Seasonal hiring usually presents multiple challenges for recruiters. Not least, how to maintain a high quality of hire, whilst hiring temporary workers on short-term contracts? Better still, how to do this whilst simultaneously minimising time to hire and keeping recruitment costs down? These are just some of the issues we’ll explore in this article. 

We’ll be covering off both why developing a seasonal hiring strategy is so important and then diving into 10 tips to hire temporary workers efficiently and effectively.

Why is seasonal hiring important?

If your business is expanding, or your product range sees a surge in demand during specific times, you’ve probably hired temporary staff before. Even so, there’s a couple of things worth getting familiar with…

The laws regarding hiring temporary staff are different. There are some notable differences in employment law with seasonal work. It’s good practice to be aware of the law concerning things like zero-hours contracts and employing under-18s. If you’re UK-based this can be found here, so it’s worth swatting up before you begin your recruitment process. There’s also an official government portal for US employment law here.

Candidate motivations are different for temporary staff. This also might sound pretty basic, but it’s an important distinction to remember. Recruitment processes for hiring long-term staff might be too costly or drawn-out for seasonal staff. There’s no point in developing a 3 stage hiring process if they leave before they become productive. Tailor your short-term and long-term recruiting processes to make them appropriate.

Do you really need temporary staff? Of course, hiring temporary workers isn’t always the best option available. If you’re looking at rolling out temporary hiring to fill a skills gap or to react to seasonal growth, you would probably benefit more from effective workforce planning. Also, if you’re hiring to temporarily fill a role for parental leave or illness, it might be worth assessing your current talent pool and “doubling up” any essential skills in your team. If you need regular seasonal workers for the same work, year-on-year, you will benefit the most from a personalised seasonal hiring process.

How to hire seasonal workers: 10 tips

There are plenty of things you can do to make your seasonal hiring as easy and effective as possible. Whether it’s incentivising returning seasonal workers to maximise productivity, to automating the candidate screening process. We’ve compiled this exhaustive list to help you do just that…

1. Calculate your needs

Before you go hunting for your ideal hourlies, you need to know how many people you’re looking for. How many additional temporary workers do you need? Analyse last year’s figures; was the amount of temporary staff enough? Do you expect to sell more or less than last year? Consult your strategic workforce plan.

Top tip: Don’t forget about your long-term staff. Perhaps they would like to work extra hours around the holidays. This would save you time training up new employees. Even if they don’t want extra work, giving them first refusal on vacancies is a good way to show them that you care.

2. Recruit early

Seasonal hiring is ultra-competitive. This is particularly true if you want to hire students. Most students want to secure a place before the end of term, so make sure you’ve finalised your process well in advance.

Pre-hire assessment software is one great way to save time and start recruiting straight away;  much of the admin and communications are dealt with automatically and candidates can be ranked according to ability and culture fit. For more information read our buyers guide to pre-hire assessments.

3. Build a talent pool

A surefire way to make sure you hire the best temporary workers is to select from a pre-vetted pool of applicants. There’s a number of ways to start developing a pool of applicants, and it doesn’t hurt to think outside the box!

  1. Incentivise returning workers: The most cost-efficient method of hiring temporary workers is to hire the same people each season. This saves time and resources needed to onboard and train whilst also maximising productivity. There are a number of ways to rehire effectively. Firstly, keep in contact through mailing lists or via a talent CRM. You could even offer them incentives such as priority applications, goodie bags, or even higher pay. Additional expense in this area will be outweighed by increases in productivity. 
  2. Keep unsuccessful applicants in the loop: Previously unsuccessful applicants are a great resource to call upon. Maybe they were a good hire, but the positions had all been filled. Tailor your ATS or CRM so that they will be reminded of openings next season so they don’t miss out this time around!
  3. Launch a referral scheme: 70% of companies have a staff referral scheme. Ask all staff to refer their friends for seasonal work and incentivise them for doing so. Referrals are statistically more likely to be employed compared to applicants from other sources. Don’t forget about this source when developing a pool of applicants. 
  4. Broaden your reach: Although much of the recruitment process takes place online, don’t forget other platforms. Fliers on university campuses are particularly effective for finding seasonal workers as students often take short-term work through the holidays. University careers pages and recruitment fairs are worth exploring and if you have physical stores then a QR code that job seekers can scan to take them directly to your job application page is worth doing.

