By Randy Hutchinson, Special to The Commercial Appeal
As we enter the holiday season, retailers are adding hundreds of thousands of temporary jobs. The National Retail Federation estimates 500,000 people will get holiday jobs. Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a well-known outsourcing firm, puts the number at 600,000. Toys R Us has said it might hire 45,000 holiday employees, while some retailers have said they'll hire up to 30 percent more seasonal workers than last year.
There's a double-edged sword, however, to this good news for people desperate to find a job, even a temporary one. First, given high unemployment, the competition for these jobs will be fierce. Second, crooks follow the headlines and have already been perpetrating new and creative scams on the unemployed. They may step up their efforts during the holidays.
The Better Business Bureau recommends a few simple steps to increase your chance of landing a legitimate seasonal job.
Start your research earlier rather than later. Figure out what job suits you best and then identify companies you would like to work for. Many companies direct applicants to their website to apply for a job, so make sure to apply there instead of through a third party Internet site.
Be suspicious of "too good to be true" job offers. Many consumers use online classifieds to search for local job openings. Unfortunately, scammers flock to these sites, posting phony jobs in order to steal the money or the identities of job seekers. Never pay for a background check, a job application or for anything else before you are hired. Don't assume that a job posted on a well-known website like Careerbuilder.com or Monster.com is legitimate.
Work where you shop. Employers want applicants who know their products well. If you shop at certain stores frequently, chances are you know a lot about the company and the merchandise they sell. This will make you an attractive choice because they won't have to spend as much time and money training you.
Be available and flexible. Holiday hiring managers are drawn to candidates who will be available and have a flexible schedule. Seasonal employees will likely find themselves working long, sometimes inconvenient hours and even holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Put your best foot forward. Job hunters need to dress their best and be prepared for the interview. This includes being familiar with the company's brand and its products. Retail job hunters in particular need to focus on impressing potential employers with their customer service skill set, including their ability to deal with stressed-out shoppers, long checkout lines and day-after-Christmas returns.
If your long-term goal is to find full-time, permanent employment, don't discount a part-time, seasonal job as a way to get there. Some employers end up asking their best seasonal workers to stay on after the holidays.
Randy Hutchinson is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from The Commercial Appeal.