How To Hire Winning Hospitality Teams

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How To Hire Winning Hospitality Teams

Best restaurant hiring and hospitality hiring practices

Restaurant Hiring the Right Way!

Earlier in my career, I took a position as Director of Operations for a small restaurant group. When I called my late Uncle Bill, who was a Senior VP for a large hotel group to ask him for one piece of advice, he kept it simple. He said, “You can’t teach people how to care, and you can’t teach people how to show up on time.” That was it!

He was 100% correct in his advice, and I want to show you how to avoid those pitfalls if possible.

One of the most common issues I come across with the clients I speak to is their difficulty staffing for restaurants. Pre-opening hiring can be an absolute monster of an undertaking to do correctly. In my last major pre-opening staffing I designed an outline for a system to make this all a bit easier and quantifiable.

I tried to take the guesswork and potential for favoritism and slick answers out of the equation. The idea is to give yourself the best opportunity to hire a team with a great attitude, that cares, and shows up on time. A coachable staff and an excellent program of training will make any restaurant opening, or currently operating a success.

I’m going to keep the content somewhat brief for our readers but feel free to reach out to us at Cover Funnel should you have any further clarification needed. So let’s get started, shall we!

The Ad

People always overlook the ad that they put out for their hiring. When I’ve asked people in the past why they simply post a “Now Hiring for X” type of ad the response I usually get centers around getting more respondents. That’s fair, but is that what you want? Why waste time on candidates that aren’t up to the task?

You can filter some of these issues by adding a few simple things to your job advertisements. Consider a few lines:

  • “If you’re not the type of person that enjoys working in a team environment than perhaps (Your company) is not for you.”
  • “Our core values are X, Y, and Z and we are sure to treat everyone with respect and integrity.”
  • “For (your company) candidate’s, experience is optional, but positive attitude and coachability are ideal.”

The idea here is to tell them what you want and value. Candidates that are very qualified and with great attitudes will see this and love it. The best employees I’ve ever had only wanted to work in a positive environment with like-minded people. You can reduce turnover and get off to a great start before ever meeting your first candidate.

Trust me, this works. People that know they have a negative outlook and are unhappy staff members are more apt to look at more ads before approaching a well-worded ad with these points.
The Questions for the First Interview

I never, repeat never, hire based only on experience in the restaurant or resort business. Ever. I always go through the same system. Why? Because often those with the most “experience” are ones who have been fired from 10 jobs and hop from place to place creating problems. Not thanks. So let’s avoid all that and hire for attitude.

Obviously, we want to have some experience, but attitude comes first. Any management team with some guts and experience can train a coachable person with a great attitude!

The initial interview is where you need to be on top of your game. By the time you start interviewing your first candidate it pays to be very well organized and prepared. I could write an entire book on this topic, but I will keep it simple for now.

Follow your gut! I have often gone back and forth in my head over candidates, but ultimately you should trust your first instinct. I’ve found that when I go against that first impression, I wind up regretting it.

Ask behavior-based questions correctly and you can dial in on a high or low performer pretty quickly. For a successful interview, the way the questions are answered critical. Allow me to explain “behavior-based questions” and why to use them.

What Questions, and Why?

Behavior-based questions are those that we leave open ended. We are not going to tell them how to answer. Typical interview questions are as follows:

  • Can you tell me about a time you had a challenge, and how you overcame it?

I would ask a similar question with one simple switch:

  • Can you tell me about a time you had a challenge?

For any questions, I don’t tell them how to answer. I will always leave off the “how did you fix/overcome/figure out/benefit a situation.”

The reason for this line of questioning is simple. The answers will be wildly different, and you must pay attention to how they are different. Approaching in this way will tell you a lot about how people think and ultimately can be a good judge of attitude.

If I ask a high performer with a positive attitude to “tell me about a time you were treated unfairly in a past job,” they will automatically tell me, as well as telling me how they went about fixing the situation in a positive way. Low performers with poor attitudes will typically go off on a tangent about their past bosses, how they quit, and why it was unjust.

The strategy behind behavior-based questions is nothing new. The beauty of this approach is that you only need to ask a few to get to the heart of someone. Rather than focusing on the answer, you are looking at how they respond and whether they close it out with a positive ending.

I will typically ask around 3-5 of the same questions for all candidates; that’s it. Of course, there may be a few follow-ups and random icebreakers. The only ones I’m grading are the 3-5 questions that everyone else will get

So how do you “grade” a question?

I use a five point scale; some use seven. Do whatever you prefer but make sure there’s a middle ground. One being the worst answer and five being the best.

5 point scale

  • 5 – Perfect response that takes the answer in a positive direction and illustrates closure to the problem and a solution that works.
  • 4 – Good answer that hits most points correctly but perhaps there could have been a better road to conclusion
  • 3 – Good Attitude but poor execution or ability to accurately describe and coherently explain how to get from problem to solution
  • 2 – Poor attitude, focused on the problem and perhaps took the “it’s hopeless” type of attitude
  • 1 – Poor attitude AND Blames other for all the mistakes. Paints self as the victim with all follow-up questions. BEWARE
  • You will need to find out what a good average is for your area but when doing mass hires it becomes clear very quickly where the cutoff is.

Once you have a set of questions that works for your target, you will ask the same questions to EVERYONE. Of course, you can always add in other questions if you’re curious but this will keep all managers on the same page for the second interview.

This approach takes the emotional side out of it. Rather than just basing our interview on how attractive the candidate is (that happens a lot) we are placing value on the attitude of the individual.

Make sure this is being done correctly, If you’re the GM you should mandate that 2 managers are in on all interview to ensure compliance. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. If you let in one person that answered everything with 1-level responses, you will certainly regret it. Trust me!

Second Interview

By this time you should know whether or not you’re going to hire this individual. Round two to me has always been more of an “I want to make sure you’re serious” type of interview. Make sure they show up on time, dressed like they did the first time, and crisp answers. Don’t worry; this one isn’t graded.

I don’t have much more to say here other than to keep your eyes open

Ask yourself:

  • Is this the same person you interviewed the first time?
  • Is anything amiss?
  • Are they excited about the opportunity?
  • Is this someone I want to represent me?

Hired or Not

If those are all good, pull the trigger. You’re Hired!

Let the person know; I never understood the waiting game. Just tell them if they are hired. If you’re still not sure then perhaps you should wait or have another interview but there’s an old saying “think long, think wrong.” Just make a decision and go with it.

Be Accurate and Follow Your Gut

This decision is far greater than many managers realize – at least the ones that used to work for me.

I never let any managers make excuses or blame staff. My response would always be, “well you hired this person.” If you have a manager that consistently hires poorly then perhaps you should ask them these behavior based questions and see how they fare…

The restaurant business is all about creating systems that work for putting hospitality at the forefront and making sure the team can achieve that goal.

Use this tool as a guide to help your managers and fine tune it to work for your establishment. Never let another negative attitude slip through the cracks – they can severely damage your team!

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