"Details, Details, Details!" That's what my boss used to tell me when my sales were down when I was store manager for Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q. I may have thought I was hitting the "big three" (great food, great service, clean restaurant), but in reality I was overlooking some important details. Is the drive-thru moving fast enough? Were two registers always open? Are fries being cooked per order during non-peak hours? Are the restrooms checked (and cleaned if necessary) every hour? You get the point. It's the details that can take you from good to great.
As the recruiter for Smithfield's Chicken ' N Bar-B-Q, I take the same approach when recruiting store managers. I pay close attention to the details. There are the obvious things that you hear from everyone (be on time, dress for the part, etc) but you never hear the details. Here are nine details I look for when recruiting followed by a tip for those job hunting:
1. A professional voice mail -- O.K., you're on the job hunt. Let's create a voice mail message that would give me a positive impression if you miss my call. A voice mail message beginning with latest Top 40 hit or a "You got (fill in the name), you know what to do and when to do it!" message is not professional. Create your personal voice mail message as if it were your work voice mail.
2. The response -- If you happen to catch my call, I am going to ask "May I speak to Mr./Mrs...". If your response is "Who's this?!?" or worse if you ask "Who's calling?" and I identify myself and then you tell me it's you, that's a red flag. I get the impression you are an introvert (not good in the service industry) or you think I am a bill collector. You have your resume out and about. Would you not expect some calls from some numbers you don't recognize/people you don't know? A "this is he/she" or "speaking" response is all that is needed when a potential employer calls.
3. E-mail instructions -- I am going to send you an e-mail confirming a face to face interview. In the e-mail, I'll ask you to bring your resume. If you don't respond to the e-mail or don't bring your resume to the interview, that tells me (1) you are not a good communicator and (2) you don't follow instructions well. Respond to a potential employer's correspondence and follow instructions.
4. Dress for the part -- I know this is a "No duh!" one, but this one is a little more personal to me. When a candidate does not dress in business attire, I feel they are looking down at the restaurant industry and thinking it's just a "fast food" job. In our concept, our managers wear ties and dress shirts and go by "Mr. or Ms." Not wearing business attire is an automatic "86" for a candidate (for you non-restaurant folks, "86" is restaurant lingo for "end it"). One time I had a candidate who wore dress slacks and golf shirt who told me that he "did not want to dress too formal in fear he may not get the job." What? Regardless of the industry, business attire during the interview process should be a given. Dress for success for your interviews.
5. Do some homework -- This one kills me. I always ask the question "Are you familiar with our concept and have you visited one of our restaurants?" If that candidate says "no", that's an automatic "86". If you have never eaten at one of our restaurants and are applying for a job, that tells me you are just chasing money and not an opportunity. Doing an Internet search on us and spouting out facts does not impress me. I want to know how your experience was in one of our stores and why you chose to apply with us. Let your potential employer know why you applied.
6. Listen -- I have a set "pitch" I give to candidates where I talk about the history of the company, the culture, the future, benefits, etc. I hate being interrupted during the pitch. It's not the fact that I may lose my train of thought or that I don't want to hear what you have to say. It just tells me you are going to be one of those "Back at (previous employer) we used to blah , blah, blah" types and not last a week once hired. I don't care what you know, I care what you can learn. Listen and save your questions until to the end.
7. Is this job for you? -- The reason I was chosen to recruit was because I did the job. Therefore, I am going to be brutally honest with you. I am going to tell you the good and the bad. You are going to work 60-65 hours weeks, nights and weekends, on your feet all day etc. But you will earn a good living with a growing company. Ask questions and find out how this job could affect your lifestyle. Ask yourself if you are going to be able to commit to the job.
8. Don't talk money -- Talking money over the phone is an automatic "86" and borderline "86" in the first interview. You should be confident enough in your own abilities to know not to broach that subject just yet. This is another red flag that tells me you are chasing the money and not the opportunity. Let the potential employer initiate the salary conversation.
9. Find out how to follow up -- This is a common practice in sales, but you are selling yourself, right? It's important to follow up after the interview to see what the next step would be but it's also important to find out the best method. Office phone? Mobile phone? E-mail? Text? Asking this question will not only help you find out the best method, but will also show you are considerate of the recruiter's time. Personally, I am an e-mail kind of guy. Find out the best way to follow up with the potential employer.
None of these details are sure-fire. I have hired some clunkers and probably missed out on some superstars. But, these details have helped me narrow the gap and, furthermore, allowed me to save two precious commodities in recruiting - time and money.
Richard Averitte is the Recruiting Director & Area Manager for Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q, a group of restaurants serving the finest fried chicken and Eastern-North-Carolina-style Bar-B-Q. Food is made fresh daily from family recipes and served in a family-friendly atmosphere. Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q has over 30 locations in North Carolina as well as an online store where BBQ can be ordered and shipped anywhere in the United States. For more details, visit www.scnbnc.com.