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Recruiting Requisites

Recruiting Requisites

Sources for Staff Recruitment

So—if the world is full of terrific potential employees, where are these fabulous folks and how can you find them? As a start, look beyond traditional sources and consider alternate places where you can let it be known that you are looking for quality employees. For example:

  • Existing customers
  • Culinary schools
  • Computer bulletin boards
  • Radio ads
  • Handicapped organizations
  • Referrals from present staff
  • Retiree organizations
  • Former staff members
  • Day care centers
  • PTA meetings
  • Church newsletters
  • Community bulletin boards
  • Apartment managers
  • Volunteer agencies
  • Health clubs
  • Business cards

There is a world full of terrific people and you would be surprised at how many of them are looking for a good offer. The question is—how do you get them to want to work with you!

Marketing to prospective staff members is no different (and no less important) than marketing to your guests. If you create a strong magnet, you will pull in more good people than you can believe! As it is with your guests, nobody is likely to walk in the door if they don’t know that you are there or what you have to offer. This brings us to the subject of recruiting.

Looking for the “Sparklers”

 Don’t underestimate the value of a well thought-out recruiting program. Part of the job is to identify the best of those candidates who apply; that part often receives a lot of attention. But you also need to have a good system in place to ensure that your candidate pool is always being replenished with high quality candidates to choose from. Never forget that the success of your operation depends on the quality of your staff.

Recruiting should be an ongoing project. You always need to be on the lookout for what Mike Hurst of Ft. Lauderdale’s 15th Street Fisheries called a “sparkler.” This is that natural talent who instinctively knows how to delight your customers and brighten up your operation.

You cannot afford to let a “sparkler” get away when you run across one. If you do, by tomorrow, he or she will be helping to build the business of someone else’s operation.

Another key point to keep in mind is that the people you most want to hire may not be actively looking for work. They may not even be employed in foodservice right now.

The simple fact is that you have to market for staff the same way a restaurant or other business markets for customers. You may have built a great foodservice department, but you can’t assume that “since I’ve built it, they will come.” If your facility is a great place to work and you have a great opportunity to offer, you have to take that message to the market.

Good people are not likely to be out wandering the streets. Good people already have a job. They may not be thrilled about where they are or what they are doing, but they definitely are not unemployed.

That means you will need to cast a wide net in your recruiting efforts (see sidebar). But even the greatest recruiting idea will not help you if your execution or follow-up is poor.

For example, leaving blank employment applications with a high school guidance counselor is a great idea. However, unless you regularly stay in contact with the school to see what interest has been generated from the students, you may miss a potential star.

You can make this job easier by being more systematic about it. [Editor’s note: the author describes such a system on his web site. You can access it with this link: www.restaurantdoctor. com/system.html]

What to Tell Applicants

One thing I always advise is that you review how you respond when someone asks, “Are you hiring?”

The correct (and only) answer should be, “We are always looking for good people. Here is an application, along with a letter that explains what we are all about. Take them home and read the letter first. Then, fill out the application and give us a call to set up a time to talk.”

The letter sets forth your department’s goals and objectives, outlines the application procedure, sets forth what your organization expects from applicants and what they can expect in return. It helps assure that every applicant is equally informed and provides a valuable self-screening device.

You’ll want to attach the same letter to employment applications you leave with that high school guidance couselor and others in your recruitment network. It is a much more effective way to get good employee prospects to contact you.

Here’s my card

One of the most potent (and most overlooked) recruiting tools, is the business card. We mentioned that your best prospects probably already have jobs. In your day-to-day travels, when you run into someone who impresses you with his or her attitude or eagerness to serve, give them one of your cards. You might say something like this:

“I have been very impressed with the service you have provided me.” Hand them your card. “If you know of someone like yourself who might be looking for an opportunity, please have them call me.”

In general, it is best to avoid a direct approach. Most people who receive this kind of compliment will keep the card for reference and will very often contact you themselves if they get to a point where they want to change an existing situation. But even if they are happy where they are, they may pass your card along to a friend. Good people tend to hang out with good people. When you make a stranger with the right kind of attitude part of your recuiting network, you are much more likely to find candidates of the same caliber from unexpected sources.

