More jobs and not enough people—that’s one of the equations keeping FSDs up at night. The U.S. has added an average of 178,000 jobs each month so far this year, exceeding 250,000 jobs in both January and February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. All this job creation gives staff ample opportunity to shop for another employer if their current operation doesn’t live up to expectations.
So recruits don't encounter surprises on the job, some foodservice operators are developing more transparent interview processes. “Planning a well thought-out strategy for the prehiring efforts using honesty, transparency and demonstrating mutually beneficial opportunities will help reduce turnover and develop a consistent, reliable and well-trained staff,” says Nancy Wiseman, dining services director of operations at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Here’s what Wiseman and other operators are cluing interviewees in on for the best odds at keeping them around.
What their hours and off-seasons will be
Some restaurant folks flock to the noncommercial side in search of better hours and something called “holidays.” What these folks may not know is that some noncommercial segments have seasons where employees get fewer hours or the operation shuts down completely. “Many of our hires love the time off around the winter holidays, they love the spring break and most love the first few weeks of summer break,” Wiseman says. “The harsh reality sets in when the associate has no steady income in June, July and most of August.”
To prevent that shock, Wiseman recommends being incredibly honest about applicants’ potential schedules and asking for honesty in return. Many staffers supplement their dining services income with other jobs, Wiseman says, so it can help to have a frank conversation about their needs and expectations.
What they will wear
During one-on-one interviews, the child nutrition team at Mason City Schools in Mason, Ohio, goes over a welcome packet with potential hires. The packet includes absence policies, salary and pay dates, job descriptions and uniform policies. “The goal is to present people with an accurate-as-possible picture [of] what it would be like to be in a school foodservice operation before job opportunities are discussed,” says Tamara Earl, child nutrition supervisor for the district. The department even shows employees the uniform, hairnets and shoes they’d be required to wear.
Who they will be working with
Spend extra time on the front end of the process and the favor will be returned to you with associate longevity on the back end, Wiseman says. That’s why she takes the time to introduce potential hires to their direct reports and team. “Leave them alone for a few minutes with the future working group,” she says. “Get their feedback and get buy-in from the group.”
What challenges they will face
To prevent people from taking on more than they can handle, Linda Paren, director of foodservices for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, tells employees about the day-to-day challenges they will encounter in the line of duty. That is why you need their talent and skills, Paren says, so being honest helps to accomplish those goals and ensures the candidate is the right person for the job.
How they can move up
With each employee she interviews, Wiseman talks about goals and the career path, training, and growth the organization can offer. “Demonstrate that you care about the person as an individual,” she says. “It is a selfless commitment to an associate. That selflessness will come back to the organization via good word of mouth, referrals and more.”