5 Things to Consider when Hiring Employees for the Holiday Season

Holiday Shoppers
Image via Bryant Park Holiday Market

The holidays are stressful for a variety of reasons. As a boutique retailer, you’re juggling more inventory, more customers, more promotions and more problems.

Between October and January, typically the busiest time in retail, it’s imperative to have the right people in place who are not only delivering superior customer service to everyone who walks through the door, but are also problem solvers who you can trust to work independently and handle any situation that may arise.

Here are a few helpful tips to consider when hiring employees for the holiday season:

  • Start your holiday employee search sooner rather than later – Early September is usually the best time to start gathering resumes and sorting through previous part time hires who have left in good standing and would be interested in re-joining your team. At this time of the year, most college students have their class schedules for the remainder of the semester and can provide you with their holiday availability.

    By starting early, you’ll allow yourself time to perform a proper interview and reference checks before deciding if the candidate is a good fit for your business. You may even be able to start training your new hires on the sales floor without the stress of the mad holiday rush having kicked in yet.

  • Make a list and check it twice – When starting your employee search, pull out resumes you have received in the last 3-4 months. Search through folders of previous part time employees who left on good terms. Think about offering your current employees a small bonus or gift if they refer someone that you decide to hire.

    Ask managers of nearby boutiques if they know of anyone who may be a good fit for your open positions. Check with close friends and family and see if they know of anyone looking to work for a few hours during the holidays.

    Starting with a short list of possible candidates helps relieve some stress of a wide open candidate search. Consider holding group interviews with 8-10 people and doing role plays instead of interviewing everyone 1 on 1. Not only does this help manage your time during the busy season, but it will be easy for you to see how people interact with each other and who really stands out from the group.

  • Don’t hire for the sake of hiring – Sometimes with the stress of the holidays, managers convince themselves that as long as there’s a “warm body” on the floor, anyone will do. This is not the case. The people who you choose to hire for your front lines represent your brand and your company. They are the faces of your business.

    While stress and tension is at an all time high at this time of the year, it’s important that the face your customers are seeing when they walk into your location is that of a smiling, helpful associate who understands your merchandise and promotions and will make sure your customers have a positive experience. Hiring someone who is an appropriate fit for your business is key to encouraging those customers to come back again in the new year and become a regular shopper.

  • Hire with longevity in mind – Retail is forever changing. Staff come and go constantly. Although you may only have temp positions available for the holiday season, you may need someone to assume a full time role in the New Year.

    Retailers are professionals when it comes to thinking ahead for the future and this practice shouldn’t stop when hiring for the holidays. Keep a list in the back of your mind of who may be experiencing a life change in the next 4-6 months (moving away for college, having a baby, becoming a grandparent, taking on a new job, etc) and consider hiring people you know you could depend on to take those available spots after the holidays are over.

  • Train, Train, Train – “Your team is only as strong as your weakest player” I heard this quote during my first year managing a retail store and it has stuck with me for my whole career. If you’re too busy to oversee your new hires, clearly explain their role and your expectations of them and then team them up with a strong mentor who can show them the ropes.

    In most cases, it’s easiest if your newest team members are on the sales floor, away from the cash, assisting in merchandise selection, keeping fitting room areas tidy and helping customers get what they need.

    Have them trained on sizing, materials, where extra product is hidden and exchange policies. Sending a new hire straight onto the sales floor without proper training sets them, and your customers, up for a frustrating experience. Even though the person you’ve hired may have a background in retail, they may not understand your standards of how things should be hung or folded.

    Ensure there are no misunderstandings by having a “holiday training checklist” in place that is mandatory for each employee to go through during their first few scheduled shifts.

What are some of your tips and tricks for hiring the perfect temporary staff for the holiday season?

Dominique Leger

Dominique is a graduate of the Fashion Marketing and Merchandising program from Toronto’s International Academy of Design and Technology. She has a decade of experience in the fashion industry working as both a Retail Manager and a Visual Merchandising Manager.