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Good Potential, No Experience


Q: How do you evaluate a job candidate who has no previous foodservice experience?

Attitude, attitude, attitude. "I am always eager to invest my time in training someone who is willing to work and anxious to learn. I en-courage applicants who don't have previous foodservice work experience because they can learn from my experience. When I advertise for job openings, I always include 'will train' in the ad.

"When interviewing an applicant who has never worked in food-service, I make sure I give a very detailed explanation of the operation. I describe all the different tasks because we do cross-training here and employees may be asked to move around. I also explain the pressure at lunch when all the students arrive at once and how hectic it can be for an hour or so.

"I also walk applicants through the operation and introduce them to the other employees. When I do this, I watch how they present themselves, how interested they seem to what's going on, and if they listen to what is being said.

"From the interview and the tour, you can get a real sense of a person. You can sense their sincerity, their willingness to work, and their eagerness to learn.

"After an inexperienced employee is hired, I'll partner him or her with an employee who they can shadow as the more experienced employee does his job."

Robert Glohs
Director of Foodservice
Orange County Community College
Middletown, New York

Hire them as subs. "Our employees usually start off as substitutes, not as permanent employees, and their time as a substitute essentially serves as a probationary period. Working as a sub is the first step in getting a full-time position in our department.

"This arrangement works well for both sides. The sub gets an opportunity to see what the job is like and whether it is something he or she wants to do full-time.

At the same time, the managers get an opportunity to see the substitute in the workplace and to try the sub out at different tasks. The managers are the ones to make recommendations for hiring permanent employees in the schools, so this is a way for them to evaluate substitutes before they are hired.

"Even if a sub is a good performer, he can't be moved into a permanent position until there is a vacancy. You'll often see a manager rush to hire a good sub who has worked in her school as soon as a vacancy opens on her staff.

"With 600 foodservice employ-ees in 80 schools, we need at least 75 to 100 subs to cover the 30 to 40 illnesses and other absences we might have in a single day. Because of the job market, I've got nowhere close to that number so we never stop recruiting substitutes.

"We have a big Navy population here so we advertise regularly in the Navy base newspapers. We also advertise in the school menus that go home to the parents. We're constantly working to fill the openings for subs."

James Ratliff
Director of Foodservices
Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Predict their performance. "If an applicant has no experience in the job we are filling, we try to assess whether that applicant has the ability to learn the necessary skills. If the opening is on the service line in the cafeteria, we need to assess their people skills and how they would relate to the customers. If it's a tray line job, we need to get some idea of how well the applicant would work on a team.

"Even if they haven't worked in foodservice, there probably are job experiences in their past that would relate to our position.

"For example, I interviewed a young man yesterday for a job on the tray line who had no food production experience. So I explained the time standards the tray line has to meet and the teamwork involved. He was only 18 but he had had a previous job so I was looking for indications that he worked as part of a group in those jobs. There also are jobs outside foodservice that involve time standards.

"When an applicant has never worked in foodservice, you spend more time explaining the job and walking around the department. I show the work area, tell them what tasks the job entails, and ask if this sounds like something they would like to do.

"You also want to identify any problems in previous jobs that might relate to your opening. One applicant told me she had had problems with a young supervisor on a previous job. That told me she may have problems accepting direction from young supervisors on our staff.

"I also use scenarios in inter-viewing inexperienced applicants. I ask, 'If someone calls down for a particular diet for a patient, and you didn't know anything about that diet, what would you do?' We want to see that they would know enough to follow procedures and to contact someone who would be familiar with that diet.

"With any employee, no matter what the experience level, you're looking for someone who has the temperament to fit into your operation and work as part of the team."

China Jones, M.S., R.D.
Director of Nutritional Services
Shriners Hospital for Children
St. Louis, Missouri

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