6 Tips For Snagging A Holiday Retail Job This Season

Mark Zuckerman, centre, gathers his workers for a last minute pep talk at 5: 30 a.m., just before opening the doors for early morning Black Friday shoppers at the Target in Cherry Hill, N.J., Friday, Nov. 25, 2005. (AP Photo/ Jose F. Moreno)

Photo: Associated Press

When it comes to quickly adding hundreds of thousands of workers to payrolls, nothing does the trick quite like the holidays. Retailers hire hundreds of thousands of employees in the final three months of the year, according to Challenger, grey & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm.

How does one take advantage of this coming hike in opportunities? Experts offer this advice:

1. Apply early for that temporary job

If you think you can wait until November to get a seasonal temporary job, you’re going to be missing out on a lot of opportunities,” says Courtney Moyer, public relations manager at employment website Snagajob, in a telephone interview. More than half of hiring managers expect to fill their holiday positions by the end of October or sooner.

In 2012, some 63 per cent of hiring managers said they planned to bring on additional help this year, according to a holiday hiring forecast from Snagajob. That’s up from 51 per cent in 2011.

Toys R Us announced in late September that it plans to hire 45,000 seasonal employees this year – 5,000 more than in 2011—in positions ranging from managerial roles to sales associates to inventory workers.

Macy’s Inc. expected to bring on 80,000 temporary sales associates, a nearly 50 per cent increase in the number of sales associates it has on a year-round basis.

2. Smile!

The ability to put your best foot forward in the face of hordes of desperate shoppers is no small task, but it’s a quality employers look for in an applicant. “One of hiring managers’ top pet peeves is a lack of enthusiasm,” Jennifer Grasz, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder.com, an online job site, said in a phone interview. If you can’t muster a show of energy for the interview, how will you do so when fielding calls from irate customers?

There is reason to smile in 2012. 

Holiday retail sales were expected to increase 4.1 per cent to $586.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation‘s 2012 projection. That’s the best total since the Great Recession.

Retailers are expected to hire 700,000 employees in the final three months of the year, according to Challenger, grey & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm. That’s better than the 660,000 hired last year and the highest since the Great Recession, but not quite the 722,000 average in the 2004-07 period.

3. Don’t let a lack of experience stop you.

Employers are typically more willing to sacrifice prior experience for a holiday worker who is energetic, committed, and flexible.

“Seasonal employment is a great time to get your foot in the door if you don’t have that retail experience, but you’re willing to work nights and weekends,” Ms. Moyer says.

If sales pick up, companies will hire more people.

“Look for many [companies] to start at last year’s levels and hire additional workers only if strong sales early in the season warrant it,” says John Challenger, the firm’s chief executive officer, in a press release.

Target Corp., for example, has shown more caution. The company expects to hire between 80,000 and 90,000 seasonal workers, down from the 92,000 it hired a year ago.

Target attributes the decline to a number of factors, including current team members’ availability and their level of demand for additional hours, Jessica Stevens, a spokeswoman for Target, wrote in an e-mail. Ms. Stevens also noted that 30 per cent of last year’s seasonal hires stayed with Target for year-round positions.

4. Search beyond retail

While retail typically leads the pack in late-year hires, opportunities abound in a host of sectors. Shipping companies, restaurants, warehouses, and offices all look to pad their numbers for the busiest time of the year.

FedEx, for example, expects holiday shipping to jump 13 per cent this year over 2011. And the shipping giant is hiring 20,000 seasonal workers to cover the increase.

5. Be flexible

A seasonal worker isn’t your typical nine-to-fiver. You may be asked to work the night shift in a warehouse or deliver packages on the weekends. It’s why worker inflexibility is a seasonal hiring managers’ kryptonite—70 per cent of them cited it as their biggest turnoff in a 2011 CareerBuilder.com study.

After large chains including Walmart and Sears announced they would open as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day 2012, some workers went online to urge the chains to save the holiday and open later.

6. Think ahead

You won’t make a fortune from holiday employment – Snagajob projects an average pay of $10.70 an hour for 2012—but your initiative can pay dividends.

Half of 2012’s seasonal hires will transition to a permanent position, according to Snagajob’s estimate. Last year, 15 per cent of Toys “R” Us holiday workers stayed on, according to the company. Jennifer Albano, director of corporate communications at Toys “R” Us said via telephone: “Anyone who is a standout employee, shows great customer service skills, and really shines throughout the season has an opportunity to stay with us beyond the holidays.”

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