A guide to building a stellar staff: intentional interviewing

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.

In Part III of the series, we screened our pool of candidates and organized their resumes into three stacks: “definitely,” “maybe,” and “probably not.”

Remember, this sorting was based on the information found in the applications and resumes. More than likely, you haven’t met most of these candidates face-to-face yet, unless they applied in-person and you happened to be there as well.

Before we move on to interviewing, here’s one more tidbit that may be helpful in screening candidates: Assign specific staff members with the task of distributing applications to walk-ins. These should be employees whose judgment you trust.

When a potential candidate comes in and asks for an application, have the staff member take note of the following:

  • Were they polite and professional?
  • Were they dressed appropriately?
  • Were they patient?
  • Were they prepared?

This is the first true impression of what this applicant will be like to manage, so having a staff member quickly jot down on few notes and attach it to the application can be very insightful.

Avoid Legal Landmines

With that, let’s talk about interviewing face-to-face.

It’s at this point where many owners get nervous about what they should and shouldn’t say. Especially when trying to get to know a candidate, it can be easy to “cross the line” into personal territory that would be better left off-limits.

Below is a list of questions that are sometimes asked by operators during the interview process:

  1. That’s a great accent! Where are you from?
  2. What are your greatest strengths? What about areas of opportunity?
  3. Do you have children?
  4. Tell me why you’re interested in working at our restaurant.
  5. Are you married?
  6. Are you able to lift 25 lbs and carry it?
  7. Do you attend church?
  8. Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  9. Are you planning on having a family in the future?
  10. If hired, can you prove you are authorized to work in the US?

From a legal standpoint, are all of these questions appropriate?

If you said no, you’d be correct! The even-numbered questions are legally acceptable to ask during an interview, while the odd-numbered questions should be avoided.

“Form”-alize Interviews

In order to stay consistent and on track in each interview, we recommend you use a Screen Form (available here: joinhomebase.com/hr-resources).

Essentially, it’s a cheat sheet that also allows you to evaluate each candidate in a similar fashion. Forms may contain rating systems, pre-determined interview questions, and areas to make additional notes.

The form keeps the process organized and helps you control the interview. It also dramatically boosts the confidence of the interviewer since a plan is in place.

Several variations exist online, but it’s quick and easy to customize it specifically to your own needs too.

Up Next

Stay tuned for the final segment of our staffing series later this month. We’ll discuss how to properly wrap up interviews with candidates as well as some other tidbits you won’t want to miss!


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.

See how Homebase can help even more by visiting our HR and Compliance page


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