You know the fight for restaurant talent is fierce every time you pass a McDonald’s marquee announcing a $500 sign-on bonus. But as thousands of restaurant operators struggle to hire and keep workers, there’s a lesson in that simplicity. Costs for ingredients and fuel are soaring, customers worn out by the pandemic are behaving like toddlers, and the office-district lunch rush ain’t coming back soon. These things you can’t control.
Know what you can control? Your messaging to would-be hires. That starts with writing a job description.
It’s time to go beyond the Help Wanted and the necesitamos un lavaplatos signs in the front window, and even the usual platitudes of online job postings. Yes, yes, yes, the best candidates will have references and be reliable team players with positive attitudes. But are those folks on the sidelines right now, just waiting for a position to open up? Probably not. So get more creative, more focused, and more assertive.
If you want to not only attract the right hires but keep them, you’ve got to rethink your hiring communications. “The first thing that we have been working with our customers on is creating more targeted messaging,” says Rahkeem Morris, the co-founder and CEO of HourWork, a QSR-focused staffing tool startup that helps businesses recruit and retain hourly workers. There’s real money on the line to reel people in and reduce your turnover rate. “We’ve found that QSRs are losing over half of their employees by day 90,” Morris says. “That’s $1,600 for every single person that turns over at a restaurant.”
Savvy restaurant operators will post jobs in places where they’re most likely to find ideal recruits; think sites like Gigpro, out of the Southeast, which helps restaurant workers supplement their income by picking up extra shifts as needed. This can often lead to finding a full-time employee. And when they find a candidate they like, they’ll build a connection as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about formalities — send encouraging texts before the interview, even, once a candidate has sent a resume.
It’s all about rapport. A well-constructed job description lays the groundwork for that relationship. Here are five tips to writing a great one.
It’s that kind of market right now, so take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself what is your equivalent of the $500 signing bonus. For hourly positions, put the hourly rate front and center (assuming it’s competitive). For salaried positions, include the potential range. You offer paid time off, benefits, 401(k), tuition reimbursement? Put that front and center. But even if you don’t have those benefits, let people know what tangible perks you do offer. Can folks expect regular hours? A nightly family meal? Discounts? Weekly paychecks? Nightly cash tips? Free uniform? Make it known. You never know what people will assume they’re not getting if you don’t mention it.
“One of the things that we’re seeing being helpful is when an employer mentions things like childcare or transportation,” says Morris. In the fast-casual sector that HourWork caters to, employees might need to think about how they’ll get to their job from, say, a suburban home to a city location. By spelling out how an employer will help them get there, be it detailed transportation information or even a bus voucher, an applicant might be more inclined to apply.
In this, you have an advantage in this industry. So much of the restaurant workforce has worked in enough gigs, in enough places, over enough years, that you can often just roll out a few choice industry terms and expect a reasonably professional applicant will arrive at your doorstep. Server. Bartender. Line cook. Dishwasher. Food runner. Host. Sommelier. That info plus the location of your establishment and the wage will give most workers a sense of whether they should apply.
But think about what an applicant would need to expect. You need someone to handle huge rushes on NFL Sundays? Let it be known. You need someone who makes a mean cup of coffee to open on Friday mornings? Say so. You need a TikTok wiz, or an Italian wine expert, or a Spanish speaker, or a cheery jack-of-all-trades who can catch whatever you throw at them? Write your Mary Poppins letter.
The medium is the message here. If you, the operator of the joint, know exactly what you want, and take the care to communicate that, the person reading the post will say to themselves, “Oh. This is great. They really have it together over there.” Just as chaotic people attract chaotic people, centered people also attract like. To appeal to the latter, organize your thoughts. For the right person, specificity is a feature, not a bug.
This may seem obvious, because responsibilities are innate to any job, and qualifications are what separate us from the animals. The tasks may be obvious in the job title itself — again, most restaurant workers know how to get with the program pretty quickly — but describe anything that wouldn’t be immediately obvious. What kind of food will this line cook be expected to master? Does your bartender need to be able to pour a delicate cocktail, or will they just be cracking open bottles of Bud Light half the night? Help the eager applicant play out this mind movie just a little. Help them imagine themselves doing this job.
Next, think in terms of requirements. Not what you’d like to have, but what you, the person who will have to hire and work with this new staffer for the next several months or years, absolutely must have. At the very least, this might be a minimum age (especially if someone will be serving alcohol) or certifications or even if they need to show up with their own knives. If you’re only hiring folks who have been vaccinated against Covid, might as well say so in the job description. If you have the bandwidth to train a person, let ‘em know. For everyone out there picking and choosing the perfect opportunity, there’s a recent high school grad who can’t wait to jump at a “quick learner” position.
This ain’t literature you’re writing here, or even a love letter. It’s OK to spend time browsing other listings to get a sense of what other restaurants are offering, what they’re expecting, and what they’re saying to entice applicants. If you see a line you like? Use it as inspiration for your own job description. No one is giving you credit here for originality, only for effectiveness.
By now you’ve collected the essentials for the applicant. They know what they need to do, what they stand to earn, and what you’re going to want them to have when they apply. But you’re not quite home yet. This is the beginning of a conversation, after all, and at the moment you have the floor. So without getting too long-winded, make your case. Why do you think people would enjoy working for you? Some of this is going to dovetail with the reasons someone would want to dine with you — what’s your concept, what’s your reason for being? Offer your pitch, and don’t assume they know what your restaurant does. Make someone want to walk in the front door.
Once you’ve scribbled out this masterpiece, do three things before you post it online. First, walk away from it for a while to let it cool before give it an edit. Second, read it outloud, either to yourself or to someone else — your ear will catch mistakes your eyes won’t. Last, let someone else read it, ideally someone with a knack for grammar and spelling. Chances are you already let that person proof your menus anyway. And chances are they’re happy to do it, even though it wasn’t in their job description.