Avoid these Mistakes when Interviewing Applicants

This months tip comes courtesy of Ken Burgin of Profitable Hospitality.

Thursday nights episode (4 March) of My Restaurant Rules saw hundreds of applicants lining up to apply for a job with their local restaurant. Some of it looked like fun and there were also a lot of unhappy people who gave up before they had an interview. There are serious public relations issues at stake when you a handle large numbers of applicants, and its possible to keep them as friends and future customers, even if you dont offer them a job. But it needs a strategy.

If you run smart job ads (see the article Job Ads that work ) you can attact many high-quality applicants. Make sure you put filters in your ad so unsuitable people wont bother to ring e.g. must have at least 5 years experience, must be a permanent resident, must be a qualified chef. Now the responsibility is over to YOU to handle inquiries and manage the shortlist so no one feels wounded or rejected. There is also a major time-management issue here you can't tie up hours and days interviewing or even seeing people who would never be suitable.

Lets assume you've had a strong response, now you need to handle the selection quickly, efficiently and fairly:

1. Do a quick cull over the phone and look for clues as to suitability e.g. a person who wants to know all about the money and the roster before even meeting you may not be the one you want, or a person who has only worked in nightclubs may not be really suitable for a waiting position.

2. Make an open time for selected applicants to visit e.g. come in between 2 and 4pm for an interview when they get there have coffee and magazines available, and see them in order of arrival. They can fill out the application form and read the menu and other information while they are waiting. Now you are using your time efficiently. This is better than doing appointments on the quarter-hour or half-hour if applicants don't turn up (as often happens), time is not wasted.

3. If you have interviewed and narrowed it down to a small number of preferred applicants, ask them to think about the job and call you back if they're interested (e.g. later in the day) again giving them a chance to opt-out. Those who are still keen after knowing all the facts will certainly ring - you now have some very enthusiastic people!

4. If you have a large number of applicants (such as on TV tonight), run a group information session first. Tell people to come along at, say, 5pm for an hour, and let them know all about the work, the business, your philosophy, pay rates and other information. Let them ask questions, then ask those who are still interested to stay behind and fill out an application. Some will leave, and you've had a chance to do a preliminary assessment of the others (and their interest) during the group session.

5. When youve finished the session, let applicants know when one-on-one interviews will be held - this will be the opportunity for them to bring their CV along. You may also ask them to be ready to discuss certain topics e.g. food topics for a chef, or customer issues with floor staff. Explain that if you don't hear from us by Friday, it means we haven't got a position for you this time but we will certainly keep your application on file for the next three months. This is where the right communication can keep virtually all applicants on side, even if you would never offer them a job!

6. A letter to all those unsuccessful? Great idea, but it rarely happens in the busy world of restaurants (or most other businesses), and if you've used the method above you wont have anxious people waiting for a call that will never come.

7. Finally dress the part. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and if you want applicants to know you are serious about business and financial success, make sure your clothes and grooming send the right message!

For more articles by Ken Burgin click here www.profitablehospitality.com