Conducting interviews to hire the best candidates

By Matt Parkin

When you’re building your restaurant team, attracting enough quality candidates to your job posting is only half the battle. Once you’ve met the prospective employees, selecting the right candidates to hire from your interviews can be equally challenging.

Here are some considerations to get the most out of the interview process and help position your team for success.

Reflection questions

Many employers ask questions beginning with, “Tell me about a time when…” These are great questions to get an understanding of how candidates resolved issues in the past. But, candidates often neglect to include learnings and reflections in their answers, as they focus instead on their accomplishments.

Asking candidates to reflect on their experiences will give you a better insight into their thought processes. This also gives candidates the opportunity to share how that experience has shaped them. Candidates who can follow through on this request will prove to carry that skillset into their role with your company when they’re receiving feedback from supervisors, or reflecting on ways to improve their service.

Here are a few sample questions to try:

  1. Tell me about a time you solved a challenge and what you’d have done differently.
  2. Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you learned from it.

Customer excellence

Your staff are at the core of your operations and have the greatest impact on the guest experience. Ask candidates to talk about when they’ve gone above and beyond for guests. This will help differentiate between an average candidate and someone who will go the extra mile for guest satisfaction. Not only will it show you what candidates have done in the past, but it can also show you their underlying motivation to work in hospitality.

Restaurant critique

For managerial roles, consider giving the candidate a gift card to eat at one of your locations. Have them write a one-page review of their experience. Strong candidates will pay attention to important like ambience, service level, and managerial involvement. This alternative to traditional interview questions can help candidates stand out from the crowd.

To take it a step further, encourage the candidate to create an action plan to address any problems they identified during their visit. This positions them well for the role they’re about to take on and gets them thinking about their first action items for when they start in that role.

Preparing the candidates

Do you provide your candidates with interview questions ahead of time? This can increase accessibility and reduce stress for candidates. You might email the questions the night before or print a page out, so they have the questions in front of them.

This step helps candidates plan ahead for which experiences they want to share and what they want to convey for each question. This can also increase the breadth of information they share and reduce repetition be minimizing the on-the-spot pressure to come up with answers to your questions.

100 per cent focus

Prepare your team ahead of time so they know you’ll be busy conducting interviews and you won’t be interrupted. Turning candidates away from a scheduled interview is a terrible first impression. Even if you don’t end up making them a colleague, they could potentially be a customer.

Commit to the time you schedule for interviews and communicate all details with the candidate. This can include things as small as where they can park, whom to ask for, and anything else that might help set them at ease and make the processes go more smoothly.

Personal accomplishments

Remember, every employee is a human being, too. They have a life outside of work, which will crossover into their shifts and your workplace culture. Ask candidates about something they’re most proud of to help gain insight into their personality and personal experiences.

This is also a good way to connect with common experiences and help candidates relax in the interview setting.

Moving forward

First impressions are lasting impressions. Striving to be different from other employers will help you stand out in the eyes of candidates. Don’t be afraid to try something new and adopt a test-and-learn mindset to find what works best for your restaurant. The end goal is always to hire the best talent for your team – and retain them – so adopting these strategies may help you better narrow down the candidates to find the perfect fit.

Matt Parkin is the Business Development Lead at FindWRK. He helps employers quickly connect with hourly employees without needing a job posting.