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Tonic TalentConrad Brunton, Managing Director of Tonic Talent, specialist nationwide recruitment consultants for the hospitality and catering industries gives advice on how caterers can best select new team members.

So, you’re looking for a new chef, kitchen team member or someone to join your front of house staff and have a pile of CVs to wade through. It can be difficult to know where to start; it’s a time-consuming task and you need to make sure that you select the right candidates for interview.

We’re always told that first impressions count, and candidates should always ensure that their CV is the best reflection of them. Unfortunately, CVs in catering and hospitality can often be a little rough and rusty. Ideally, the CV will be clearly laid out, using bullet points to make it succinct and easy to read. It is important to take your time at the early stages and really investigate the details of the candidate – their past work history and also any gaps in the CV. Always look for details of deliverables too such as an increase in sales, saving business money or improving staff retention over time.

If you’re looking to recruit at a senior level it is advisable to use a specialist recruitment consultancy. They can save you both time and money sifting through CVs as they can do this assessment early on to ensure that you are only seeing the candidates that meet your brief. They will also have a network of contacts that they will have developed over time, as well as having access to the specialist job boards. At a senior level, the value that an ideal candidate will add to your business will far outweigh the cost of hire.

Provide the recruiter with as much information as possible regarding the role, the business, future plans, progression and what success looks like working for you, so that they can find the right potential candidates to fill your needs. Knowledge of the cultural fit of the candidate to the business is important. If you build up a lasting relationship with the right recruitment consultancy, they will immediately understand your business and recruitment needs, making it far less of a headache to find the right staff and the staff that they do source will stay and add value due to their suitability.

Now you have whittled down the paper CVs to those people you would like to interview, how do you go about structuring an interview so that you can get the right information from a potential employee?

It is better to conduct face to face, relaxed interviews as people loosen up and are more natural with this approach.

The type of interview format will depend on the role in question, but a specific and structured interview plan will allow you to ask candidates the same questions so you can compare different responses. Open questions are best, don’t ever give the candidate an opportunity to say yes or no. Ask situation-related questions too such as ‘give me an example of a time when’ and ask candidates to explain open answers with examples such as ‘what would you do to reduce your staffing costs in the restaurant / kitchen – give me examples of where you have implemented such ideas and how they affected the business?’

Candidates should never feel intimidated at an interview, as this never gets the best results for either party. During the interview, the interviewer should maintain positive body language and listen; the candidate should be doing 80% of the talking. And of course, ask if they have any questions at the end.

A practical test such as a review of a meal experience or carrying out a SWOT analysis of your business will help you to gauge their knowledge of both your operation and the wider foodservice scene. A trial day is always a good idea as it gives you a chance to see the candidate working and interacting with the team and customers, as well as giving the candidate the opportunity to assess if the role and the business are right for the long term.

So how do you know if you have got it right and should make an offer? The right candidate will have undertaken great preparation in advance of the interview, will provide positive, relevant answers and show a real interest in both the role and your business. They will have asked a number of relevant questions at the end of the interview and shown an honest desire to join your business.

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