According to a new projection from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, retailers will hire between 500,000 and 600,000 workers for the holidays. (Last year, 501,400 were hired.) If you expect to nab one of those seasonal slots, now is the time to act.
Start now: Almost every employer I spoke with said they will begin interviewing in early to mid-October to make sure their seasonal staff is in place when they need them. Don't wait until Thanksgiving to pound the pavement. Now is your time.
Be flexible: You'll have more options on scheduling the earlier you apply, but flexibility on day, evening, overnight and weekend shifts will give you access to the most opportunity. Be clear on which days and times you're available.
Apply in person (where applicable): Apply in person where applicable. This may mean a paper application or a kiosk, depending on the company. Dress the part and chat up the manager, too, so you can put a face to your resume. If it's retail, visit the store and get to know the merchandise before applying. Ask if and when you can call on the status of your application so you're not in the dark.
Double up: Most seasonal jobs pay minimum wage to $12 an hour (again, just an average) and you'll likely have part-time, not fulltime, hours. This means if you're looking to work fulltime, you'll have to juggle more than one seasonal gig to make the most money.
Work at home: This category is one of the most popular among GMA viewers -- answering customer service calls from home. Calls to customer service explode during the holiday season, and five of the biggest home-based customer service providers will recruit more than 10,000 seasonal agents, many of whom will have the opportunity to stay on after the holidays based on individual performance. As a home-based agent, you'll handle customer questions, process online and catalog orders and other related duties.
Each company hires workers differently: employees, independent contractors and incorporated agents. Some offered paid training, while others do not. Ask questions and explore their websites in great detail before determining if there's an appropriate fit for you. (Also, if you've applied previously, but there was no suitable opening for you, you'll have to apply again to be considered for seasonal work.)
Retail: This is the most popular form of holiday work. I talked to a handful of the giants and this weekend I walked in to stores of all sizes to ask about holiday hiring plans. Every place told me they are planning to hire some kind of seasonal help -- sales, customer service and stock. And big box companies employ seasonal staffers 24 hours a day.
Some of the biggest national retailers are hiring big this season: JCPenney will add 30,000 jobs. Macy's says it will add 65,000 jobs. Toys R Us will hire 45,000 people, including 10,000 who'll work at their 600 new pop-up express locations. Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, doesn't release its specific numbers, but says its seasonal hiring is on par with last year.
Walk your neighborhood or mall. Even though you may not see a HELP WANTED sign in the window, walk in and ask.