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The competition for holiday help this season will be fierce.

7 Tips for Hiring During the Holidays

In this job market, the early bird gets the worm.

It’s already one of the toughest labor markets in decades, and restaurants—already struggling to staff enough for typical days—are now faced with staffing up even further in anticipation of holiday traffic that has already started. Seasonal hiring is especially competitive, as some employers temporarily increase pay rates and offer other types of benefits in order to attract temporary seasonal workers.

For the past two years, I’ve worked closely with many restaurant chains and franchisees (including Applebee’s, Red Robin, Chick-fil-A) to help them recruit more effectively. Here’s my advice for this holiday season:

Respond to inbound interest from candidates immediately. In this job market, the early bird gets the worm. Set up an auto-response that goes to candidates that outlines the positions you have available, the pay and any bonus structure, some key points on why they should choose to work for you, and a link to set up a phone, video or in-person interview. Giving them a choice for the interview format is important—we’ve seen that it increases interview booking rates. Quickly follow up with a personalized message to differentiate yourself as an employer, and answer any questions they have - your goal is to get them in for an interview.

Get them in for an interview within 24-36 hours of first touch. ‘First touch’ means as soon as the candidate indicates interest in a role—for instance, submitting an application, or inquiring about job openings. The first employer to get the interview often gets the candidate. You want to be that employer—there is no time to waste. Make yourself or your managers available for interviews at almost any time. 

Provide hiring managers with talking points on how to sell the company and the role. Most hiring managers aren’t adept at selling. It’s important for company executives to arm them with talking points aimed to persuade a candidate to come on board. Three to five talking points is ideal. Be sure to cover pay, bonuses, any flexibility you have with scheduling, diversity and inclusion commitments, and opportunities for advancement. Train everyone on the team who interfaces with candidates or conducts interviews to also use these points, so everyone is conveying a consistent message.

The interview is the chance for you to sell them on your company. While two years ago candidates may have had to sell themselves to employers, the dynamic has completely reversed. Now, you need to use the interview to convince the candidate why they should work for you. They have other options - not only other restaurant options, but also gig work. Of course you need to screen to make sure there’s a fit, but don’t miss the opportunity to sell yourself as an employer.

Give candidates an offer on the spot. If you interview a candidate who is a good fit, make an offer right away—at the end of the interview - and make it a good one. We’re even seeing a lot of employers offering seasonal pay rate increases for part-time holiday help. Provide onboarding materials on the spot as well, if possible, or immediately afterwards. Be sure to communicate an anticipated start date and timeline for onboard completion so the candidate walks away with the deal sealed.

Personally call candidates who inquire but then don’t respond. Several restaurants and franchisees I know have been experimenting with this technique: hiring managers text candidates to let them know they’re calling, and then a minute later they call. Many candidates answer because they know who it is, and it’s a good opportunity to sell them on the role. It’s helping restaurants get more people in for interviews, and ultimately hire more candidates. Managers should be armed with the standard speaking points your team has developed. If the candidate has interviews scheduled with multiple employers, be sure to convey why yours is the one they should show up for.

Ask your current team members for referrals. Existing team members are typically a great source for candidate referrals, especially if you pay a bonus for them. Ask if they have any friends or family who might want some extra spending money for the holidays. There are many people who can’t work a full-time job—think, college students—who may be interested in part-time, seasonal employment. Restaurants need to be ultra flexible with part-time worker scheduling for the holiday season.

The competition for holiday help this season will be fierce. Take these steps to stand out from other employers and keep your staff roster filled.

Vivian is the Founder & CEO of Landed (gotlanded.com). She and the Landed team are building the fastest way for the 90M hourly workers in the US to land jobs at essential food & retail businesses like Wendy's, Taco Bell, Grocery Outlet & more with video. After graduating from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, Vivian worked in roles ranging from advising European central banks on financial markets strategy at BlackRock and launching the Asia & EMEA markets at real estate tech company, Matterport (NASDAQ: MTTR), to leading special projects for the C-suite at Gap, Inc., owner of Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Intermix.