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The Guide to Strategic Staffing for Seasonal Hiring

The Guide to Strategic Staffing for Seasonal Hiring

As a staffing pro, you tackle the endless task of helping clients cut their costs and improve hiring outcomes through strategic staffing measures. You spend a lot of time improving your recruiting strategy to deliver the most reliable results from client to client. But when it comes to finding quality temporary employees, relying on your year-round recruiting strategies and typical talent pools just won’t cut it. 

Staffing for seasonal hiring requires an advanced level of planning for factors that don’t often impact traditional part and full-time recruitment. Seasonal hiring is more likely to be drastically affected by influxes in the market, shifting industry trends, and even the weather. Staffing for seasonal hires also requires finding and attracting talent that thrives in fast-paced working environments and adapts quickly to changes in the workforce, workflow, and work environment. 

Sourcing to fill temporary roles as seasonal hiring periods approach puts unnecessary strain on both your staffing team and increases pressure for clients’ hiring teams. That’s why we’ve created a strategic staffing plan to help you prepare well in advance of your clients’ seasonal hiring needs:

Identify if seasonal employees or seasonal workers are needed

The first step in creating a strategic staffing process for clients’ seasonal hiring demands is identifying the type of temporary talent they need to fill different roles. Expect that many clients will not know the difference, so it’s up to you to determine whether you will be required to source seasonal employees or seasonal workers at various times throughout the year. 

A seasonal employee is generally hired to work at a company for six months or less at the same time every year. Examples of employees traditionally in these roles are temporary cashiers, stockers, and loaders hired to work between October and January every year, or lifeguards employed between Memorial and Labor Day each summer.

A seasonal worker differs in that these candidates are employed for less than four months or 120 days over a calendar year. Cashiers hired for a week during a major holiday sale or temporary laborers employed during a one-time project fit this description.

Knowing the correct type of temporary hires for various roles during different seasonal hiring periods is essential to predicting temporary staffing outcomes. Accurately aligning candidate expectations with job descriptions and the duration of seasonal roles ensures the talent you refer is most likely to succeed and consider returning for future temporary work.

Assess the market but don’t make assumptions

You must be aware of any predicted fluctuations in the market. Still, you can’t afford to make assumptions about how complicated funneling talent into your clients’ hiring process will be. 

For example, high unemployment rates do not necessarily mean you will have an abundance of candidates willing to take on temporary positions. Placing talent into seasonal roles that do not care for temporary work and are just looking to make ends meet could negatively impact your clients’ brand reputation. Customers will not forgive poor service just because an employee is part of their seasonal staff.

Likewise, low unemployment doesn’t mean you need to desperately pass on every candidate that might be a good fit. Even when vetting temporary staff, you must always consider the long-term impacts your selections could have on your clients’ hiring metrics. Passing on one great candidate for a role is better than setting your client up with three weak recommendations. 

Pay careful attention to how fluctuations in the economy and employment impact different industries. While one client may see little difference in staffing demands when the market shifts, another may require more strategic planning. Tracking regular updates on the employment situation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, gives you up-to-date statistics to compare to your predicted staffing trends from industry to industry.

Customize job descriptions to seasonal employment

While temporary positions may mirror year-round roles in many ways, you should never recycle job descriptions. Seasonal roles have unique responsibilities (or sometimes, a lack of) that will attract specific candidates. The training, hours worked, pay, and possible benefits will also vary. To attract the best talent, seasonal job descriptions should be customized and updated each hiring season.

Exit surveys are a great way to gather information from temporary staff to determine how accurate previous job descriptions were and make updates. You can also collect valuable data for clients to improve their hiring and training processes based on how engaged, satisfied, or successful seasonal hires report feeling in their roles. The updates clients make to their temporary positions and training should be reflected in new job descriptions during the next seasonal hiring period.

Build a talent pool of candidates that ONLY want seasonal work

There are plenty of candidates who are willing to take on seasonal work to get a foot in the door at a company. But often, their end goal is to find full-time employment. It’s essential when building a reliable seasonal talent pool that you identify candidates’ short and long-term goals during the screening process.

Generally speaking, you should focus your energy on building a talent pool for seasonal hiring with candidates that only want to work in temporary roles. College students, for example, have predictable schedules that make them available to fill short-term positions for a few years repeatedly. Contract workers are another invaluable talent pool to tap when creating a library of candidates you can turn to during seasonal hiring.