Think of how powerful this tool could be if everyone on your staff had business cards and was continually on the look-out for good people. What? You say you can’t afford to give everyone business cards? Consider it this way: if you have 50 people on your staff and if you can get 500 business cards printed for about $10, that means you would be looking at an investment of about $500 to get cards for everyone.

How much advertising can you buy for $500? Would it be worth $500 to enhance your odds of finding the best service-oriented people in your market? Would it be worth $500 to have members of your staff identify a little more closely with your operation?

Sorting Wheat from the Chaff

Serious staff selection is multi-faceted. A good system will help you separate the folks who will really do the job from those who just “give good interview.” . Here are some of the things you should consider as you design one:

  • Know the sort of people you want to hire and make sure you design an effective way to recruit them.
  • Establish a clear sequence of events that all new applicants will follow from initial inquiry to final offer
  • Set up your materials to be self-screening—you want to encourage the stars and discourage the also-rans.
  • Have an application that is foodservice-specific and provides information you can really use.
  • Screen applicants early in the process to identify those most likely to succeed.
  • Hold several interviews, conducted by different people, to get a clearer idea of each candidate’s motives and patterns.
  • Get staff involved so you can reach a consensus of how candidates are likely to fit into your operation.
  • Give final candidates some situation tests to gain an insight into how their minds work and how they solve problems.
  • Observe a candidate’s bearing, appearance and punctuality over several interviews to help predict likely conduct on the job.

Business cards are the mark of a professional in our society, so having them printed for every member of your staff makes a very clear statement about their importance to your organization. It can also contribute to staff retention. It could even prove to be a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting the right people in the first place! Besides, if you have someone on your staff who isn’t worth a $10 investment, you should be seriously questioning what they are doing on your staff in the first place!

The point with all this is that you have to do something different if you want something to change. Just doing more of what you have been doing usually leads to a point of diminishing returns.

Start-Up Staffing

A final thought on recruiting has to do with start-up staffing for a new café or for some other expansion you are about to undertake. Any time you bring in large numbers of new people, it places additional importance on how you do it. It is your crew that creates that all-important first impression in the minds of your customer base. The initial experience people have with them can influence the culture and prospects of the new operation for years to come.

Staffing in such a case is a different process than that used to fill one or two openings. First, there are many more applicants to be interviewed. At the same time, a new operation will ineviatably have many last-minute details related to construction or opening arrangements that bring time imperatives you cannot ignore.

When job-seekers arrive one by one to apply, it requires a tremendous amount of time on your part. Each will ask the same kinds of questions, each will need about the same information and each will require about the same handling. Human nature being what it is, the first few people will receive a thorough briefing with a smile. Those who apply toward the end of the process are often lucky to receive their paperwork and a grunt! Your staff just wears down.

Why risk alienating good candidates? Why not make it easy on yourself? Consider holding a series of Employment Seminars, group meetings where you introduce the operation, explain your goals and outline the selection process.

At the end of the meeting, distribute Advice to Applicants Letters and Applications to those who are interested. If you conduct the session properly, some attendees will elect not to apply, relieving you of a certain amount of work. Of those who take the material home, an additional percentage will not return it. This self-screening will save you hours of unproductive time.

However, the major advantage is that employment seminars ensure that all applicants hear the same message and receive the same information. This uniformity is difficult to achieve under any other format.

As a rule, you as the department head or one of your top managers should conduct or moderate the employment seminar. When the boss is present, it lends credibility to the process and helps job-seekers understand that the meeting is important to the company.


Bill Marvin, aka “The Restaurant Doctor,” has spent four decades as an operator, coach and consultant. He offers readers of FM a special offer that includes a sales-building training DVD, three audio training tapes, one of his many books, nine marketing reports and other benefits for the cost of shipping and handling. You can check out the details of his offer at:

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