Human Resources | July 2010 | By Robin Van Tan

Your Top 40 Hiring Questions

Answered in 40 words or less.

Between tracking food costs, trying to bring in more cash-strapped customers, and abiding by the new health care requirements, proper hiring practices can fall by the wayside on the list of day-to-day tasks operators face. But one wrong hire can have devastating consequences. Best-case scenario: They quit in a week, wasting your time and money. Worst-case scenario: They mistreat a customer and damage your brand’s reputation.

To prevent that from happening, QSR asked a team of five experts your top 40 hiring questions. All of the answers are direct, honest, and (perhaps most importantly) short. So even the busiest of operators can put them into practice and start reaping the benefits.

1 What’s a quick and effective way to weed through a flood of applications?

Behavioral-based assessments. They let you know very quickly who a person really is and what motivates them—more so than interviews do. Kronos.com has a good one for quick service.

2 What traits are most important in an employee?

It’s great to have employees who are smart and ambitious, but being humble is just as—if not more—important. If they don’t have that humility factor, employees will think they know best and won’t be as teachable.

3 What’s a common hiring mistake that operators make?

Rushing through the hiring process. Sometimes operators get too busy or just want to have a body in place, and that can lead to a host of problems—both for you and for customers—down the road.

4 What steps should the hiring process involve?

Good hiring requires at least two interviews, phone reference checks, and background checks. That should take at least two or three days, but all of that due diligence will pay off.

5 Is it better for company culture to promote from within or to hire from outside the company?

Hiring from within. It shows people who want to move up that they should stick around, and you assume less risk since you already know the candidate. That said, outside hires can bring a fresh perspective to your concept.

6 What are the advantages of hiring students?

When you get people early, they’re more likely to stick around long-term. If you’d waited until those people got out of college to hire them, they might not have even considered working for a quick serve.

7 What are the advantages of hiring nonstudents?

Nonstudents can be easier to schedule. If you hire only teenagers, finding someone to work the Saturday night shift will be next to impossible. Also, older employees can be fantastic mentors to the younger ones. A good mix is ideal.

8 What age requirements should I keep in mind?

There are company and state requirements, and both can vary based on the position. Minors can also have additional legal considerations such as special paperwork, restricted hours, and prohibited duties. Learn more at the Department of Labor website, dol.gov.

9 What’s the most important qualification I should be looking for when hiring?

Attitude. If you get a weird feeling about someone’s attitude during the interview—when they should be on their best behavior—you don’t want to find out how that person might come off to your customers.

10 What’s the one interview question I should be asking?

“ Why did you leave your last job?” It gives a clear indication of what is important to them in an employer and in a job. It will also help you see if they’ll be a good fit for your concept.

11 Which step do most operators skip in the hiring process that they shouldn’t?

Allowing people to meet with other members of your team during the interview. They might act differently around you than they would around your cashier, especially if they think that person won’t have a say in their getting hired.

12 What’s the best way to do that?

Have an employee you trust meet with the applicant to answer questions about the job. Give them a couple of interview questions to ask during this conversation, and then get his impression of the person.

13 What should I be paying attention to in an interview—besides interview answers?

Whether the applicant is smiling and making eye contact. Everyone who works for a quick serve needs to have good people skills, and wearing a smile right off the bat is the best indication you’re dealing with someone who does.

14 Is there another effective way I can gauge customer-service skills?

Ask for examples of how the applicant has helped other people in the past. Even if they don’t have industry experience, things like volunteering or donating to charity are proof of a sense of service to others.

15 What’s an inexpensive way to offer employees incentives and make them feel valued?

Recognition (either verbal or in the form of something like a gift card) is always appreciated. Celebrating people’s birthdays or anniversaries with your concept also lets them know you value them as an individual, not just as an employee.

16 Is there anything I can do to get employees to care about the store’s sales?

Build a culture that rewards sales success. If your employees get a portion of what they upsell at the register or receive a bonus for helping the store meet sales goals, they’ll feel more invested in the restaurant’s financial success.

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