3 tips for hiring seasonal employees

college students walking

Despite the lowest unemployment rate in 16 years, the proportion of Americans participating in the workforce still lags behind prerecession levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and filling empty positions can quickly eat up hiring managers' time and resources. During the fall, the drain of young workers headed back to school can make the process even tougher.

“We do struggle with that seasonal worker and really try to plug in those holes,” says Brian Dixson—foodservice manager at Geisinger Shamokin, a hospital in Coal Township, Pa.—who says his operation will post certain open positions for a week and not get a single application. To combat this, Dixson has to get creative. Here are three ways he and other operators work to get a steady stream of seasonal applicants.

1. Start early


Geisinger Shamokin starts prepping to fill seasonal staffing gaps about two to three months ahead of time. Dixson works with the hospital’s talent and acquisition department to set up in-house job fairs and job listings. “If you know a lot of your college students are going back to school, posting that job listing early helps the hiring manager not be stressed and choose the right person that will excel in your culture,” Dixson says. In addition to listings for open seasonal positions, the foodservice department posts flex job listings for about five different positions year-round, creating a constant flow of candidates.

2. Partner up

now hiring sign

Some operators lean on partnerships to bring in seasonal help. The nutrition team at Swedish Health Services in Issaquah, Wash., taps a staffing company for special events, while the foodservice department at Norwich Public Schools in Norwich, Conn., works with the culinary teacher at a local technical high school to help process farm-to-school produce. Geisinger Shamokin teams up with other departments in its hospital system to post flyers about seasonal job openings. The flyers, posted in retail units, list the departments’ collective openings, where to apply and sometimes the benefits included with a position. “We’ve gotten feedback from nurses whose sons are looking for work,” Dixson says. “These employees typically stay around during breaks throughout college because their mom already works in the hospital.”

3. Be transparent

job shadowing

When a potential hire expresses interest in the operation, Geisinger Shamokin invites them to job shadow a high-performing staff member for a day. “I’ve had people leave after two days because they couldn’t stand the smell of the dish machine,” Dixson says. The job-shadowing process helps seasonal applicants determine if they can handle the job, even for their short tenure, he says. Just under a quarter of Dixson’s employees have joined the team after a job shadow. “We’re as open of a host as we can be,” he says.

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