September is typically the time when retailers estimate how many extra workers they will need to hire to handle the annual national shopping spree.

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Ho, ho, ho, it’s that time of year again! … Well, OK, it’s technically not even close to Halloween yet, much less Christmas. But it’s not too early for job seekers to start thinking about holiday hiring.

September is typically the time when retailers estimate how many extra workers they will need to hire to handle the annual national shopping spree.

Large local retailers, such as Nordstrom, Costco and Amazon, have yet to release their estimated numbers of local seasonal hires, but other national chains, such as Wal-Mart, Target and UPS, have held steady on the same number of hires as they had planned last year – 60,000, 70,000 and up to 95,000 hires, respectively, nationwide. Kohl’s said it would bump the number of hires from 67,000 last year to 69,000 this year, while FedEx plans to increase its holiday logistics staff by 5,000 to a total of 55,000 this year.

All told, the U.S. retail industry is expecting to hire about 755,000 seasonal jobs between October and the end of December, according to estimates by outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s roughly the same amount of holiday-related jobs the company expected last year, but sales are also expected to rise by 2.4 percent, according to retail analytics site Shoppertrak.

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These figures suggest that those looking for seasonal work may have fewer opportunities than they did last year, meaning job seekers may have to work harder to stand out as good candidates. Here’s how:

Start now. Believe it or not, most companies offering seasonal work wrap up their holiday rosters by early to mid-October. The earlier you get your resumes updated and sent to hiring managers, the better your chances of rising to the top of the pile.

Be flexible. This should be a given, but be sure to mention that you can work late shifts or early shifts, or even take on other tasks as needed. Show them how you can go the extra mile to solve their staff needs.

Think outside the clerks. During the holidays, activity picks up in virtually all retail business segments. “Some of the best opportunities could be in the back room, handling incoming and outgoing shipments,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Job seekers should also look for positions at warehouses and shipping facilities associated with retailers and/or transportation companies.”

Widen your net. Outside the obvious retail opportunities, there are also many seasonal openings that are only tangentially related to shopping. “Restaurants, caterers, movie theaters and other entertainment and leisure venues tend to see increased business during the holidays,” Challenger said.

Treat this position as you would any permanent job. As companies search for ways to get the most of their money, expect to have interviews more formal than a quick sit-down at a coffee shop. Tailor your resumes, dress for success and adopt a professional attitude at all times. The most polished candidates may even be able to continue their employment into next year. Slackers need not apply!

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at