Talk to any small business person for any length of time about their venture and I guarantee the topic of employees will come up sooner than later. Eventually the use of the line, “you just can’t get good help these days” will make it into the conversation.

I, however, am very grateful for my staff and feel privileged to hear most of the comments from customers about them. One woman in particular, told me yesterday that one of the things she likes about coming in to our restaurant is how enjoyable and interactive everyone seems to be. Another gentleman, who works in HR, asked me where I got my training in interviewing and hiring good help. I blushed at the compliment, but had to admit to him that my style is more visceral than textbook. I go with the gut most every time.

I have two questions; I call them my “cut to the chase” questions, which I use at the start of every interview. They are:

  1. Why do you want to work here?
  2. Why should I hire you?

I can usually tell after this initial query what you think about the both of us, whether or not you are informed about the kind of business we run, and if you possess any kind of self-awareness or not.

I’m looking for people who don’t just want a job; I’m looking for people for whom our place is first on their list. This was impossible at the onset, since nobody knew a thing about us, but now that our reputation has preceded us, more and more people are finding their way to my doorstep asking for an application.

Even though I may get snookered on the second question, it will only take a few days at work for your true colors to bleed through. In the interview, you may give me all the right answers about how you are such a hard worker, clean, and get along well with others, but one day in the dishroom will tell me if the default setting on your control panel is set to action or just plain talk. People are hired for what they know, and fired for who they are.

Most ads for help wanted put a strong emphasis on previous work experience, noting that 2yrs is a bare minimum in many cases, but not so much for me. Having worked in a commercial kitchen is not highest on my list of qualities in a new hire, else I wouldn’t have been able to give myself a job. Give me someone with a strong work ethic versus a culinary degree. I can teach you to cook; I can’t teach you to work. You’ve got it or you don’t.

May I have an application, please?