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6 Secrets to Landing a Holiday Job (Hint: Apply Now)

Employers are planning to hire more seasonal workers this year than last. For the best positions, start applying now.

I’d like to get a part-time job during the holidays to earn some extra money. Are a lot of employers hiring seasonal workers this year? What’s the best time to apply?

See Our Slide Show: 29 Ways to Earn Extra Cash

This is a good year—and a good time of year—to look for a seasonal job for the holidays. A survey by CareerBuilder found that one-third of U.S. employers plan to hire seasonal staff this year, up from about one-fourth last year. Among retailers, some 53% plan to hire seasonal workers this year, up from 43% last year. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm, expects retailers to add about 755,000 seasonal employees to their payrolls from October through December. Most employers hire seasonal workers in October and early November so that they have plenty of time to train them before the holiday rush.

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Getting a seasonal job can be a great way to earn extra money for holiday expenses or other goals—say, to provide cash to help you get out of debt, build an emergency fund, or add to savings. Retirees and students often like seasonal jobs because they can earn extra money without a long-term commitment. But a seasonal job can also be a good way to get your foot in the door as you pursue a permanent job. In the CareerBuilder survey, 57% of employers planned to transition some seasonal staff into full-time permanent roles, up from 43% last year.

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More than one-third of employers expect to increase pay for their seasonal staff. Nearly three-fourths will pay $10 or more per hour, and nearly 20% will pay $16 per hour or more. Many retailers also offer an employee discount, a nice perk if you’re buying holiday gifts.

1. Apply as soon as possible. CareerBuilder found that 39% of employers plan to accept applications for seasonal positions through October, and 25% plan to accept applications through November. Only 10% plan to still be hiring in December.

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2. Look beyond sales. Even retailers have many other jobs available. Toys “R” Us, for example, is hiring 40,000 seasonal employees. In addition to part-time sales positions, the company will bring in stock crew and operations staff, full-time and part-time warehouse workers, department managers, and online fulfillment coordinators. Macy’s plans to hire about 85,000 seasonal employees this year not only to work on the sales floor but also to help stores with merchandising and receiving, work in the call center, and manage and process orders in the distribution and fulfillment centers. Amazon is planning to hire 100,000 seasonal employees for its warehouses and package sorting centers.

Transportation companies also hire a lot of workers this time of year. FedEx and UPS had big seasonal hiring increases in 2014 and expect to hire the same number in 2015; UPS expects to hire about 95,000 seasonal workers, and FedEx expects to hire about 55,000. These companies are offering a wide variety of jobs, too. UPS is looking for driver helpers, part-time package handlers, tractor trailer drivers, warehouse workers, and package delivery drivers, for example.

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You can also find seasonal jobs that aren’t related to holiday shopping. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, recommends looking for jobs at restaurants, caterers, movie theaters, and other entertainment and leisure venues, which tend to have more business during the holidays. Some companies that don’t have a big holiday rush may hire extra people to help with year-end bookkeeping and accounting. Nearly half of the employers surveyed by CareerBuilder plan to hire seasonal workers in customer service; 23% plan to add administrative/clerical support; 17%, inventory management; 17%, hosting/greeting; 16%, shipping delivery; 15%, accounting/finance; 15%, marketing; 11%, non-retail sales; and 10%, technology.

3. Search in a variety of ways. Visiting stores you like and applying in person can be a good strategy for landing a job at independent retailers or small companies. Many larger companies have job-search sites where you can search for the types of jobs available and apply online. Some even have Web pages specifically for seasonal jobs, such as Toys “R” Us, UPS and Macy’s. Also search at sites such as CareerBuilder, Monster.com and Craigslist, or contact temporary staffing agencies.

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4. Research the company. CareerBuilder found that 40% of employers tend to dismiss candidates who know nothing about their company or products. “Make sure to check out the company’s Web site and recent news announcements,” says CareerBuilder’s Jennifer Grasz. Also, don’t show up to the interview wearing clothes or carrying merchandise from a competing brand. That’s one of the biggest pet peeves for hiring managers, says Grasz.

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5. Be flexible. You may have a better shot at getting the job if you can work evenings and weekends, or even in the middle of the night for 24-hour warehouse and shipping facilities. You may be able to increase your hours during the holiday rush. Toys “R” Us, for example, typically hires seasonal employees to work between 18 and 20 hours per week, and up to 30 hours during peak season.

6. Think long term. A seasonal job can be a great way to get your foot in the door for a permanent position. UPS is well known for promoting seasonal workers to permanent jobs. Toys “R” Us says that last year, 20% of their seasonal employees—9,000 workers—stayed on after the holidays. Hiring managers recommend asking for more projects and offering ideas as a way to stand out if you want to be considered for a permanent job, says Grasz. “More than half of employers said that you should let the hiring manager know up front that you are interested in a permanent role with the company,” she says. “It will set you apart from other candidates.”

See Our Slide Show: 10 Great Work-From-Home Jobs

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