Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Staffing
The pizza Chef: November 2014

How good are your hiring systems?


When I opened my new restaurant this past summer, I had the opportunity to conduct interviews for a number of positions.

When I opened my new restaurant this past summer, I had the opportunity to conduct interviews for a number of positions.

“I’m the kind of guy that likes to see jobs getting done,” one young man told me during his interview. “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 and said: “My work ethic tends to motivate other people too.”

It sounded impressive, and it was exactly what I wanted to hear. This young man was just the kind of employee I was looking for to join the new team, and so I hired him to start the following week.

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Unfortunately, a completely different person showed up to do the job. Other staff complained that this person liked to stand around and watch them work. Managers told me that he would find a seat on a horizontal surface – any horizontal surface.

In my 16-plus years of owning and operating my previous concept, I’d seen this pattern repeated over and over: a stellar job interview, a new hire, and then a less-than-adequate performance. I was at a loss to understand the complete disconnect between how these people represented themselves in the interview versus how they were in reality.

It’s true that a lot of people want jobs but some don’t actually want to work, but it was getting more and more difficult to recognize those people during interviews. They were, for a lack of a better description, well-rehearsed. I began to refer to them as the “Academy Award interview performances.”

You’ve likely experienced this phenomenon. 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 the first paycheque is even 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 in the cost of such an employee providing a poor experience to a customer and you are playing with the deck stacked against you.

Once you discover that you’ve had an Academy Award interview and a slacker shows up for training, you need to let that person go. There is no reason to keep an actor on the payroll unless, of course, you have dinner theatre. When a person looks you in the eye and tells you something untrue, how are you to know? Sure there are reference checks, but what about young people with no previous experience and no references?

This was the beginning of my new hiring system. Now I don’t accept resumes without my company’s application kit. I don’t have the standard application forms that you can buy at Staples; 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 there will be a problem.

Here is what I did: I wrote three pages about what an employees can expect from our company and what, in turn, we expect from them. I wrote a little about the company and our goals in the community and in business. Attached to these three pages were four more pages of requested information from the applicant. I call this the application kit.

When someone walks in and asks if they can drop off a resume, I give them an application kit with the following directions: “Take this home, read it, and then fill it out. If you have a resume, staple it to the back. When you’re finished filling it out, please bring it in and then we will schedule an interview.” If the next thing they ask is for is a pen, I will give them one, but their application kit is flagged as “not considered” because they ignored the very first instruction I gave them.

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. And that’s the kind of information I need to know before I give them a uniform and add them to the payroll.

Any business is only as strong as the weakest employee, and every business needs a system to weed out the slackers from the workers.


Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, owner of Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a director for the CRFA 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 dianaslcline@gmail.com.


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