Contact Person: Stephanie O’Rourk, Partner, CohnReznick
Hiring is a critical decision-making process for any restaurateur. How does an organization identify the type of person that is right for the team? As the turnover rate in the hospitality industry is typically higher than that of other private sectors – peaking at approximately 63% in 2013, versus 42.2% turnover in the overall private sector – adopting a formal hiring strategy is a critical step for maximizing employee retention, and ultimately, minimizing cost.
An interview strategy for recruiting top talent with an emphasis on core values should center on posing specific “indirect” questions and asking behavioral questions that define an individual.
Read Between the Lines
Begin with a goal of getting answers to questions that never get directly asked to the interviewee; they are instead answered through the normal course of conversation. “If each of the following cannot be answered positively,” says Nick Mautone, a consultant with CohnReznick’s Hospitality Industry Practice, “then the candidate is likely not the right fit for the organization.”
- Does this candidate have the potential to be an extraordinary employee, or perhaps even one of the top three in their department? Hire someone who will stand out above the crowd. Keep in mind that it is always better to be short-handed dealing with a focused group of great people than to hire mediocrity that hurts the overall group.
- If the candidate came over for dinner, would your personal contacts also enjoy his or her company? A hospitality work environment forces people to be together in high-stress situations, often working at a fast pace for hours at a clip. If people do not get along, they cannot form a cohesive team.
- If this candidate were to take a job at a major competitor, how would the organization react? Let the underachievers go to the competition. Let competitors deal with the difficulties in motivating mediocre employees. Strive to hire people who will be extraordinary team players.
- If a major newspaper reviewer or high-profile customer were in this candidate’s station, would they be taken care of? If the candidate is not good enough to handle special guests, they are simply not good enough.
Gain a better understanding of the type of candidate being interviewed by asking behavioral questions that define who the person is or who they may be. Mautone suggests the following questions as examples:
- Why does the candidate want to leave his or her present job/position? This may seem obvious; however, many interviewers never ask this question. If the prospective employee speaks negatively about their former employer, how will they speak about your organization? If they try to answer this question with tact and diplomacy, continue with the interview process.
- What would the candidate do if a guest complained about the meal? This is designed to see how the person handles adversity. Guests will complain and tough situations occur every day. Consider how a candidate would react to an irate customer if a manager is not there. What kind of authority will the candidate have? Will he or she defer to the manager on hand for all decisions, or will the candidate be empowered to help solve a problem on the fly? If a prospective employee is unwilling to handle guest issues with dexterity and hospitality, it is best to move on to the next candidate.
- What two things are important to the prospective employee at their workplace? Ask the candidate what they are looking for in terms of their work environment and benefits. While it may not be possible to provide the candidate with their desired environment and benefits, it is best to know their requests upfront rather than face conflict after the candidate is already employed.
- Has the prospective employee ever had a difficult issue with a co-worker, and how have they handled it? If the individual is able to offer a tactful and diplomatic answer, continue with the interview process. However, if the candidate expresses complaints about former co-workers, it is likely a red flag.
- Has the candidate ever had a difficult situation with a manager? How has the candidate handled it? Managers’ directions must be followed; however, managers must also be leaders and motivators. It is important to know how an employee handled this adversity.
- Why would this candidate be an asset to the company? Encourage the individual to sell his or herself on their positive qualities and express why they should be hired. Be mindful of holding them accountable after hiring. For high-volume restaurants, it is essential to seek individuals who can multitask, work well under pressure, memorize and discuss the menus (food and beverage alike), and feel a sense of urgency to find solutions and have the courtesy to act as the face of the brand at times. Quick serve restaurants will require individuals who can motivate a team (positive disposition), keep busy through lulls by conducting inventory or unpacking and organizing deliveries, or asking for more work when times are slow. When times are busy, efficient employees are able to think ahead and communicate shortages on the floor or help alleviate bottlenecks in operations. For fast, casual establishments, high-energy individuals help keep the pace of the table in order to turn it quickly. A sense of urgency and attention to detail is equally important in order to ensure orders are placed as smoothly as possible.
The hiring process should begin by implementing the established core values of a company. Selecting the right candidate involves posing specific questions during the interview process that determine whether an individual possesses the ability to embody and exude the core beliefs and philosophy of the company. Core values are expressed in the smallest of details in the operation of a restaurant, essentially making employees the face of the company. Devising a hiring strategy that incorporates core values will ensure the most suitable hire from the start, avoid potentially costly and unnecessary turnover, avert the retraining and hiring of new employees, and facilitate increased productivity and cost reduction.
For more information, please contact Stephanie O’Rourk, partner, at Stephanie.Orourk@cohnreznick.com or (404) 847-9447, or Nick Mautone, Founder, Mautone Enterprises LLC, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 429-8552.