How to Hire the Best Holiday Help

by Suzanne Kearns

1 min read

It’s that time of year again — the time when retailers hire extra help to handle the onslaught of holiday shoppers. According to Hay Group, a global management-consulting firm, two-thirds of business owners plan to hire the same number of seasonal workers as they did last year. (In 2010, some 500,000 jobs were created.) So, how do you make sure that every dollar you spend on additional employees will bring a solid return on investment?

Here are three tips for enlisting the best holiday help possible.

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you need extra help for Christmas and you haven’t yet begun the process, you’re already behind schedule — so start now. Experts say that you should begin to advertise and interview for open positions about two months before you need them filled. This gives you time to fully train and orient new staff members ahead of the holiday crush. Ask employees to start working a month before the busy season, so they’ll be able to expertly answer customer questions and point them in the right direction. Few things irritate customers more than dealing with an incompetent sales clerk!
  2. Hire the overqualified. At least 9 percent of America’s population is out of work — and many people believe that the true figure is twice that. This means that there are a lot of overqualified people out there who’d be happy to work as a sales clerk during the holiday season. Consider applicants who are mature, have polished skills (even in areas other than retail), and will bring a new level of experience to your business. For instance, you might hire a former sales manager as a store clerk who could train your other clerks in closing skills.
  3. Check references. The holiday shopping season is hectic. Harried customers need to be soothed and reassured by friendly sales clerks. Not everyone can handle the pressure and chaos of the season. That’s why it’s important to check job applicants’ references — and inquire about their interpersonal skills. In addition, ask candidates during job interviews how they would handle stressful situations with customers. Consider role-playing with them to gauge how quickly they can think on their feet.

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