Seven Great Interview Questions for the Front of the House

The goal of employee candidate interviews is to learn as much as possible about an individual in a short amount of time to inform a hiring decision. A hiring manager has to glean a vast amount of information, including whether or not the candidate:

  • Is a team player
  • Is a good salesperson
  • Has a warm personality
  • Is motivated and professional

This is a major challenge within a 10-15 minute window. Hiring managers have be focused on employee responses instead of what questions to ask. They have to make quick evaluations that determine whether or not to schedule a follow-up interview. In a position that is already too demanding in most cases, it is practically necessary to have seven valuable questions committed to memory that can help narrow down the candidate list and make quick hiring decisions.

There are many creative, outside-the-box questions that great hiring managers use. Here are seven that emphasize the bottom line, giving candidates a concise platform to explain why they should be hired.

Why Should I Hire You?

This opening question is a step above “tell me about yourself” because it gives candidates a chance to sell themselves. This is also a great opening question that most candidates anticipate, making them more comfortable and forthcoming right off the bat. A manager wants to get the sense that the candidate is someone worth talking to, perhaps through direct eye contact, a smile and an engaging tone. The manager also wants to hear specific reasons why the candidate is the right choice.

Describe Your Favorite Meal

The candidate should like food and be able to sell the manager on his or her favorite meal. A detailed, specific answer suggests expertise and enthusiasm – the two most important ingredients for a strong salesperson. In many cases, this is more important than prior sales experience, especially in a restaurant with a strong staff and employee training program.

Why Do You Want to Work Here?

This is a classic interview question that always helps fill out the candidate profile. Hiring managers have been asking this question for 150 years. The manager needs to gauge the motivation of the candidate and understand the source of that motivation as it relates to the restaurant. A strong answer demonstrates that the candidate has spent time studying the restaurant and envisioning himself growing professionally as an employee.

What is Your Five-year Plan?

The best answer is a passionate and specific one. It doesn’t have to be about developing a career in hospitality. It should be honest and concrete, and it should be supported by evidence suggesting that the employee is actively working to get there. This question helps a manager determine if the candidate has a good head on his shoulders. It also helps the candidate describe how this position would provide progress toward that plan.

What Do You Love About Working in a Restaurant?

A great restaurant has many employees who are passionate about restaurants. The hiring manager wants to hear how the industry matches a candidate’s life, or how the candidate has skills that are well-suited to the position. This is a “no B.S.” question makes it easy to understand how important the restaurant industry is to the candidate.

What Do You Like About Working in a Team?

Great restaurants are built on successful teams, but working in the front of the house tends to cultivate self-interest. This is a major paradox of the business that can only be overcome by hiring team players. Strong answers include:

  • Seeing others succeed
  • Knowing that the restaurant’s success will help me
  • Camaraderie and working with others

This question generally lets the candidate articulate his enthusiasm for working in groups and how comfortable he is seeing others succeed.

What is Your Biggest Strength?

This is an easy question and it is a good one to end on. This should be a home run for the candidate, who should provide an answer that dovetails with the demands of the position. Ideally, candidate supports the strength he describes with specific experience that demonstrates this strength. The best answer is full of facts, with very little self-importance or boasting.

Deducing a little personal information as the candidate is answering these questions is also helpful. It’s always a good strategy to see if the candidate is wearing a wedding ring or talks about children or school. There are many answers that yield a sense of how motivate the candidate is, or how serious he is about goals. Careful observation is much easier when the hiring manager has several questions memorized and ready to go.


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