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How to create a great team from the first interview

Posted by Mike Walmsley on Jul 1, 2020 5:41:43 PM
Mike Walmsley

If you're in the process of hiring new hospitality staff, or you will be soon, knowing how to approach the interview is as important for you, the interviewer, as it is for your candidates. There is a clear link between staff morale, motivation and employee turnover: happy employees stay longer and collaborate more effectively to support core business values. So how do you get employees there, especially when you’re looking at new recruits?

Read on for tips on how to make a great impression on prospective staff and end up with a team that best supports the vision you have for your business.



High morale starts with you

Become better at recruiting, and attract applicants that are a better match to your business and company values.

Become a better interviewer. This will make the process more efficient and productive for everyone involved. It’s rarely a good idea to use a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach for interview questions. The candidate you’re interviewing is already a motivated person with their own goals and wishes for their career – so try to tap into that.

Avoid the ‘anyone with a pulse will do’ mentality. Your current employees will see right through this, and start wondering if you viewed them the same way when you hired them. Talk about a motivation killer!

Become a better leader. Being a better boss is good, but being a better leader is where it’s at. You want to create an environment where employees are excited to start their day, and do the very best they can to create a great experience for their customers – and frankly, they expect the same from you. If you’re not motivated, why should they be.

Make positivity a priority - and be sure this is clear to prospective candidates. This will not only make the job more appealing, but you'll attract and retain higher quality candidates who care about the work and are invested in doing a good job. 

Finding the best

Let’s be clear – ‘best’ always means ‘the best person for the job’ – not necessarily the most qualified or experienced! An award-winning server who worked in a five-star establishment and regularly turns an average $150.00 cover a night may NOT be the best employee for your family or pub style establishment.


Be realistic and clear with yourself about the qualities you’re really looking for. It’s a good idea to write down qualifiers that make a potential employee ‘best’ for your establishment, and then bring them with you as notes during the interview.

This way, you can tailor your questions to find out whether the candidate holds these specific qualities, and easily and discreetly note the strengths and weaknesses that are most important to you.  

Good recruiting leads to good hires; obviously if you can’t attract good quality (specific to your needs) applicants, you can’t hire good quality people.


Improve the effectiveness of your interviews

There is no opportunity to get a second first impression. Applicants should be treated like customers: how you and your staff treat an applicant says a lot about how you value the people in your establishment.  Would you treat an employee differently than a potential customer?

Keep an ear out for any red flags. There are five key things that may indicate that something’s amiss:

  • Anger or dissatisfaction of their previous employer(s)
  • Their references aren’t easy to verify
  • Late for the interview
  • Improperly dressed, sloppy grooming habits, unclean hands, and fingernails
  • The applicant has never eaten in your establishment

Make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to learn about each applicant. Remember there are three key things you’re trying to learn about: their attitudes, values, and skills. Be prepared: what specific questions will you ask an applicant to get insights into these three areas?


Without being too rigid, develop a list of questions that help you understand the applicant, and don’t be afraid to expand this a little in an interview. Although several candidates may have similar work experiences, each person is an individual with different attitudes, capabilities, and values.

Set up a secure and quiet place to do your interview and try to get an applicant to talk 80% of the time. And don’t forget to maintain eye contact! An applicant may not have all the skills you may need, but above all, there needs to be a level of confidence and comfort from the applicant to deal with people successfully.

Now that you’ve hired them, how do you keep them?

Repeated evidence highlights that people leave bosses, not jobs: being under-trained, under- appreciated and disrespected are top reasons why employees leave. Employee turnover is expensive, make no mistake – so your agenda should be to reduce turnover by investing in positive recruiting, hiring and training strategies. Getting these issues right is a massive investment to future of your establishment.

Make sure you have a well laid out orientation strategy, including a plan for induction and a consistent training and retraining method for all your hires. Investing in employees upfront helps generate a positive work environment and positive morale. Orientation is a much bigger process than just the first day. Make sure you start out with high standards and maintain them.

Everyone can benefit from positive and effect feedback about their job and work performance, especially new hires, as long as you take care not to micromanage. Letting staff end their shift and leave without positive and constructive comment is a lost opportunity to help someone, or brighten their day.

Don’t forget to thank your staff! People always do their best when they feel their hard work is noticed and appreciated.  

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

This is a cliché for a reason. Too often we take a ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’ approach to problems with workplace culture – but often the thing that brings us to the bridge is the fact that it’s already burning.

Keeping your workplace morale and culture strong is much simpler to manage if you start from a healthy place, right from the first interview: by being authentic and sincere, clear about expectations, and open and specific with praise.

Remember: candidates with experience in hospitality will be looking for red flags just as much as you are. The key is working together to create a positive and appealing workplace culture.


Mike Walmssley_blog Mike Walmsley is the author of '69 Tips For Better Food & Beverage Profit'Stay tuned for the next book in the series, '101 More Tips For Better Food & Beverage Profit', coming out soon on Amazon!

Have a question? We’re always ready to talk.

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Topics: Hospitality career tips, Health and wellbeing, Hotels, Hospitality insights, Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff, Restaurants, COVID-19