Restaurant Hiring Trends in 2021: Virtual Interviews, Speed, and Flexibility

    As the labor crisis endures, one thing is clear: Candidates are looking for more than just how much they're being paid in their next job.

    Restaurant employee hands food through a drive-thru window.
    Adobe Stock
    Nearly 80 percent of employees in a Landed survey they wanted the flexibility to choose their own days and hours.

    From the “Great Resignation” to the “labor crisis,” the industry’s hiring setbacks show few signs of tapering off. If anything, it’s only evolving. Food and drink establishments gained just 29,000 jobs in September, meaning restaurants remain a million jobs short of pre-COVID levels. Will that number recover? Are we headed, at least near-term, for an industry of fewer, yet higher-paid workers? More automation?

    While those points are murky, it’s clear the problem is widespread. A full 81 percent of sit-down operators in a recent National Restaurant Association survey said they were understaffed. The number was 75 percent in quick service. It’s led to nearly 70 percent of restaurants reducing hours of operation over the past three months and 46 percent cutting back menus. Forty-five percent added they’ve closed on days they’d normally open and a similar tick (44 percent) reduced seating capacity. So while restrictions, by and large, have loosened up, restaurants find themselves walking a delicate line of demand, value, and experience. Prices in quick service hiked 6.9 percent in August compared to last year. And supply issues, also tied to labor in many cases, continue to proliferate as costs rise.

    Vivian Wang, CEO of Landed, which provides a mobile app to connect hourly food and retail workers with local employers, caught up with QSR to discuss some hiring, recruitment, and overall labor tactics to ease some of the pressure. Landed recently dove into some internal data to take the pulse of the landscape.

    Let’s talk about some hiring trends. What were some of the key findings of Landed’s data?

    We learned a few important pieces from the data. One of these is that virtual interviews decrease overall recruitment time by over 20 percent. The process for virtual interviews is faster, there is less logistic planning, and it’s more popular among job seekers in 2021.

    It was interesting to see that ghosting rates were slightly (close to 10 percent) higher for virtual versus in-person interviews. Setting up virtual interviews over mediums that don't require account setup—i.e., Facetime instead of Zoom/Google Meet is important, and if mediums like that are not available, then opt for phone interviews.

    Response time matters. Landed’s data showed that 52 percent of job seekers are extremely likely to move forward with the interview process if they hear back from the employer within 24 hours. Initial outreach from the initial submission of candidate interest to the first day on the job typically follows a 12-day cycle. When we measured SMS text outreach we found that 45 percent of candidates responded to 1st outreach, 25 percent to 2nd outreach, and 20 percent to third outreach. So hiring managers shouldn’t abandon candidates if they can't reach them on the first try, and adding a specific call to action within the job description or title (example, "virtual interviews" or "get hired in 24 hours" or "hiring immediately") is also a good way to drive additional job seeker responses.

    Elaborate on virtual interviews and how they can decrease recruitment time. Why is this a win for both sides?

    The restaurant and hospitality industries are moving quicker than ever. It's important to hold candidate interviews whether virtual or in-person within 24–36 hours after the match is made and interest is expressed. Benefits include:

    Can be booked faster for candidates who may have other timing constraints e.g., other job shifts, school/family schedules. Speed is important.

    If your location is undergoing renovation or is a new store opening, you will need to get a head start on hiring before location is ready for in-person interviews.

    Protect your hiring managers and candidates amid pandemic for health and safety reasons to minimize contact with high volume of candidates they interact with on a regular basis on the restaurant/retail industry

    Use virtual interviews as a chance to sell candidates on a role and for candidates to ask questions before coming in. In-person interviews can be used for hiring logistics and "recruitment closing"

    How can you avoid those dreaded “ghosting rates” with virtual interviews?

    Landed sends SMS text messages and email reminders to all candidates with booked interviews with all the key info relating to the interview. If any reschedules need to happen, we also take care of the 2-way communication to save busy manager time. As mentioned, stay away from virtual interview platforms that require candidates to create an account in order to join (like Zoom). FaceTime or Duo are good examples of ones that don't require any prior setup for an interview.

    Talk about the importance of response time. Specifically, for restaurants, would it be wise to set a timeframe for managers to get back to candidates?

    Candidates are job shopping not job hunting nowadays so it's important to respond to candidates in less than three hours in order to catch candidates while their interest is high. Anything beyond that is too slow. All managers should either set timeframes within this range or use a tool like Landed. Landed will immediately respond back to any questions and messages from candidates as the hiring manager (who may be busy running restaurant operations) to engage qualified candidates quickly and drive them towards the interview as quickly as possible.

    What were some differences between SMS text and email outreach?

    It's important to meet candidates where they already are, which is on their phones in their text messages. It feels more personalized and leads to a quicker turnaround cycle for the hire. Employers who are the most successful are the ones that manage to connect with candidates the fastest. Emails will often get buried; whereas, text messages are still underpenetrated as a form of recruitment communication.

    Gen Zers who are the ones taking on many entry-level roles don't use email as much so hiring managers need to meet them where they are.

    What would your advice to hiring managers struggling to reach candidates be? Are there ways to address this in the job description?

    Diagnose what part of your hiring funnel is weak. Is it top of funnel or mid or bottom of the funnel. Once you figure out which area is the most challenged then experiment with different ways to solve the weakest link. Landed helps with doing that because our client strategists will be able to utilize the wealth of data we have on every step of the hiring funnel to optimize your approach: e.g., job description views to application conversion rates, responsiveness to certain messaging templates, time to hire, etc.

    Job description optimizations primarily impact top of funnel conversion rates, so one example is moving perks & benefits to the top of the job description or incorporating compelling visuals in the job description to make your roles stand out from the crowd.

    The question for months for restaurants has really been, what does the worker actually want, especially on the hourly side? Is it higher wages? Benefits? Flexibility? What have you seen and how can operators target these needs?

    Just this summer, Landed conducted a survey of job candidates to find what they most valued in an employer. Nearly 80 percent said they wanted the flexibility to choose their own days and hours. This is clearly something employers need to emphasize in their job postings and during interviews.

    Another priority for candidates was a working for a business that demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. Candidates wanted to see that:

    • The company handles diversity matters appropriately with a commitment to celebrating employee differences.
    • There is a career development path for every employee at the company.
    • Leadership encourages diversity and creates a safe space to discuss racism issues in the workplace.
    • Employers need to demonstrate this commitment to candidates in their recruiting efforts.

     

    Why do you think the rolling off of expanded unemployment benefits hardly moved the needle?

    Candidates are looking for more than just how much they're being paid in their next job. There are many options out there right now for hourly workers whether it's within the restaurant and hospitality industry or in other roles like customer support, service, etc. It's important for employers to make sure they're paying market or above-market wages for their workers, allow for a degree of work schedule flexibility, and demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. The constraints the pandemic introduced for many are still very much present e.g., limited childcare, school hours, health considerations, and unemployment benefits didn't necessarily alleviate those challenges.

    So where do you think the hiring battle goes from here? What will be the next big topic we’re all talking about?

    Employers that will win are the ones that are thinking about how they can support the holistic livelihoods of their employees. That's what we're thinking about at Landed. The buck doesn't stop at just landing a job—that's just the beginning. Landed is the single sign-on blue-collar worker livelihood platform for 2.7 billion workers worldwide. On Landed, blue-collar workers get a job, and will soon have access to fair and transparent financial products like earned wage access to support their financial wellness, and get upskilled via certification/education programs. 78 percent blue-collar workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. Landed is breaking this cycle and supporting the underserved blue-collar worker.