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5 common summer hiring mistakes and how to avoid them

In the hospitality industry, summer months often demand increased staffing. With the pressure on to make a number of seasonal hires, employers commonly run into the same troubles, including underperforming employees and inadequate training.

It’s easy to assume these problems simply come with the territory. But what if seasonal hiring didn’t have to mean simply making do? What if your seasonal hires could provide massive value to your business?

We interviewed business owners who are changing the way they approach seasonal hiring—and seeing the fruits of their efforts in the quality of their summer hires. Here are their solutions to five of the most common seasonal hiring mistakes.

Mistake #1: Setting low expectations

Don’t make the mistake of believing you can’t expect much from someone whose employment may only last a few months. This mindset often leads to mis-hires and poor training.

Larry O’Toole, founder of moving company Gentle Giant, takes a different approach. He believes in hiring the right people and investing in them, no matter how long they’re going to be with you. The results speak for themselves: In an industry with high turnover, O’Toole’s built a multi-million dollar, multi-state business with loyal, happy employees.

And then there’s this success story from The Passport Office: When Josina was hired, management expected his tenure with the company to end once the busy season was through. However, by the end of the summer, Josina had proven his value to the organization and was promoted to second-in-command of the company’s fastest-growing business division. In less than a year, he grew the division’s profits 91%.

While you might be hiring seasonally, be open to promoting seasonal employees to full-time positions. Promoting internally can decrease time to fill open positions, decrease time to productivity in the role, and motivate seasonal workers to perform.

Mistake #2: Waiting too long to hire

Another common mistake is waiting until spring to start looking for qualified candidates for summer positions. By waiting too long to start filling the candidate pipeline, hiring managers can feel rushed to make the hire.

Mark McKay of The Passport Office advocates for a continuous hiring process. McKay realized that delaying hiring was causing his team to make hasty hires, which often resulted in poor performance. To ensure a pipeline of quality candidates, McKay now keeps job listings open year-round. He still sets the expectation of a seasonal position, but by collecting applications sooner, he’s found that he’s able to make more quality—and timely—hires.

Mistake #3: Inadequate training

You may have heard it before: The CFO asks, “What if we train employees and then they leave?” To which the CEO responds, “What if they don’t leave?”

When working with seasonal employees, you don’t have to wonder whether or not they’ll leave you—there’s an expiration date on the contract. This can lead some businesses to skimp on or rush through training. Unfortunately, a lack of thorough training can lead to poor—or even disastrous—business results.

David Rack, owner of Door County Kayak Tours and New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours, found an agreeable solution: Have experienced employees train new employees. This frees up time for management and allows more senior employees to develop, acquiring more responsibilities over time. This approach also fosters greater connection and camaraderie among employees.

Mistake #4: Making the wrong hire

It’s a mistake many hiring managers make—and not just for seasonal hires. Recruiters look at a resume for an average of six seconds. That’s a short period of time to judge whether a candidate is the right fit for your organization.

Research also shows that a resume and cover letter alone are insufficient at predicting future job performance. To ensure you’re making the right hire, consider using job-related assessments. Incorporating behavioral and cognitive assessments into the hiring process can improve your odds of hiring the ideal candidate. You might also administer skills-based assessments that are relevant to the role, such as computer literacy or typing tests.

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Mistake #5: Putting employees in the wrong role

Few have experienced hiring challenges like Holiday World has. A popular theme park attracting over 1.1 million visitors annually, Holiday World requires many hands on deck—most of whom work seasonally. And finding those seasonal hires in a town with less than 2,500 residents can be tough.

While the folks at Holiday World have gotten creative about recruiting quality candidates—including bussing in employees from up to 30 minutes outside of town—they also recognize the importance of retaining an employee once they’re hired.

Take, for example, this story about a young man who had what some might call “itchy britches”: This young man was hired to work at a food stand in the park, but daily, he would walk around and wander away from his work station. His boss, giving the kid the benefit of the doubt, realized he may have been in the wrong role. Rather than fire him, the company transferred him to another department as a sweeper—a position that allowed him to wander around the park while he worked. This young man’s work ethic changed, and he became a valuable asset to the park.

Summer hiring may be temporary, but who you hire always has an impact on your business. Make it the right kind of impact by implementing these practical solutions as part of your seasonal hiring process.


Clayton is a customer success manager at PI. He once met his hero Liam Gallagher in a bar in New York.

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