5@5 is a food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
Editor's Note: Dan Latimer is the general manager of HUSK Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. HUSK is the second restaurant under the helm of James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock and is often regarded as one of the best restaurants in America.
Hiring a team is one of the most integral points in a restaurant manager’s life; a well-thought-out and executed regiment in hiring can save countless hours of “managing” in the future. I remember waaay back in school learning about the Marriott Management Philosophy on hiring. There were many snippets, but the one that has stayed with me the most is: “If you don’t hire the right people, we can never make anything out of them."
One of the biggest keys to success in hiring is understanding the culture of your company and finding people who fit that culture. I have encountered many candidates who had plenty of experience and knowledge, but just not the right personality. If we brought that person in, we would be doing ourselves - and that person - a disservice (and this is the service industry after all).
The environment during an interview is important to keep in mind. We all have to remember that every potential team member is also a potential guest. Even if they aren’t the right fit for an employee, they are still the right fit for a guest. We try to make everyone feel welcome and warm; it is hospitality no matter what the outcome might be.
I have highlighted key aspects of this nuanced practice in the following five points. Remember, there was a lot more in the stockpot when I began. And, I am not going to give you all my secrets because then all of my future candidates would have a leg up on me.
Most people will tell you what they think you want to hear about their work ethic, etc., but some will tell you they like kittens and clovers. I feel like the questions you ask need to be direct enough to get inside their heads without being leading. This brings me to…
2. Avoid the guided question
The questions we ask are designed to allow people to answer them in a way that shows their true personality. One of my favorites is to begin a conversation about a previous job and then have the candidate tell me about a manager from that job, then flip the question and find out how they think that manager would describe them.
3. The lead
To do this, I like to let one question lead into another, sometimes I feel like a 2-year-old because I just keep asking why, why, why. For example: “I really like working with people.” “Why do you like working with people?” “Well, I like meeting new people.” “What is it about meeting new people that you like so much?” “It gives me an opportunity to learn new things and create new stories.”
This really helps weed out the canned answer, too. For example, if someone tells me they like to read in their free time, I will always ask what they are reading right now. If they don’t have an answer straight away, then they probably don’t like to read as much as they wanted you to think they did. This gives me pause…
5. Certified organic
I approach each interview with a common goal, but the means of achieving that goal change with each candidate. Q&As need to have an ebb and flow. I am a firm believer in letting the interview find its own direction. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, it has become a conversation. Conversations allow you to find the person you are looking for; interviews only let you find the answer they think you are looking for.
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.