Optimizing the Candidate Experience in Five Simple Ways

When you are part of the restaurant industry, catch phrases such as “low unemployment rate” and “revolving door” seem to find their way into any conversation involving hiring and retention. While these statements are indeed valid and supported by statistics, they don’t solve the underlying problem.  

Candidates are aware that every restaurant is competing for the next best employee. We have all seen first hand that the amount of job openings is outpacing the number of people applying for positions. At this point, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that the unemployment rate is continuing to hover at record lows. While this is great for the economy, it can make hiring managers feel as though they are running at full speed on a hamster wheel. And let’s address the elephant in the room: high turnover with restaurant staff. Unless you have an employee who is genuinely passionate about running their own restaurant, you can expect everyone else to be there until the next “bigger and better” comes along.

The most recognizable observation is that staffing proves to be a challenge across the board and stems from an oversaturation of options within the hospitality business areas. Hiring trends are consistent with other restaurants located in those specific areas, whether fast-casual, full-service, family-style or quick-service. Managers frequently attribute their low staffing and retention rates as the industry norm.  

The root of the problem is simple: poor planning.  High-volume restaurants that are short-staffed and running slim on operations often forget that first impressions matter. This is customer service 101, and we all know that it can either make or break a business. In this case, first impressions can end up being the determining factor if a candidate would want to work for the company. 

To be successful in staffing, here are five simple yet crucial factors to enhance the candidate experience.

Am I right for the gig?

Having the right hiring managers in the recruitment process is essential. Placing someone with the right personality and characteristics to represent your company’s culture will reflect on the people you are hiring.

Many times, general managers entrust this responsibility to any restaurant manager available at the moment. A manager that is skilled in numbers and analytics may not be the right person to hire for service positions. Someone applying for an hourly front-of-house position in a fast-casual restaurant will not find this quality appealing. In a fast-casual restaurant, the most energetic and outgoing manager is going to attract similar candidates and should be the one conducting the interviews. 

Am I ready for the show?

Though it may sound cliché, reading a candidate’s resume beforehand will show that you are genuinely interested in meeting that person. Very often, hiring managers do not give themselves enough time after completing a meal service before sitting down to do an interview. Managers must understand that candidates take time out of their day to interview with a company, and hiring managers need to make it a priority to show them sincerity and appreciation. Do not make your candidates feel like they are getting pushed through the process.

Is my stage set?

The interview area’s appearance is often overlooked. Some hiring managers feel that the need to set up a quiet and clean area is not priority. These particular managers prefer their candidates to witness the reality of working in a fast-paced, high-volume restaurant. Holding interviews in a private place is extremely important to ensure that hiring managers do not get distracted during the interviewing process.

Candidates feel valued and respected when a manager can give them their full attention and not have to worry about the chaos that goes on behind the scenes. By having someone else run shifts during the interview time, the hiring manager can to focus exclusively on the candidate.

Do I have my rock stars in place?

In a fast-casual restaurant, the first people that candidates meet are typically front-line employees. Cashiers and line workers are some of the most important people whenever there are interviews scheduled. Managers need to trust that these employees are excited about working for the company because it will show in these encounters. Their employees need to be approachable and welcoming. Something as effortless as offering a drink or asking about the candidate’s day can set the tone for the interview.

According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, having just one friend at work can boost employee job satisfaction by 50 percent. Candidates will almost always value warm and friendly staff, over the business concept itself. 

Is my performance captivating?

The hiring manager’s interview style is an important factor during the process. To Millennials, Gen X and even Gen Z, social responsibility is important when finding a job, and are sometimes more important than salary.  They want to work for companies that will give them a sense of belonging. They want to be proud to talk about their jobs. Instead of asking questions based on the role and what the candidate can do for the company, hiring managers should instead focus on soft skills and mention some of their own experiences working for the company.

The five points may sound trivial, but if executed correctly, they can positively impact any business in the hospitality industry. Make employees part of the interview process and you will see them engaged and excited about their jobs. Candidates look for companies that offer a friendly working environment and a happy staff.

Remember, the candidate is interviewing you while you are interviewing them. Hiring managers, change your mind set about the interview process. Candidates are able to work anywhere, so give them the opportunity to want to work for you.