An illustration of business owners researching how to hire seasonal employees.

How to hire seasonal employees: 10 steps for getting it right

The holidays are an important time of year for small businesses, as many rely heavily on holiday sales to generate significant cash flow. The busy time also spurs a lot of seasonal workers hiring. Knowing how to hire seasonal employees is critical, including getting the interview process right. 

Seasonal employees help support businesses during busy periods, like between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,, summer in a popular beach town, or winter at a ski resort. Employees are “seasonal” if the duration of their employment is limited, and if the job usually starts and ends at roughly the same time each calendar year.

Below, we’ll uncover the necessary steps solopreneurs and small businesses should take when hiring seasonal employees to make smart and strategic hiring decisions:

  1. Start planning and recruiting early
  2. Assess your seasonal employee needs
  3. Create a seasonal work schedule
  4. Define the roles and responsibilities
  5. Put together a job ad for seasonal workers
  6. Look for candidates with relevant experience
  7. Streamline your seasonal hiring process
  8. Stay compliant with labor laws
  9. Create an onboarding and training process
  10. Keep in touch with great seasonal help
10 steps to hiring seasonal employees

1. Start planning and recruiting early

Finding and hiring employees well before you need them can ease the stress of peak seasons. As a general rule, planning at least one season (2-3 months) in advance is a strong strategy. 

For example, if you’re looking to hire staff for the winter season, you’ll want to start recruiting at the start of the fall in September. This will give you plenty of time to find candidates and hire, train, onboard, and prepare them for the busy season.

If you’re a smaller business or even a solopreneur or single-member LLC, you have the unique advantage of being able to move faster than larger companies looking to hire. For example, you may only need to hire one or two employees, and you can train and manage them directly.

It’s also important to consider your source of seasonal workers. If they’re college students, they’ll likely start searching for seasonal work before their semester ends, so you’ll want to make sure you’re posting the application at the right time. It’s wise to know the college term dates and assess your needs so you can start hiring as early as possible.

How solopreneurs can compete:

Solopreneurs are able to make decisions quickly, allowing them to initiate the hiring process early. This means you can secure top talent before larger businesses even start their hiring process.

2. Assess your seasonal employee needs

Using your past records and assessing your current needs, determine the areas where you need the most help before you begin your search. You can use full-time equivalent calculations to help you forecast your labor needs. 

To figure out your seasonal hiring needs, ask yourself questions like:

  • What are the term dates for the seasonal positions I need to fill?
  • Do I need additional salespeople on the floor?
  • Do I need part-timers to package and ship products?
  • Do I need employees who are willing to work weekends? 

The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of your business demand, allowing you to better estimate your seasonal recruitment needs.

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3. Create a seasonal work schedule

You’ll want to determine a clear holiday schedule during your busiest seasons. Determine if your seasonal workers will have fixed hours, flexible work schedules, or be on call. This also means determining the type of pay you’ll provide seasonal workers, including: 

Take into account that your schedule may change during the holiday season. For example, you may keep your store open later than normal or have employees come in earlier. Determine when you’ll need your employees the most, such as evenings, and weekends, or specific holidays.

How solopreneurs can compete:

Solopreneurs have the flexibility to customize work schedules to accommodate both business needs and employee preferences.

4. Define the roles and responsibilities

Start by identifying the roles you need to fill. For example, do you need entry-level employees, supervisors, or floor managers? Get clear on the types of seasonal roles you need to fill before you define the responsibilities needed for each.  

Next, identify the specific tasks or assignments seasonal employees will perform. Make a list of all the tasks you need to complete so you can delegate them accordingly. You’ll also want to consider current employees’ strengths and weaknesses when delegating specific tasks. 

When you clearly outline roles and responsibilities ahead of time, it can help attract the kind of candidates who, when hired, will deliver better results.

5. Put together a job ad for seasonal workers

Once you have your job responsibilities, it’s time to create and post a job advertisement:

An illustration of what to include in a seasonal job post, such as job title and employment duration.

Include details about your seasonal job in the ad, like the job title and minimum job requirements. Emphasize you are recruiting for a seasonal position in the listing title.

If you plan to consider hiring seasonal employees as full-time employees after the season ends, add a line in your job description explaining this. Seasonal work is a great way for future employees to get their foot in the door.

How solopreneurs can compete:

You have the opportunity to infuse your personal brand into the job ad, showcasing the unique aspects of working with you. Emphasize the close-knit work environment, potential for growth, and direct impact on the business.

