Eight Ways to Fill Seasonal Positions Amid Record-Low Unemployment

With the lowest unemployment rate we've seen in two decades, employers are definitely feeling the fact that we are experiencing a job seekers market. The problem is, as the holiday season approaches, we find ourselves in desperate need of seasonal workers. 

In a job seekers market, if we don’t alter our approach to sourcing, recruiting, and hiring, we'll be left with open jobs and few applicants to fill them. While the lack of workers will affect every size of operator, smaller restaurant operators will most likely struggle with seasonal hiring even more due to lack of brand recognition, limited advertising options, and monetary restraints not allowing for competitive offers.

While you might need to work a little harder than in years past, attracting good seasonal help is still possible. Below are eight strategies to help you find the best candidates to get you through the busy holiday season.

Expand Your Candidate Pool

With unemployment so low, expect to have fewer qualified candidates to choose from. This does not mean that you won’t find any candidates at all; you just need to look at candidates with other types of customer service experience beyond restaurants. Even if candidates lack restaurant-specific experience, you can still gage their potential by conducting behavioral-based interviews. Begin by asking the traditional interview questions to learn about the person’s past work experience and skill set. Then, add some of behavioral based interview questions to better assess if the candidate has the personality, cognitive ability, flexibility, and work ethic that your restaurant expects. Also, always be on the lookout for potential employees. If the person bagging your groceries at the market goes above and beyond with customer service, hand them a business card and tell them you are hiring if they would like to come in for an interview.

Prepare to Pay Higher Wages

In this market, even the novice employees expect to be paid well above minimum wage.  If you are financially unable to compete with what some of the larger chains that are paying hourly employees, get creative about what you can offer as an incentive instead. Perhaps you can guarantee a set schedule of 15 hours per week or that they are only expected to work on weekends. This kind of predictable schedule and salary can be hard to come by in the restaurant industry and may give you the edge over another employer. 


Tap into Former Employees

Training new employees is expensive and takes a considerable amount of time.  Before posting your job openings, contact former employees and former seasonal workers to see if any of them are interested in your seasonal work. You never know, they may be interested and were just unaware that you were hiring. Plus, they will be ready to hit the ground running!

Ask for Recommendations

The restaurant industry is extremely relationship driven, making your current staff a great resource for finding new recruits. Ask star employees if they have friends or family members who might be looking for seasonal work because there’s a good chance that they surround themselves with people who share a similar work ethic and personality traits. Most of your staff members will also give them an idea of what the job entails, so they’ll know what’s expected before they even apply. 

Streamline Your Hiring Process

Even if you are able to get good candidates in the door, don’t expect them to wait around for weeks to find out if they got the job. Many of the applicants may be applying for multiple positions and will accept the offer that is guaranteed the quickest.  Streamline your processes so that you can interview, screen, and onboard new hires quickly and efficiently. Also, be sure to communicate with candidates throughout the hiring process. If an applicant goes a week without hearing from you after an interview, they may move on to another opportunity.


Retain Current Staff

Make a point to appreciate and take great care of your current staff.  Unhappy employees are more likely to leave while the market is hot. If you are in need of seasonal help, the last thing you want to do is lose any full-time employees and cause a greater shortage of labor in your restaurant.  

Treat Full-Time Employees and Seasonal Help Equally

While it might be tempting to cut corners knowing that these employees will only be around for a short period, do not put your business at risk by doing so.  Some states have laws that require that temporary workers are given the same benefits as full time workers. Check your local laws to see if this is the case.  

Keep Seasonal Employees’ Contact Information

Be sure to file the contact information of stand-out seasonal employees. You will save time and effort having people who are already trained and ready the next time you need them.

Hang in there! Sourcing, recruiting, and hiring can be challenging in today’s low-unemployment environment, but it can still be done. It just takes some planning, persistence, and patience.