If you’re looking to land a seasonal gig for the holidays this year, you can’t wait until after Hallowe’en to start thinking about Christmas. Employers are already hiring; we have nearly 1,000 seasonal positions posted on Workopolis so far, with more being added daily.

Obviously retail outlets staff up for the fourth quarter of the year, requiring added staff to mind the cash registers and sales floor and also to stock shelves, create displays and manage events. It’s estimated that many retailers do up to 40% of their annual sales in the last quarter of the year, with November and December being the biggest months.

But it’s not just retailers hiring. Shipping and distribution companies, especially with the rapid growth in online shopping see a huge growth in demand in the fourth quarter. Fed Ex announced just last week that it was hiring 50,000 new people just for the holiday season. Canada Post began posting for seasonal positions back in August.

Hospitality, tourism, and seasonal attractions all do the bulk of their hiring before the start of the actual holiday season so that newly acquired staff are ready to hit the ground running.

While the hospitality and retail sectors are two of the industries showing amongst the most robust job creation this year, competition for seasonal jobs is still expected to be fierce. There has been an ongoing situation of much higher than average youth unemployment in Canada for several years now. Compounding that will be the students looking for part-time and temporary work for the holiday season and increased competition from semi-retired seniors filling more and more of customer-facing positions.

Even if you don’t need the extra cash for the holiday season this year, you should still consider getting a job for the good of your future. A recent study out of the University of British Columbia showed how young people who work in the fast-food industry or hold down part-time jobs while studying end up being more successful in their long-term careers than their peers who didn’t work. So get out there, and start now.

How to land a seasonal job for 2014:

    Apply now. Holiday hiring has already begun, so the sooner you can get your application in, the better. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. Seasonal and part-time positions have a much higher than average turnover rate. Many companies will also scatter their staffing up over a period of weeks so that they can gage traffic levels and consumer confidence this season.

    Tailor your resume or application to the position you are applying for. Customer service skills, product knowledge, sales experience, and experience managing cash transactions will all give you a leg up. Make sure you highlight these in your application, and be prepared to speak to them in an interview.

    Look the part of the retailer. If you’re applying for a retail gig, be aware of the brand and style of the outlet you’re targeting. If you look like a good fit with their image when you walk in the door, you’ll have a better chance of walking out with a job.

    Be flexible. Many places are open longer hours during the holiday shopping season. The regular staff are dealing with increased volumes of merchandising and customers. Employers need to hire people who can pick up the slack. Being available (and cheerful) to work evenings, weekends, long shifts, short shifts (and short-notice shifts), will all go a long way towards getting you the gig and making you invaluable on the job.

A seasonal gig is also a great way to make an impression on employers. I worked full time in a retail bookstore while in university, and I often saw the new holiday workers who shone at work kept on as regular staff when the Christmas crunch ended. (Sometimes even at the expense of workers who had been there longer, but who were less customer-friendly or hard working.)

Be sure to check out our new Retail Career Centre for in-store and head office retail opportunities.

Peter Harris

Peter Harris on Twitter