• Lucy Warman

Chapter 2 - On Trial.....

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Within restaurants and hotels, no matter which department, I am a big advocate of the trial shift. In the last chapter we looked at good recruitment practice. Now that we think we have found the next greatest star (for the purpose of this tale, we’ll call him Marco) it’s time to check out whether Marco is the man for us.

A trial shift is a no-strings-attached way to check that Marco, the potential new waiter has the necessary skills. We know from interviewing him that he can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk? Does he fit in with the team? Does Marco want to work with us? We’ll give him a through experience so he really knows what we are all about and what he can expect if he joins the team.

Bringing Marco in to do his trial shift during a relatively busy shift will show him how our service works, how the team interact and how the manager runs the shift. It is a great opportunity for him to meet the people he will be working with. He can see for himself how the restaurant is set up and how service is run. He can check out the interactions between the restaurant and bar and kitchen staff and how everything fits together.

Whilst we can explain all this in an interview, it is not the same as experiencing it for himself. It is just as important that Marco really wants to work for us, as it is for us to decide to employ him.

The shift needs to be busy enough that Marco can immerse himself in it, but not too busy that he gets forgotten. Too many times in my HR career, I have checked in on someone on their trial shift to see that they are being utilised as a member of the team, due to staffing shortages. This gives the candidate a very poor impression. It’s usually the same managers that recruit on the basis of two arms, two legs and a heartbeat…. Say no more.

The trial shift is not about teaching them how to be a tech genius on the POS system, or how to complete the weekly stock take. It is not a training opportunity, more a job shadow process. The aim is to show Marco an overview of how we work, to show him the ropes. Buddying him up with a trusted, more senior member of the team. The aim is to give him a positive informative and honest insight into the operation.

Some other key tips for a good trial shift:

  • Let the candidate know how long they will be with you and if they will be paid or not

  • Aim for approximately four hours over a service period, i.e 11am – 3pm over lunch

  • Create a lose structure, with set things you want to cover

  • Encourage them to ask lots of questions

  • Show them around so they can see where everything is

  • Introduce them to lots of people so they can see the friendly team ambiance

  • Don’t “train” them, just allow them to experience service

For Chefs, it is common to get them to cook something. Often we have specified what that is, other times, we ask the Chef to surprise us and make a dish of their choice. This is our opportunity to ensure s/he has the raw cooking skills we require. If they go for beans on toast in a Michelin kitchen, you’ll know they aren’t the one. It also means we can see that they work safely, they work in a clean and tidy manner and how they gel with the kitchen team. In the Spa, we get Therapists to perform a beauty or massage treatment on a member of the team (being as altruistic as I am, I ALWAYS offered to be the guinea pig!!) This demonstrates to the manager that they have the personality and skill-set required.

There are lots of ways the trial shift can be tailored to make it insightful for both the candidate and you as the hiring manager. Having a clean plan of what you want to achieve, what skills you are looking for and how these will be demonstrated during the trial shift will maximise this fantastic opportunity to find out more about your potential new team mate.

For bespoke support with recruitment and trial shifts, give me a call or drop me a line.

07713 069050

All Things People

Next time.... on-boarding Marco

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