If your business picks up at certain times of the year — or you need to cover employees taking time off for the holidays — you may turn to seasonal workers to fill the gap.

Before you create a job application or hang a sign on your business’s front window, however, consider the special circumstances that apply to hiring seasonal employees. While you may be tempted to hire the first promising walk-in or offer a lower wage without overtime pay, these aren’t the smartest strategies. Let’s explore further.

Current Environment with Seasonal Worker Hiring

First, keep in mind that offering minimum wage may not be the best way to attract quality applicants. With the current low unemployment rate (3.8 percent), many companies are offering higher pay rates (above minimum wage) and benefits to attract more qualified employees. To be competitive, you’ll need to determine the pay rate you can reasonably offer seasonal workers.

Second, when it comes to benefits, don’t assume that seasonal employees should be excluded. Many companies are extending a variety of benefits to attract seasonal workers. According to a recent hiring survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Snag, an online employment site for hourly workers and employers:

  • 52 percent of companies offer paid time off
  • 49 percent provide health insurance
  • 38 percent give employee discounts to seasonal hires

Myth: Seasonal jobs only pay minimum wage.

Fact: Many employers are offering higher wages and benefits to attract seasonal workers in a competitive hiring market. Under the FLSA, seasonal employees are entitled to the same minimum wage and overtime as other non-exempt employees.

Which Employment Laws Apply to Seasonal Employees?

Third, be aware that the exemptions from minimum wage and overtime that apply to “seasonal establishments” do not apply to year-round businesses that hire seasonal workers. Seasonal businesses are those that operate less than seven months a year, such as an amusement park or recreational center.

State and federal laws covering allowable working hours for minors (14-15 year-olds) – as well as the types of hazardous work permitted for anyone under 18 — apply to seasonal workers, as well.

Recruiting Strategies for Hiring Seasonal Employees

Finding qualified candidates interested in seasonal work can be challenging. While hiring students on school break or people looking for second incomes is a typical approach, there are other tactics, including:

  • Considering retirees — Part-time or seasonal work may be attractive to retirees, plus they may be able to return for more than one season (unlike college students who may have moved on).
  • Hiring customers — Your best customers may be interested in working for you temporarily to earn employee discounts or support your business brand.
  • Asking employees for referrals — Your employees may have friends or family looking for temporary work.
  • Using social media — Social media can be a great way to find younger workers. Post your job opening and profile some of the previous seasonal employees to highlight your attractive working environment.
  • Participating in a job fair well in advance – Taking part in a career event will help you meet potential candidates in larger numbers.

Important Considerations When Hiring Seasonal Workers

When hiring temporary employees to fill in during a busy season or cover employee vacations, you’ll want to be certain you make the nature of the job clear. If there is a chance the job may be extended after the seasonal work, specify that too.

Follow these additional tips for hiring seasonal employees:

  • Hire people who have the necessary skills and experience to fulfill the duties from day one. Remember that for most seasonal jobs, offering weeks of training or waiting for employees to learn the job isn’t practical.
  • Hire for company fit as well as skills. Keep in mind that the people you hire are a reflection of your company.
  • Provide an accurate description of the skills and experience needed, the working hours and the job’s duration. Explain that the job is seasonal work and has a finite end date, and specify if overtime, evenings or weekends are required. Creating an accurate job description will help avoid getting applicants who aren’t comfortable with the working terms.
  • During interviews, ask about career goals in case a longer-term position opens up.
  • Consider using panel interviews (groups of employees to interview each candidate at once) to speed up the process.
  • Start several months ahead. Don’t wait until a few weeks before the season to start your recruiting and hiring process.
An employee referral program can support your hiring efforts. It saves you time and money with overall recruitment — and often leads to employees who are a good fit because they were recommended by someone within the company.

Tips for Retaining Seasonal Employees

Finding the right candidates is one thing — keeping these short-term employees on for an entire season is another. If you hire seasonal workers who aren’t interested in a permanent position, you may lose them before the season ends. How can you prevent this? Here are a few ideas:

  • Offer end-of-season bonuses — To avoid having people quit prematurely, explore offering an end-of-season bonus for completing the entire season (or meeting certain goals, such as a sales quota).
  • Extend a loyalty bonus to returning staff — Proactively reach out to former seasonal employees and offer them an extra bonus to return. Tell new hires about this bonus so they know returning will be an attractive option.
  • Let seasonal workers know permanent positions may be available — If you’ll have longer-term openings available, let seasonal workers know they may have a shot at these positions.
  • Provide creative benefits or special perks – This may include employee discounts or special events for seasonal workers (such as new hire day), or extras like breakfast or lunch.

Keep in mind that hiring and employment laws for long-term employees apply to seasonal workers as well. Be sure you follow fair, non-discriminatory employment practices and stay within the boundaries of all federal, state and local laws.

Get Organized and Keep Track of Job Applicants

Using an online Applicant Tracking app can make the seasonal hiring process much easier. The app organizes hiring stages into a single efficient process, letting you assess and rate each candidate, check on their status, review their progress and prepare for the next steps.

Key Takeaways
  • Employment laws regarding overtime and working hours for minors apply to seasonal employees, too.
  • Start recruiting seasonal workers several months in advance.
  • Be sure your job descriptions are clear about start and end times for seasonal openings.
  • Offering benefits and special perks can encourage hires to finish out the full season.
  • Rely on an Applicant Tracking app to streamline and accelerate your hiring process – in season and year-round.