6. Look for candidates with relevant experience

Finding candidates with experience in your industry can help save you time during the hiring and training process. The first place to begin your search should be with former employees from the previous season. Seasonal workers from previous years likely need little to no additional training, which can fast-track the onboarding process.

It’s also wise to hire workers who are already familiar with your industry. For example, retail businesses will likely have more luck hiring people with retail experience or experience working in a customer-facing role. Look for people who know your brand and products or services well.

How solopreneurs can compete:

While industry experience is valuable, solopreneurs can also prioritize traits like adaptability and a willingness to learn. This widens the pool of potential candidates, allowing you to find those with the right attitude and work ethic.

7. Streamline your seasonal hiring process

You’ll want to make your hiring process as quick and easy as possible. This starts with asking relevant interview questions—have a key list of questions ready to help qualify them quickly. Since you’re hiring seasonal employees, put time commitments and schedule flexibility as requirements. 

Lengthy application forms, background checks, and screenings are a must for some employers. But do you need them for every job role? Tedious forms and multiple rounds of interviews can cost you time, money, and valualble seasonal talent. They might find other employment in the meantime. .

Further, transform your hiring process into a productive pipeline of candidates by using a seasonal employee interview checklist:

8. Stay compliant with labor laws

Employment laws, including those for discrimination and workplace safety, still apply to seasonal employees. The US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which states that you must pay workers at least the minimum wage and overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

If your business employs younger people as part of its peak season selling strategy, there are additional labor laws. You may also need to provide seasonal workers with certain employee benefits, such as Social Security and workers’ compensation.

Always pay your workers on time. The first paycheck is most important, especially when hiring seasonal employees. Theyexpect to be paid on-time.. Accounting software like QuickBooks Online that integrates payroll services can help automate pay so you never miss a payday. 

9. Create an onboarding and training process

Training will help you get the most from your seasonal employees. Rushing seasonal workers through the employee onboarding process can also increase the risk of poor customer service and employee turnover. 

An illustration of tips for training seasonal employees.

Providing the necessary tools and training for them to be comfortable in their everyday roles should be a top priority to ensure you go into a busy season with a fully equipped staff. 

Here are a few ways you can create a positive onboarding and training experience for seasonal employees: 

  • Encourage them to ask questions. 
  • Make sure they understand your products or services. 
  • Engage in mock customer scenarios.
  • Outline their daily duties. 
  • Allow them to shadow a senior team member.

Not only can a positive onboarding and training experience help employees feel comfortable in their role but it can also help with employee retention if you decide to bring on seasonal employees full-time.

How solopreneurs can compete:

The personal touch of a solopreneur can create a warm and welcoming onboarding experience. This personal connection helps new employees feel valued and invested in the success of the business.

10. Keep in touch with great seasonal help

Remember that you’ll likely need seasonal help again next year. Keep contact information of employees who excel to help make hiring easier next season. Plus, if you need to bring on full-time staff before then, you’ll already have a pool of qualified people to choose from.

Tips for hiring seasonal employees

How solopreneurs and small businesses can compete in seasonal hiring

Hiring seasonal employees can be overwhelming, but with a solid process in place, it can become much easier. Smaller businesses can attract top seasonal talent by: 

  • Being nimble in decision-making: Initiate the hiring process early, which can help you secure the best candidates before other companies begin their seasonal recruitment.
  • Getting to know business demand: Become familiar with your business's specific sales and product demand to make accurate and targeted assessments of your seasonal staffing requirements. This ensures you hire just the right number of employees and avoid unnecessary costs.
  • Personalizing where you can: A smaller team allows for a more close-knit work culture. Take the time to make new employees feel valued and part of the team. This personal touch can set small businesses apart from larger, potentially more impersonal businesses.

Give recognition to your employees along the way. Simple gestures like publicly acknowledging extra effort, praising performance, and displaying trust can go a long way. These things can also help reduce employee turnover

Hiring the right people for your business

Hiring seasonal employees is an important step to ensure your business is successful during peak seasons. Start early, streamline your hiring process, and keep track of your legal obligations to make managing employees during the holiday season easy. 

Small business payroll software like QuickBooks Payroll can help you onboard and pay seasonal employees and contractors and connect you with HR experts who can answer your questions about policies and hiring guidelines for seasonal workers.

How to hire seasonal employees FAQ

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