4. Craft a perfect job posting

No matter how many people you reach, if your job description is unappealing or misleading, then you’ll struggle to find the right hires. Your job posting should be clear, concise and direct about the responsibilities and requirements. It’s no use enticing applicants with a rose-tinted description of the job. Be honest, and you’ll save time sifting through unsuitable candidates. Essential things to keep simple are:

  1. Job title: Obvious, but often overlooked, when applicants are looking at several job posts a clear, descriptive job title will make your application stand out in the crowd. Avoid any jargon or buzzwords.
  2. Description of company: This is a good time to demonstrate your employee value proposition. Let them know that you’re a company they want to work for!
  3. Details of duties and responsibilities: State exactly how many hours are expected; whether this is flexible or set hours and what work is involved. If unpopular hours are required (e.g. weekends, evenings) let them know before they apply, and save time replacing people who have conflicting schedules.

5. Consider culture fit

Culture fit is a lot harder to gauge than formal skills and qualifications. Peer interviews are the most common way to assess cultural fit, however, this can be biased and time-consuming. It’s important to avoid discrimination under the guise of culture fit.; if you’re judging someone on their similarities and not their job-relevant abilities, you are not giving everyone a fair shot.

Candidate selection tools such as ThriveMap use “day-in-the-life” work simulations to both validate a candidate’s job-relevant skills as well as give them a better insight into a typical working day. This allows you to communicate your work culture to applicants at scale and empowers unsuitable applicants to deselect themselves if it doesn’t sound appealing. This is a quick, convenient and fairer way to select which seasonal workers to recruit; something worth considering if you regularly recruit a lot of employees every season.

6. Build a recruitment funnel

Seasonal hiring is often a messy process and this can lead to good candidates falling through the cracks. Counter this risk by building an airtight “recruitment funnel” in your ATS. If you’re using various different job sites, as well as your own website, university careers pages, and even offline methods such as fliers and billboards, you should direct all applications to one application page. Having all candidates go through the same process means you can keep them all on one central database when developing a pool of applicants

7. Create a preboarding plan

After all the effort that goes into making your new hire, you’ll want to maximise the chances of them starting with you and get up to speed quickly. An easy way to start off on the right foot is to create an effective preboarding process for temporary workers. Paperwork can be digitised and admin filled out remotely before your seasonal hires walk through the door.

8. Promote your employer brand

Regular employee turnover of seasonal hires means that you may employ many more seasonal workers and process more job applicants than permanent hires. The whole process; from application to onboarding, should drive home your employee value proposition.

Make clear what you’re primary offerings are for temporary hires: remuneration; flexible work hours; a fun work culture etc. This will entice them to come back next year and save the cost of onboarding and training next time around. More importantly though, if they have a positive experience in the job, they are more likely to recommend it to friends.

9. Pay competitive wages

Seasonal hiring can be more competitive than conventional recruitment so a lot of companies raise their hourly pay to reflect that. Unlike permanent employees who get other perks such as career development and employment stability, seasonal staff will be motivated by pay as well as the typical perks such as employee discounts and flexible work hours. To distinguish your culture from your competition read this article on employee retention ideas that actually work.

10. Delegate hiring responsibilities

Lastly, remember that it’s not all up to you. Permanent employees and team leaders should be doing the bulk of recruiting for you. If your recruitment team is understaffed then you should give managers access to the ATS for the initial CV sift or phone screen. Providing them with automated tools such as candidate screening assessments and instant background checks can save them (and you) valuable time.

Nowadays there are plenty of tools to help you develop a pool of applicants that are perfect for your company, so don’t waste time unnecessarily!

Bonus tip: Iterate and Improve

Improve your seasonal recruitment process from data captured during the previous season. Feedback from temps on their candidate and employee experience is invaluable, so make sure you gather it using a survey tool like Typeform before they leave and use this to amend your recruitment process for hourly employees next season.

In closing

There you have it! Ten top tips to help you hire seasonal workers. These improvements should compound season after season to make recruiting hourlies easier in future.

If you’re hiring large numbers of regular seasonal staff it might be worth considering using recruitment software to do some of the heavy lifting for you.