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Interview Tips for Hiring Seasonal Workers

Interview Tips for Hiring Seasonal Workers

By: Dona DeZube

Hiring seasonal workers is different from hiring permanent workers. Holiday hires either have to know how to do the job already or have the skills to learn it quickly, because there’s no time for lengthy training.

When hiring holiday workers, ask questions that will identify candidates with demonstrated experience and skills in the core functions needed to immediately perform the job to your specifications.

Just because they won’t be with you forever, though, doesn’t mean you rush the hiring process, particularly when you’re conducting an interview to fill a holiday hiring need.

Your recruiting strategy should be just as eye-catching and upbeat as your hiring strategy for year-round workers, says Dionne Minner, a senior area manager for Kelly Services in Troy, Michigan, who shared her interview tips for seasonal hiring success.

Remember: every interview you do represents your company brand -- to the candidate as well as to their social network.

Be Frank about Seasonal Work
When recruiting seasonal workers, be clear about how long the job will last. Include the seasonal nature of the job in your job description; include reminders in your interview questions that clarify this is seasonal work.

For example, you could ask: Understanding that this position is a seasonal opportunity and will end by Jan. 15, what interests you the most about working with us?

Be sure to inquire about other work the job seeker is applying for. Are those opportunities also seasonal jobs, or is the worker really in search of a year-round position and settling for your seasonal job?

Even though the seasonal workers you hire will be with your company for only a limited time, ask them about their career goals, says Rebecca Harrell, a regional vice president for Randstad Staffing, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“It might be a two-month position, but there could be something that opens up in the company, so you really need to know if they’re flexible,” she says.

Tailor Seasonal Interview Questions
Before you start conducting interviews as you hire seasonal workers, consider the day-to-day tasks, stress points and the absolute must-have skills and knowledge that every new hire should possess.

Then, create a list of behavioral interview questions that probe into each of those tasks, stressors and must-haves:

Sample interview questions to hire a warehouse coordinator:

  • Do you like or dislike high-pressure situations?
  • What was the most stressful part of your last position?
  • Do you enjoy being pulled into different things, or do you prefer routine?

Sample interview questions to hire a retail sales representative:

  • How did you handle the last customer who yelled at you? What did you say to him?
  • What is it about our product and company that makes you want to work here?
  • What point-of-sale systems have you used in prior positions?

Sample interview questions to hire a restaurant manager:

  • Tell me about a time when the kitchen orders got backed up and your customers got angry with you. What did you do?
  • Why do you like working with the public? What do you like the least?
  • This job requires six-hour shifts on evenings and weekends. Can you work those hours?

Sample interview questions to hire a call center representative:

  • Tell me about a time when you were under pressure because call wait times were increasing, but a customer just wasn’t letting you resolve the issue.
  • How did you handle that? What was your average handle time for your last position and how did that compare with the average agent’s time?

Sell Your Seasonal Job
One interview tip all experts recommend: Part of your strategy for hiring seasonal workers should be communicating what makes your company a great place to work.

Do you give employees a discount? Provide snacks? Offer prizes or bonuses? Can employees earn extra money by working overtime or overnight shifts?

Market research will tell you about the pay, bonuses and perks offered by rival seasonal businesses. Make sure your compensation package is competitive.

Remember to be kind and courteous to those candidates who don’t meet your needs. They may turn into good hires next year and customers between now and then.

Use Panel Interviews
Businesses that need to hire large numbers of seasonal workers can maximize time for both the company and job seekers by using phone screens and panel interviews.

Doing mini-interviews over the phone can quickly weed out applicants who lack the interest, experience or skills you need. You can then invite the qualified candidates for in-person interviews.

Panel interviews, where groups of employees screen job candidates, are another option. To do panel interviews fairly, put a consistent interview system or an interview guide in place, Minner says.

Prepare interview packets for all panelists that include:

  • Seasonal interview questions for all candidates
  • Clear and consistent expectations around rating each candidate
  • An explanation of how decisions will be made
  • Reminders about what types of questions violate employment law

Seasonal Hires Help You Grow
With a little planning and a solid recruiting strategy, your company can hire seasonal employees that can make your business shine during the holidays.

When the season ends, you may even find their work helped your company grow enough to transition the best of them from temp to perm.