Business and Operations
The Pizza Chef: Hiring systems
By Diana Cline
The young man says to me, “I’m the kinda guy that likes to see jobs getting done. I’ll look around for things to do and I just do them, you don’t have to ask.” He looks me in the eye and tells me, “My work ethic tends to motivate other people too.”
Sounds impressive – in fact, exactly what I want to hear. This young man is just the kind of personality we’re looking for to join our busy pizzeria, and I hire him on the spot.
Unfortunately, a completely different person shows up for his actual on-the-job performance. Other staff complain that this guy liked to stand around and watch them work. Managers tell me he will find a seat on any horizontal surface. Any horizontal surface. And I witness it myself.
Over and over we’ve seen this pattern repeated: a stellar job interview, a hire followed by a less-than-adequate performance. At first, we were at a loss to understand the complete disconnect between how these people represented themselves in the interview and how they turned out to be in reality. It’s true that some people want jobs but don’t actually want to work; however, it was getting more and more difficult to identify those candidates during the interview. They were, for lack of a better description, well rehearsed. We began to call them Academy Award interview performances.
You’ve all had them, no doubt. 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 issued. Some say 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 danger of someone like that providing a terrible experience for one of your customers and you are playing a game stacked against you, my friend.
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 have dinner theatre. I mean, 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 and no references.
To identify the good employees from the bad, we created a hiring system. We don’t accept resumés. We don’t have the standard application forms that you can buy at an office supply store. These aren’t important in our industry. Our industry is labour intensive and if you’re the kind of person who likes to “hardly work” instead of “work hard,” then 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 system to discourage them from getting to the interview.
Here is what we did: we wrote three pages about what an employee can expect from our company and what, in turn, 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 to schedule an interview. Attached to these 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, inside there’s a number to call to 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 set of directions we give, then how successful will their training be? This person is showing you what you can expect from them on the job. Pay attention: this step alone can save you tons of money and grief.
Here’s the best part. For every 10 application kits that we hand out, eight never come back. That means 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. But the truth is, if those people think that’s too much work, then working in our industry is way over their threshold. And we need to know that before we begin their training at $11 an hour, before we give them a uniform, 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 every business needs a system to separate the actors and the slackers from the doers and the workers.
Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, owner of Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg, Man., and a director for the CRFA (now Restaurants Canada) from 2009-2013. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.