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Ask Yourself: Can You Train Them? – Tips for Hiring Restaurant Staff

The following article is a guest post from Felicia Baratz-Savage who is a writer and graphic artist living in Indianapolis, IN. As a contributor for Cooks & Travel Books, she specializes in travel, culture and education.

Can you train someone for your open position? This is an important question that many restaurateurs ask themselves while going through any dynamic hiring process. While other questions are certainly relevant, this question can significantly impact the bottom line of your business. Waiters, short order cooks, head chefs and managers, naturally require a substantial amount of responsibility.

A Wealth of Questions

With the right recruiting software, your business can begin to narrow the field in the interview stage–and asking the right questions allows the hiring process to move smoothly. Add in some loaded questions, advises Microsoft’s Jeff Wuorio, and you can gain a real sense of a candidate’s strength and weaknesses. These questions may not seem relevant to that of a restaurant owner, but hiring the right people will likely ensure the success of your establishment.

Most of the questions involve the candidate. However, asking yourself the right questions can set the correct framework. Start with a couple of essentials:

  • Need: Answer the important question of need – both static and dynamic needs that the position will require. From education and goals to those character traits you can only discern from previously-mentioned “loaded questions,” these questions can help you prepare for the hiring process.
  • Source: Where will you look for your next candidate? Claudine Kapel cites research which determines that external hires receive “significantly lower performance evaluations for their first two years on the job…,” though they have more education and get paid 18 percent more than internal candidates. Emily Douglas looks at the transformational value of external candidates, though inspiration, cost-effectiveness, and institutional knowledge comes with internal ones.

Once you have these essentials met, you can move on from there. Note that while there are plenty of valuable questions prior to the process, don’t stop there. After the interview, The Simple Art of Business lists five important questions that can be asked.

From the starting point of the hiring process to post-interview, it pays to ask yourself the right questions to ensure you’re taking the right steps. Hiring mistakes can have an unmistakable and negative impacts.

The Decisive Question

You think you have the right candidate. He or she has all of the characteristics on paper, and there is much to like regarding the candidate’s aptitude, likeability, and interactivity. Yet, one question remains: Can you train them?

In some cases, everything seems to be right – but that person is unable to make the transition to the job. Due to a need for him or her to start right away, it just might not work out. Situations like these can be unfortunate, especially when the hiring decision isn’t well thought out.

This decisive question is incredibly valuable in many situations. Ultimately, the “right” candidate for the job may not seamlessly integrate into the new position. Training them may be too much trouble.

Can you train the applicant? Or would it be too much of a hassle for the position?

Every job is different. And every candidate is different as well. Yet, this question could be the litmus test for your business and the position. Someone who has never waited tables before may have some trouble acclimating to a hectic environment. However, you may find that you or another employee can train them on days when business is slower than usual. One other question you may want to ask yourself is if the candidate will have the ability to “catch up.” In this case, a trial period may not be a bad idea.


The barrage of questions is bidirectional in the hiring process. In order to spare the business of a costly and uncomfortable mistake, the important questions must be asked and answered – and applied – by you.

Look at the applicant’s range of skills and qualities that aren’t found on paper. From the basic to the tough questions, the subsequent answers can be used to gain an understanding of what an applicant can bring. However, there is always a practical and important question with regard to training.

Learn to ask yourself and the candidate the right questions. It could save you a great deal of pain in the end. Remember: Your candidates reflect on you and your restaurant!

Image courtesy of Lars Plougmann

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