No matter what industry you’re in, the quality of your workforce has a direct impact on the quality of your product or service. Investing in your people from day one is the key to so much more than profitability; it’s the key to company culture, retention, brand perception, and creating a strong candidate pipeline. 

 At Pedestal Foods, we’ve built our reputation on our people; developing that asset starts in the recruiting and hiring process. Just like ours, your hiring and recruiting process is one of the most important functions of your company.  Chances are, your employees are the ones directly interfacing with your clients and customers (in our case, students and staff) every day. Our people are more than cooks and servers and chefs and managers. They’re our brand on the ground, and we don’t take that lightly. 

 We’re constantly asked how we pick such great people. 

 Here’s how you can do it, too:

 Actively hire for soft skills. 

The importance of “soft skills” is no secret; you already know that it’s far easier to train an employee for technical skills than to instill or change their values, culture compatibility, work ethic, or communication style. The “soft skills” aren’t a “nice to have,” they’re a “must have.”

 If these are the qualities that truly make or break job performance; why not rank them at the same level as technical skills and experience?

 Before you conduct that first interview, meet with your team to establish the “soft skills profile” you’re looking for, and evaluate the candidate for those skills during the interview. 

 “When it comes to interviewing for soft skills, we look to our seven core values,” said Kathy Roeder, Pedestal Foods’ Vice President, Human Resources. “Our interviews focus on behaviors that demonstrate Commitment, Integrity, Gratitude, Unity, Innovation, Discipline and Excellence. We ask questions that give our candidates an opportunity to share with us specific examples of how they’ve shown up with each of those in a prior job.” 

Know and protect your company culture. 

Even the most highly trained candidate can seem like a perfect match, but if they don’t mesh with your company culture, they’ll find it hard to succeed. Even “giving it a try” with a poor culture fit can create a ripple effect that can affect productivity, job satisfaction and retention for others. “Our culture is what sets us apart and something we put a lot of effort into protecting,” said Carmen Eiland, Human Resources Business Partner. “Someone who isn’t a culture add can be detrimental to a unit in the short term and sometimes, for the long term.”

 A good culture add, on the other hand, can have a positive effect that reaches beyond that person’s immediate daily interactions. 

 Culture add will always have a “trial and error” component, but your interview process can greatly minimize the risk. For us, evaluating culture means paying close attention long before the interview. 

 “We pay attention to the way a candidate responds to our Talent Advisor team, the answers given using our prequalification process, and how they present for the interview.” said Tammy Bailey, Recruiting Manager.  “By the time they interact with the interview team, we already have a lot of information about culture add. The interview is more about getting a final read on the spirit of service to our students.”

Promote from within.

Want to find the best people for the job? Most of the time, the best candidates are right under your nose. “For us, it’s part of our mission to find passionate people and help them grow and become better. That mindset is our best recruiting and retention tool,” said Tina Moss, Senior Human Resources Business Partner. 

 When you hire from within your own ranks, the familiarity factor is key – you know the candidate’s skills, work ethic, culture fit, and more. And the company-wide ripple effect is powerful. Kathy Roeder sees that ripple effect first hand every day. “Growth is key for most people, so to be somewhere that they can personally experience growth is beneficial to their life,” she said. “When others around them see that happen, it can inspire them to participate and engage in their role in new ways.” 

 What happens when there’s no direct promotion to fill the position? Broaden your options by recruiting from other departments—even if that person would need additional training and skills. It could be well worth the time and resources you invest in cross-training; bringing a strong culture fit to a new department can naturally strengthen that team from the inside out. “Cross-promoting creates new levels of engagement when someone brings depth and knowledge from another position with the Company,” said Roeder. “Tenure is a good thing. It helps us all grow.”

Don’t worry about personality tests. 

In our experience, tests like Myers-Briggs, DISC, and other personality gauges can be more problematic than helpful when it comes to hiring great people, especially in the hospitality and food service industry. For one, the test process is expensive and time-consuming, creating delays in the hiring process that can cost you top candidates. 

 Equipping leaders and decision makers with the information to actually read and interpret the tests accurately is another issue. Tests can provide interesting data points, but they shouldn’t be used as a rigid gatekeeper to employment. 

 “In my experience, the best ‘personality tests’ are open conversations with the hiring team and building rapport with the candidate,” said Tammy Bailey. “Hospitality work is all about being able to build quick connections with diverse populations to create a welcoming, comfortable environment while meeting strict quality and safety standards. You can’t test for that.” 

 Whether you’re hiring for an entry-level position or looking for the next leader to join your C-suite, the basics of great hiring come down to one thing: heart.  While there are no guarantees in the hiring process, keeping culture and values at the forefront will almost always create better matches, more satisfied employees, and a positive impact on your company.