Temporary Staffing: How to Find and Hire Successful Seasonal Employees

Temporary staffing, retail | Shopify Retail blog

When it comes to running a retail business, temporary staffing is often an inevitable step in the growth process. At a certain point, a store owner can no longer do everything themselves.

However, hiring part-time and/or temporary employees can present its own challenges.

“Hiring part-time and temporary retail employees is becoming harder and harder as the unemployment rate continues to drop,” says Jonathan Duarte, CEO and cofounder of GoHire.com. And in the U.S., that statement is true. The unemployment rate has fallen consistently since 2010.

While that’s great for the workforce, it’s not always so great for the retailer in need of temporary employees. In the U.S. alone, retailers hire more than 700,000 temporary employees for the holiday season. As the applicant pool shrinks, the competition among hiring retailers grows.

Below, learn how to find temporary employees for your retail business, and how to make sure they’re successful in their role.

Why Temporary Staffing Works: Scenarios Where Retailers Need Seasonal Employees

Temporary staffing can help you with your retail business in a number of scenarios:

  • Event sales: Headed to a craft fair? Selling your goods at a music festival? Or perhaps you’ve got a pop-up shop in the works. If you don’t have enough staff on hand to run the store and attend the event, temporary staff could work for you. This is also helpful if you’re heading outside of your local market — you can find temporary employees local to your destination.
  • Brand ambassadors: Brand ambassadors can help you spread the word about your retail business. They can hand out free samples or coupons while building relationships and telling local people about your store.
  • Seasonal staff: During the holidays (like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) or any other busy season, your existing staff might not be big enough to handle the extra demand. Many retailers hire temporary staff for the holidays. Target is expected to hire 100,000 employees for the 2017 holiday shopping season.
  • In-store events: If you’re hosting a large event, such as a grand opening or anniversary party, you might need an extra set of hands.
  • Company retreats: If you’re taking your team on a retreat or a mandatory all-day training session, your shop’s not going to run itself. These scenarios can help you keep the wheels turning on your business, and build a stronger team in the process.
  • Changes in existing staff: Unplanned circumstances happen. You might have an employee going on maternity/paternity leave, someone headed out of town for an extended vacation, or other unexpected commitments. Temporary staff can help fill any gaps with your regular employees.

How to Find Temporary Staff

Your best bet for finding temporary employees is to start looking as soon as possible. This becomes especially important if you’re hiring seasonal staff. Generally, it’s recommended to start recruiting in September if you’re hiring ahead of the Black Friday-Cyber Monday holiday rush.

Don’t look too far in advance. Because these are temporary positions, it may take more time to find suitable candidates. Realistically, seasonal staff may not invest as much in your brand simply because the job won’t last forever. A different opportunity — with more hours, more pay, and more work — could come up, and you could be back at square one.

But not every retailer has the luxury of planning months in advance, and sometimes the need for temporary employees comes up unexpectedly. Here are some ways you can make your next search for a temporary retail employee more successful:

Writing the Job Ad

The job description and job ad is likely the first thing you’ll want to start with in your employee search. It’s the first thing potential candidates see and is ultimately what will make them interested in and apply to your company.

The job ad should help candidates understand what to expect from the role and what skills they should possess. “[Retailers need to] understand the role and responsibilities, and communicate these effectively,” says Adam Lewis, CEO of Apploi, a tool that helps retailers find qualified talent. “Job seekers see many job ads, but they need to understand why this job is the one for them.”

And while the job ad must be descriptive enough to set clear expectations, it shouldn’t be a full job description. Going on too long in your ad can turn away lots of qualified applicants.

Attract candidates, quickly tell them why they should work for you, and then make it easy for them to apply,” says Duarte.

What to put in the job ad:

  • One to two sentences of a company summary, highlighting the benefits of working there
  • Two to four sentences describing the role and opportunity
  • A few bullet points that list out specific day-to-day responsibilities
  • A few bullet points with required qualifications
  • Any desired or “bonus” skills
  • Specific directions on how to apply

“It’s important to clearly articulate the experience they will get from the job — for example, is this something that can be used on their resume?” Lewis says.

Also, clarify if there could be long-term opportunities available to successful employees. “A temporary job can be a terrific entry into employment.”

Recruiting Applicants

Temporary staffing, employee in food service | Shopify Retail blogOnce you’ve written the job ad, you need to get it in front of potential applicants. “Posting jobs on job boards like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or Craigslist is a great first step,” says Duarte. There are many other job boards as well, like LinkedIn, Monster, Simply Hired, and Glassdoor.

There are also other job boards that feature temporary and part-time jobs specifically. It’s likely that your ideal applicant pool checks those sites frequently. Here are some you can try:

But those aren’t your only options. Retailers need to get creative to increase their chances of finding the perfect hire. “Think hard about marketing and outreach strategies,” says Lewis. “Posting a job on a traditional job board may not be enough, especially around the holiday season.”

“Email is the default way most employers want to communicate with candidates,” says Duarte. But not everyone uses email.

Give [job seekers] the ability to apply by text, as well as communicate over text, as they are more likely to respond quickly.

