Nov. 14 2019 06:00 AM

Turn the seasonal hiring rush into a season of success with these six strategies.

When the weather turns cold and pumpkin spice makes its return, the holidays can’t be far away. This is a time of great profitability as well as great stress for many organizations. By November, most retailers have been in the market for their seasonal holiday workers for weeks or months. The same goes for package delivery and hospitality industries.

Seasonal businesses know the importance of getting a jump on seasonal hiring, and the green industry is no different. Unless you are in the holiday lighting business, the busy season is usually during the warmer months, but companies with a planful approach to seasonal hiring can benefit year-round.

It’s no secret that we are in a tight labor market. In September, the unemployment rate hit a 50-year low, and we are fast approaching what economists call “full employment,” which means that every person who wants a job has found one. This puts pressure on all levels of jobs but particularly part-time and entry-level positions. As the labor pool tightens, the competition to hire these types of employees will increase as job seekers are presented with more work options and higher compensation.

These trends make seasonal hiring even more challenging. But there is hope! Companies that are proactive and innovative in their approach will be able to beat the competition. Here are six strategies that can help you be creative in your approach to seasonal hiring.

1. Plan ahead

A key discipline in all hiring is knowing the number and types of positions you will need to fully staff your organization. This is called workforce planning. Seasonal hiring is a key component of any workforce plan. How many workers will you need and what skills should they bring are two questions that need to be answered. If you are having trouble coming up with this data, look back to last year as a baseline. Is your business growing? Then that number should be higher. Is it contracting? Then maybe that number is lower.

Once you know your targets, get an early start. In a limited talent pool, it’s the early bird that gets the worm. A rule of thumb is to start planning for and hiring your seasonal workers two to three months ahead of when you need them. Remember that it takes time to get candidates through your hiring process. According to recruiting software provider iCIMS, the average time to find and hire a seasonal candidate is 42 days.

2. Leverage your employees

When looking to bring on seasonal workers, check first to make sure there isn’t anyone in your organization that would like to pick up extra shifts. Large retailers like Walmart offer additional shifts to their full-time employees, as well as seasonal bonuses, to help meet the demands of their busy seasons.

Your employees are also a great source of quality candidates. Tap into their networks as the first strategy to expand your talent pool. Employee referrals are a top source of hires. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, they account for over 30% of all hires. Many companies have implemented a bonus for employee referrals that varies from small amounts to several thousand dollars. Effective marketing of an employee referral program keeps it top of mind and yielding good dividends.

3. Stay flexible

Being flexible and resourceful is critical for successful hiring in a competitive job market. Be open to candidates who may not check every box but bring strong skills. What abilities and background are truly required for a job? What skills are you willing to teach or train? Recruiters caution about looking for the “perfect” candidate with a 100% match when in reality 80% or higher is considered a great candidate match.

Also consider candidates who might not be your typical demographic. Could a student be a possibility? Creating internships or learning opportunities can increase your talent pool. What about a retiree? Today’s active retirees are often looking for seasonal jobs and can bring a wealth of life experience and skills to the table.

4. Create a pipeline of talent

Seasonal hiring shouldn’t be seasonal. Keep in touch with seasonal workers all year long and build a pipeline of talent from which to draw upon the next season. Companies that treat their seasonal workers well and build relationships with them will start the next hiring cycle at an advantage. Don’t view seasonal workers as disposable or just a transaction. Invest in getting to know them and keeping in touch during the year. This can be a great way to find and develop quality full-time employees as well. Consider promoting high-performing seasonal workers to full-time employees at the end of the season for a win-win.

There is a financial benefit to keeping in touch with former employees and seasonal workers. The cost of finding and a hiring a new employee is more than rehiring or converting a seasonal worker. If the effort or cost of keeping in touch with your company’s former workers feels too overwhelming or too expensive, just compare it to the cost of hiring a new employee.

5. Stand out from the crowd

With so many options for workers in today’s job market, employers need to have their jobs stand out from the crowd. Take the time to write a compelling and creative job posting. Highlight why jobs at your company are unique and what a candidate gets to do that is different or better than your competition. Eye-catching headlines and interesting job postings will get more traction than boring job descriptions that seem to make up the majority of online job postings.

Today’s job seeker is looking to learn and grow in a career. What opportunities does your company offer? Is there on-the-job training? Are certification classes an option? Even tuition reimbursement is a strong plus. Make sure you highlight these and any other benefits or perks that might engage a job seeker.

6. Utilize technology

There are a wealth of technology options that can help with all types of hiring, especially high-volume seasonal hiring. Online job posting sites, such as Indeed, are foundational, but don’t stop there. For seasonal workers, consider other sites such as Snagajob that targets hourly workers or Handshake that targets students and recent grads.

Evaluate other technology solutions to streamline your hiring process. There are several tools that allow you to text candidates directly. Texting is quickly becoming the most effective and efficient way to engage with candidates. Check out tools like TextRecruit to see a demo of its capabilities. Video interviewing is also gaining speed along with automation. Tools like HireVue allow employers to create video interviews that candidates can complete and submit as part of the application process.

Don’t let the stress of seasonal hiring put your organization in crisis mode. With the appropriate planning and creativity, seasonal hiring can become a positive experience and great source of talent. With a clear understanding of your targets, proactive leveraging of your talent pools, original recruitment marketing and use of technology, you can turn the seasonal hiring rush into a season of success.

Kate Kjeell is president of TalentWell, a recruiting firm that specializes in helping small and midsized businesses thrive by finding and hiring the right people. The firm’s approach can be described in three words: find, fit, flourish. She can be reached at kate@talentwellinc.com.