In order to hire top quality restaurant servers in a good economy, you must change your strategies. So far in this series I have addressed why you need to make hiring servers a priority, the dangers of being overstaffed, and why hiring restaurant servers quickly is important. Today, I am going to provide an action plan for accomplishing this feat. It starts with a hiring fair mentality. I discussed how hiring qualified servers is a numbers game in the previous post. Today the focus turns to how to get those numbers and how to convert them into new employees.
The first step is to create a huge buzz about the positions available. This means more than just posting an ad on Craigslist (although you should do this). You must get the word out there to a large audience in a short period of time. Consider ads in local papers, websites, etc. Use your social media tools to advertise that you are seeking staff. You will find that many of your fans will gladly pass along the information to people they know who are seeking a job. Talk to your staff and have them send in anyone they know as well. Focus all of this energy on a two day hiring fair. Make it clear that you will be accepting applications and doing interviews at specific times on those two days. Get your entire management staff prepared to screen and process candidates.
The second step is to hold this hiring fair. Designate one area of the restaurant for completing applications and another for screening. After a candidate has completed their application, have them return it to the person designated to direct traffic. As managers become available, provide them with the application and then return to them with the applicant. This should be done in the order the applications were received and every applicant should receive this initial screening. These screenings should last less than five minutes. This will allow you to ask any questions about the application and form an initial impression of the candidate. Have a few standard questions prepared for each candidate and let them know you will be in contact.
After this is complete, gather all of the interviewers and create a stack of applications that belong to the candidates you want to conduct a second interview with. Set up each of these interviews for later in the same week at staggered times. Once this has been done, make calls back to the candidates that were not hired to inform them that the position has been filled, but that you will keep their application on file. This may not seem like the best use of time, but it is far less time consuming than answering follow up phone calls during the dinner rush or in person drop-ins. In the time in between the screening and the follow up interviews, you should call to check the references. Companies are very limited in what they can tell you on these calls, but you can eliminate candidates who fabricated parts of their employment history.
When the remaining candidates return for their interviews, they should be interviewed by two managers. Ideally both managers would be someone who did not speak with them on the first day. Inform each candidate that they will receive a call within 48 hours. This leaves you with three opinions in the case that there is disagreement. Follow up these interviews with a meeting to make a decision and hire the candidates you want and rank them. Start by calling your highest ranked candidate to offer the position immediately. Inform them that as a courtesy to the other applicants, you will need an answer in 24 hours.
Repeat this process until you have made offers to the number of positions you have available would be filled. If you do not hear back from a candidate, or if they decline the position, make the offer to the next candidate on the list until the positions are filled. Once all positions are filled, call back the remaining candidates to let them know that you were impressed with them and would like to keep their application on file in the event that another position becomes available. This could give you a potential employee on standby and prevent losing them as a guest.
This is not a quick and easy process. The economic climate has changed and it is far more difficult to hire top performing servers. Restaurants that operate understaffed face a number of potential consequences. Investing the time and energy into hiring top performing restaurant servers is vital to maintaining service standards. Adapting to this changing climate will help you find the most talented restaurant server available in your market.