This is it. The big show. The moment you spend all year preparing for — busy season. Whether you’re running a flower shop in spring, an ice cream truck in summer, or a toy store in December, chances are your small business has at least one hectic period every year. If your industry has a distinct busy season, you’re probably looking for ways to avoid being short-staffed during the chaos. That’s where seasonal employment comes in.
So how does seasonal employment work? And is it the right choice for your small business? Read on to learn more about the advantages of seasonal hiring and how to attract the right candidates for your company.
It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of seasonal employment to see what will work best for your business. All the extra onboarding and training has the potential to slow you down when you have so much to do. But the benefits of seasonal employment can often far outweigh the downsides.
When your busy season starts, you’ll need all the help you can get. While it can take a while for new-hires to learn the ropes, you’ll be glad to have the extra hands on deck. Your permanent employees will be, too. There’s a good chance they’ll be relieved to have the extra workers there to help keep things running smoothly.
You might be wondering: Are seasonal employees entitled to benefits? Seasonal hires are typically considered part-time regardless of how many hours they work, so you’ll likely only have to provide minimal benefits. You probably won’t have to worry about the added cost of employee health insurance or paid time off.
While most seasonal employees leave once the busy period ends, business owners may decide to keep some of the new-hires onboard, or will keep them in mind for future employment. After all, what is seasonal employment if not a low-stakes opportunity to look for new talent?
If an employee is interested in staying with your company long-term, a seasonal role can function like an unofficial trial period. Since the role is temporary, you have no obligation to continue their contract. But if a seasonal employee stands out for their hard work and seems like a good fit for your team, already having them onboarded could make a transition to permanent employment fairly easy.
Your first step to finding seasonal employees is to build out your job description. The days of a simple “Help Wanted” sign in the window are essentially over. Prospective employees want to know the ins and outs of the role. Whether a position is seasonal or temporary prospective employees want details before submitting an application.
Consider drafting the job description and then sharing that draft with your existing employees. See if there’s anything they would add or change. You may oversee these roles, but your employees are the ones on the ground performing the responsibilities. Remember: You want the job description to be more than just a list of tasks. It should be designed to appeal to the types of candidates you want applying. Use it as an opportunity to showcase your company culture and the mission statement.
Knowing how to recruit seasonal employees includes being clear from the get-go about the nature of the role. If this role is truly seasonal with no intent to retain the employee permanently, make sure this is reflected in your job posting. There may be applicants hoping to be kept on permanently — don’t get their hopes up. Likewise, if you are hoping to keep some seasonal hires on after the season, your job description should include that a permanent role may become available. You never know when a seasonal hire could become a standout candidate for a permanent position.
People may be looking for seasonal jobs for any number of reasons. A college student home for the summer may not be interested in being retained once the fall semester begins. Someone working full-time but hoping to bring in a little extra cash during the holiday season probably doesn’t intend to take on that second job indefinitely. While the opportunity to stay on after the busy season may seem like a selling point for the role, you’d be surprised how many prospects aren’t interested in staying on.
If some employees don’t want to stay working all year, it doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in coming back for another season. Touch base with seasonal employees from previous years to see if any of them are interested in returning.
Re-hiring past temporary hires has some major benefits. Procedures may have changed since they last worked for you, but they’ll already be familiar with the business and have some training under their belt. Not having to begin training someone from scratch could save you time and resources.
The interview process for seasonal candidates probably doesn’t need to be as extensive or highly vetted as interviewing for a permanent position. While filling a full-time role may require numerous interviews with various stakeholders, hiring for the busy season will likely need only one or two interviews. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of it. Interviewing and onboarding seasonal employees takes some finesse.
Map out the questions you want to ask before the interview. Examples of some interview questions you could ask for seasonal positions are:
Answers to these questions can help give you an idea of what they’re looking for in terms of hours, whether they’ll need to schedule around another job or family commitments, and if they’re familiar with your small business. A shorter interview process means that everything you and the candidate say and do count. So make sure you pay attention to the applicant’s body language, as well as your own. Make sure you’re presenting yourself the right way, and take note of how the prospective hire comports themself.
Knowing how to hire seasonal employees takes more than just poring over resumes. While a candidate’s work experience can be valuable, their attitude can be just as important. Seasonal jobs are great for young people just entering the workforce, but some employers can be dismissive of their sparse resumes.
Make sure you’re focusing on the whole candidate, not just their employment history. Everyone’s work experience needs to start somewhere. An eager applicant with a can-do attitude can be a great addition to your seasonal team. What they lack in concrete experience, they often can make up for in motivation and the willingness to learn.
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One final tip: Don’t wait to start recruiting for your busy season. The last thing you want is to be training green employees when business is booming. It’s probably safe to say that the employees don’t want to be subjected to that trial by fire, either.
Figure out where your small business needs the most support and how much. Take a little time to perfect the job descriptions. The candidate pool dwindles as the season progresses, so it pays to get your jobs posted as early as possible. Hiring before the busy season starts also means more time to prepare your new-hires. Busy season is coming. Give yourself and your employees plenty of time to prepare.
After several years of working in insurance while also freelance writing, I've finally found where the two interests intersect. I'm a writer with Simply Business with an insurance processing background and a love of research.
Kristin writes on a number of topics such as small business trends, license reciprocity, and BOP insurance.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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