Hiring for Hospitality:
Interviewing Techniques Focused on Friendliness
- Have you worked fast food previously?
- Have you worked in customer service previously?
- Can you work lunch/nights/weekends?
While the "3" questions listed above might seem like decent questions to ask during an interview, they are largely ineffective if I'm trying to determine whether or not the person I am interviewing knows, understands, and can execute our expectation when it comes to hospitality. Let me show you:
1. You: Have you worked fast food previously? Them: Yes
2. You: Have you worked in customer service previously? Them: Yes
3. You: Can you work lunch/nights/weekends? Them: Yes
You have learned almost nothing at all, and definitely nothing as it pertains to this person's approach toward hospitality. We must do better!
I'm going to take you through 3 rules that you should follow if you want to maximize your chance of hiring folks with the "happy to help" attitude!
It starts with your eyes and ears...not your mouth
You can learn a lot about an applicant long before you start interviewing them.
Keep in mind, the foundation of hospitality is respect, so the first test is whether or not they show up on time. Listen, I get it....things happen and sometimes people have legitimate reasons for being late. I'm not saying that showing up late is an automatic deal-breaker. However, I would proceed with caution. If your applicant shows up late for their interview (when you are supposedly getting the very best this person has to offer), I would not extend an offer, but rather schedule a second interview. Even if they call ahead and tell you that they are going to be late, I would still suggest a second interview. It could be the next day, it could even be at a later time that same day, but it should be at a time the applicant agrees will work for them. Don't be afraid to tell them what you're doing:
"Respect is one of our core values and teamwork is essential for us to be successful. Teamwork becomes very difficult and puts strain on everyone, including our guests, if people are late or don't show up when scheduled. You were late for the interview today. I understand that things happen, so I'm giving you a second chance..."
Interviews should take place during off-peak times, so once they arrive, offer them a beverage (free) and have them take a seat in the lobby. Tell them that you are going to make sure the team is squared away and you'll be out in a minute. While they are getting their drink or sitting at the table, send your friendliest employee out to wipe tables or sweep and have them engage with the applicant. Just have them engage in small talk and then have them report back to you. We are just looking for their initial impression. Usually, really friendly people can easily sense and connect with other really friendly people. If they do not get a positive vibe, again, it's a red flag, not a deal-breaker.
Rule #2 and #3 focus on a few questions you can ask to determine whether or not an applicant will be a good fit at US Beef. As you work your way through these questions, continue to come back to Rule #1. Check out body language when they talk about the guest or serving others. Do they slump, frown, and look disinterested or do they light up with a smile while providing plenty of positive examples and instances of amazing hospitality? If you feel like you are doing all of the work in the interview, then imagine how you're guests will feel if that is the person on the other end of the DT speaker. Good applicants that "get" hospitality will leave you feeling energized. Take note of your energy level after each interview you conduct.
Take a stroll down memory lane...
This technique is one I use in every interview I conduct and it is so simple. Have them take you on a tour of their work history. Ask open-ended, behavioral questions for each job listed on their application/resume. If this is their first job, tweak the questions so that they can be applied toward school, sports, extra-curricular activities, etc.
What does open-ended mean?
Literal definition: Allowing the formulation of any answer, rather than a selection from a set of possible answers.
In other words, if you want to ask open-ended questions, then you should avoid yes/no questions.
What do behavioral questions sound like?
- "Tell me about a time when..."
- "How have you handled..."
- "Describe your experience with..."
Example: Let's imagine that you've uncovered that your applicant worked mostly drive thru at Wendy's before applying at your restaurant. Here are a few questions you might ask:
- What was your favorite thing about working drive thru?
- What was your least favorite thing about working drive thru?
For these questions, you want to see if they mention serving guests or taking care of customers as part of their answer for question 1 (hooray) or question 2 (boo). These questions also give you a great (and easy) probing question..."Why?" Even if they mention guests as a part of their answer to question 1 because that's what they think you want to hear, they won't be able to fake it through the "why" question.
Evaluate their natural feelings towards guests/other people.
Here are a few questions you can ask that can reveal what's really in a person's heart when it comes to serving others:
- Tell me about a time when a guest brought an issue or complaint to your attention and how did you handle it?
Listen for how they describe the guest. Do they describe the guest as "annoying", "stupid" or any other derogatory term? If so, major red flag. Do they take any ownership over the guest complaint. Did they resolve it in a manner that would be acceptable at US Beef?
- One of our strategic anchors at US Beef is about exceeding guests' expectations, so tell me about a time when you exceeded guests' expectations at Wendy's...OR
- (If little or no work experience) Tell me about the last time that you really went above and beyond to help someone...
This will tell you if they have a firm grip on the expectations of a guest. If they say, "One time, I cleaned a table really good so that a guest could sit down to eat...", then they don't quite get it. If they struggle to come up with examples of when they have gone above and beyond to serve someone else...ANYONE ELSE, then that gives us a better understanding of how they might interact with our employees and guests. Again, we are looking for answers that would meet your expectation and the more effortless they make it look, the better.
When interviewing, you need to have a few questions (usually 3 or 4 at least) that you ask every single person you interview. How else can you evaluate one candidate against another? This is an easy strategy to implement and it can make quite a bit of difference. You could start by taking the 3 questions from Rule #3 and asking them to every applicant for the next 90 days.
I know that it often feels like "I've just got to hire people, I've got to hire people, I've got to hire people". I get it. Keep in mind that the burden still lies with the person who is looking for a job. We should be making selections based off a high standard and not just filling vacancies or holes in the schedule. We have all compromised our standards a time or two and hired an unqualified candidate when we've been in a staffing nightmare...I know I have, I 'm sad to say. How does that typically work out for us? I'll tell you how...awful, terrible, crappy and often we make matters worse.
Be better. If you want things to be different, then act differently than you have before. Don't compromise. I need you to grind until you fill your schedule with qualified candidates that truly have a servant's heart. Your ability to build a successful team will be a major factor as you continue to progress in your career with US Beef.
Now, go forth and build your dream team!
I hope you all enjoyed this series on Connecting with Your Guests. I'll try and do more in the future. Use the comment section below to let me know what you think of the article but also include some of your favorite interview questions!