How to Find Incredible Seasonal Employees

Tim Sackett SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) 
Small Businesses Can’t Fill Seasonal Jobs—These 5 Tactics Will Help

Not every business keeps their lights on 365 days a year.

You might own a seaside restaurant or a pool cleaning service. Or you might run a company that’s simply seasonal in nature. A coffee shop or coworking space, for instance, tends to get longer lines during the summer because people like to leave their offices when the sun is out.

When you have a busy season, your job is to staff up during that intense time. But how do you actually assemble a talented team, especially when unemployment is around four percent (and lower in some urban hubs)?

Here are a few creative tricks for finding incredible seasonal employees.

1. Become a triple-threat recruiter

Temporary hires usually prefer part-time work. Therefore, boomerang hires, or employees who come back season after season, are a vital (and never-ending) talent pool for many seasonal businesses.

First, flip through your employee records and create a list of your top performers. Then, ask those stars if they’d like to return for another season.

But here’s the twist: Send each person a personalized invitation, as if you were inviting them to a party. Include an email address where they can “RSVP” to be included in your next team of seasonal employees.

You can mail out an old-fashioned paper invitation or use a digital service like Paperless Post. Then, follow up with an email, phone call, or text message. In that follow-up, you may also want to ask them to refer anyone else who could be a great fit for the role.

2. Buy $10 yard signs in bulk

You know those cheap yard signs with metal stakes? You usually spot them on busy corners hawking free stuff and investment ideas. Well, it turns out those signs work—but there’s a trick to making it successful.

When I ran recruitment at Applebee’s, we would stick up a lot of these signs whenever we needed to hire for a new location. They’re easy to spot from the side of the road, and you can spin them up for around $10 each.

Keep it simple by including only a few details:

  • Your logo.
  • Explicit copy: “Now Hiring [your role]”
  • The wage: $20/hr (or whatever it is).
  • A phone number or email address where people can learn more.

Now, here’s the spin—only leave the signs up for a few days. Take them down, wait a week or so, and then put them back up for a couple more days. If they’re always up, people tend to stop looking at them. When they’re new, they get a lot more interest.

3. Hire this untapped talent source

Retirees know how to work, want to work, and might have decades of experience depending on which industry they came from. They also are more likely to have flexible schedules, which make them a natural fit for seasonal businesses. All in all, they’re a valuable—and untapped—talent pool.

There’s a Lowe’s in Massachusetts that’s almost entirely staffed by retirees at various points of the year. This specific store also has some of the highest customer experience scores of any Lowe’s on the Atlantic seaboard. Pretty neat, right?

These job boards can help you kick off your search:

4. Host your own job fair

Throw your own shebang, or grab a booth at a local university career fair. You could even make it into a small carnival-type deal with free food and fun activities. Think ring tosses, guessing games, and prize spinners to make people want to stop and chat with you.

Bring paper applications (or an iPad where people can apply), a current employee to share their experience, and some swag so people can remember you.

5. Plan a recruitment scavenger hunt

Bear with us here. If you need creative people for seasonal jobs, how about creating a little scavenger hunt around town? You’ll attract curious folks, and in the winners’ circle, you can launch into your recruitment pitch.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Find a local park and write down interesting things for people to find or take a photo of.
  • Create a free event and post it on Facebook, Eventbrite, Meetup, and other sites.
  • In your event description, mention that it’s hiring-related so interested candidates can make it—or skip the scavenger hunt part if it’s not their style.
  • Include the list of challenges in the event description so it’s easy for folks to participate.
  • Set a firm start and end time so people know exactly when it’s time to socialize.

You may also want to make the game related to your business. So if you run a yoga studio, the scavenger hunt could be connected to various poses and classes you offer. Once the hunt is over, give the winners a prize and a chance to submit their applications.

Seasonal hiring doesn’t have to be a year-long headache. The trick is to start early, get creative, and show your potential candidates how much they’ll enjoy working with you—even if it is a short-term thing.

Tim Sackett Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, is a world-renowned HR thought leader and author. He currently runs his own technical staffing firm in Michigan, so he definitely understands the talent and HR struggles of small businesses.
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