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Innovating around the labor shortage: applications

Jun 23, 2021 | Entertainment Reopening Guide, Hotel COVID-19 Operations Guide, Reopening 2021, Restaurant Reopening Guide

This is part one of a three-part series exploring methods and best practices for attaining and retaining employees. This section focuses on strategies you should use to turn an applicant into a quality employee. For a complete list of resources to help you get back to work, see our toolkit 

A simple way of looking at the early stages of the hiring process is to remember the following: A great job post should be telling people what they will be doing, not what you are looking for. The point of contact for the applicant should be the superior they work with the most, and you should treat each candidate like you would treat a potential business partner. Using those guidelines will set you up to have the candidate come looking for you. 

The resumé 

Judging the quality of an applicant from their resumé can vary greatly depending on your current needs and the nature of your business. Older applicants with more work experience are easy enough, but many hospitality businesses are dealing with less experienced candidates in college or high school. If there is work experience, the amount of time they spent at their prior position and the reason they left are classic indicators, but for those without job experience, volunteering or team sports can be a good way to judge whether they will be an effective member of your team. Anything that shows they can commit to something and show passion for it over the long term is a good indicator that they can succeed.   

Liz Wessel, CEO and co-founder of WayUp, a site for early career job hunters, says employers should focus on a candidate’s leadership abilities, communication skills and ability to work with a team. “Don’t get bogged down in the fact they don’t match everything in the job description. If you hire the candidates with potential, they’ll grow.” This is particularly relevant for hospitality businesses hiring high school and college students, and Wessel urges businesses to “consider a student’s part-time work experience as real work experience. After all, over 80% of college students work their way through school.” 

Trust your manager 

Owner-operators in the hospitality industry work as hard as anyone – and with unmatched passion. While you may know your business better than anyone else, keeping existing staff out of the hiring process results in the absence of vital insight. Unless you are the only person in your store responsible for day-to-day operations, a manager (or two) should be heavily involved in the hiring process. A perfect hire can’t be made without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your current staff, and the best person to assess a candidate’s chances of success is the person they will be working with the most. Include your manager in the development of job duties, convey the importance of finding the right person for the job, and set them up to do so. If you add hiring as a duty for a store manager that already has a full schedule, you can expect them to recommend the first candidate that walks in the door.  

You should also remember to look within your own organization or discuss employee potential with your manager. If you are faced with a vacancy in a higher-level position, filling that vacancy with a high performing employee is your most efficient choice and it helps with retention as well. If that is not an option, use the vacancy as an opportunity to check in with your staff and make sure nobody’s trajectory has changed. You may find that someone else can take on more hours or to the contrary, that somebody is struggling to keep up with their current workload. Both situations impact hiring decisions.   

Communication  

For all points above, communication is key if you want to turn an applicant into an employee. Employer’s average time-to-hire has been on the rise for roughly a decade and 23% of candidates won’t wait more than a week, according to Robert Half, a national staffing agency that says candidates report a long hiring process as a major problem. Since many applicants are also applying for other positions, you may also lose them to a business that acted quicker. If you are weighing your options, or you are waiting for a more qualified candidate to apply, be sure to let the applicant know. Reaching out as soon as possible for a phone screening can help you understand the candidate, making them less likely to continue the job hunt at the same time. Managing expectations for a timeline is important, according to Wessel. She says sending candidates engaging content like press releases or videos about the company can help to build a rapport and you should “treat every entry-level hire as you would a senior hire.” 

You should even pay attention to the candidates you don’t plan to hire. A simple email or phone call letting a candidate know that the company is considering candidates that are a stronger fit can help to generate goodwill within the job market. Staying silent gives applicants (and anyone they might talk to) the impression that you are unprofessional, dragging down your total application numbers.