How to Recruit Top Talent to Support The Holiday Season

Start hiring now to make sure you're staffed for the holiday season.
Start hiring now to make sure you're staffed for the holiday season. Thinkstock

Use these tactics to start preparing for the holiday rush now

As November rolls around, shoppers descend upon malls and flock to family homes. But during this time, they aren’t just filling wish lists and houses; they are also filling their local eateries.

Americans are increasingly going out to restaurants to celebrate the holiday, according to research from the National Restaurant Association.Forty years ago, about 4.4 percent of Americans ate their Thanksgiving meals at restaurants. Now, more than 10 percent of the country is expected to eat out on Turkey Day. While “seasonal hiring” used to simply mean adding a few dishwashers and banquet servers to service the additional needs, the increase in sales has resulted in restaurants needing to put greater consideration into seasonal hiring.

Finding top talent to fill these positions is no easy feat given current market conditions. The national unemployment rate continues to hover steadily at a historically low level, meaning the once robust talent landscape is now lacking the number of qualified applicants needed to fill seasonal positions.

This situation builds a significant hurdle to staffing up for the holiday season. In order to close out the year on a high note, holiday hires must be efficient, experienced, and comfortable interacting with customers. Additionally, the holiday season is an essential moment in time for restaurants to build customer loyalty with the influx of new patrons.

However, no need to fret! There are tried and true tactics for securing top seasonal talent that will result in a strong, cohesive holiday workforce:

Have a Game Plan

Prior to setting your holiday plan into action, it is important to understand exactly what your company is looking for in seasonal workers.

Before posting a job, meet with your colleagues to discuss what roles will require additional support. While there is no definite way to determine how busy you will be this holiday season, there are a few ways to gauge how many employees you may need. For instance, look at previous holiday seasons. How busy were you last year? Was there a particular part of your restaurant that was understaffed? Are there certain nights of the week you will be running a promotion and can expect increased activity?

It is also important to discuss the qualities people in these roles require to be successful and the overall culture of your restaurant so you find someone who fits in. For instance, a server will need to have soft skills, including a positive attitude and great customer service abilities in order to leave a positive impression on patrons. They may also need to have strong organizational skills to keep up in a fast-paced environment and ensure the restaurant runs smoothly.

Once candidates are selected, take time during the interview process to learn about their experiences and personalities. Present them with a tricky situation and see how they respond. For example, ask a potential host or hostess how they would respond if someone needed three extra people added to their party at the last minute. These situational questions are important to understanding how the candidate would fare in the position.

Keep in mind that timing is also important. Thirty-two percent of Americans start looking for holiday jobs in September according Adecco Staffing’s The Business of Seasonal Hiring. Make sure to have a strategy clearly outlined and in position by October. This will help build a more extensive pipeline of candidates and will ensure your company is one step ahead of your competitors.

Use Numerous Recruiting Strategies

Once you have a game plan in place, the next step is finding top candidates to apply for the positions. With the tight candidate market, it is essential to think outside the box when it comes to recruiting talent.

  • Employee referral program: No one knows a company better than its employees, so allow existing team members the opportunity to recommend people from their networks they believe would be a good fit for the organization. Employee referral programs can significantly reduce the chance of receiving an applicant that doesn’t have the appropriate skill sets or doesn’t fit the company culture.
  • Past employees: Past seasonal employees are a great resource for filling current seasonal positions. While the menu may have changed slightly from the year before, these workers will not need as long of an onboarding process and may already fit in with your staff. In order to take advantage of this strategy, make sure to leave a positive impression on seasonal workers when they are with the company, and keep in touch with them throughout the year.  
  • Partner with a professional: You’re busy running the restaurant; your time is limited, especially come holiday season. Staffing partners can help make the recruiting process easier by doing the legwork identifying and interviewing candidates, handling payroll and more. Additionally, staffing partners allow you to easily scale up or scale down the number of employees based on needs.

Be Competitive

Candidates who seek out jobs during the holiday season have very specific goals. It is important to understand these goals in order to lock down top candidates.

  • Flexible Schedules: Seasonal workers may have other responsibilities that do not allow them to work the same set schedule as traditional workers. They may be parents, students, or employees of another gig. Flexible hours are attractive for these candidates because it allows them to maintain their existing jobs or provides them the ability to continue to fulfill other personal responsibilities.
  • Wages: For many candidates, additional cash is the top reason to consider a seasonal job (76 percent) according to Adecco Staffing’s The Business of Seasonal Hiring survey. It is essential to offer competitive wages to meet the expectations of these employees and remain competitive as an employer.  If you can’t offer top dollar, highlight any perks you can offer potential employees, such as choice of on-site meals, employee discounts, opportunities for growth, and more.
  • Seasonal to Full-Time: Don’t assume that all of your seasonal hires are just for the season. According to the survey,11 percent of workers look to seasonal positions as a means to get their foot in the door with an employer. Offering candidates the potential to turn their seasonal job into a full-time one could sway them to accept the offer.

Don’t leave patrons with a bad taste in their mouths this holiday season with an understaffed, frenzied atmosphere. Invest in your seasonal hiring efforts today to set your restaurant up for success for the end of year and beyond.  


Megan Schuyler

Megan Schuyler serves as a director of strategic accounts for Adecco USA, where she leads large onsite staffing and recruitment programs in Northern California for contingent workforce and permanent placements. In addition to managing innovative recruitment programs for clients focused on hospitality, food and wine production, Megan heads up a dedicated onsite program at one of the most recognized technology companies in Silicon Valley, including client service and recruitment for a large volume of hospitality associates, including culinary, service, barista and a multitude of other positions. Before joining Adecco USA, Megan worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years. You can follow Megan on Twitter @MeganSchuyler.

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