Pre-dating the pandemic, hiring has challenged the restaurant industry for years. But today’s climate has left operators competing for talent like never before.
While steps like raising wages, adding benefits, and improving company culture can help attract new employees, there are an array of strategies you can also implement throughout the hiring process to speed up the process.
From job posting to onboarding, here are some tips to accelerate your next round of recruitment.
In a job-seekers’ market, you must think like a recruiter. Most restaurant candidates have plenty of options, and if your job posting doesn’t draw them in immediately, they’re likely to move on.
“Figure out how to summarize in two to three sentences how you’re differentiated as an employer – maybe it’s your company culture, career growth opportunities, the diversity of the workforce, expansive benefits,” says Vivian Wang, CEO of recruiting platform Landed. “Whatever it may be, it’s important to highlight that at the top of the job description.”
Also lead the listing with explicit salary and benefit details. Applicants are more likely to apply for a job if they know what to expect upfront.
“For servers, I absolutely recommend taking an average of what servers are making, and give a range per shift, with a high and a low,” says Josh Graves, solutions manager at restaurant management platform Restaurant365. “Then in parentheses you can put what the pay rate includes – for example, wage plus tips.”
A competitive wage is key. But if you’re an independent restaurant without a robust benefits package, lean into your other attributes. The more of a story you can create, the better you can offset the assumed advantages of a bigger company, says Graves.
“If you’ve got a farm-to-table restaurant manned by an accomplished chef, tell that story,” says Graves. “The thing that really differentiates restaurants is culture, and the truth is, you need someone that’s a cultural fit because the cost of onboarding and training is high.”
Pull up the old Google, and type in “restaurant server job template”, and you’ll find plenty of options. Free, online templates make a great starting tool. But it’s crucial that you modify them to fit your brand.
“Most applicants go through dozens of job openings, each with similar pay and responsibilities. Going the extra mile to add personality in your job posting excites the applicant to want to join your team,” says Aaron Delgadillo, head of customer success, post-onboarding, for hiring platform Workstream.
It’s also important to examine the structure of the template. Again, you want to lead with your benefits, which wasn’t always the standard.
“You might find a bunch of line cook descriptions from seven years ago, which aren’t going to match today’s environment,” says Graves. “You want to eliminate job descriptions that are assumed, and give everything about who you are and why someone should work for you, and keep all the other information small.”
When writing a job posting headline, focus on keywords candidates might enter into the search bar to find a job.
“General compound postings – ‘hiring for all positions’ headlines – are not effective and run the risk of being removed,” says Graves. “You may be trying to save money, but if your ‘what’ isn’t searchable, candidates aren’t going to find you.”
Review a few of the top job boards’ removal policies to get an idea of what generally is and isn’t permitted within a listing.
“Indeed has instituted non-discriminatory language, and they have a whole team that pulls jobs,” says Graves. “We’ve had job ads pulled for saying things like ‘in god we trust’, and other things you may not think of, and they’ll remove it and not tell you.”
If you’re a busy operator, it’s unlikely you’re checking if your listing remains live everyday, and with a little upfront research, you can ensure you don’t need to.
While Indeed is the highest-ranking job board, it’s best to cast a wide net. The more times a candidate crosses your posting, the higher the probability they’ll click it to learn more.
“It’s no longer a world where you can just rely on Craigslist or Indeed,” says Wang.
Market listings beyond job boards, too. Ideally you’ll do this through an established careers page on your website. Link the page to a QR code and post it where applicable, whether it’s on the front of your restaurant or to a college bulletin board for part-time positions.
“If your careers page is promoted effectively, we’re finding that 40- to 60-percent of applicants are coming from the career page, and that’s because they’re already a patron and bought into your culture,” says Graves.
Likewise, you can leverage social media platforms if it makes sense with your brand. “People spend 30-percent of waking hours on social media platforms,” says Wang. “And most people entering entry level roles are Gen Z, and they grew up spending their entire day on phones.”
You may want to invest in a hiring platform, particularly if you run more than one restaurant. Most platforms allow you to post listings to thousands of job boards with a single click and make the entire process more efficient by automating as many parts as possible. Platforms often include interview scheduling tools and automated digital onboarding components, plus some even allow you to engage with applicants via automated text messaging systems. Perhaps most importantly, with a hiring platform, you can review and return to applicants’ information all in one spot.
“Just having everything in one inbox is incredibly powerful for time-savings, and time is money,” says Graves.
Given the competition for labor, especially among hourly roles, speed and convenience are both crucial, and text message can play a role in addressing those factors.
“Ninety-percent of text messages that are sent are read within three minutes,” says Delgadillo.
Allowing candidates to apply via text message creates convenience. And with an automated text messaging system, you can respond immediately, getting the interview process rolling before potential competitors.
Pre-screening questions or assessments can be a good way to filter out candidates who aren’t a cultural fit before wasting time interviewing.
“Open-ended questions are the best form to show how engaged they are – giving them the opportunity to provide or not provide a lot of information,” says Graves.
With hourly roles where there’s often some uniformity across brands, many candidates will take the first offer they receive. And with numerous restaurants hiring right now, the need to act fast can’t go understated.
“Interview candidates within 24 to 48 hours from the first touch,” says Wang. “We did a recent study [of over 1,000 hourly workers], and one out of every three blue collar workers considered themselves very likely to take the first job offer they receive, and about 50-percent of candidates said they want to receive an offer on the spot.”
Most general managers are not trained interviewers. Teaching those skills can be invaluable for retaining applicants.
“There are two objectives – getting information from the candidate, and nowadays, it’s also selling them on the role,” says Wang. “You want to think about the two to three main points that you want all GMs hitting as part of the sales part, and make sure that’s standardized because GMs are often the face of the company.”
Again, as with many aspects of the hiring process, speed and efficiency are essential for onboarding.
“There’s no comparison to using an onboarding solution. It’s going to prompt candidates to fill out the documents, and then you can export them to employee payroll,” says Graves. “But if you’re not using that, you need to have a definitive structure because organization is the number one thing, and first impressions matter.”
Keep in mind, applicant tracking systems make the entire process digital, which means you don’t have to go through the painstaking process of distributing, collecting, and organizing countless sheets of paper to turn a candidate into an employee.
Grace Dickinson is a reporter at Back of House. Send tips or inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Photo courtesy Landed]