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It’s that time of year again. Retailers are gearing up for the onslaught of the holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts November and December of 2019 will see an increase of 3.8 to 4.2 percent in retail sales. Altogether, the NRF estimates US consumers will spend between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion this season.

For the retail and hospitality industries, that spending surge is the herald of a season that, much like a well-stuffed stocking, overflows with staffing needs. As Indeed points out, seasonal job postings are up 13 percent over last year, and job seeker interest in these seasonal roles is at a five-year high.

Retail and hospitality staffing needs run the gamut during the holiday season. Brick and mortar retail stores hire a significant number of seasonal workers, but online retailers like Amazon and shipping firms like UPS are not far behind. Restaurants, too, must build out their staffs for the onrush of busy shoppers in search of a bite to eat. Caterers, private clubs, and event venues are swamped with holiday parties. Hotels become filled to capacity with travelers visiting their families or taking much-needed vacations.

How can retail and hospitality staffing teams keep up with the demand for talent, especially in a historically tight labor market? Incorporating the tactics below can make a huge impact:

1. Boast Big Benefits

Many retailers are offering significantly higher wages and attractive perks to attract workers this year. For example, starting pay at Target is $13, and seasonal hires receive a 10 percent store discount, a 20 percent discount on produce and fitness gear, and flexible scheduling. Similarly, UPS offers seasonal student employees up to $1,300 toward college expenses, and 35 percent of its seasonal workers since 2015 have been hired as permanent employees at the end of the season.

If you expect to attract top talent for seasonal roles in the coming months, you’ll need to offer competitive compensation packages to convince job seekers to choose your opportunities over the others.

2. Use Text Messages to Communicate With Candidates

More than half of job seekers use mobile devices to hunt for jobs, and more than a third of job seekers actually prefer mobile when it comes to the hiring process, according to Glassdoor. This is good news for employers: Open rates for text messages are as much as five times higher than email, which means your candidates are far more likely to read and respond to your outreach.

Retail and hospitality candidates are particularly open to mobile, due to their busy lifestyles. These candidates are on the move; they’re not sitting at their computers, waiting for your email to come in. Instead, you can use text messages to more quickly and conveniently engage with these candidates. (Just make sure you ask for permission to text candidates first; the failure to do so could cause compliance issues.)

3. Embrace Automation

Embracing automation is an easy way to fill more positions quickly while freeing up more time for your recruiting team. For example, adopting software solutions to automate simple things like follow-up messages and onboarding paperwork can take time-consuming administrative tasks off your recruiters’ hands. This keeps the hiring process moving at a time when speed is of the essence. Moreover, your recruiters can use the time they save to focus on more strategic interpersonal interactions with candidates.

For more expert recruiting insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Appointment and interview scheduling is another area where automation can help you make big gains. With an app like Calendly, for example, you won’t have to exchange messages back and forth just to set up a simple meeting. Instead, candidates can see your current schedule and simply book a time that works for both of you.

If you don’t have access to any automation software, you can still use your regular email client to save common templates and snippets of text you can reuse as needed.

4. Choose Wisely

While you clearly want a fully staffed workforce to make the most of this season’s revenue-generating potential, it is important to prioritize. Make decisions about which roles need attention now based on factors like urgency, difficulty in filling, and even ROI. Consider tackling the easy-to-fill jobs first for some quick wins.

The same principle holds true for third-party staffing and recruiting agencies: Prioritize the roles you work on according to the importance of the client, the ease of filling, and the fees you stand to earn.

5. Switch Up Your Recruitment Advertising Channels to Expand Your Reach

Posting your job ads on the same job boards as everyone else means you’ll reach the same audience as everyone else — which also means you’ll have to compete with everyone else for that limited supply of candidates.

Try something new to tap into talent pools your competitors may be overlooking. For example, you could post jobs to Facebook and ask your network to share for a more organic reach. Look for sites and job boards oriented toward the gig economy. Consider even using some sources you may not have used in a while, like local newspaper websites or Craigslist.

6. Hire a Third-Party Recruiter

Employers can always bring in some outside help to give their hiring efforts an extra kick. Some staffing and recruiting firms specialize specifically in retail and hospitality, and they can be extremely effective in filling these roles quickly. In fact, these firms often have seasonal workers in their databases who are coming off of summer roles and looking for their next gigs right now.

Ultimately, the key to hiring seasonal help in a tight talent market can be summed up in three words: Focus, focus, focus.

Stay organized and keep your eye on the prize. Before you know it, the shopping will begin and the holiday parties will be underway. Finding the right staff is sure to make your holidays merry and bright.

Geri Duncombe is the director of marketing for Goodwin Recruiting.

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