Human Resources | October 2011 | By Robert Thomas

A Better Way to Hire Crew

A Doc Popcorn franchisee pits potential employees against each other in a group interview process that leaves him hiring the cream of the crop.

A Doc Popcorn franchisee details how he hires top talent.
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A 14-year veteran of the stock-trading industry who once controlled the trading desk for Washington Mutual, Cary Cheung has immersed himself in the quick-serve world. The Doc Popcorn franchisee has two units, one in Escondido and West Covina, California.

For their units, Cheung and his wife, Judy, have developed an American Idol–style of interviewing potential employees. From the initial stage of hiring (a group question-and-answer session) to a physical tryout, the process has maintained success by whittling down a big group of potential employees to a select few who best fit the Doc Popcorn brand.

Cheung explains why his unusual tactic can work for any quick-serve franchise.

1. Use Group Interviewing

When my wife and I started running our Doc Popcorn units, I had the experience of hiring [stock] traders under my belt. We used to have one one-hour interview after another for days at a time for one open position. In the quick-serve world, I can post a job post on Craigslist and can get up to 100 or 200 resumes at a time. Clearly, the one-on-one interview was not going to work for our business.

I had met and spoken with some fellow franchisees who had mentioned group interviewing and decided it was a more valuable option but that it still needed a procedure change. The original idea was, and still is, to find the star out of a group of five to eight candidates, and if they stick out in this process, they’ll stick out in your store.

For any brand, the process of group interviewing is the most efficient way to get through the jungle of resumes and candidates. This method could be used for any brand looking for a specific type of employee. You can devise the system to meet the needs of your business and goals. We are very blunt about what we want in our employees and this system allows you to enact that upon prospective new hires. It shows who can carry on your image.

A lot of your time, energy, and money go into a new hire. This process works in such a specific way to not waste any of those things.

Furthermore, the process usually merits long-term employees, and here’s why: Let’s say you put a candidate through the one-on-one interview process, and maybe even see them back for that crucial second interview, and what have you done? You’ve found an employee who can do their duties and go home.

What we’ve done with this type of group interview process is find someone who can perform these duties while matching their personality strengths, interests, and characteristics. As a result, these employees tend to stay on longer because they are doing what suits their character. They can have fun at their job.

2. Construct a Hiring Routine

Obviously, the process might be different to fit the brand for each franchisee, but the core concepts should remain the same.

In the first round of the hiring process, check out the resumes and eliminate those who don’t match up with the brand or goals on paper. This will be your easiest round. After you’ve seen the resumes of the people who don’t qualify, call and inform them.

I think this is one of the biggest mistakes and failures in the hiring process. For some of your candidates, this may be the only interview they’ve had in months. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but professionalism should never take a break.

In the second round, call the remaining candidates for a group interview, which really ends up as an audition. Ask basic, fundamental questions pertaining to the type of employee you are hoping to hire; for example, ask questions that would find out if they are outgoing, personable, or detail-oriented.

In the third round, do some role play. For our brand, we seek those with some selling qualities. So my wife and I will act as the customer and have the candidate try to sell us a product. At this point, decide which candidates you want to get to know better and continue on to the last section of the process.

Finally, for the fourth and last round, perform a task specific to the job in the actual job setting. My wife and I will put each qualifying candidate, normally just two individuals at this point, in a scenario at one of our units.

For us, it might be which employee can bag the popcorn the fastest, or first grab a customer to sample our product. This is your chance to pick out who is literally going to perform the job better. After that, the choice is yours and you have hopefully found yourself a star employee.

3. Don’t Waste Your Resources

A lot of your time, energy, and money go into a new hire. This process works in such a specific way to not waste any of those things. I used to work for a big bank and hire employees for six-figure jobs.

Yes, we treated the interview process different, but the actual interviewee should not be treated any different even if it’s for a quick-serve job.

As a business owner, you have an obligation to find the right employee. You also have the responsibility to make the right decision financially and in reasonable means of time.

Interviewing minimum-wage employees showed me the mistakes I made in the corporate world. Moreover, competition is always good, so why not use it in the hiring process?