The first thing you should be thinking about when recruiting for any role is what exactly is meant by ‘the best person’. It is important to understand the type of people that would fit well into the business, in terms of personality, skill set and work ethic. You should also bear in mind that a candidate that possesses all of the right attributes might be closer to home than you might think.
So says Andrew Guy, director of operations at Ed’s Easy Diner. The American diner chain brings in many of its new recruits from hospitality charity Springboard, many of whom haven’t worked prior to the job.
“The people who appear to be the 'best' in the industry aren't necessarily the ones aren't working with you,” explains Guy. “There may be people in your own company that you haven't spotted earlier on that would be a good fit, but having said that, finding the right people in hospitality can be really tough.
“We have all the problems that every other industry has; reliability can be a big issue - getting people in to open Ed’s at 6.30 or 7am is not the easiest thing to do.”
The right attitude
Alan Murchison, the Michelin-starred chef behind the 10 in 8 Fine Dining Group, agrees that finding the right person for any job in hospitality can be a difficult task. The Scot believes the right mental attitude should be one of the first things you look for in a new member of staff.
“There’s so much more opportunities for young people now,” says Murchison. “When I was a lad, cooking was seen as a menial job or a stop-gap - there was no progression or aspiration.
“People coming into the hospitality industry today must possess a real passion and ambition, and as the employer you need to make sure they’re coming into the job for all of the right reasons. They need to have a good understanding of the industry and be able to combine that with craft and technique.”
Sifting through CVs
Building a profile of the ideal person for a job in your business is one thing, but finding that person in a large stack of CVs can be another. Jane Schofield, managing director of the newly-opened Hotel LA Tour in Birmingham, knows just how difficult it can be to narrow down a large number of applications.
The 174-bedroom hotel advertised 110 jobs online, in the national press and through various social media platforms. After holding a recruitment open day, Schofield received over 2,500 applications and CVs.
“It really shocked us just how much interest there was,” she says. “It was really hard whittling it down, but it just shows how important it is that an applicant gets their CV right. The best CVs were clear, concise and made sense. They listed all their qualifications first and were to-the-point when listing their past experience.
“We wanted to recruit people that will stay with us for a long time - if we looked at a CV and someone’s changed jobs every month for the past 12 months, we would immediately question that person’s loyalty.”
The interview process
While reading through CVs is the most time-consuming task, the interview stage can be just as tricky. An interview provides the opportunity to delve deeper into a candidate’s skills and past experience, explore things that are mentioned in their CV and find out things that aren’t – so you must ask the right questions.
“We did a lot of telephone interviews with people first,” continues Schofield. “That’s a really time-effective way of whittling down a lot of applicants very quickly. In the phone interview, we asked each person five generic questions about their working life and their past experience, and why they wanted to work for us.
“From the phone interview, there were at least two more stages. The next was what we call the ‘talent interview’ - this was again the same for every applicant, no matter the role. We asked each person a set of 26 questions, exploring everything from work ethic through to team and communication skills.
“We then scored their answers against a core of people who already work with us - so we could benchmark every candidate against people that we know are already at the level we require. The candidate had to get a ‘pass mark’ in this stage. They then went through to a ‘fit interview’, which was more of a traditional interview.”
Personality over skills
The face-to-face interview is perhaps the most important stage of all; it is the point at which you are able to gain an understanding of a candidate’s personality and whether or not they would fit in with the rest of the team.
As Darren Brown - joint managing director of hospitality recruitment consultancy Byfield Brown, - points out, conducting an interview in a small office with a desk, a chair and a plastic cup of coffee may not be the best way of connecting with a prospective employee on a personal level.
“Sometimes it’s good to not even have an interview room, and just speak to the candidates over a coffee,” advises Brown. “You can often get so much more out of a person when they’re relaxed. If you’re going to interview a restaurant manager, take them into the lounge bar, have a glass of lemonade and sit down and talk - taking them into a small office full of paperwork isn’t a good thing.
“With a front-of-house manager, you want to know if they will be able to control a team and that they understand all of the basics. You also want to know that they will be able to handle the chefs, and speak to them with a good level of knowledge.”
Expanding on this personality-over-skills argument, Schofield says: “For Hotel La Tour, it was all about the personality. You can train somebody skills, but it’s very difficult to change who they are as a person – you need to know that they will get on with everyone else in the business.
“On average, we were interviewing around eight people for each role. We wanted people who are naturally very happy and have a good teamwork ethic. In most other industries, you work your hours and you go home. In this industry, you’ve got to be prepared to work long hours and mixed shifts.
“If an interviewee has a work ethic that says ‘I want to do my job to the best of my ability, no matter what it takes’, then this industry is right for them, and it’s likely they will be hired.”
Top tips to successful recruitment
- Presentation and professionalism: A CV should look like the candidate has put time and effort into building it. Sections should be clearly divided and you should be able to easily navigate it to pick out the important information.
- Education and training: A candidate’s qualifications should be highlighted first and their previous jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order. As Schofield pointed out earlier, a person who has worked at a higher number of places might not be very loyal to your business.
- Special skills. A candidate may also add special skills to the bottom of the CV, which could make him/her stand out from the crowd. You may be looking for a head chef that speaks a particular language, or a hotel marketing manager that has computer proficiencies, for example.
- Presentation and professionalism: The candidate should arrive in good time and be dressed appropriately.
- Preparation: As Brown states: “Within the first three minutes of the interview, you will already know if they’ve come prepared. “Ask each person what they already know about the business and probe them on what they believe they will bring to the business.
- Personality: As Schofield and Brown both conclude, a candidate’s personality is the most important characteristic for any job in hospitality.
One final point…
- If all of the above seems too much or if you don’t have the time to undertake every stage of the recruitment process yourself, using a third party recruitment consultant could be the most cost and time-effective way of finding the right employee for your business.