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Seasonal hiring in full swing

Ski season jobs are still available, but they’re going fast as Park City human resource offices become savvy about online and community targeted marketing.

Premier Resorts and Deer Valley Resort have been using websites promoting resort jobs and newspaper ads targeting college students since August. As a result, each has been processing a steady flow of applications.

The scramble to fill positions before tourists arrived that occurred in the past is becoming less common as more effective means of matching candidates with employers simplifies the process.

Deer Valley used to host or attend half a dozen job fairs throughout the year with huge attendance because that’s what worked, said Kim Mayhew, director of human resources for Deer Valley.

"Now to rely on job fairs is risky, because people are applying online," she said. "Even more mature candidates are savvy with applying online."

Unlike traditional recruiters, resort towns like Park City aren’t looking for the unemployed or workers seeking a change. Seasonal work is usually filled by people wanting to live in a resort town and experience the lifestyle, she said.

That can be a challenge with Park City’s limited worker housing, said Keli Christensen, vice president of human resources for Premier Resorts. But understanding that makes marketing to that demographic easier.

Deer Valley uses newspaper ads from Alaska to New Hampshire to catch the attention of its ideal candidate. Premier Resorts also uses similar ads to draw people to its hiring website.

Both agreed free sites like Craigslist are invaluable in attracting prospective applicants and directing them to the company’s site. Mayhew said her company has been working on using the right key words in the postings to be selected by search engines.

Destry Pollard, operations team leader with Park City Transit, hires about 30 seasonal workers each year. He said Internet ads attract more of the out-of-state workers who need nearby housing. His office tried to help with that last year and will try again this year, he said.

Foreign recruitment down, locals up

International workers have long been used to fill seasonal positions, but a limited number of H-2B visas has made that difficult in 2008, Christensen said.

"We anticipated that we might not be able to hire as many internationals as we have hired in the past due to the expiration of the returning worker exemption," said Donna Gold, vice president of human resources for The Canyons in an email. "So we implemented a more aggressive domestic recruiting plan."

Local recruiting is key for Jans Mountain Outfitters, said Russ Coburn, president and C.E.O. A lot of his seasonal employees are local and return year after year. He’s even seen a trend of workers who moved away, return and ask for their jobs back. While he expects to continue hiring through October, he’s confident Jans will be fully staffed on time.

Sandra Hull, reservations manager for Identity Properties, also said local recruiting has been successful this year.

A surge in the retail business created competition for entry-level workers for a while. International interns were used in the absence of locals, but lay-offs in Utah have translated into more people applying. Her office has never needed to use Craigslist or similar sites, she said.

The slowing economy translated into more applicants for Pollard as well, he said. Park City Transit always begins the season optimistic, and this year he’s right on schedule to have what they need.

Gold at The Canyons said the same thing, and while it’s still too early to tell for sure, Gold said she’s optimistic based on her experience in recent seasons.

Christensen said she’s filled about two-thirds of Premier Resorts’ 450 openings in Utah. While 150 is a lot to fill, there are still several weeks to go, she said.

Deer Valley doesn’t open until Dec. 6, and even though it’s unusual to be fully staffed by opening weekend, they may reach that, Mayhew said. Some departments were already full or close to it by the end of August.

Deer Valley will have a career fair on Oct. 15. Premier Resorts still has a few fairs they plan on attending, Christensen said. But the later people sign up to work the harder it is for them to find housing in Summit County.

Most workers want to live close to their jobs, not just to save on gas, but because they want to enjoy the Park City lifestyle in winter, she said.

No strategy for recruiting workers is too minor. Christensen said her office keeps business cards on hand to give to cheerful, motivated workers they see anywhere they go.

Mayhew said her office has focused on keeping contact with applicants so no good candidate falls through the cracks. She also said they’ve been honing their telephone interview skills since that initial contact is so important in evaluating people, and is so much more difficult than judging people in person.


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