Get the best out of your interviews

Recruiting the right staff can be tricky, but pitfalls can be avoided if you are properly prepared, writes HR specialist Alastair McFarlane

The world of hospitality is one, surely, where the image presented is absolutely critical.
On a personal basis you may tick all the proverbial boxes, but it is your staff who are your ambassadors.

• It’s worth doing your homework before interviewing potential staff.

Do they really project the image you wish? Do you invest sufficient time, energy and effort in their selection?
If you have a number of applications for a role you must ensure that in their interview each has the opportunity to make the most effective possible personal presentation.

Each candidate must leave the meeting with the best possible image of your organisation and yourself. Each must have the chance to give their best, which is, of course, best achieved if the interview can be conducted in a room where there are no interruptions.

Set out the chair for the candidate at an angle to the desk or table contributing to the relaxed atmosphere – it is not an eyeball to eyeball interrogation.  You have that person’s CV or application letter (hide any others as nothing makes a worse impact than the candidate seeing several CVs lying on your desk).

For candidates there is one critical piece of advice: to put 110% preparation into any interview.
For the interviewer this should be precisely the same. Why not provide a job description in advance?

Make sure you have scrutinised the CV, marking up any issues or concerns. Have the candidate bring along the original of any qualifications which they may have (yes there are regularly false claims made in this connection at all levels).

Most important of all, however, is to develop a crib sheet to allow you to objectively assess each candidate and how their skills, knowledge and experience matches your defined criteria for the role (if two are interviewing then each assesses separately allowing for valuable after-interview debate).

Obviously you have to work your way through the potential contents for each job but for a waiting role, for instance, you could introduce:
• Image projected: here image could focus on how smart the person looks (presuming that smart/casual is the requirement for the interview).
• Reasons for leaving previous roles: of course it is fine if people move for promotion but if they have short-term roles beware. And remember that if someone has been selected for redundancy (as opposed to, say, closure), this can spell danger.
• Ability to deliver strong customer service: make this a competency-based question. Of course everyone says that this is their mantra but ask them to prove it. “Please give me an example of a situation in which you provided exceptional service”. Yes, one situation, not generalisations.
• Quality of CV: do you really want those who come up with spelling mistakes and bad grammar?
• Communication skills: can the person project their voice as you want them to? Do they come over with a smile at the right time?

This list can be as long as you want it to be, determined by the competency base of the role.
Eventually the right candidate will emerge and you can give feedback to the others if necessary.

Remember, also, that nowadays most former employers may only be willing to provide you with a clarification of what the person was previously doing when working with them and the dates of employment.

Admittedly, recruiting the right staff can be a bit of a nightmare but get your act together in a professional way and your investment will definitely pay considerable dividends.

• Alastair McFarlane is a director of Professional HR Services.