How to find the X factor in a new manager



I’m writing a job posting for a store manager. While I know what to ask for in terms of type of experience, hours, etc., I don’t know how to target the important things, like dependability, trustworthiness—in short, the ‘X factor.’ What should I really be looking for?

– Operations Manager, Quick Service Restaurant Company, New York City


One of the frustrating things about finding the right manager is that the elements you mention can be difficult or even impossible to articulate. I almost always know within thirty seconds whether I want someone on my team. While I trust my gut feeling, and it has proven me right more times than not, I don’t always have a clear list of bullet points explaining my rationale, something that makes HR managers crazy.

A lot of what I’m talking about is trust. For an owner or a regional manager, you need to be certain that when walking out and leaving your unit manager in charge that things will be in such good hands they might as well be your own. Better, a good manager on the ground can make suggestions to improve systems and processes beyond your imagination.

Nick Farina, chef and owner of Verdad Restaurant and Tequila Bar in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, says, “We are a small operation, so I look for [people] willing to roll up their sleeves and do a job themselves. They need a general knowledge of how things work and how to keep everything running. Someone like this will save you thousands over the course of a year. Additionally, they need to have a vision, an artistic side making the dining room something different and special.”

Philadelphia-based restaurateur and culinary educator Edward Bottone says, “Empathy. Stamina. Limitless attention to detail (OCD, a good thing). Sense of humor. Well developed sense of disgust (will give no quarter when it comes to a pristine workplace).”

These elements, while important, are indeed difficult to fold into a job description. When was the last time you saw empathy, sense of humor and artistic sides listed in restaurant manager job postings? For that, revert back to classic methods: poaching great talent, scrupulously checking references, extensive and well-documented probationary procedures, a proven internal recruiter or headhunting firm and ultimately, if you have it, gut instinct.

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