Seasonal Jobs Harder to Get This Holiday Season

I know you will be searching for holiday shopping stories this week. In addition to looking at the shoppers, consider the workers. In a survey, one-third of the companies questioned said they "are likely to hire a seasonal worker for a full-time position." 

It is going to be a lot tougher to snag a seasonal job this year, but lots of Americans will try. At a recent job fair in Atlanta, more than 100 people lined up for a temporary seasonal job stocking shelves at a Toy "R" Us.

USA Today was blunt: "The battle for holiday employment is brutal," it reported:

" 'There are a lot more people looking for jobs this year,' says Jennifer Grasz, a spokeswoman for online job site For instance, laid-off employees are competing with those who want to pad income after being hit with furloughs and pay cuts, she says.

"About 1-in-8 employed workers plan to take on a seasonal job, according to a survey.

"More than half of employers expect to get more applications than last year, according to a separate seasonal hiring survey by At the same time, those managers expect to hire 16 percent fewer hourly workers."

Some retailers, such as Target, have said they won't hire as many seasonal workers but would give full-timers overtime instead. UPS said it would hire 50,000 seasonal workers this year, down from 60,000 in 2007.

The Wall Street Journal characterized the nature of seasonal jobs:

" 'A seasonal job is like an audition,' says Terry Foy, a human-resources vice president for Macy's. The retailer is looking to hire an undisclosed number of support people this holiday season for its more than 850 retail stores and 25 call and distribution centers nationwide. 'It's your time to really showcase your skills.' "

ABC's "Good Morning America" offered advice on turning a temporary job into a full-time gig.

"If you take a holiday job, treat it like it has long-term potential. Show up on time, give it your all, and envision the advancement opportunities. Maximize every opportunity to get to know the long-term staffers and be sure they know of your desire to stay on."

The Wall Street Journal added:

"Job seekers can boost their odds of landing seasonal positions by offering to work flexible hours, including evenings and weekends, and on the days leading up to the holidays. 'The more availability you have, the better your chances of getting hired and getting more hours,' says Steve Mullins, a recruiter for Michael's Stores Inc. The Irving, Texas, retailer of arts and crafts supplies expects to hire about 10,000 seasonal workers this year, up from 7,300 last year; about 10 percent are typically recruited into staff positions, he adds.

"Applicants can set themselves apart further by showing they're familiar with their target employer's products or services and pointing out any related experience. E-mailing interviewers a thank-you note afterward, something few seasonal candidates do, is another way to stand out, adds Mr. Mullins. Hiring managers say applicants with professional backgrounds should inform interviewers about their qualifications and interest in moving into a staff position in their area of expertise. The reason: Employers often prefer to promote from within and consider seasonal workers who bring more to the table than what's required highly attractive, says Mr. Mullins. 'You're definitely taking the best seasonal workers and considering them first for any regular positions that open up,' he says."

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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