September 28, 2012 |

Hiring Top Talent

By Pizza Today

Here’s how you can grab your slice of the talent pool.

Reputation matters. It’s critical that you hire right the first time; your reputation depends on it. Can teenagers (your future workforce) hear you yelling on the street at a bad hire? Are former employees advising their siblings and friends to steer clear of your business?

We all know things can heat up rapidly when working in a pizzeria, but that’s no excuse for acting like the “Soup Nazi” we’ve all seen on Seinfeld. Tempers can rise when operators are frustrated with their staff—a situation that can be avoided by picking the right work force.

Here’s a page right out of my book, Selecting for Success: The Complete Guide to Hiring Top Talent. You hire right the first time by:

  1. Identifying what your best employees (past and present) have in common. We call these “traits.” For staff members of pizzerias, these may include being conscientious, dependable and outgoing. But you must go deeper and understand how traits will vary depending on position. How vital, for example, is it for a delivery driver to be outgoing? You absolutely must have a manager who is conscientious, but if a server is less organized does that qualify as a deal breaker?
  2. Taking the time to learn how to properly assess candidates and training your staff to do this as well. Most of my clients readily admit that interviewing is one area where they most likely wouldn’t receive a passing grade. That may explain why their turnover rates are sky high. However, doing nothing doesn’t stop the problem of costly staff churn. You can become a better interviewer and assessor of prospective employees, and there are many resources to help you.
  3. Being patient. This is probably the most challenging part of the hiring process, as most owners want to just get it over with. And they do, by accepting someone who is competent but not great. Why shouldn’t you have great? If you’ve identified exactly what you need and trained yourself how to look for it, the quality of your hires will rise significantly.

Are you selling the right thing? You’re probably selling prospects on the fact that this is a job. Period. But that’s not what most people are looking for. They want an experience. Employees want to feel a connection to their employer, and more importantly, to their co-workers.

I remember my first job at The Ponderosa Steakhouse. I still have fond memories of that job, even though I came home every night smelling like salad dressing and I always had to wear a yellow shirt and a cowboy hat. Why? Because it felt like we were a family. Management made it a point to provide tables for us to dine together prior to our shift. Some of us spent more time at that table than the one in our homes. We worked with a great crew and had solid managers who quietly corralled us if we strayed.

What type of experience are you offering your people? Is your crew part of a company-sponsored bowling league or today’s version—a Wii League? Are you coming together monthly to support the community? Are you promoting from within and allowing people to build their skills, so that when they leave—and almost all of them will, eventually—they can say this was time well spent? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then that’s what you should be selling when you hire a top-notch staff.

Are you casting your net wide enough?
The restaurant business is said to be a young person’s province because of the physical demands that are required of the job. At least that used to be the case. Sadly, today’s youth are often less fit than their parents, who may be in need of extra income to send their offspring to college.

When recruiting, cast your net wide. Be open to the possibility that your ideal hire may look nothing like the person you imagine in the job.

Social media can also help expand your search. Be sure to post job announcements on your Facebook page, LinkedIn and Twitter. But don’t forget about some of the more traditional tried and true ways of recruiting. These include networking, establishing relationships with local colleges, career fairs, sponsoring high school clubs and placing a posting in your church or synagogue bulletin.

Your slice of the talent pool is there for the taking—if you’re willing to take a closer look at your recruitment process to see what’s working and what’s not, and then make the necessary changes.

Human resources consultant Roberta Chinsky Matuson ( is the author of The Magnetic Workplace: How to Hire Top Talent That Will Stick Around, which will be published in 2013.

Roberta Matuson presented seminars during previous Pizza Expos, like “Find and Keep Your Slice of the Employee Talent Pool” and “Gen Y Strategies for Business Growth,”