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Digging Deeper to Discover Employees’ Personalities

How deep should an organization dig to make sure they find the right employee?

More and more, companies are taking some rather deep steps to determine if their next important hire is someone who is going to fit well in the present and the future. 

Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey is one of the experts touting this approach and some of the steps he takes may seem extreme. But if you are looking for a long-term, loyal and high-level restaurant employee, you could consider adding these steps to a more intense screening process:

  • Checking their budget: Ramsey finds that since finances cause so much stress for employees in their personal lives, it’s best to check their budget. Ramsey says this way he gets a true sense of not only whether the organization is paying enough (some prospects will accept a job event if doesn’t pay enough to pay their bills). Seeing how the numbers work out for them - and also how they manage their own finances - can give a great sense of whether the employee will have peace of mind while working. 
  • Interviewing spouses: This again is a case of taking it to the next level. Interviewing spouses can give you a sense of the true character of an employee, and it can also give you a glimpse into how distracting or complicated their personal life may be. 
  • Reviewing their goals: Getting to the nitty-gritty of a potential employee’s ambition is helpful as well, no matter where they would fit in the restaurant hierarchy. Ramsey recommends finding employees who have clear, defined goals that are laid out in achievable time-sensitive parts. Someone without clearly defined goals may just drift through your staff. 

These steps go above and beyond standard hiring exercises to be sure. But if you’re looking to take your restaurant to the next level that only high-achievers or honest and driven workers can take you, then you are going to have to shake up your mindset. Ramsey has laid out a blueprint to do just that.

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Reader Comments (25)

I agree with the last statement about achievable goals, but the first two regarding personal finances and interviewing spouse are out of line. With the difficulty people have faced these last few years, many people found themselves in situations that were out of the ordinary and they are trying to regain ground. Regarding interviewing spouse..that's a complete invasion of privacy in my opinion.

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatherine

Thanks for your input, Katherine!

December 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

I agree with Katherine to an extent. Personal finances can be in disarray for several reasons. Mine are due to a divorce and I am trying to get them all paid. But, a credit check would reveal problems for me at this time. I have warned the interviewers about this and when I've interviewed, others have had similar problems. If you are going to dismiss a possible candidate due to finaces, just stick with a credit check.
Interviewing spouses can be ok but don't forget the axiom 'opposites attract'. A person is attracted to another a lot of the time due to qualities they see in the other that they admire and/or lack in themselves. Whether it is a forceful or retiring personality, if you dismiss your candidate for the spouse... it could be a person you would have wished to have had in retrospect.
I always discuss goals with an applicant. I like to see what it is that they are working towards. I have hired plenty of teenagers and the main desire they have had is to afford a vehicle. This kid is going to work to get that car, work for the insurance, etc. because to a teenager a vehicle means freedom. What person doesn't want that! Yes, you may occassionally get stung, but on the whole this works. I've hired people that their goal has been to get their kids back due to a problem thay have had with the law. This creates a sense of gratitude for you. Just don't abuse that gratitude because it is easy for it to turn in to resentment. I've hired people that needed a job while they go through college. That's usually a minimum of a four year commitment. Hire Them! They may be limited for you at times due to term papers and exams, but on the whole, if they are serious about college they will be just as serious working for you.
I feel that you have missed one of the most important areas that you need to search out when interviewing. Commitment level. To me, there are three indicators that help me focus on this. Don't quote the application though! If you see something on the app that you don't like, then why would you bother interviewing!?!? An interview should just be for you to see if this person is a match for what you are trying to accomplish at your location.
The three parts in commitment to me are as follows; Aptitude, Attitude and Desire.
Aptitude= they should have some skill set for this postion. Picture them performing the job in uniform. If you can't, then don't.
Desire= they should have something in them that wants to do this over another industry. Get a sense from them of why they applied and if they seem genuine. If the answer is "Eh, I know this stuff. I'd rather be a vet, but I can do this." Don't hire! The moment they get a chance to leave you, they will.
Attitude= the most important thing and this is what the candidate brings. A lackadaisical or poor attitude means drop them. The only person that can affect their attitude is themself. You'll be combatting this throughout the training process and wondering why you ever hired this person.
Sorry for the long post, just my beliefs with this.

