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National Restaurant Association - Identify career-switchers who are right for your business

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Identify career-switchers who are right for your business

Some applications that come across your desk are relatively easy to identify with. Perhaps the person has several years of experience at another eatery and glowing recommendations from a former manager.

Other candidates pose a bit more of a challenge. Lacking a background in foodservice, they may be harder to immediately envision as “restaurant material.”

However, open your mind to career-switchers and you may find the answer to your workforce dilemmas. There are many people seeking employment after working in other areas who have the skills and experience to step into a restaurant position.

Here are some tips for finding talent:

Listen carefully to answers during an interview. Does the potential employee discuss his or her “team” experience or usually respond with “I”? The latter type generally doesn’t interview exceptionally well, especially when talking about the qualities necessary for restaurant work, says Alan Guinn, a 30-year veteran of the food services industry and CEO of the Guinn Consultancy Group in Bristol, Tennessee. “When I start hearing ‘I’ did this or ‘I’ did that, I tend to wonder if the person can relate to what is required for successfully working in a restaurant environment.”

Look for open-minded people who are extremely good at being team players, says Tania Mavrakis, owner of Leona’s Pizzeria in Chicago. It’s possible to find people new to the restaurant world who are still right for your establishment. “What's important is that they have a strong work ethic, excellent customer service skills and a go-getter mentality,” she says. “They will shine if you provide them the additional training needed to really understand your restaurant brand.”

Think about what qualities you value for a given position. Then, examine the candidate’s background for examples of these traits, regardless of the industry. Key transferable skills include customer service, team-building, problem-solving, sales, negotiation and purchasing, says Amber Hurdle, CEO and president of Amber Hurdle Coaching & Training in Lebanon, Tennessee. Restaurants are dynamic environments, and vendor, employee and customer relationships affect the bottom line, she says. “A candidate with a diverse background could be just what a restaurant needs to enjoy success.”

Need a little more help making the connection between a candidate’s past career and the possible value to your restaurant? Restaurant coach Cheri Schweitzer, president and founder of Credible Consulting in Madison, Wisconsin, offers these potential correlations:

  • Teachers and nurses are some of the most patient people around, and they are used to listening and calming people down when situations get tense. They make great servers and hosts.
  • Looking for a great bartender? Hire a former salesman. Sales people are fantastic conversationalists; they make it their business to learn all about you and remember everything. And, of course, they love to sell. A bartender who remembers everyone’s names, upsells them on liquor and lets customers talk about themselves while he or she listens equals a full, profitable bar.
  • Every place needs a fantastic host. It’s the first impression and the last, and it holds a lot more weight than most restaurants give it. If you want the job done well, find a great former administrative team member to answer phones, be diplomatic, organize, keep the details straight and all around juggle the workings of the front of the house. A person like this can be well worth the salary because you end up getting much more than you bargained for.
  • The restaurant industry and the retail industry share many similarities, so it’s an easy transition for retail specialists. Their day is all about customer service: dealing with difficult people, giving advice and helping them pick what they want. Retail people generally have good memories and personalities and are chatty about the things they are passionate about.  Find the right one that fits with your restaurant’s concept and he will be a walking, talking billboard in and out of your restaurant.

This content was provided by CareerBuilder.

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