk away with a conditional job offer on the spot.
Look for a good fit, not perfect employees
While UPS doesn’t relax its standards for employment during the holiday season, according to Tanguay, he says the company does think outside the box when considering the individual merits of applicants during the holiday season.
Fuller agrees. At Hands on Gourmet, she says, the holiday season is about hiring people who are good employees – rather than perfect employees.
“Our expectations are a little bit more relaxed for our seasonal chefs because we realize that we aren’t looking at a long-term fit,” she said. Fuller recommends identifying a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in the interview process and then placing them in a role that highlights their skillset.
“Once the hiring manager has identified the strengths and weaknesses of our holiday hires, we communicate those to our lead chefs,” she said. “That way, the lead chefs can assign them appropriate tasks and provide any assistance seasonal employee might need.”
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