It’s all about people

The current difficult job market is exposing a weakness in many of the businesses we deal with. In their desperation to ensure they have enough staff to operate with, many are short –cutting thorough recruitment processes and grabbing whoever is available, without consideration for the medium and long term consequences of gradually diluting the skill levels of their team.

It is a sellers’ market for hospitality skills at present; especially among experienced key staff. In my business we have been given ‘watching briefs’ to pass-on any experienced hospitality leaders to a number of high profile restaurant and hotel groups. If I had 10 Restaurant Managers and 10 Head Chefs up my sleeve right now, I could place them with one phone call each and make a very tidy sum in recruitment commissions.

Part of the problem is the way many traditionally run businesses advertise for staff. Old style ‘Head Chef wanted’ or ‘Restaurant Manager wanted’ ads are an expensive waste of time and money and are likely to attract a depressing bunch of misfits and hopefuls. I am aware of businesses that have spent thousands of dollars on Seek and MyCareer without reasonable result. It’s not that these web sites don’t yield a result, it’s more that the message they place on them doesn’t strike a chord with the few superstars who are out there looking for a new job.

Fishing among the unemployed is always going to be a problematic process. Are these people on the job market because they have been pushed-out of other businesses? Are they jobless because their previous employer has gone broke, and what inappropriate, ingrained behaviors do they bring from their previous dysfunctional business? I have found that it’s best to fish from the currently employed, but how do you do that?

Put yourself in the mind of a skilled, experienced hospitality professional. Smart people tend to carefully move from one job to another according to some sort of career plan. Smart people don’t tend to quit a job until they have another position lined-up. Smart people tend to scan the employment ads asking themselves ‘What’s in this for me?’ They are preoccupied with meeting their own needs at this time and not yours.

You might want a Head Chef, but at this point they aren’t concerned at all with what you want, they are concerned with what they want. They might have a young family and be concerned with work/life balance; they might be seeking career development that leads them to their own business; they might want to work with exotic ingredients; they might want to work with new food concepts, etc. They will tend to keep scanning employment ads until something jumps out at them as a better deal than that which is commonly offered.

Effective employment advertising is focused on ‘what’s in it for you’, and contains only a small amount of ‘what we are looking for’ — enough that is sufficient to weed out the job seekers who are really wide of the mark. The idea is to maximize the number of quality applicants, so you have a chance to find a superstar.

This pre-supposes that you have the skills to interview and reference check people who you think are interesting. I’m still appalled by the number of hospitality businesses that recruit on a 10 minute chat or a simple trial shift, and don’t reference check thoroughly. Sadly, we often see total misfits and incompetents that have been discovered during our interview or reference checking, cropping up shortly thereafter in a high profile job elsewhere. We know it’s going to end in tears.

A good interview is based around a sound understanding of what you want the successful applicant to be able to do. This is normally achieved by the use of a well thought-out job description which is, in effect, a blueprint for all aspects of the job you want done. The absence of a job description often leads to the employment of a person without important skills, like computer literacy or inability to work with numbers and percentages, because the recruiter didn’t consider this.

A good interviewer will also recognise that resumes are like real estate brochures – they are ‘sales’ aids, often designed to present a problematic person in the best possible light by omitting short term jobs, listing job titles never achieved, education never completed, etc. A good interviewer is very careful and cross checks carefully, and they always check references carefully.

Stepping back, you are only as good as the people you gather around you. I have come to the belief that good recruiting is the most important skill you can gain as a business owner or manager. When the job market is difficult — as it is now — it is folly to short cut the recruitment process, it’s quite the opposite. Now is the time to focus and put in the time and effort. It will save you time, money and angst in the long run.