Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing insights: September-October 2015

By Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Staffing

How to catch a star

We’ve all done it. We’ve all hired someone we thought would be a superstar only to discover they weren’t all they purported to be.

The hospitality industry has high turnover of staff, coupled with seasonal fluctuations.  This can create pressure to get someone in place quickly just to keep up with the onslaught of restaurant traffic. But remember the adage: decide in haste, repent in leisure. It’s hard to know who the right candidate is based on an interview but your chances of finding that person increase if you ask the right questions.

According to the National Business Research Institute (NBRI), a bad hire can cost a company tens of thousands of dollars. This observation is based on research indicating that “66% of employers said they’d experienced negative effects of bad hires in 2012. Of these employers, 37% said the bad hire negatively affected employee morale. Another 18% said the bad hire negatively impacted client relationships. And 10% said the bad hire caused a decrease in sales.” The stakes are even higher if that bad hire is in a leadership role. You can end up squarely in the pot with the labour board or the victim of criminal activity such as theft. Getting the right people in positions is the most important thing you can do for the health of your business.  

Behaviour-based interviewing is different from traditional methods of interviewing, which are largely predicated on asking someone about facets of the job they have expertise in. When we get someone in the chair across from us, it’s natural to worry if they can perform the duties of the position but there’s an even more important concern: will they fit in? The traditional interview asks open-ended questions: “What can you tell us about yourself?” and “What were your duties and accomplishments at your last job?” The behavioural interview is structured to ask much more direct questions designed to verify the candidate has the qualifications you have already determined are important to being successful in the role.


The best place to start is to imagine your ideal candidate. Your list might include the following: ability to collaborate, receive feedback graciously and adjust performance accordingly; even tempered; must multitask and handle stress well; industry experience; self-leadership; and self-awareness. This style of interviewing often takes people by surprise but it cuts to the core of the issues at hand and lets you delve into the traits most important to you. It’s natural for the candidate to become a bit nervous at the line of questioning as it will make them really think and they may need a moment to come up with an example. Reassure them they can take the time they need. Once they are relaxed, you’re more likely to get a helpful answer. If the candidate glosses over the answer or can’t think of one, it may be a sign there’s a lack of self-awareness on those topics. You want teams built of people who lead themselves as well as others, and a bit of navel-gazing helps us all know where
we need to improve and to make those adjustments.

Here are some great questions to ask and the answers you might wish to receive:

“Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.” Do they know what things stress them out and are they able to keep themselves under control? You’re not looking for perfection but you do want someone who looks for the silver lining and seeks a solution that honours all parties.

“Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.” This is an important skill in hospitality. Do they have a strategy for dealing with the pressure and for continuing to perform at their best?

“Have you been in a situation where you didn’t have enough work to do?” Are they able to see a need and fill it?

“Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you implemented it.” If you’re hiring a manager this is crucial: you want to know they aren’t going to lead by being everyone’s buddy. Conversely, if the list of the unpopular decisions goes on for hours, you may be dealing with a troublemaker.

“Give an example of how you worked on a team.” Do they seem to highlight the positive aspects of collaborating or do they seem to speak about the challenges? You’ll likely want someone who enjoys working with others.

“Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? How?” Conflict with co-workers is part of being employed. Did they take responsibility, participate in finding a solution and attempt to see all points of view or do they wax poetic about running to the boss to complain? This question can reveal a lot.

“Think of a time recently when you experienced outstanding customer service and tell me what about that experience stood out for you?” If they can’t recognize great service, how can they expect to deliver it themselves? You want to hear them talk about how great it made them feel.

Hiring the best people is really about hiring good human beings. This was summed up best by Bruce Nordstrom of Nordstrom’s department store chain. When asked who trained his team – renowned worldwide for amazing customer service – he replied, “Their parents.”

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.

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