Use Mystery Applicants to Improve Restaurant Hiring

Apr 18, 2019 | Human Resources

So you think you’ve got this hiring thing down. You’ve joined all the right groups. You’re recruiting in all the right places. You know how to ask the right questions. But still those less-than-suitable employees keep slipping through to muddle up your operation. What’s gone wrong? Maybe you’ve prepared yourself to hire the best people, but other managers within your operation are still going with the same old “hire ’em if they can breathe” method that’s so prevalent in the restaurant industry. It may be time to send in some mystery applicants to find out what’s not working.

Hiring the best people for your restaurant should be first and foremost on everyone’s mind for the good of your operation. So train your managers with the best techniques for recruiting and interviewing quality employees. Then, test their skills by hiring “Mystery Applicants” to help you see where the problems are.

You’re probably familiar with the idea of a mystery shopper program to evaluate customer service. Using mystery applicants is basically the same idea. Setting up interviewees to evaluate the interviewing skills of other managers will help you identify the weak spots in your operation’s hiring chain. Shifty? Well, maybe… but keep in mind that you’re evaluating interviewers to identify where there’s a need for further training — not to get someone in trouble. And, by all means, tell your hirers that you may eventually send mystery applicants their way just to see that they’ve retained and are using their training.

Begin by soliciting the help of people about the same age and personality type as your typical employee. Consider contacting a temporary agency — be sure to describe in detail what you’re trying to do! Some restaurateurs have even contacted talent agencies for mystery applicants — aspiring actors will obviously be great at pretending to be someone they’re not!

Explain your interviewing and hiring policies and philosophies so they know how they should be treated. You don’t necessarily have to find people with restaurant experience. In fact, tell them to say they do anyway. If experience is one of your criteria and the interviewer can’t see through the fib and recommends hiring the applicant, they obviously need some additional hiring training.

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