December 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMack

Great feedback, Mack!

December 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

While I agree with Mack, We must realize that the relationship is a two way street. The employers must do their part to keep the employee and honor the comittments made during the hiring process. I do agree that interviewing spouses is an invasion of privacy, but doing background checks through the credit reporting agency is a must for management recruits considering the amount of money flowing through the restaurants.
Hourly employees are more transient and less predictable as only a very small fraction do transition into managemant.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

As I agree with the majority consensus, there is a lot to consider when hiring any potential candidate. It is my belief that you need to cater to what your restaurant culture is. Are you looking for a more hip employee or someone who will work well with an older crowd. You also have to consider whether they will fit with the current staff you have. If you are not careful you may create a dynamic that could erupt into complications everyone hopes to avoid. Everything depends on how good the interviewer is. You are the one making the decision to hire the candidate and handle any cituation that may arise from that decision. So I say this. Dig as deep as you feel fit. If you have any inclination not to hire, then there is your answer. Only you can make that decision. Only use methods taught as a tool and direction and not as a tell-tale sign.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEddie

My gut feel is that this is another example of our need to create a sea of drones, with no independent, creative thinkers.
This may sound like I'm skirting the issue but I think the effectiveness or appropriateness of all three (esp budget & spouse) depend on a multitude of factors, not least of which is the ability of the person doing the interviewing. For example, as a woman in a leadership position, in an industry segment that is still driven primarily by men, I can assure you that I am quite different at home with my spouse than I am in the workplace. Would this work for me or against me in an interview and my ability to do the job? I also think each needs to be carefully weighted depending on the position, the company's objectives etc. The reasons for financial issues are endless and could be a huge motivator or extremely detrimental. I would prefer that these inquiries be used as attributes/added value, and not to eliminate/destroy a candidate.

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEleanor

Wow! Brian you bring an interesting topic to the table. It seems we are continually looking for "new" ways to screen, "new" ways to evaluate, "new" ways to interview. While I appreciate the effort, I'm not sure the results would be any different in the end. If you have a thorough performance based interview, spend some time getting to know your candidates during the interview, and be creative- and more importantly PREPARED- to conduct a great interview one can usually get a pretty good picture of the person in front of you. I think that looking at an individuals financial picture, or interviewing spouses is, quite frankly, inappropriate. There is also not much to be gained. Most (if not all) of your hourly employees are younger, and just beginning to structure their financial and personal life. It's not necessarily good data. It also can create a bias for or against a candidate that isn't based on the facts of their life. Would this type of personal exposure be expected of the manager/owner of the establishment? This would allow the candidate to evaluate his/her employer to determine their suitability as an boss and employer. I have been in the business a long time and have found that regardless how well structured and detailed my interviews are, sometimes the "best" candidates are the worst in the end. Nothing can replace a strong interview and your gut/experience. The restaurant industry is largely transient. That reality has not changed in the 25 years I've been in the business. There are a lot a great operators out there that have excellent processes for finding what they hope are the best of the best for their business. Each business has its own personality- driven by the manager/owner. That creates an environment/culture specific to that store. I truly believe there does not need to be more invasive steps. In my experience getting interviewers to do a "real" interview will do more to produce the information and results desired. There is simply not enough time and energy spent on conducting great interviews every time. The tools are out there, unfortunately for many they let the business get in the way of excellent execution. Many managers have a difficult enough time spending enough quality time in interviews. In my opinion these additional ideas make the process even more challenging. One final note I will only mention- How does that interviewer get evaluated?

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim

I'm really enjoying all the input concerning this post. Keep 'em coming!

December 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

The only alarming aspect is interviewing the spouse. When you check someone's credit etc. that will redflag if they are conscientious about budgeting.
I only know one manager I worked with at TGIF, where the GM called up my co-manager's wife for coffee. Then the GM proceeded to implant her with a fake story of her own current trials and tribulations in order to get the co-manager's wife to open up. I think that sounds like it is against the law. One is not even allowed to ask if you own a new car for pete's sake.
To really eliminate the unsteadiness and any gut wretching that your having, follow that gut feeling an keep interivewing. My pure reaction to this is someone is not clear on the real makings of how Human Resources works. We have had a steadfast approach for quite sometime and without exploratory brain surgery, we have been able to limit the gene pool to those that meet our companies criteria. If so called authors of this species continue to contribute to society please limit yourself to only doing an autobiograph of yourself for better standup comedy material.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA word for

There are certainly some sharp opinions on this topic. Thanks for your input "A Word for".

