How to Hire Seasonal Employees for Small Businesses

/How to Hire Seasonal Employees for Small Businesses

How to Hire Seasonal Employees for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, you understand that things can become stressful, particularly if you’re in a field of business affected by the holiday season. For this reason, you may need to hire more staff to ensure your business runs smoothly over this busy period. Although this seems like a difficult task, it need not be if you follow some simple steps. Here is what you need to know.

Know the Laws and Regulations

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to act within current laws and regulations that regulate the hiring of seasonal employees. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to think that seasonal employees can be paid less than your regular workforce. Always consult the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if you are unsure of anything so as not to fall foul of any laws.

If you make use of minors over the season, there are a number of laws that specifically relate to them. These are all covered in Child Labor Regulations. In fact, there are at least 17 activities that minors may not perform in a work situation. These include operating specific machinery, working at heights, and many others.

When it comes to payment, seasonal employees must receive the minimum wage as well as overtime if they work a 40 hour week. All seasonal workers must receive all the benefits that regular employees receive including social security as well as workers’ compensation unless otherwise exempted by state law. Ultimately, it remains your responsibility to find out exactly what needs to be covered for seasonal employees.

Assess Your Needs

Before you decide to hire a specific number of employees, it is imperative to assess your needs. To do this properly, you should not leave your hiring process to the last second before you actually need the extra employees. Often the best way to do this is to look back on past years to help to try and predict growth.

For example, did you hire enough extra staff the year before, what growth percentage is there in your business over the season, and when were your busiest periods during the season? Once you have these answers, create a plan for the year ahead, specifically noting times when extra employees are needed.

By assessing your needs and planning properly, you ensure that your organization is never understaffed which prevents pressure on your permanent employees. You also ensure that you are not wasting money due to overstaffing.

Hire Early

Next, never wait until the last minute to hire seasonal employees. With the downturn in the economy, there will never be a shortage of people to hire. However, by starting late, you can be assured that you will have missed out on the best possible candidates who would get picked up by competitors.

Some experts believe that starting applications as early as September for December work the best route. This not only opens up a larger list of candidates but will also allow you to let them work part-time over weekends to see how they integrate with your team. It also means they can become used to your systems before the holiday season rush sets in.

Ask for Referrals from Current Employees

Often the best place to start when looking for seasonal employees is to ask your staff to make referrals for candidates they think suitable for the job. Ask staff that are hardworking and loyal as they will often have similar like-minded individuals that they could suggest for seasonal work.

Remember, they will do their best to find the right types of candidates because ultimately, the performance of one of their selections will be linked to them, whether they like it or not. For this reason, they will suggest people they know will do a good job.

You could even start an employee referral program where staff are rewarded for suggesting someone who ended up as a very good seasonal worker.

Perform a Wider Search

Of course, you may need to perform a far wider search to find the ideal candidates. There are many ways to do this including websites that cater for organizations that are looking for temporary employees.

These include, or you could even scour websites such as Craigslist to search for candidates. Consider using a specific job search engine as well, such as Simply Hired. 


Once you have candidates, you will want to conduct interviews. Always look for willing candidates that show a keen interest in both what you have to say and what the job entails. Also look for those who are coachable, organized and reliable.

Set Proper Expectations

It’s important that any staff you hire know exactly what is expected from them at all times and the terms of seasonal hiring. This is not only in terms of their behavior, for example, but even perhaps the sales expectations you want them to reach each week. By keeping your employees informed and putting them through a basic training, they have far better chance of reaching the goals you set for them.

Protect your business

Of course, hiring new temporary employees can be risky but you can protect your business. Start by running background checks on potential candidates. This can help you determine whether they have a criminal record (warning signs here would include violence, fraud or theft). You may even want potential candidates to take drug tests although be sure to check state labor laws regarding this before forcing anyone to do so.

Always make financial duties separate. In other words, the employee who cashes up at the end of the day should not be the same one who deposits the money in the business bank account the next morning.

You could choose to only allow permanent staff to do certain critical jobs such as cashing up and depositing money. Also, you could restrict temporary staff from having access to crucial information, the physical assets of your organization, or access to any form of money.

Finally, do regular stock takes. This shows staff that you know exactly what your stock level is and that you track it regularly.

Keep their Names on File

No matter how thorough you are when finding seasonal staff (especially the first time you do it), there will always be some who don’t quite cut it. Those that do, however, should become regulars each season. Why? Well, they know how things operate and will not require much training in their second year, perhaps just a refresher. With their permission, keep their names on file and then you will have people to turn to each season.

Finding the right seasonal staff need not be a difficult process. All it requires is proper planning, taking time out to review the right candidates, and not leaving everything to the last minute. Best of luck!


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