With hospitality industry turnover rates commonly around 72 percent, it’s no surprise many restaurant managers feel like they’re constantly interviewing candidates. It can be that much harder if you’re trying to custom create an interview process for each kind of employee. Believe it or not, whether it’s filling positions for kitchen staff, front of house servers, hosts, or managers, there are ten essential questions that can really help assess an applicant’s fit for your organization.
1. Why us?
It’s seems like a simple question, but it can instantly identify who is serious about the position. Why does your restaurant stand out against your competitors to this applicant? Have they looked into what people say about you online? Have they heard about how the company is run — and thought, “yes, this is for me”? This can show which applicants are determined to make the most of the opportunity your restaurant is offering — and which ones only want to clock in, clock out, and pick up a paycheck.
2. What do you think will be the biggest challenge of the job?
This may seem strange, because discussing the requirements and conditions of the job you’re offering is usually YOUR responsibility as an interviewer. But asking this question will require the candidate to speculate about your environment in a safe way. In turn, you can see how insightful they are, or take the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings about the work at hand.
3. Ever had a difficult customer?
C’mon, if the answer to this softball question is “no,” the candidate is 100% not telling the full truth. It would be inconceivable to work in the restaurant industry without ever dealing with an irritated or even irate customer. So how did they resolve the issue at hand? Did everyone walk away happy? And it’s OK if the answer no to THAT question! You can’t please everyone all the time. But being able to admit that some customers are challenging is never a bad thing.
4. Who was your best boss ever?
And what did this boss do that made them so great in the applicant’s eyes? On the surface, this question may seem like irrelevant, but how a candidate answers will give you some great insight into the type of management they will need from you. It can also show what they value in authority, and how this job seeker would fit into your pre-established company culture — or change it for the better!
5. Why did you leave your last job?
This question isn’t about getting an answer. It’s about seeing how the question is answered. Quit, laid-off, fired for cause. These are all things you can find out through other sources. What you’re watching for here is the attitude about a previous employer and the professionalism someone cares to show under pressure of an interview, that will be most informative of all.
6. What makes you angry?
Specifically ask about a time in the past where something made the candidate particularly angry. What provoked them and what did they do to resolve it? An employee getting angry on the job in the food industry can very well be justified, but you want to hire someone who can manage that anger in a professional manner. Identifying potential triggers during an interview is helpful, but so is observing how they describe the offending circumstance. Are they cool-headed and collected while describing it, or does talking about it seem to resurface all the negative energy all over again?
7. What about working with people who don’t pull their weight?
Every workplace involves teamwork, and every responsibility —no matter how mundane or individual — likely has an effect on someone else’s performance if not met. The key to a candidate’s answer is simple: what did they do about it? Make note of any creative solutions, developed interpersonal skills, and leadership potential right here.
8. What makes you want to come into work every day?
Not everyone loves their job. We know. But as a manager, you should be striving to create an environment where employees actually like the place they spend the bulk of their waking week. Having some insight on a potential employee’s work motivations will help you provide what they’re looking for long term. Many employees value work-life balance, a quality working environment, and the camaraderie of co-workers more than, or at least as much as, the size of that weekly paycheck.
9. What do you want to learn here?
Part of what this question assesses is whether or not a candidate (regardless of age) believes they can always learn something new from their job. It reveals a level of intellectual curiosity and possibly even humbleness. The other advantage to this question is identifying what a candidate values in the face of growth opportunities — or lack thereof. Even from the very start, can you as a manager start preparing for potential career advancement opportunities for this particular employee?
10. What was the best compliment you ever received?
This one is going to throw a lot of candidates off guard, which is ok. Seeing what happens when you crack the veneer of a polished interviewer could put them over the top in your estimation. This also sends the message that you value employees who pride themselves on their good work, giving them an opportunity to honestly open up about their strengths. If they have a genuine answer to the question, and don’t come off as overly braggy, you’re likely to get some great insight into what makes your next server, host, line cook, or senior manager tick.
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