December 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

I don't believe anyone should follow the advice of Dave Ramsey. Although he has a few valid points, anyone who is endorsed by FICO is not teaching what is best for the consumer, they are working for the "man". (This goes for Suze Orman too). Dave contradicts him self in his own "Financial Peace University" in more places than one. I believe if you are interviewing you should be the one in your office that is the most intuitive. If you don't have an intuitive person, then you have to resort to old methods, questioning and forms. First, you need to make sure that this person fits in your culture. If they are not going to fit in the "family" then they need no second interview and no further questioning. You need a cohesive family. This new candidate has to show a passion for people. You can teach anyone the restaurant business, it's not rocket science, but you can NOT teach someone to care or to be passionate about guest service. That is the key. What are the benefits to being highly intuitive you ask? My gut instinct has NEVER steered my wrong. Anyone can give a perfect interview and say all the right things, it takes a highly intuitive "GUT" to see through all the BS. I will trust my gut over what comes out of someone's mouth any day of the week. And, you need to check references!!! It's amazing what you find out about a person if you ask the right questions. Let your employess talk to them a bit, show them around, they will say things to a "non-manager" that they won' t say to you. This is a great way to see if they fit in your culture too. I trust my gut and my employees. Their opinion is definately important to me. Well ya'll have a great Christmas! My office will be closed from Dec. 23- Jan. 3 for my paid Xmas holiday...I know I know, it's the blessing of no longer being in the restaurant industry!!!). My new company is amazing and I love being at work with my second family and our passionate, fun and crazy culture! I am very blessed! Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

We get easily distracted by a lot of little unnecessary details when looking for a qualified person to do the job. Does anyone really think that you can find more information about the person by digging in his/her private life...? How about focusing on the persons ability to perform the job he/she is interviewing for...? One's credit report or talking to his/her spouse, or any computer assessment test does not reflect the qualification for the job. Employers should focus more on experience and accomplishment a person has done vs snooping in a person' privacy. By doing that we are no better than any other country in this world who does that such as the socialist or communist ones.

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMickhael Hallman

I love the activity this post is generating! Keep it up!

December 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

This is quite an interesting approach to hiring the right people. From my experience most of my associates are college age so this interviewing tactic does not work as well. What college age individual has a clear and concise budget laid out for the years they will be in college? Few of them are married and most of them have changing goals depending on their level of school. When interviewing I ask why they chose the college they did, how many hours of study they are taking, what their major is and what they want to be when they grow up,. Are they involved on campus in any specialty groups or sporting teams? Their level of commitment will shine through as they speak of their line of study and any extra curricular activities they are involved in. Listen to their level of engagement and excitement as they speak. Watch their eyes, are they involved in the moment or are they glossed over as they give rehearsed answers while thinking of the next Call of Duty battle? Outside of college age individuals I do think that questioning them about their budget or interviewing a spouse is a violation of their privacy. I, myself, would not be comfortable interviewing a spouse or even asking questions about one's budget. You are on a slippery slope the more you dig your way into someone's personal life. A lot of us managers say to keep your home life and your work life seperate while at work. So why would we want to bring them together while interviewing a potential candidate?

December 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael K.

After reading the story and the comments to follow, it makes me wonder why everyone seems to have an issue with interviewing the spouse. When one thinks of the money that a company invests in a "new-hire" whether it be management or hourly, I think knowing exactly what they're getting should be very important. My spouse is my best friend and confidant. She is who knows me better than anyone else does, and if a company wants another opinion about my character or how we budget our bank account, let them inquire with her. Business references are only good to a point, but your spouse knows what you are like on and off the clock.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I somewhat agree with Heidi ( a few posts upwards) about Dave Ramsey. I would always catch his show if I was on the road at the right time and I thought his advice was impeccable and he was always on the money excuse the pun. I would never have thought that he would be involved in making recruitment recommendations.
Having said that, I think the financial budgeting maybe a false start as a credit report will indicate current and historical signs of trouble.

