What do retailers, theme parks, shipping companies, and caterers all have in common? They all tend to hire seasonal workers to help with an increase in demand.

From amusement parks to mobile ice cream parlours, plenty of businesses experience an uptick in sales during a particular time of the year. Some businesses even restrict their “open” days to specific times of the year, and spend the remainder of the year planning: think summery food trucks, water parks, holiday-themed retail stores, or kids’ summer camps.

Each of these businesses rely on seasonal workers to survive and grow. But if you think hiring seasonal workers is the same as hiring full-time employees, think again!

Recruiting, screening, hiring, training, and even terminating seasonal employees has its own set of regulations and best practices. To add to the challenge, you’re often doing all of this on a tight timeframe. Here are our tips to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

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1. Figure out how many seasonal employees you need to hire

If you’ve been in business for over a year, look at last year’s data to make projections about this year’s sales. First, look at your current FTE (full-time equivalent) hours. FTE considers all of the time employees spend, both productive and non-productive hours. This helps you understand your true labour output so you can forecast how many more people you’ll need to hire to manage a seasonal increase in demand.

If you haven’t been in business for a peak season yet, you can also look at other data like gross profit margin and cash accounts to determine how many more employees you can actually afford. It’s a good rule of thumb to have a gross profit margin of at least 50 per cent, and at least three months’ revenue in your cash accounts, before hiring another employee.

2. Build a strong employer brand 

Today’s job candidates are careful in how they present themselves online, and employers should be, too. Your future employees are just as likely to look you up online as you are them, so do an audit of your brand’s digital identity and identify weaknesses. This includes:

Identify which areas need improvement and work to create content to support a positive brand image. For more guidance on spiffing up your company image, check out our employer branding guide.

3. Make sure you’re hiring ahead of time

Waiting until a month before the peak season to start interviews will leave you in a frenzy when things start to get really busy. 

Instead, start the interview process four – or even five – months before your expected peak. This ensures you’ll have plenty of time to schedule and conduct interviews, choose the right candidates, and onboard and train new hires. It also ensures you’ll be able to find the right (and enough) talent to fill the gaps. Wait too long, and there’s a chance all of the best seasonal employees will have already found jobs.

Your employees will appreciate the extra preparation time, too: it’s far easier for your seasonal employees to learn their role in the slow time rather than the peak time!

4. Be sure applicants understand what the job entails

First and foremost, your job title should include the word “seasonal” so it’s immediately clear that you’re not necessarily looking for a full-time employee. If the position has the potential to evolve into a full-time role for the right candidate, you can include this in your description. However, you should always state that the job is seasonal or temporary in the title to avoid misunderstandings.

In your description, include:

  • The start and end dates of the work
  • The working hours
  • Job benefits and perks, such as employee discounts, insurance, or bonuses that make the job desirable
  • Keywords that seasonal workers might use to find work, including seasonal, temporary, summer/winter, the names of the peak months you’re hiring for.
  • A clear description of the job roles, responsibilities, requirements, and “nice-to-haves”
  • A clear call to action. Should the applicant send their resume to an email address, follow a link, or apply on a particular website?

Also, be aware of any regional laws or regulations pertaining to seasonal workers and make sure your description adheres to those guidelines.

5. Advertise your jobs in the right places

Where do your ideal seasonal workers go to find jobs? Think from their perspective rather than from yours. While you might find your typical full-time employees on LinkedIn or through job fairs, your seasonal workers might connect with employers on other platforms. 

Consider job boards reserved for seasonal work only, like ZipRecruiter, CoolWorks, BackdoorJobs, and Flexjobs. (Depending on your industry, you might also have luck on gig worker sites like Freelancer, Upwork, Gigster, or Guru.) If you need a broader pool of applicants to choose from, look at major job sites like Indeed, SnagAJob, and Monster.

If you’re targeting a specific demographic like students, you might contact local schools and universities for ideas on how best to spread the word. Local advertising on the radio and even in your physical location may help to draw in the right applicants, as well.

When in doubt, pretend you’re a seasonal worker. Conduct an internet search looking for a job like the one you’re looking to fill, and see what comes up: this might lead you to the perfect outlet for promoting your job opening.

6. Use your network

The people you already know can be a goldmine when it comes to finding seasonal employees. Check with:

  • Your current employees
    Use an incentive program to encourage your team members to spread the word about seasonal openings. Offer bonuses, gifts, or other rewards in exchange for some tangible result, like number of referrals made or number of likes or shares on social media. Encourage healthy competition: track your employees’ progress on the wall at work or online where your team members can see how they’re doing in comparison to their coworkers.
  • Your current social media following
    Similar to the tip above, you may be able to generate some excellent leads by incentivising your social media followers to share your posts and refer candidates your way. Offer gift cards or other rewards to the people whose referrals result in employees hired, and you’ll see a dramatic spike in the number of followers ready and willing to spread the word!
  • Your past employees
    If you had seasonal workers in the past who did an amazing job, why not connect with them again? Even if they’re not looking for work, they may know of someone equally as fantastic who is.

7. Streamline your hiring process

Do everything you can to make your hiring process run smoothly from start to finish (it’s a good practice both for hiring temporary workers and long-term ones). Start by looking at your processes: can anything repetitive be automated with the right software? 

An applicant tracking system (ATS) could potentially save you hours, freeing up your time for big-picture decisions. Social media automation tools like Buffer or Hootsuite can help you schedule your posts in advance so you’re not spending all day on social media.

Next, look at your team. Who will your seasonal workers be reporting to? Consider how you’ll include them, or other team members, in the hiring process. You might invite an employee who currently does a similar job as the seasonal worker to sit in on your interview to help answer the candidates’ questions.

Prepare your interview questions a little differently than you would for standard employees. For example, you’ll want to know if your seasonal workers will have any scheduling constraints that may impact their ability to work. While it’s illegal to ask personal questions about your candidates’ lives, you’re certainly able to ask if anything will get in the way of them working on the specific dates, days, and times you need.

With the right amount of planning, you can make your seasonal hiring process quick and breezy, freeing you up to focus on bringing in more revenue and perfecting your business during your peak times.

Good luck!

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