Business and Operations
Hiring: The wheat and the chaff
By Diana Cline
“I’m the kind of guy that likes to see jobs get done,” the young man said to me. “I’ll look around for things to do and I just do them. You don’t have to ask.”
I’m the kind of guy that likes to see jobs get done,” the young man said to me. “I’ll look around for things to do and I just do them. You don’t have to ask.” He looked me in the eye said, “My work ethic tends to motivate other people too.” Sounds impressive! In fact, sounded exactly like what I wanted to hear. This young man was just the kind of employee we were looking for to join our busy pizzeria so we hired him on the spot.
Unfortunately, a completely different person showed up on the job. Other staff complained that this guy liked to stand around and watch them work. Managers told me that he would find a seat on any horizontal surface, a faux pas I eventually witnessed. Over and over we saw this pattern repeated in our hiring process: a stellar job interview and subsequent hire followed by a less than adequate performance. We were at a loss to understand the complete disconnect between how these people represented themselves in the interview versus how they were in reality. A lot of people want jobs, but some of them don’t actually want to work. We were finding it more and more difficult to separate the two types during the interview. The candidates were well rehearsed. We began to call them Academy Award interview performances.
Undoubtedly, you’ve all experienced these superior actors. You thought a new hire was going to work out great, take some of the load off, and then, wham! You get a dose of reality before their first paycheque is even issued. Some say that it’s the cost of doing business, but training is expensive. And training someone who doesn’t really want to work is even more expensive. Add to that the poor customer service such a person provides, and you are playing a dangerous game with your business.
Once you discover that you’ve had an Academy Award interview performance and a slacker shows up for training, you can and definitely should let the slacker go. No reason to keep an actor on the payroll, unless, of course, you provide dinner theatre. When someone looks you in the eye and tells you something about themselves that is completely false, how are you to know? Sure, there are reference checks, and one should always follow up with a call to the listed references, but what about those young people with no previous experience or references?
What we needed and ended up developing was a hiring system. We don’t accept resumés. We don’t have the standard application forms that you can buy at an office store. These aren’t important in our industry. Our industry is labour intensive, and if you’re the kind of person who likes to be hardly working instead of working hard, well, we have a fundamental problem. We needed to create a hiring system to weed out these convincing actors from the interview process. We needed a way to prevent them from even getting to the interview.
We wrote three pages about what an employee can expect from our company and in turn, what we expect from them. We wrote a little about our company, who we are, our goals in the community and in business. Buried in these three pages is a phone number to call and schedule an interview. Attached to these three pages are four more pages of requested information from the applicant. We call this our application kit.
When someone walks in and asks if they can drop off a resumé we give them an application kit with the following directions: “Take this home, read it and then fill it out. If you have a resumé, staple it to the back. When you’re finished filling it out, there’s a number inside to call and schedule an interview.”
If the next thing they ask is for a pen, we’ll give them one, but their application kit is flagged “not considered” because they ignored the very first instructions we gave them. If they can’t follow the simplest of directions, the very first we give, then how successful will their training be?
Here’s the best part. For every 10 application kits that we hand out, eight never come back. That means that eight out of 10 people think that reading three pages and filling out another four is too much work to get a job at my company. If those people think that’s too much work, then working in our industry is way past their threshold. And we need to know that before we begin their training, before we give them a uniform, before we add them to payroll, etc., etc. Ideally, we need to know before we bring them in for an interview – or else we’d need a full-time interviewer.
Any business is only as strong as its weakest employee and you need a system to weed out the actors and the slackers from the doers and the workers.
This column was originally published in Canadian Pizza in August 2010.
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at email@example.com.