Holiday hiring: 7 tips to help you snag a seasonal spot

guy looks at a resume over a tableWith many retailers already hunting for holiday help, now is the time to start applying for seasonal positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate as of September was 9.6%. With so many unemployed, the competition for a holiday job is stiff. Here are seven ways to pull ahead of other applicants and land a seasonal gig:

1. Polish your resume: Before even beginning the application process, touch up that resume. Make it clear and organized. Since holiday retail jobs focus on pleasing shoppers, make sure to highlight any previous experience in customer service. Websites such as How to Write a Resume serve as informative guides.

2. Do some research: Check out local malls' websites for a list of stores currently hiring. Focus on the stores that will hire the most seasonal employees. For example, Macy's is taking on 65,000 seasonal staff members and UPS plans on hiring 50,000. WalletPop keeps readers updated on holiday hiring nationwide.

3. Start applying now: 'Tis the season to find a holiday job. With Black Friday less than a month away, retailers need to start training new employees. The National Retail Federation predicts 2010 holiday sales will go up 2.3% from 2009, with shoppers spending more than $447 billion during the season. Store managers need to make sure seasonal employees are prepared to handle the crowds, so apply now to allow enough time to get trained.

4. Apply like crazy: Apply to any and every retail spot that you're willing to work. Although that makeup counter or toy store may be your first choice, avoid limiting your options. According to the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal, retailers hired 501,400 workers nationwide during the months of October through December in 2009. If this year's number is anywhere near last year's, there are plenty of seasonal positions to go around as long as applicants keep an open mind.

5. Check out mall kiosks: Sarah Kozlowski is about to start her third year at Sheepskin Gifts, near Milwaukee, a kiosk that operates seasonally, selling sheepskin winter apparel. Because kiosks are smaller than regular stores, they are often lower-stress jobs. "I like that, with it being a kiosk, there is less to manage and worry about," said Kozlowski. " [It has] less merchandise and fewer types of items to have knowledge about."

6. Follow up:
The classic line, "We'll call you" is often an empty promise. If you don't hear back after a week or two, call back yourself. This quick reminder shows retailers that the applicant is, not only still interested, but enthusiastic about working at the store. Follow-up calls work after both submitting an application and the actual interview.

7. Keep your cool:
For many retailers, the holiday season is a hectic time. Annika Nynas, a student who worked as a holiday employee at Herberger's in Minnesota, stresses the importance of keeping calm. "They will only need you for three months," said Nynas. "So explain how you deal with stressful situations well, because that is the kind of person they need for their busy season."

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