I would not have any hesitation about my spouse being interviewed. I do however, think " interviewed " is the wrong word here by the way. There is a chance that spouses could end up being really nervous thinking they may blow the opportunity for theIr significant other and the object of the exercise could be defeated. If the position involves extensive travel and time away, then that is a good question for a spouse to answer.

I strongly believe in goals both personal and professional and this should be part and parcel of every interview regardless. Obviously the goals will vary depending on the age/maturity of the candidate. I would not have any hesitation in spelling out what my professional and personal goals are.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterS.M.

I could see this being more appropriate in a smaller closely held company where the candidate might be the most important part of the puzzle other than getting a great location. An example would be a financial person bringing in an operating partner. I've actually had that situation where they didn't actually interview my wife, but they wanted to meet us in a social situation (dinner) to get to know us. There is no doubt in my mind we both were under evaluation.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRandy

Good point, Randy. And I'm sure you were both being evaluated.

January 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

I do agree that we can put together a more accurate profile of a person by digging deeper and finding their story in their history. Credit checks reveal a pattern or an incident in their past. It may not make or break someone, but it they have a long term ongoing problem with credit. That is no excuse and I find them too risky to pursue. One incident or incidents during a specific period of time can show a personal or health issue. I would look to see how things are going after that. Was this person able to rise back up. Get things back in order and bounce back from adversity? This will show a spirit of tenacity. Looking closer at job histories and schools attended tells a story of the road they have traveled to get to your door. Where have they lived? How often have they moved? You should be able to put together a total image that shows how they have lived their life. This can be a great indicator of where they are at now. Does their history make sense? Or does it seem they don't really have control over their life? IF not, do you really want them controlling your money?

January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Sporcich

Good input, Nicholas. Much appreciated!

January 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

If properly trained to interview, a lot of these steps are invasive and unnecessary. The financial piece is especially disturbing, especially with the economy the way it is now. Some people have been unemployed for 2 years through no fault of their own. Of course their finances are in disarray. That is why they need a job.

As for the spouse, I think that is over the line. My family life (or lack thereof) is none of their business. As long as I can perform the job, that is all that matters. One exception: An expensive relocation - I can understand that employers would want to ensure the spouse is okay with the move. But then again, they could still just tell them what they want to hear.

Does anyone care at all about respecting our privacy at all anymore?

January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Tarbell

The interview process is key, we all agree on that. You are the gate keeper for your business and you must protect it and be very careful who you let in. Many if not all companies over the years have gone to a questionaire as part of the interview process. Usually during the first interview and it is a go or no go after that. What happened to building skills and being able to dig deeper as to why someone answered the question the way they did. When you begin to ask the questions as to why the applicant answered the way they did you will get a better understanding of the core values of this person and what they may be passionate about. I personally like to know about the goals and what a persons hobbies may be. Many of us are very passionate about something and it is our hobby. Reality is we would not be able to make a living at it. This will let you know if the person is all in, or is just sitting on their hands going through life. When askiing questions about certain situations I prefer to hear about what a person did not the long list of things that they could not do. This will let you know if they are blaming the world for everything or if they are taking responsibility and an active roll.
With many of the others I agree that the financial part is not important to me. We are living in very different times and the smallest bump in the road can cause major damage.
My main rule of thumb is: When in doubt; keep looking.

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Hi Jeff, I appreciate the insightful input!

January 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterHeadHunterBrian

Interviewing spouses are you insane? Let me get this straight you are advocating asking a candidate if they are married in an interview as part of your process? What if they answer any of the following no I'm single, I live my opposite-sex or same-sex partner, I am married to my same-sex partner, my spouse is suffering from Muscular Dystrophy or I am a polygamous?

Ask yourself if it is illegal to ask in an interview the candidate's marital status or sexual orientation why would it be okay to require a spousal interview? And you third party recruiters who ask these illegal question you are creating vicarious liability for your clients and yourselves.

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTristan

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