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10 Questions to Ask When Sourcing Seasonal Employees

10 Questions to Ask When Sourcing Seasonal Employees

The time for sourcing and hiring seasonal employees is upon us. Target and UPS are already well on their way to acquiring over 100,000 seasonal employees each, according to CNBC. Both companies, along with Amazon, Kohl’s, FedEx, and countless others, are upping the ante with higher pay and perks to attract seasonal employees in a tight labor market. 

Just as attracting seasonal employees takes a unique approach, so does sourcing them. Their differing job timelines and duties require that talent acquisition teams craft specific questions to determine the best fit. Even though seasonal employees are with your company for a limited time, they’re employed during one of the most chaotic and critical periods for your company to hit goals.  

To help you successfully push through the thick of seasonal hiring, we’ve broken down 10 questions that’ll reveal the best seasonal employees: 

1. How do you define customer service?

“Customer obsession” and “bias for action” are just two of Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles. Many recruiters suggest that seasonal employees familiarize themselves with these values before interviewing for a role. 

Your team should also be pre-equipped with a strong definition of values that determine how your sales and customer service teams interact with customers. Similarly, recruiters, hiring managers, and members of your HR team follow these values when engaging with candidates — talent should see evidence of your customer service values in the hiring process.

Top candidates will have their own meaningful explanation of what customer service means. 

Compare responses to the company’s values. Then, follow up by asking how they demonstrate those customer service values. Listen for cues of empathy to show how they’ll respond to stressed-out customers this holiday season or how they’d help their colleagues problem-solve, putting their ‘service-minded’ qualities to work internally as well. 

2. How would you handle a situation when a customer approached you at the end of your shift?

Unless you have a specific company policy on this situation, there really is no right or wrong answer to this question — so long as their response is respectful and appropriate. They could immediately assist the customer, contact a manager to help, or even seek approval to not clock out until the problem is solved. The goal is to understand if and how the candidate will problem-solve when caught off-guard.

This question also reveals how a candidate values the company’s time and brand reputation. Candidates who are thoughtful about their responses and ask questions to understand policies and procedures or can show how their responses align with company values will likely stand out.

3. What do you hope to learn or gain from this position?

The majority of seasonal employees aren’t seeking permanent employment after a few months. Still, it’s crucial you understand the “what” and “why” behind their interest in the role. Whether they need extra money for the holidays, are on winter break, or need something to supplement until they find something more permanent, encourage honesty. 

Keep your eyes out for candidates who note specific skills and experiences they want to gain from this short-term employment. These will likely be the most dedicated and determined seasonal hires. Likewise, you could find talented new hires to keep on your team after the holiday season. Many candidates use seasonal employment as a way to get their foot in the door. Seasonal employees who indicate they are interested in long-term opportunities may be worth investing more into training.

4. What are your professional plans after the season ends?

In some cases, a perfectly strong, long-term fitting candidate may be down on their luck in the job search. They’re looking for seasonal employment anywhere to make ends meet until something permanent opens up. They may be willing to admit they are not familiar with your brand or that they have feelers out for a career in another industry.

Some of these unique candidates will further explain their plans for ongoing education or list prospective companies or roles they’ll apply to. Listen for information describing the type of roles they have their sights set on so you know exactly where they fit in your talent pipeline. While they may not understand the potential opportunities that could arise with your company, you know high potential when you see it.

5. What motivated you to apply for this specific position?

Motivations for applying to seasonal roles differ from the responses you expect from long-term employees — and that’s OK. In fact, those who are transparent about wanting discounts on products or extra spending cash for the holidays will likely be the ones you can trust over those candidates who gloss over their rehearsed responses. No matter what role you are hiring for, honesty and authenticity are strong values.

This question is important because it helps you set up follow-up questions. For example, if a candidate admits they are just looking for employee discounts you may need to dig a bit deeper to see how they connect to the products. There is a reason they chose your company.  

6. What is more important to you: spending quality time meeting one customer’s needs or serving as many customers as quickly as possible?

The ‘right’ answer to this question must be determined internally. It could change or vary depending on the role or current company goals or it might be consistently rooted in your company mission and values. For example, your focus may revolve around the life-long loyalty of extremely satisfied individual customers. Or maybe there’s a major push to serve as many people as possible to accomplish year-end goals.

Watch for candidates who take a moment to consider this question and respond with what is really important to them. Use their responses to gain deeper insight into their personality and work ethic. 

7. Which of our company values do you align with most and why?

This question digs below the surface of seasonal hires. Many seasonal candidates have not even considered this factor, knowing they won’t be part of the team for the long term. If they’re unfamiliar with your values, don’t hesitate to share them and give candidates a moment to think. Their candid responses will give you a closer look at their genuine connections to the company and customers. 

8. How will you provide value to our team and contribute to our company mission this season?

Seasonal employees are critical to the success of a company. They have the potential to make a lasting impact on end-of-the-year numbers and customer satisfaction. This question helps them step back from their immediate need for employment and consider their goals as seasonal employees. 

While they may not have your mission memorized, those who are confident in their skills and dedicated to contributing to a great cause will show their value with little prompting. 

9. What product on our shelves do you like/use most often? Tell me about it:

Seasonal employee roles are often people-facing and these hires have little time to become experts on your products. This means they should step into the role already having some knowledge of your products and be passionate about their impact. 

Ask this question to understand their thought process and see how they may answer customer questions. For example, will they tell you about the actual product? Will they tell you what they use it for? Will they just gush about how much they love and recommend it?

10. What would cause you to apply or not apply here for a future open role?

Seasonal employees can help you build up a talent pool for future seasonal openings or even full-time roles. Their answer to this question can reveal something of their commitment to the company if they were ever offered a job again. 

Would they apply again because they just love telling people about garden tools? Would they consider not returning if they weren’t offered enough money or time off? Are they looking for a permanent position? If so, what type of role are they interested in?

The key thing to keep in mind is that seasonal employees may only be temporary hires for a season, but they could be strong additions to your talent pool to source for pre-vetted and pre-trained top talent.


This post was updated on 9/29/22

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Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.

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