Chris Russell

3 min read


Holiday Hiring Is Setting Records This Year

Holiday hiring will top 1 million this year, with Walmart and Amazon together accounting for more than a quarter of the total.

The global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said retailers, grocers and logistic firms, including Fed Ex and UPS have announced holiday hiring plans of 939,300 workers.

That count, which was as of mid-October, was already the largest number of workers to be announced in the 10 years the firm has tabulated holiday hiring plans.

Since then, Big Lots said it would add 15,000 seasonal workers and several retailers increased their holiday hiring goals. Amazon, Walmart and Macy’s now are expected to hire 561,000 workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported hiring by the private sector in October surged to 604,000. Among the key sectors for holiday hiring, employers in retail and logistics brought on 141,300 new workers. Bars and restaurants, which have struggled for months to hire workers, added 119,000 workers, partially in anticipation of the seasonal surge in holiday parties and events.

To lure workers companies are offering all sorts of incentives. To encourage workers at its distribution facility in Southern California, the discounters Dollar Tree and Family Dollar dangled a $1,000 bonus as well as flexible schedules, healthcare insurance and an extra $2 an hour for peak season work.

Holiday Hiring Goals

To meet its holiday hiring goal of 90,000 Kohl’s is offering bonuses of up to $400.  Competitor Macy’s is paying a $500 bonus to employees who refer workers. Amazon’s holiday hiring bonuses range as high as $3,000 with hourly pay that averages over $20. 

As attractive as these offers are, the additional incentive is the permanent hiring of some of these seasonal workers. In announcing its holiday hiring plans in September Target said, “When the holidays are over, many of those team members will have the opportunity to stay onboard.”

UPS pointed out in its holiday hiring announcement that it has a “track record of turning seasonal jobs into careers.” A third of its workforce began that way, according to the company.

In years past the holiday hiring push would begin in August and September. This year, because of worker shortages stemming from the Covid shutdowns, hiring by some companies began as early as July. Incentives also are richer. Retailers like Target promised their existing workers greater flexibility in scheduling, more hours for those who what it, and premium pay. 

Attracting workers has never been harder, which is why so many companies are hoping to fill permanent positions from among the seasonal workers they hire. said of the 561,000 holiday positions Amazon, Walmart and Macy’s have, 37% of them are permanent.

To meet holiday hiring goals, recruiters pull out all the stops. Besides the incentives and an early start, companies host multiple job fairs and post openings on every major job board and on those targeted to workers looking for temp and part-time jobs. Their ads prominently feature the signing bonuses, improved pay and other incentives.  

Social media ads extol these incentives and encourage sharing the job postings. Most of these high volume employers also turn to staffing companies to help recruit workers or to have them supply the workers directly.

Weeks before launching full-scale recruiting campaigns, recruiters contact seasonal workers from years past hoping to rehire them and, as Macy’s does, asking current staff for referrals. 

With so many companies competing for workers, speed of hire is paramount. UPS said that of the 100,000 holiday hires many “will have an offer in hand within 30 minutes of applying.” All high volume employers have tools that make it possible to interview, assess and hire workers within hours or even minutes of receiving an application. 

Holiday Hiring Solutions, the largest and most heavily use job board in the world, has Indeed Hiring Platform, which allows recruiters to post a job, screen candidates, schedule and conduct online interviews, including by video, and make an offer in hours. 

Most other major job boards have some sort of similar high volume solution. Many of the biggest employers will use two or three of these sites. 

Smaller companies need to use some of these same tactics to meet their holiday hiring needs. Nationwide, the insurance company, suggests turning to staffing companies as a first choice. It will cost more to bring in seasonal help that way, but the workers will be vetted, are likely to have experience in the particular line of work and all the paperwork and onboarding will be handled by the staffing firm.

Nationwide also suggests contacting local schools, “But don’t wait to recruit workers once (school) breaks hit and students leave town for vacation or are hired by other businesses prepping for a seasonal surge.”

Some small businesses have had success asking their customers for referrals.

As the biggest companies have demonstrated, holiday hiring requires much more than simply posting job openings and waiting for applications. Employers have to use all their tools and techniques to attract candidates and make hires. 

You can’t expect to compete for workers by doing what’s always worked in the past. This year, holiday hiring is tougher and so highly competitive that, like as many companies have found, it takes competitive pay, flexibility, cash bonuses, speed and incentives such as the possibility of permanent work, to make a hire.

John Zappe Contributed

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