Goin’ Fishing (aka Recruiting)

By TJ Schier

President of SMART Restaurant Group & Incentivize Solutions

FishingIf you want to catch a shark, you can’t do so in Lakes Michigan…or any other lake. You can fish sun up to sun down and waste plenty of money and time in those places but you won’t catch any sharks. You may catch plenty of other fish but not the ones you want. 

Many in the restaurant business approach recruiting that same way – by ‘fishing’ in the wrong areas… and achieving the same results as a shark fisherman in the local lake – wasted time and effort with poor results. Some post on job boards. That’s like throwing a net out into the ocean. You may catch a shark but you’ll have to sort through a whole bunch of other fish you don’t want. Discouraged with your recruiting efforts and results? Don’t be. Think like a fisherman! 

If you want to catch a shark, you’ll need to:

  • Know what type of shark you want to catch – research best practices of ‘how’ in advance
  • Fish in spots sharks are known to inhabit
  • Fish at the times sharks are apt to be biting
  • Use the right bait
  • Put plenty of hooks in the water to improve your chances
  • Have the proper tools (poles, sonar, tackle, large boat, etc) 
  • Perhaps hire a guide to assist you

An effective recruiting strategy requires the same approach:

  • Know what type of employees you need (day/night, full/part time, server/cashier/cook/bartender, etc)
  • Research best practices!
  • Recruit where the applicants are (hint: many of the good ones are currently employed so we have to ‘fish’ in other places!)
  • Recruit when they are most likely to ‘bite’
  • Put plenty of ‘hooks’ (online, social, in-store, etc) out there
  • Have the right ‘bait’ (ads, messaging, etc)
  • Have the proper tools (career page, assessment, etc)

Let’s go ‘shark fishing’!

Know What You Want to Catch

The first step to effective recruiting is know what you want to catch. 

  • Where are you currently short-staffed (list out by positions and times so you know what you need)?
  • Whom do you need to ‘upgrade’ (by position)?
  • What skills do great servers/cooks/cashiers/etc have that you want in your applicants?
  • If you need a supervisor or manager, is there anyone you can develop internally vs hiring from the outside

Now that you know what positions and availability you are looking for, it’s time to build our strategy to ‘go fish’!

Many Hooks in the Water with the Right Bait 

First, do research to see what successful brands are doing to improve their recruiting efforts. A few common practices utilized are:

  • Career page on their website with ‘day in the life’ videos and success stories such as ‘I started here wrapping burritos and now I run my own restaurant’. Think it can’t be done? All you need is an iPhone and YouTube…and you probably have a budding filmmaker already working for you who would do this for you
  • Social media presence for RECRUITING...separate from their brand social media. Similar to the career page on your website, add a career page to your Facebook and Twitter accounts focused on what it is like to work for your company
  • Carry ‘Join our team’ cards at all times to provide to those working elsewhere who deliver great service. Card would have a QR code and weblink to apply and say, ‘I really enjoyed your service and know you are happy working here. If you know anyone just like you, please give them this card as we would love to talk to them’.
  • Recruiting presence in many areas (i.e. hooks in the water) – effective recruiting tactics include:
    • Social recruiting (fish where the fish are) – leveraging the power of hashtags such as #bartenderjobs, #restaurantjobs, #(yourcity)jobs, etc as these are followed by others and help get your brand to reach them. Numerous third parties offer services such as these though they are simple enough to do free (use short codes to direct them to your career page)
    • Job boards whether general ones or hourly employee specific. Beware, however, as many of these boards continue to email job openings to their email lists…even after you hire that person!
    • In-store (fish where the fish are) – creative, disruptive ads, not ‘now hiring’ banners! Examples include: Apply-on-the-spot cards with qr codes and links designed to get guests to apply or take cards home for their friend/family member to apply; Ads on restroom mirrors or the back of restroom doors (direct them to your career page!)
    • ‘Magnetic’ ads (right bait!) – instead of ‘now hiring cooks’ think ‘Make $14/hr doing what most parents do for free!’ or as I saw a local wing place’s restroom, ‘Employees must wash hands before collecting tips and paychecks…’

Proper Tools

Just a shark fisherman (a good one anyway) has the right tools to haul in their catch, great restaurants have the proper tools to improve their chances when recruiting. These include:

  • Manpower plan which includes ideal staffing vs. current (to identify holes) and planned turnover such as those leaving (ie going back to school) and those we want to upgrade
  • Assessment – many third party companies offer effective pre-employment assessments to help managers hire better
  • Interview Guide – questions (and desired answers) and role play examples to ask applicants so they can better assess candidates
  • Interview process – Three part interview process: First interview by supervisor/Assistant manager; 2nd interview by GM and, if wanting to move forward, a brief tour of the restaurant with key team members to determine cultural fit so we can ‘reel them in’

As you look to head out in the ocean to ‘catch some sharks’, remember…ensure your internal culture is where you want it. Clean your fish tank first! Too often we bring new people into toxic cultures. While you may want to ‘go fishing’ for new talent, to ensure long-term success (ie retaining great team members), you have to have the right environment for people to thrive. As the old saying goes, ‘throw a clean shirt in the dirty laundry and it soon will smell’.

There are numerous other key tactics to build a team of top performers including how we orientate, train and incentivize them. More on that in future articles… time to get out there and FISH!