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Finding good managers

Question:

What's the best way to find good managers? We are a small, extremely busy operation and don't have a lot of time to screen endless applicants and we do not have enough in-house talent for the positions we need. Suggestions?

– Joanna, Owner, Moochie’s, Salt Lake City, Utah

Answer:

Most operators recruit in three different ways, none of them perfect:

  1. Do It Yourself. As you note, this is time consuming and it may be difficult to distinguish the top candidates in a large pool of applicants. In this economy, employers are receiving hundreds of resumes for open positions.
  2. Headhunter/Recruiter. Outsourcing your search will save you time but cost you money. Since you’re a small operation, finding the right search firm who will take the time to understand your needs may be a challenge. Ron Stockman, President of National Restaurant Search says, “Most effective is a search firm that not only understands the job needs but the type of person who will be the right fit for the culture of this organization—the type of talent that will give you confidence you won’t be doing a search again six months down the road."
  3. Poaching. During my days in industry, I was occasionally palmed a business card from a competing employer and told, “Give me a call if you’re looking to move on.” Not the most ethical way to go, but it is a widespread practice.

I would suggest a fourth strategy: 

4. Make friends with some local hospitality and culinary professors. Invite them to lunch and give them a sense of your operation, menu and culture. Tell them the positions you have open and the skill sets and backgrounds you are looking for.

This is an effective strategy for a number of reasons. Hospitality students have committed themselves to a career in our industry—they aren’t just desperate for a job or hanging on until they hit it big as an artist, actor, or writer. Hospitality professors have worked with hundreds or thousands of young professionals over the years and keep in touch with many of them beyond graduation, assisted greatly by social networking. They know not only which students or alums bring the skills to the job, but who will be the right “fit,” in terms of personality, previous experience and organizational culture. Finally, this service won’t cost more than the price of that initial lunch: hospitality programs need successful alumni in order to attract future students and funding, and to meet accreditation benchmarks.

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