Now Is the Time to Get Hired for the Holidays: 13 Tips

Whether you want to brighten your holidays by making some extra cash or get your foot in the door of a company you want to work for long-term, a part-time seasonal job could be right for you.

But you better get to work on getting hired right now. Companies already are holding job fairs and recruiting seasonal workers.

Holiday hiring is expected to be up overall, analysts say, but not necessarily on the sales floor at your favorite traditional retailer. With more shoppers buying online, you might find opportunities increasing in warehouses and fulfillment centers.

Holiday retail sales in November and December (excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants) should increase up to 4 percent to a total of around $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year, says the National Retail Federation in its 2017 forecast. However, it expects retailers to add only 500,000 to 550,000 temporary workers this holiday season, down from last year’s 575,000 and 2013’s peak of nearly 765,000.

Target says it’s adding 104,500 workers this year, including 4,500 at fulfillment and distribution centers, up from 77,500 last year. Walmart, however, says it will forgo holiday hiring and offer more hours to current staff.

The perks

Seasonal work can turn into permanent positions.

Kohl’s, for example, which is not revealing details of its 2017 hiring plans, said that of last year’s 69,000 temporary holiday hires, more than 14,000 stayed with the company to pursue full-time work.

Some retail jobs provide not only extra income but also employee discounts you can use when shopping for gifts. For example, Gap Inc.’s employee discount that’s good for seasonal workers includes 50 percent off regular-priced merchandise at Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores, 30 percent off at Outlet and Factory stores and 25 percent off at Athleta stores.

The job market is tight this year and employers are eager to hire, giving job-seekers an advantage. Here’s a peek at the big picture:

  • Unemployment is 4.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • That unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in 10 years, the BLS says.
  • The average hourly salesperson’s wage is $13.07, according to the BLS.
  • Employers typically are paying an hourly wage of $9.44 for food service jobs and $15.55 in the hospitality industry, BLS says.

Who’s hiring

Here are some of the top holiday employers, according to recent published reports and company announcements:

  • Target: 104,500, including 100,000 at its 1,800-plus stores and 4,500 at warehouse and fulfillment centers.
  • UPS: 95,000.
  • Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s: 80,000 for stores, call centers, distribution centers, and online fulfillment centers.
  • FedEx: 50,000.
  • Kohl’s: Secret, likely about 50 per store.
  • J.C. Penney: 40,000.
  • Michaels: 15,000.
  • Toys R Us: 13,000 in top markets.
  • Radial (fulfillment and customer service centers for Game Stop, DSW and Carnival Shoes): 27,000.
  • 1-800-FLOWERS: 8,000, mainly in Illinois, Ohio and Oregon for part-time and full-time jobs in production, gift assembly, retail, distribution, fulfillment and customer service for its Harry & David, Cheryl’s Cookies, and The Popcorn Factory brands.
  • Williams-Sonoma: 2,000-4,000.

FlexJobs, the subscription website for work-from-home and other flexible job postings, has seen companies like Pearson, CVS Health, Mrs. Fields, HSN, Crate & Barrel, Nordstrom and the Walt Disney Co. hiring for temporary seasonal and holiday work, said Brie Reynolds, FlexJobs senior career specialist.

“Lots of these positions are in the customer service and sales fields, but we also see an increase in hiring in areas like event planning and data entry,” Reynolds said. This is the season also to snare jobs in accounting and finance, photography, hospitality and travel, and human resources, she said. Here are 13 tips to help snag your holiday job:

1. Start applying right now

Employers need to get their staffs in position long before Black Friday, so they’re already hiring. Many have already held job fairs. Nearly three-quarters of seasonal jobs are filled in October, so if you’re interested, don’t waste another minute.

2. Get off the internet

Job boards are great, but applications submitted online often get bogged down by slow processing. Submit applications online, by all means. But then get out into the street and start asking employers if they are hiring. Start by making a list of the 10 places you think would be the most fun to work. Visit each in person to ask about holiday hiring and how to apply.

3. Look fantastic

Look in the mirror before you go out the door for a job interview. Would you hire yourself based on looks alone? Because, shallow as it is, most people make decisions about someone based on appearance, especially if they’ll be in a role meeting the public.

4. Start telling the world

Let everyone you know that you’re in the market for work. The best job leads often come from someone you know.

5. Apply where you shop

Pick a slow time of the day and talk with the managers at businesses where you shop. “Knowing you’re a loyal fan of the business can make it easier for a manager to add you to the team,” says AARP.

6. Consider warehouse/fulfillment jobs

You don’t need to be a big-truck driver or heavy lifter to get a job where you “Sort it. Wrap it. Ship it.” — which is how Amazon describes the “sortation associate” jobs in its fulfillment centers. The increase in online shopping has created a demand not just at Amazon, but other companies such as Radial and Walmart for distribution center workers.

7. Expect more

About half of all retailers plan to hire holiday workers, and of those, two-thirds of them will pay $10 or more per hour, up from about half in 2016 and just 43 percent in 2015, according to a Harris poll for CareerBuilder.

8. Be ready to commit

Your willingness to stick with a seasonal job until the holidays are over will make a big difference in your favor, Reynolds says. Employers need to hire people who will be able to work through the holidays, which may include Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day.

“If you want to keep your holiday job going long-term, make sure you show what a capable and dependable person you are,” she said. “Take opportunities to stand out, offer to help, and show your skills outside of the holiday job you’re in.”

9. Be available

Availability — or at least schedule flexibility — can be tough if you’re already working another job (or two) or are juggling a busy family schedule. Still, your ability to work when called is something employers say is important to them.

10. Avoid turn-offs

When hiring managers in the CareerBuilder poll were asked to identify what turns them off when they’re interviewing a seasonal job candidate, they ranked them this way:

  • Unwilling to work certain hours: 46 percent
  • Doesn’t take the interview seriously: 42 percent
  • Is not enthusiastic: 40 percent
  • Too casual or unprofessional: 38 percent
  • Knows nothing about the company or products: 30 percent
  • Seems more interested in the discount than the opportunity: 29 percent

11. Say thanks

After you’ve applied, remember to follow up by checking in with the person who interviewed you to say thank you.

“If there’s not an immediate opening, don’t be a pest, but try to keep tabs on hiring plans,” AARP says. You want to be top-of-mind if they are hiring later.

12. Beware holiday job scams

It’s sad but true that con artists work overtime on the holidays. Don’t fall for “jobs” that require you to pay an application fee or a training fee or some other fee in order to get hired. (Read “Don’t Get Scrooged by These 20 Holiday Scams.”)

13. Give it all you’ve got

Attitude is everything. Whether you are looking to be hired on permanently and want to impress the boss or just making some extra money for the short-term, your willingness to jump in and give yourself to the work will score you points and make the job more fun. You never know where it could lead — a stellar recommendation to post on your LinkedIn page, perhaps. Or the offer of a better job down the road.

Do you have experience working seasonal jobs? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Jim Gold contributed to this post.

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