Holiday Hiring Forecast: Slightly Better Than Last Year

There may be a few more holiday season jobs available this year than last year, but applicants will face stiff competition.

Retailers added the fewest jobs in nearly 20 years for last year’s holiday season, said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. This year may be somewhat better, but a combination of cautious employers and millions of unemployed workers will still make it challenging to land a job.

“Last year ranked as one of the lower seasons with regard to holiday hiring,” said Kerry Kiley, regional operations manager for staffing firm Adecco. “Luckily this year we are expecting to have a slight uptick.”

Hiring Season Has Begun

Many employers have already begun their holiday hiring process. Toys R Us, for example, has started interviewing candidates and will continue to hire right up until Christmas, a spokesperson said. The company expects to hire about 35,000 seasonal workers this year, about the same as the past two years.

Not all employers start hiring early, though. UPS, for example, generally begins its hiring in November, a spokesman said.

And this year, experts predict that some employers that have in the past hired early may wait.

“Retailers are very reluctant to do much hiring in the face of this recession, even if we’ve now come out of it,” Challenger said. “They’re really going to wait until the last minute. They’re waiting to see how many people are really coming to the stores.”

Employers also know that, with millions of unemployed workers eager for any job, there’s little risk that they won’t be able to fill the jobs. These unemployed workers will face competition from college students, as well as workers with part-time jobs who are looking to supplement their incomes.

How to Get a Seasonal Job

Experts offer these tips for workers who want to land a seasonal job in this competitive market:

* Start looking now. Even though some employers may be holding off on hiring, they may be already compiling lists of people to hire.

“They may start hiring a little later, but in doing that they will hire quickly,” Kiley said.

* Offer what employers need. Employers are looking for reliable workers with flexible schedules. Other qualifications depend on the position.

For example, Toys R Us looks for sales people with good customer-service skills who can work in a fast-paced environment. Other jobs require organizational skills and attention to detail.

* Make a personal connection. If you’re looking for a retail job, focus first on stores where you shop. Go to see store managers in person and show that you know the merchandise. “Introduce yourself and make sure he or she knows you like the store,” Challenger said.

* Focus on transferrable skills. What if you’re looking for a retail job but have never worked in a store before? “Look at skills in your previous positions that might be applicable to retail,” Kiley said. These could include communication skills, problem-solving, and working with people.

* Look beyond retail. Retailers do a lot of holiday hiring, but they’re not the only ones. “Consider all the gifts that will be shipped from warehouses,” Kiley said. Online ordering means jobs for people to help process those orders. Transportation and delivery companies also staff up during the holiday season.

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