Interview Techniques for the Service Industry

You may be expecting business to pick up now that the holidays are a few weeks behind us. With the expected increase in business, you may find it necessary to increase the size of your staff.

Even if you feel you’re fully staffed and ready to go when the customers start to flow in, we always recommend keeping a few possible prospects in the pipeline to cover emergencies or surprise situations like when an employee leaves unexpectedly or you have to let someone go.

A few “do not’s” when interviewing.

Across the internet, you’ll find many sites offering advice on how to conduct interviews, what can be asked and what should not be.

Due to the nature of the industry, you’ll find many questions you may have thought to be innocent icebreakers are actually illegal to ask during an interview.

A few quick examples are:

  • How old are you?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are you married?
  • What country are you from?

When meeting someone for the first time and attempting to quickly get to know someone, you may ask these in passing before getting to the heart of the interview.

Be aware of the consequences, even if asking was merely conversational.

Hot to interview for the service industry.

As a small business owner, chances are you’ll be interacting with your new employees on a regular basis. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure the person you’re interviewing will not only be able to handle the job but that they’ll be someone you can stand to be around for multiple hours a day in close quarters.

Here are a few simple techniques and questions you can use to make sure you’re hiring the right person for your establishment:

Have a system in place.

Developing a training program should be a top priority of any business that requires employees.

When a well-structured training program is in place, management is able to monitor the employees and make hiring decisions more accurately. It also allows them to tailor the interview process to hire for the position(s) needed.

The biggest perk is: you’re able to ask specific questions about skills and techniques regarding the position.

Conduct in-depth interviews.

Another technique we’ve seen managers use is they conduct an extra-long, in-depth interview…even if it’s the first interview and for a minor position.

When we say extra long, we mean up to (and sometimes) over an hour. Even for busboy or prep cook positions.

The reason for this is many times in the industry, management hires as a reaction instead of hiring proactively. This puts them in the position of having to take the first person who walks through the door. If you’re really in a bind, you may even have to put that person to work immediately. This is a bad idea for safety reasons and for service reasons.

Using the in-depth technique allows you to set an extended period of time aside to assess the candidate; to describe the job duties; to think about the questions you’d like to ask, ask them, and make note of them.

It also gives you ample amount of time to let the applicant talk about their self. The end result is the candidate is well informed about what to expect and what’s expected of them if they are offered and accept the position.

Use “stagiere” shifts.

The stagiere is a position on the traditional kitchen brigade. This person was typically used to do minor duties such as peeling vegetables or other unskilled kitchen duties.

In modern times, due to the rise in skilled kitchen employees, restaurants have started using this as a trial period that lasts anywhere from 1-2 shifts to a week or more to assess the potential employee’s skill level, personality, and potential to fit into the team.

This is used in lieu of a traditional interview. It’s more of a “tryout” for the open position.

In case you’re wondering, this person must be paid for their time; even if you don’t end up hiring them.

For a small business, hiring the right person can be a make or break decision. If you hire the right person, your guests and your earnings will feel it; hire the wrong person…and the same thing happens.

Make sure you hire the best people. We recommend using a service industry staffing agency or dedicated industry site

Follow Serviceable for industry advice and news.

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