Have you ever spent weeks sifting through resumes (online or offline), spent hours sitting in interviews listening to the same copy and paste responses from everyone, only to hire a handful and they just turn out to be mediocre employees? Or maybe you’ve spent all of this time, money, and energy training someone only to have them leave you for another job?
According to the National Restaurant Association, the turnover rate for the restaurant sector was 72.9 percent in 2016 which was higher than it was in 2015. The biggest reason for that is most people see restaurant jobs as transitional positions. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t snag some amazing people on your team.
Here are five reasons why you’re hiring the wrong people and what we can do to start hiring the people you need for your business to be a success:
1. Rushing Through Interviews
This is one of the hardest things to be consistently doing all of the time. There will come a time when you have a rock solid team and you’ll think you can just take your foot off of the pedal and coast for an extended period of time. This is one of the most dangerous things that you can do for your restaurant.
It might take a week, a month, or even a year. Maybe even longer but someone is eventually going to leave. Even if they provide you with a two-week notice, it’s very difficult to find someone, train them, and get them on their own by the time the two-weeks is up. It’s possible but then the new hire might feel like their training is rushed which can cause another slew of issues.
The best thing that you can do is to always be interviewing people. Take the time to meet people who want to work in your business and learn about what their goals are and the reason why they want to work there.
Listen, I get that it’s incredibly difficult to do this as a growing company. Especially if you’re the owner and operator, it’s difficult to do everything in a single day. It’s all about priorities. Schedule one to two days per week where you’ll take a few interviews. Keep an engaging job ad up online (not a generic ad that sounds like every other ad out there) and bring people in.
You’ll never know who will walk into your restaurant - it could be the employee that you have been looking for many years, all because you were always looking for the best of the best.
Also, potential employees know when their interviews are rushed. If you rush the interview and then make a snap decision to hire them simply because you needed a warm body, you’ll spend more in the long run than you would if you have to pay a little overtime.
2. Asking the Wrong Questions During the Interview
The other thing about interviews is that people don’t always ask the right questions. Not everyone can afford to have a recruiter for their restaurant, so it’s usually the restaurant owners or managers that are doing the hiring.
I was sifting through HR positions online the other day just to see what the requirements are around Los Angeles. Everyone is looking for someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology and sometimes even a masters. Independent restaurants cannot always afford experts like that, so they’re going based off of intuition and what they read online.
Now, a big mistake people make is not listening to their intuition. When I was working as a manager, every time that I had a gut feeling not to hire someone, but I did anyway to get them in as a warm body, it always came back to hurt me.
Remember, it isn’t just about having a mediocre employee. Mediocre or even poor employees that make it beyond training hurts the team morale, business, and ultimately, your bottom line.
The thing about interviews is that everyone is bringing their A-game. They’ve read articles and potentially have gone on many interviews where they’ve seen reactions to different answers to the questions. People get smart because at the end of the day, they want the job so they’ll say anything to get that job.
The best questions to ask are personality questions, but phrased as scenario based questions. Skills can be taught, but what cannot be taught is someone’s attitude and their ability to troubleshoot on their own. It’s an intuition thing, so that’s why these questions are important.
One of my favorite things to do is ask them what they like to do outside of work. If it’s a hobby, I ask them what they like about that hobby. Get them to lighten up a little bit and see if they light up talking about something that excites them. If you can capture that from them, you can personalize their training which engages them on a deeper level. They’ll end up being some of your best employees you ever hired.
3. Not Knowing What You Truly Want
Another thing that restaurant owners and managers don’t take into consideration is the type of people that they want working in their establishment. What are the top personality traits that you desire from every new hire that you have?
It’s the same thing why so many entrepreneurs talk about writing down goals. If you don’t know where you want to go, how to you even know where to begin? So, the same thing translates over into the industry when it comes to hiring. How can you begin to attract the top talent when you don’t even know what the top talent means to you?
What’s interesting is that some personalities work better in casual dining restaurants and other personalities work better in fine dining establishments. It doesn’t mean that their bad people or even bad hires— you just need to know exactly what you want out of your team and what you want out of people you have a desire to work with.
Take the time to map out exactly the type of people you want in your restaurant. What is it about their personality that you want them to bring to the table? Once you know that, you can build a job ad that can talk specifically to those people. Generic ads will bring generic people. Stand out from the rest of the restaurants out there!
4. You’re Not Checking References
Yes, the references that people list on their resume or hand over to potential employers will be ones that sing their praises. But you don’t have to call those references if they aren’t from positions listed on their resume. It’s important to call them to learn more about the potential employee but it’s also important to learn what they’re not telling you.
Just because a past employer isn’t listed as a reference doesn’t mean you cannot call them. Maybe they didn’t leave on good terms— that’s important to know. What’s also important to know is how these people are as actual employees in other businesses. The way they act in one business is the way that they’ll act in another business.
You can learn about a person’s true character when you go through the whole resume and call them. Speak to their direct supervisors if they are still employed by the company. If they aren’t, then ask if you can speak to someone who oversaw the employee or someone that worked with them.
References are important and should be checked before bringing anyone into your business. At the end of the day, it’s your money that you are investing as the restaurant owner. Make sure it’s a worthy investment.
5. Not Having a Strong Culture that People Talk About
The last thing to know about people is that they talk. The restaurant industry is a lot smaller than you think and even though it seems like there’s a new restaurant popping up every day, the industry itself still talks. Employers talk with other employers and warn each other about past employees (especially at a management or executive level).
The same things goes for employees to other restaurant employees. If your current employees absolutely love working at your restaurant, it will be talked about. The community will know and love the restaurant for their culture. But the same is true when you don’t have a strong company culture. Employees will talk about how it’s just another restaurant job and there’s no real benefit to working there.
The thing we need to do as we move into 2018 is talk about the benefits for your employees as well as what the benefit for them hitting your standards are. A working relationship is a two-way street, so we can’t just talk about the benefits for the employees. We need to start talking about how your culture will not only benefit them but how it will benefit the business once it’s fully realized.
Engaged employees want to see the business succeed because that means they could get raises, have job security (especially in an economy where restaurants open and close often), and enjoy where they work. Movies and books engage people through storytelling, so what’s the story that you and your employees are writing together?
What Can We Do to Improve Our Hiring Process?
There’s a number of ways to improve your hiring process. The biggest thing is to always be interviewing. Mark it on your calendar that every Monday, after placing orders, you spend one to two hours interviewing people— even if you don’t need them at this exact moment in time.
But the other thing that you can do is to have an employee referral program in place. If you have rockstar employees, the chances are they know other rockstar people that would be amazing employees. The reason why referral programs work is because you get to find the people that you want in your business.
The other reason why referral programs work is because the friend doesn’t want to let their friend down or make them look bad so they will be on their best behavior while working in your business. I had a discussion with a restaurant who was afraid to implement this because they didn’t want the friends just standing around and talking.
The truth is, if they’re truly rockstar employees, they wouldn’t even let that happen. They would understand the difference between the professional and personal relationship and not let it affect their job. So, if they’re truly the right fit for your company, this wouldn’t be an issue.
Create incentives that make people want to refer people. Cash bonuses for referrals is one of the most cost effective way of doing this. Even if you spent $200 on an employee that stays longer than 90 days and then another $400 if they stay for 6 months or a year— you will have saved more money in the long run.
Remember, it costs $2,171 to replace a FOH employee and $2,809 to replace a BOH employee. Don’t let the upfront cost of a couple hundred bucks scare you from implementing a referral program. You’ll save more in the long run.