You shouldn’t avoid pushing top talent through that prefers a permanent offer, especially if you see exceptional potential that could benefit your client and the candidate. However, when you discover this talent and feel strongly about referring them during a seasonal hiring period, it’s important to be honest with both parties. This way, they can come to terms that satisfy everyone’s employment needs.

Keep ‘same time next year’ talent close at hand

Relationship-building is an ongoing part of your staffing strategy. However, your energy may be wasted filling seasonal jobs if you’re focused exclusively on building new relationships with potential candidates. 

When evaluating talent’s goals each seasonal hiring period, identify candidates that expect to be available ‘this time next year.’ Keep tabs on those temporary employees between seasons to update them on skills they can keep fresh, changes in the industry, (public) updates in the company, etc.

Ideally, you want to keep these candidates in your talent pool and your client’s talent funnel. However, if you see talent’s interests or skills shift over the year, reassess your client list to ensure you’re prepared to place candidates with the best fitting company next season.

Update tools for high-volume screening 

Regardless of the market, always be prepared for high-volume screening by keeping staffing tools updated to handle any candidate load. Find tech and tools that simplify processes for your staffing agency while streamlining the transition from talent sourcing and screening to funneling top contenders into your clients’ hiring processes. 

One-way video interviews allow you to build a candidate library to review for future temporary roles. They also speed up the decision-making process for clients when choosing candidates to schedule for in-person interviews. Interview scheduling tools are another great way to ensure no time is wasted during the already-busy seasonal hiring season.

Not every tool is the best fit for every client’s needs, and some clients may prefer your staffing agency to work with tools that integrate with their hiring team’s tech. Stay abreast of updates in staffing and hiring technology to ensure your team is prepared to work with the most effective and efficient tools.

Determine necessary training during recruiting

When screening talent for seasonal roles, it’s necessary you determine what training they will need early in the process. Not all temporary positions are created equal. A candidate may have worked in the food/beverage industry for seven years, but they may not be knowledgeable about specific technology your client uses on the job. 

Being able to provide clients with information about how much onboarding a candidate will need is invaluable to their and the candidate’s success in the role. To assess candidates’ full capabilities, clients need to clearly communicate skills and training details beyond basic requirements and qualifications. 

For example:

  • What skills are not taught during onboarding?
  • What skills can be learned on the job?
  • What skills can candidates acquire on their own time?
  • What changes have occurred in the skills needed for the role from previous seasons?

Track metrics to improve onboarding processes

It’s important to follow up with candidates after they finish their temporary contracts. Survey talent to determine factors such as:

  • How well they felt they were vetted to confirm they were prepared for the role before entering the hiring process
  • How transparent hiring managers were about their training/onboarding processes before making an offer
  • Whether they felt they received sufficient onboarding/on-the-job training
  • How streamlined onboarding tasks were to complete during their accelerated training period
  • If they feel confident returning to that job in the future 

Many clients are not as likely to collect this kind of information from temporary hires as they exit as they are part and full-time employees. But a survey by Adobe revealed less than half (49%) of seasonal employees that reported spending at least an hour filling out hiring and onboarding paperwork felt the process was an efficient use of their time. 

Providing clients with data that allows them to improve their seasonal onboarding process ensures temp hires are able to excel and feel satisfied in their roles. This makes top talent more likely to return.

Structure incentives for seasonal talent

It’s not safe to assume just because a role is only three months long, a seasonal hire will see their employment term to the end. There are many reasons a temporary hire may quit in the middle of a busy season: 

  • The role wasn’t what they thought it would be
  • They are offered a better-paying seasonal position
  • They find a full-time job opportunity
  • They can’t meet the demands of the job 

Filling in-demand roles is even more difficult in the midst of a busy period for your clients. Going through the hiring process when all hands need to be on deck, managing employee and customer needs, drains the entire workforce. 

Determine in advance of seasonal talent sourcing if clients offer incentives, such as employee discounts or a bonus for hires that finish the season. Be sure candidates are well-informed of the benefits of finishing their temporary contract. 

You can also incentivize candidates by letting them know you’ll be following up at the end of the season to see how their experience went and determine where they might fit into future seasonal jobs. 


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.