Hiring the wrong employee can be costly.

According to the Washington Restaurant Association, every time a restaurant turns an employee over it costs $5,125—and for a manger the costs are even more scary: $35,964.

And according to the Harvard Business Review, 80 percent of employee turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions.

So it’s important to do it right the first time.

Patrick Yearout, director of training for Ivar’s Restaurants, Seattle, spoke at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago last month about how his company performs interviews so they only have to do them once.

To read more about how Ivar’s looks for employee candidates and hires positive people read here and here.

It’s important to be prepared for all job interviews. So before the candidate arrives, make sure you have a job description written down, so you’re not swayed by other things on the resume or things the person will say.

Look at:

  • Their previous responsibilities
  • Their background
  • Is their experience credible?
  • Is their background relevant to the position?
  • How clear are their answers and explanations to questions?
  • Is the information current and are there any unexplained gaps in their work history?
  • Did the applicant hurry the process and do it right, in the way you asked?

Pay attention to the presentation of the application of resume. “If you’re making an effort to hire these people, they could make an effort,” Yearout says.

  • Did the applicant keep the application clean and neat?
  • Is their handwriting neat and easy to read?
  • Did they use professional fonts in a resume—is it easy to read?

Once you’ve moved beyond this stage and lined up some applicants for interviews, prepare well. Read candidates’ resumes before they come in, otherwise you’ll panic and ask just about anything. Also develop an agenda of questions so you can get the most out of it. “You can of course go off topic, that is natural progression, but come back to your agenda when you’re done,” Yearout says.

Questions To Ask:

1. The basics, the non-negotiables, which the person must be able to meet.

These include ‘Do these hours work for you?’ and ‘Can you lift weights of XXX?’

2. Beyond the basics. These questions should be open-ended, which are designed to get the applicant talking.

“Ninety percent of the talking in an interview should be by the applicant,” Yearout says, “so ask open ended questions; they’re your secret weapon to get them talking.” A negative attitude will show up here.

Examples of open-ended questions:

  • Tell me about your previous position.
  • Tell me about the atmosphere at your last position.
  • Tell me about your previous job.

3. Behavioral questions. Employees’ past behavior is the best predictor of their future behavior, Yearout explains. And be sure not to ask hypothetical questions, “because they can give the perfect answer.”

Examples of behavioral questions:

  • How did you improve employee moral at your last job?
  • What are some programs you instituted to improve guest counts?

4. Self-appraisal questions, which help you learn what a candidate learned.

Examples of self-appraisal questions:

  • How did that incident change you as a team leader?
  • What did you learn about yourself when confronting this problem?

Other good questions that Yearout suggests:

  • If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry what would it be and why? This allows you to find what people are most passionate about, he points out.
  • Why did you decide to apply here? This helps you identify people’s values.
  • What is important to you in a company?
  • Define great hospitality.

But be careful, there are many illegal questions that you need to avoid, because they are irrelevant to the position you’re hiring for, Yearout explains. These pertain to:

  • Age, though you can ask if you want to make sure a candidate meets your minimum age
  • Marital status and children
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disabilities
  • Sexual orientation

Preparing for the interview

Always arrive on time for an interview. “The candidate’s time is just as important as yours, so don’t make a poor first impression by making them wait,” Yearout says. And take care of your personal needs like eating, drinking or using the bathroom beforehand, and don’t forget to turn off your cellphone.

Once you start the interview, make the candidate feel as comfortable as possible—introduce yourself and let him or her know what you do and your role in the hiring process; the job applicant should be offered a beverage then escorted to as private a place as possible.

Remember that you are conducting an interview and not an interrogation—your role is to learn about the candidates so let them do most of the talking.

If you notice that a person is nervous, try putting him or her at ease by asking some easy questions—about hobbies, for example.

Yearout cautions that when you’re conducting an interview, don’t make any promises you can’t keep, but also pay attention to red flags. “When you’re interviewing someone, this is their opportunity to shine,” he says. “If they can’t impress you once they’re putting their best foot forward, do you think it’s going to get any better on the job?”

Some red flags to look out for:

  • Negative answers, criticizing past employers
  • A poorly groomed or dressed job applicant
  • Arriving late
  • Lacking enthusiasm or energy
  • Stresses importance of money
  • Has no knowledge of your restaurant or the industry
  • Giving vague or unfocused answers
  • Acting conceited or as a know it all
  • Lacking confidence or praise
  • Lacking evidence of career planning
  • Unwilling to start at the bottom and wanting too much from the get-go
  • Experience in person doesn’t match the experience on the application
  • He or she begins by discussing a job not on the application
  • Rude or ill mannered
  • Lack of professionalism or overly casual behavior
  • Expressing strong prejudices

As you close out the interview, be courteous with the candidate, Yearout says,
“because if you can’t hire them, you want to keep them as a guest.”

You might also want to ask the applicant:

  • What is the one reason I should hire you above anyone else?
  • Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself?
  • Can I answer any questions for you?

How to make the hiring decision

As you consider various applicants for a job, keep the job requirements and responsibilities in mind as you evaluate the contenders, Yearout says. Also keep

the applicant’s future potential in mind. “You want someone to stay for a long time and move up the ladder,” he adds.

And if none of the candidates impressed you? “Don’t hire someone merely because there is not a suitable applicant and do not be influenced to overlook an applicant’s shortcomings,” Yearout says. “It’s much more costly to hire the wrong person.”

You can always have some help in choosing who to hire, especially if more than one job applicant stands out. You might bring in your supervisor or your district manager to help you make a decision, or if you have several restaurants, you may be able to refer a candidate to another locations

And a final word of warning from Yearout: Do not commit yourself to employ an applicant until you have covered every phase in the background checks.

Once you’ve decided which person to hire, contact him or her first, in case he or she has found a new job.

Then contact the remaining people. Thank them and wish them well. If they ask why they weren’t hired, simply tell them that someone else was more qualified, “but don’t get too detailed,” Yearout says.

By Amanda Baltazar

Industry News, Labor & Employees, Ivar's