A guide to building a stellar staff: screening candidates

By Carrie Luxem

Finding and hiring a world-class team sets the stage for long-term success. In this 5-part series, we’ll discuss the latest techniques, tips, and protocols that leave our clients with a pool of incredible candidates.

If you missed the first two posts, you’ll want to catch up by reading about how to determine staffing needs and how to actively recruit candidates.

Next up, it’s time to screen the growing pool of candidates!

Screening Candidates

Whether candidates apply online or in-person, the applications will need to be reviewed by the hiring team.

And since you may receive hundreds of applications from your recruiting efforts, being able to narrow the candidates down and create a hiring hierarchy can be a real timesaver.

Common advice is to immediately eliminate the candidates who have a typo on their resume or who don’t follow the instructions in the job ad to a T.

While there may certainly be some merit to that tactic, it’s also quite possible that you’ll end up overlooking a stellar candidate.

Instead, try sorting through the resumes based on the following:

  1. Is the application complete?
  2. Is the candidate eligible to work in the US?
  3. Have they ever been convicted of a crime?
  4. Have they ever been involuntarily discharged from a job?
  5. What hours can they work?
  6. How does that compare to what you need?
  7. Do their salary requirements match what you’re willing to pay?
  8. Why did they leave their past positions?
  9. Did they provide references?
  10. What kind of work experience do they have?

You can create “definitely,” “maybe,” and “probably not” interview piles as you work through the stack. But just remember that there will likely be exceptions to the rule.

Exceptions to the Rule

If there’s one thing you learn about screening candidates, it’s that the process is far from black and white. There’s a tremendous amount of grey area.

Consider this scenario:

You’ve determined that a positive attitude and willingness to learn are the top two traits you’re searching for when hiring.

Candidate A fits that description perfectly, but she has no experience in the restaurant industry. Candidate B has worked in the industry for ten years, but says he quit his last position because his boss wanted him to cross-train in the front of house.

Which candidate sounds like a better fit for this restaurant’s culture?

Definitely candidate A! You can often teach and supplement one’s skills, but attitude and personality are nearly impossible to teach.

Experience and knowledge have their place, but it might not always be the deciding factor – especially when compared to your needs.


Carrie Luxem is the founder and President of Restaurant HR Group, a full-service HR group based in Chicago, IL. Carrie will be sharing her wisdom from over 15 years in restaurant human resources through guest-posts on the Homebase blog.

Want some HR help? Get started with Homebase today


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