6 Tips for Small Businesses Hiring for the Holidays

Seasonal hiring is a unique challenge for small business owners. Are you ready?

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Are you looking to hire seasonal employees this holiday season? We've compiled our best tips to find and hire temporary workers.

Many small businesses need additional help around the holidays, especially if you operate a retail or service business. Taking on temporary, seasonal workers is a great way to boost your staffing during this busy season.

However, hiring for the holidays is different from hiring permanent employees. For one thing, temporary employees will have to learn the job pretty quickly, as there’s usually not as much time for training. And for another, they might not need to have all of the same qualities as a permanent employee.

For example, when you interview permanent employees, you may look for people who you can eventually groom for a management position. Obviously, that wouldn’t be necessary with someone who only plans to work with you for a couple of months.

There are some similarities, too. Temporary workers should be a good cultural fit for your business. Hiring people who can’t or won’t fit in leads to high turnover, and the holiday rush is just about the worst time to lose an employee without notice. Workers in seasonal jobs should also be willing to work hard and fast, just like anyone else on your staff.

So how do you find, train, and manage these versatile holiday workers? Here are our 6 best tips.

1. Determine your hourly rates and benefits for seasonal jobs

This will depend on a couple of things: How much do your competitors pay, and how much can you afford to pay? Large businesses like Target, UPS, FedEx, Walmart, and Radial are paying seasonal workers anywhere from $10 to $16 per hour.

You might not be in a position to pay as much as the big chain stores do, but you want to remain as competitive as possible. And remember, minimum wage laws apply to seasonal workers as well.

But what about benefits? Some employers are getting creative with the holiday perks. For example, UPS offers a $200 weekly bonus to seasonal workers who show up for all of their shifts that week.

Some employers offer their holiday workers healthcare, too. Remember, the ACA rules for seasonal employees are different than they are for full time, permanent employees. People who work for you less than 120 days of the year do not count toward your Full Time Employee (FTE) total. And you don’t have to offer health insurance to temporary workers during their initial “measurement period,” which may be over before their jobs end. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer these workers healthcare. If this is feasible for your business, it could be an attractive perk for sought-after holiday help.

Just be sure you know exactly what you’re offering before you write your job announcement.

2. Post seasonal job announcements early

Many workers start their holiday job search as early as September, so if you haven’t started looking yet, get on that now. And remember, depending on the job and the number of people you are hiring, the selection process might take a few weeks. You need to know how many people you are hiring, what they’ll be doing, and when they’ll start. Then begin advertising your seasonal job opportunities on websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, Craigslist, LinkedIn, and CareerBuilder.

3. Ask current employees for referrals

No one knows what the job requires better than your current employees, so why not ask them to refer people who they think might be a good fit? If you have a solid, trustworthy staff, this might be your best source of candidates.

4. Use social media to find candidates

In addition to job sites and employee referrals, social media can be a great place to find candidates. If your small business already has social profiles, start by sharing your job opportunities there.

And if you don’t, what are you waiting for? Get those social profiles up and running! This is also a great way to showcase your business to the world and let potential candidates see what your culture is like. Your social posts might convince a potential candidate that your company is a great place to work.

Most social media sites include communities centered around job postings. Finding these groups is pretty easy using the social media site’s search feature. Be sure to ask your employees and friends to share your job postings as well.

5. Modify your interview questions

Remember, you are not hiring regular permanent workers, so why would you ask them the same questions as your usual job candidates? Your interview questions should be different than the ones you ask permanent employees.

When composing your questions, consider the day-to-day tasks, challenges, and goals of the holiday work. Since you will probably be pretty busy during the holidays, you’ll want to make sure your temporary employees can work under pressure and behave professionally in stressful situations. Here are a few interview question samples. Feel free to steal them.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. How did you handle it?
  • How did you handle the last customer who yelled at you, or behaved in an abusive way?
  • Have you ever felt like a customer just wouldn’t let you solve a problem? What did you do?
  • What was the most stressful part of your last job?
  • Do you enjoy moving from task to task on the fly, or do you prefer routine?
  • Tell me why you want to work here.
  • What do you think it will be like to work here during the holidays?

You might also want to consider interviewing candidates in panels rather than scheduling multiple interviews for each person. This will save time for both you and the candidates.

6. Consider hiring minors and students

Many young people and college students look for work during the holiday season. They might be on a break from school, or they may need extra money to pay for holiday gifts and travel. Some of these younger workers can be dependable, hard workers. And if they have a good experience with your business, they might want to come back and work for you every year, saving you recruiting time in the future.

Just be aware that there are different employment rules in place for minors, and even young people under 20 years old.

Federal rules don’t allow businesses to hire children under 14 years old with a few exceptions, such as delivering newspapers and occasional babysitting.

For children ages 14 and up, there are rules regulating how many hours they can work in a day, and how much they should be paid.

Children under 16 years old may not do certain hazardous jobs. Some states have their own regulations for hiring minors, so be sure to know your own state laws.

We know that you’re very busy during the holiday season. Hopefully, that will translate to a big increase in sales and profits too. Hiring seasonal help can be an essential part of that. We hope that these tips help you on your quest to find the best holiday workers for your business!

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