With the current economic conditions, not to mention weak consumer spending and rising costs, retailers will most likely scale back hiring this holiday season.

Hiring is expected to fall well short of the 727,500 seasonal job gains averaged over the previous decade. In fact, if spring hiring is any indication, this could be the weakest holiday hiring season since 2001, when retail employment grew by only 585,300 jobs, as consumer and retailer confidence plummeted in the wake of September 11.

But if you are determined to land that seasonal job, Challenger has some advice:

Start now: It is not too early to secure a position for the holidays. Begin by determining what types of retailers are suited to your experience and skills. If you are an avid golfer, that could be of help in securing a job in a sporting goods store or with a golf merchandiser.

Become a fill-in: Some retailers put many of their full-time back-office people on the sales floor during the holiday season. That means temporary help will be needed to ensure that back-office work continues. You can also get a foot in the door by offering to start working now as an on-call fill-in for vacationing staffers.

Befriend store manager, staff: Retailers may not make any holiday hiring decisions until late October. However, you can get a head start by frequently visiting the stores where you might like to work. Befriend employees, particularly the managers. Your enthusiasm about shopping there will pay off later when you mention that you are looking for holiday work. Let it be known you and your family like to shop there. That could help secure a position.

Do not overlook behind-the-scenes jobs: Only a portion of the retail jobs available are at the cash register or on the sales floor. There are a wide array of opportunities in back-office positions, including shipping, receiving, warehousing, accounting, information technology and security. There are also countless job opportunities in areas related to the support of retail, such as transportation, marketing, consumer product manufacturing, etc.

Offer to be a floater: Chain stores with several locations in your area may be interested in using you as a substitute for employees who call in sick or are on vacation. Let the hiring manager know up front that you are willing to be wherever the store needs you on any given day.

Promote computer skills: More and more stores are changing from traditional cash registers to computer-based systems that allow stores to manage inventory more efficiently. Being comfortable and skilled in computer use should be a major selling point when applying for a position.

Dress for success: Even though employees may not dress up for their jobs, it is always a good idea to wear your nicest clothes to interviews. If you own a suit, wear it. It will make you stand out among all the applicants who come to interview in jeans and T-shirts.

Be available to work after the holidays: While stores need extra help during busy seasons, many would still prefer to hire someone who plans to stay longer. The cost of hiring and training someone who will be there only for a few months is costly. So, by letting the employer know that you would like to remain after the holiday season, you are sending a message that you are committed and not just there for the discounts.


Not Dressing Appropriately. You do not have to wear a business suit. However, you do not want to show up in torn, baggy jeans and an oversized basketball jersey. If you are a retiree, make sure you wear updated styles.

Arriving Late to the Interview. In a competitive market, late arrival immediately eliminates you from the interview process. Particularly in retail, where adhering to one’s scheduled hours is paramount, arriving late to an interview tells the employer that you will be unreliable.

Demanding a Certain Schedule. Asking to work a certain set of hours during the interview is a big no-no. As a part-time seasonal worker, you will be the lowest person on the totem pole and have the least leverage when it comes to requesting a special schedule.

Asking About Money During Interview. Let the employer bring up money. The only thing you should be focused on during the interview is providing information that proves you will be a good addition to the staff.

Not Mentioning Relevant Experience. As a teen, stay-at-home mother or a retired CPA, you may think that you do not have any experience worth mentioning in an interview. Chances are good that you do. Whether it was organizing a pep rally at school or running the church bake sale, you want to mention all experience that will tell the employer that you are capable, responsible and able to organize and prioritize.


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