Lewis echoes that advice. “Thousands [of applicants] are forced to abandon applications because they aren’t mobile-optimized.” To make sure the application process is mobile-friendly, consider the following:

  • Using a job board that has a mobile app or a mobile-friendly application process (many of the major job boards mentioned previously qualify)
  • Testing out a tool that integrates text messaging as a core component of the application and screening process, such as Duarte’s GoBe or TextRecruit
  • Posting the job ad on a mobile-responsive page on your site, and making sure it’s legible on small screens
  • Even if you’re not completely mobile-optimized, keep the application process as short and simple as possible — too many steps will discourage mobile users

Social media is another place to turn to recruit talent. It allows you to engage with people who are already brand advocates, Lewis says. Therefore, they’re more likely to spread the word to try and help you out. You might even find a brand advocate who wants to apply.

Recruitment happens offline, too. Get your existing employees to help you recruit. Consider offering a referral bonus for a successful hire to give them extra motivation.

In-store allows plenty of opportunity to promote the job opening. “You can take advantage of your store’s foot traffic,” Lewis says. “Many people know people looking for jobs and will quickly recommend [someone] — especially if they’re already a customer.”

If you’ve hired temporary employees before, look at your past applicant pool to see if there’s a promising candidate there. You can also ask your existing part-time employees if they’re interested in taking on more work, as long as it doesn’t coincide with their current commitment and workload.

Should your own efforts be fruitless, or you simply don’t have the time to recruit, you can let the experts do it for you. There are several temporary staffing agencies that specialize in finding the right candidates for your needs. Ask for recommendations within your network, or conduct a Google search to find reviews of qualified temporary staffing agencies. Just keep in mind that there is typically a fee with these agencies.

Screening Candidates

Writing the job ad and recruiting applicants are just the first steps. , The next — and most crucial — part of the process is screening the applicants.

Free Guide: Interview Questions for Hiring Retail Employees

Hiring competent retail employees is becoming increasingly challenging. Use this guide to ask the right questions during the interview process to ensure you hire the right people for your store.

The first step is to take a look at applications and resumes. If the applicant didn’t follow the application instructions correctly, that’s an immediate red flag. If they did follow directions, look beyond relevant work experience. Applicants with error-free resumes, a strong education, and lots of volunteer experience should jump to the top of your list.

After the resume, it’s time for the interview. During the interview, it’s important to find someone with passion and not just skills and experience. To figure this out, you have to ask the right questions and learn how to interpret their responses.

Understand what the biggest roles and challenges of the position are, and ask questions to help you determine their capability to handle such responsibilities. Ask questions that put the applicants on their feet, questions that they probably didn’t prepare for.

For example, instead of saying:

“Describe a time when you had to overcome a challenge at work.”


“What would you do if you thought a customer was shoplifting but you were in the middle of a product demo?”

Remember, different countries have laws regarding what employers can and cannot ask candidates during the interview process. Make sure you familiarize yourself with those guidelines so you don’t unintentionally ask something you shouldn’t. Here are some places to start to find out what those regulations are:

If you’re hiring remotely, it’s still important to have face time with candidates to make sure you’re hiring the right person. “Utilize video screening,” Lewis says. “Employers can see personality and presentability upfront.”

Once you think you’ve found the right person, do your due diligence. Run a background check and check their references. If everything looks good, then you might’ve found your next hire!

Temporary Staff: How to Hire the Temp Employees


Again, each country has its own rules and regulations regarding part-time and temporary employment. You may have to fill out forms regarding their employment, additional tax forms, and proof of citizenship. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the US, for example, states that employers and employees must fill out a W-2 Form and Form I-9.

Beyond that, brush up on your knowledge regarding conditions for your employees. Some countries require breaks at specific increments, and there could also be age-specific guidelines that you need to navigate. To find out more, check out these resources:


Determining the appropriate rate of pay for your temporary employees is more than just picking a number that feels right. You have to make sure you can afford the help, and that you’re offering a competitive pay rate.

Do your research and understand what your competitors are paying for similar roles. Usually, these employees will be hourly, so you’ll need to understand what the baseline is for the hourly rate. From there, determine if there are additional perks you offer that your competitors don’t — things like public transportation passes, gym memberships, snacks on the job, or the opportunity to earn bonuses. You might also consider a commission-based pay scale, especially for salespeople.

If you’re working with a temporary staffing agency, they probably have tons of resources and expertise to let you know what the going rate is in your market. You can also check out sites like Glassdoor to find out the averages in your area.

Remember, you get what you pay for. If you don’t pay enough, you’re likely to pick from the bottom of the barrel. If your pay is competitive, you’ll attract a more qualified applicant pool.

And finally, all payments must meet your local government’s minimum wage requirements.


Once you’ve selected your candidate and they’ve accepted your offer, you still have steps to take to make sure the hire is successful. Training your employees is crucial to success.

Everyone on your staff needs to have an understanding of your product(s), your brand, and your ideal customer. Documented training guides, branding materials, and product resources are always great to equip new hires — especially if they’re off-site.

How have you benefited from hiring temporary employees? What were some of your biggest wins? Let us know in the comments below!