In the hot seat

A foodservice manager is an extremely influential person. He or she is the primary interface with employees, they have significant impact on your finances, and they set the tone for guest service. In short, a manager can make or break your business.

Hiring a manager requires serious preparation, focus, and even a little stress. But all this is better than the consequences of hiring the wrong person for the job. The direct and indirect costs of a bad hire are staggering. As the saying goes, You can pay me now, or you can pay me later. I like to point out that if you pay later, you'll pay with penalties and interest!

The most important aspect in the management hiring process is the face-to-face interview. We've outlined some "hot seat hints" to make the most of this crucial process. A good interview will help you determine whether a candidate has the skills necessary for the position. Your restaurant and staff has a personality, and you must find someone who will complement the traits and behaviors of your company's culture. Well-written applications and impressive credentials are important, but a well conducted interview will give you insights into aspects of a candidate's character and personality that don't translate onto paper.

If you only take one idea from this Trade Secret, let it be this: Let the applicant talk 75% of the time. This means your job is to ask questions, listen and take notes. Trust me. You won't be successful at this the first time. But I strongly encourage you to try!

Ask open-ended questions, or ask the candidate to describe or explain situations. This will elicit the most substantive responses. Take detailed notes during the interview, both about what you hear and about what you perceive about the candidate. We've given some great interview questions, along with what you should look for "below the surface" of the candidate's answers. It may be beneficial to have another person sit in on the interview to observe and offer their impressions afterward.

Here are some basic do's and don'ts when conducting an interview:

Do . . .

  • Select a place that is private, or at least away from distractions and interruptions
  • Keep the interview relaxed and informal
  • Use the applicant's name several times during the interview
  • Use small talk to develop rapport and make the candidate feel more comfortable
  • Encourage questions
  • Guide the interview; don't let the applicant "take over"

Don't . . .

  • Keep the applicant waiting
  • Take outside phone calls during the interview
  • Use this as an opportunity to talk about yourself
  • Give hints as to how to answer questions
  • Make hasty judgments
  • Ask "yes" or "no" questions
  • Discuss anything related to race, color, creed, age, sex, national origin, or disability

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