Hire Wire Feb 27 2012

Lowe's, Home Depot Hiring Thousands for Spring Season

By damian ghigliotty

Two big home improvement chains are furiously hiring now to meet demand during spring, their busiest season. The jobs are temporary, but the companies say that the positions are often a foot in the door toward a full-time job for those who see retailing as a potential profession.

"Seasonal employment is often a path to permanent employment for those considering home improvement retail as a career," said Lowe's spokeswoman Karen Cobb. "It affords a person the opportunity to showcase their dedication and commitment during the busiest time of year in the home improvement industry."

At Home Depot, about half of the seasonal hires in 2011 stayed on in permanent positions, said Tim Hourigan, Home Depot's vice president of human resources. "They started in hourly positions and were successful in staying on board," he said.

Home Depot, the country's largest home improvement chain, is in the process of hiring 70,000 temporary workers, from cashiers and garden associates to loaders and lot associates, across its 2,000 U.S. stores. Lowe's is hiring 40,000 seasonal workers for similar positions at its 1,700 U.S. stores. Both seasonal hiring numbers are consistent with the last few years, according to the companies.

About 20% of Home Depot's seasonal positions have already been filled, mostly in southern states, such as Florida and Texas, Hourigan said. The company has started prescreening applicants for its seasonal positions in colder regions such as Minnesota and North Dakota, he said.

"In warmer regions, the seasonal business has picked up and we're close to hitting our hiring peak," Hourigan said. "In the northern tier, they are about six weeks behind, but those interested should start applying now."

Lowe's, the country's second largest home improvement chain, is still in the beginning phases of filling its seasonal positions, Cobb said. "The hiring will continue on a market-by-market basis," she said.

The hours for seasonal positions at both companies range between 20 and 25 hours a week. The average duration for one of the jobs at Home Depot is 120 days. At Lowe's, Cobb said the jobs vary in length depending on the market. Seasonal employees are typically needed from February until September, she said.

Both companies said their seasonal pay varies by position, required skills and the applicant's past experience. According to the job community website Glassdoor.com, the average pay for a Home Depot sales associate is $11.69 an hour, based off of 223 user salaries, while the average pay for a Lowe's sales associate is $10.98 an hour, based off of 54 user salaries.

Applicants must apply online to land a seasonal job at either home improvement retailer. The top qualification among selected applicants is strong customer service skills, both Hourigan and Cobb said. Previous experience in retail or any of the home improvement trades is also a plus.

"We can teach home improvement," said Hourigan. "It's hard to teach people to be enthusiastic about waiting on customers and trying to exceed customer expectations."

Those who understand customer service and the ins and outs of home improvement, such as gardening or shelving, are best positioned to get hired, he said.

Write to Damian Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com

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