7 Questions to Ask When Hiring New Employees

Waiter with Two Plates of Salad

For a restaurant to be successful, it requires a strong employee support system. As a business owner, you have to rally together a team of like-minded employees who are driven to forward your entrepreneurial dream. You don’t have the time, money, or reputation to bounce back from a streak of bad employees. Forbes estimates the cost of a single bad hire at anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.

With such a large associated lost cost, you need to be able to properly vet any future employee before bringing them aboard. The following interview questions are designed to test the 5 non-negotiable characteristics, as laid out in Harvard Business Review, that any employees should hold: respect, belief, trust, loyalty, and commitment.

What is one professional accomplishment you are proud of?

This question will give you insight on how the individual defines success. Are they focused on accomplishing a single, long-term goal, or do they look to have “benchmarks” throughout their career that propels them forward? Are they focused on personal growth? How did this accomplishment benefit those around them?

What book are you currently reading?

People that read books or listen to audio books to expand their knowledge and continue learning often make ideal employees. Take note of those applicants who read books that are industry specific, or centered around entrepreneurship or self-development. If the interviewee only reads popular blogs or social media, you may want to pass.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

Balance is key for employees to maintain focus and stay driven. People who are successful tend to want to “succeed” on multiple fronts and will devote time to developing themselves in a variety of areas including physical fitness, mental growth, relationships, and within their community. If your potential employee volunteers, exercises regularly or has a “for fun” hobby beyond the norm it can be a strong indicator of a drive that will make them a successful employee in your business.

How could you improve our company in 15 minutes?

This question puts them in a pressured, on-the-spot situation where they must demonstrate their knowledge of your company and their expertise. Should they answer this question fully and completely, you should be able to identify whether or not they have put real time and thought into the interview, or if they’re just showed up without doing any research. While you shouldn’t expect to receive any business-changing suggestions, you will get a sense of an applicant’s knowledge of the industry and their ability to think on their feet.

What has been your shortest employment? What about the longest?

Does this interviewee have commitment issues? If they have not held a long-term position, it could be a sign that they are just passing through. With the amount of time and money that you have to commit to onboarding and training, an employee that only lasts a few months could have a negative impact on your business, even if they’re at the top of their game.

What type of environment do you thrive in?

Every business has a unique culture. If this potential employee does not do well in your specific environment, they will become difficult and disruptive. Knowing from the start if they prefer individual or group work, independence or more structure, and what values they hold is key. Their answer will give you some insight into how well they will collaborate and interact with your standing employees and how they will function within your established system.

How would you respond to this scenario…?

Present them with an overwhelming story: your alarm didn’t go off, you’re stuck in traffic 5 miles from the restaurant, doors open in 15 minutes, and you still need to set up the dining room. How do you handle this kind of morning? Or better yet, ask them what they would do if a pipe burst in the restaurant and the place is about to be flooded. This will tell you how the interviewee responds to pressure, how they prioritize if they can think on their feet, and how they keep organized. You need to make sure they can “swim” when the tide is high. When chaos strikes, will they be helpful or another problem to deal with?

SDCR has been helping restaurants to manage their employees and run successful businesses for 50 years. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your restaurant business succeed in southern California.