Hiring staff can be a tricky process. Sometimes you wish you had a crystal ball when interviewing candidates so you can look into the future to see how they will pan out as an employee for your company.
There are some things you can do now, during the interview process, to perhaps get a glimpse of that. For some industries, it can be tougher, especially when the need to hire is more urgent (think retail in preparation for the holiday shopping season). How can you ensure that you hire the best people for the work instead of “warm bodies” to fill positions?
I came across a wonderful article that made me think about this concept, and it offers some excellent suggestions for hiring in the restaurant industry:
1. Look beyond the application: you can have a candidate with excellent skill based qualifications, but are they really the right candidate to serve your guests? Richard Averitte, the guest blogger of this article, explains that when hiring servers, companies need to find those candidates that have a passion to serve others. While skills are helpful, the candidate with the right perspective can be easily trained on the task.
2. Use the interview process to really get to know a candidate in small ways: this is perhaps my favorite part of the article. The author cites several examples of how he gauges a candidate’s personality and “passion to serve” during the interview:
1. Drop the pen – Sometime during the interview, I always dropped my pen and waited for the candidate’s reaction. If the candidate picked it up (or at least went for it) immediately, I knew this would be a good hire. If the candidate did not even try to pick up, that told me they did not have a server’s mentality.
2. Yes sir/no sir – If they’re not going to say it to me during the interview, they’re probably not going to say it to the guest. You need to hear “yes sir/no sir” (or ma’am) in an interview. Sounds old-fashioned, but it’s actually timeless when providing service.
3. “Thanks” vs “Thank you” – This may be a personal pet peeve, but I am big believer there is a difference between “Thanks” and “Thank you”. The former sounds can be perceived as insincere and snarky, while the latter is rarely perceived as nothing but upmost gratitude. I want to hear my candidate say “Thank you” when the interview is over, not “Thanks”. I want to hear it because I’m sure my guests will want to hear it too.
4. The door – After the interview, I always walked the candidate to the door. I tried to do it when some guests were near the door. I would open the door for the candidate and observe their actions. Would the candidate allow the guests to pass first? Or perhaps take the door from me and hold it for the guests? If the answer to either question is “no”, I would not hire the candidate. The guests is the most important person in the building and they always come before staff. This snapshot told me all I needed to know.
Looking for personality traits in other ways, Southwest Airlines wants employees who have a “fun” personality. If you’ve ever been on a Southwest flight, it’s likely you’ve giggled at least once over a flight attendant’s or pilot’s comments.
One of the benefits for the airlines is that the FAA requires that their staff undergo training, so they do not necessarily need to hire employees with prior experience. They are another company who looks for attitude and personality during the hiring process, believing that people can be trained to do many tasks, but cannot be trained on attitude – that is something that is inherent to each individual, so they need to find the right people for the work to match their corporate culture and attitude.
What does Southwest incorporate into their hiring process?
1. Group interviews: this is a great way to not only screen many potential candidates at once, but it also gives the company an opportunity to watch the candidates to see how they interact and engage with others. In a group setting such as this one, people can be a bit less guarded and their true personalities start to come through. This helps Southwest identify candidates they want to get to know better.
2. Incorporate “fun” tasks to see how it is approached: by giving the candidates tasks to do, such as fill in the blank for a sentence read to the group or read a passage with humor, they can again get another glimpse into candidates’ personalities and overall attitude. Did they embrace the task, or go into it sullenly, as if it was the last thing they wanted to do? Did the candidate have fun with the task, or simply do what was required? These, much like the tips the restaurant author used above, are simple yet effective strategies to learn more about people.
The job market is tough, and there are many applicants for one position. This makes the hiring process more difficult. Starting with a resume and application is good, but it’s pertinent to remember that just because someone looks great on paper doesn’t mean they are the most qualified for the job. Using techniques such as the ones described below may give better insight into your candidates and help you be more successful in the hiring process.