The changing of the seasons and the inexorable march toward winter and the holidays means one thing for many retail companies: seasonal hiring is on the horizon. This practice has been going on for years, with businesses bringing on extra help to get through the busy holiday shopping season.

But just because you’re hiring on a seasonal basis rather than a permanent one doesn’t mean that you should approach the process any less seriously. Whether a staff member works for your organization for three months or three decades, he or she is still a representative of your company’s brand, which means you want to find the best candidate. Additionally, hiring an applicant for a seasonal position who doesn’t take the job seriously can actually be counterproductive.

Here are some tips for improving your seasonal hiring practices.

Seasonal hiring is on the rise
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, seasonal hiring is expected to be more prominent this year than it was last year. The source indicated that around 33 percent of companies are expected to take on additional seasonal staff, with the practice concentrated significantly in the retail sector. Some 53 percent of retail companies expressed plans to hire seasonal staff, compared to 43 percent last year.

Even small businesses are taking part, with the source indicating around one-fourth of companies employing 250 or less staff members planning on hiring seasonally.

Finding the best employees isn’t easy
With so many businesses all looking for temporary help at the same time, it can be a competitive environment for employers trying to snap up the best and brightest before their competitors. Working against other businesses to hire from the same talent pool is unavoidable, but there are things you can do to increase your success.

Begin early
The holiday shopping season may not start until Black Friday in late November, but if you wait until then to start hiring, the best prospects will likely be gone. You’ll want to begin recruiting as early as possible – possibly as soon as September or October. This will not only increase your odds of hiring good employees, but will also give you more time for training.

Look to employee referrals
Seasonal hiring is a race against the clock, so any advantage you can take is valuable. You shouldn’t overlook your own employees as sources of potential candidates. In fact, employee referrals tend to yield the best hires. Clear Company indicated referrals have higher job satisfaction, are hired faster and stay longer in their positions than other candidates.

Seasonal hiring is serious business. If you’re concerned about being prepared, contact an HR outsourcing company for assistance.