Let’s face it: the days of “free” recruiting solutions for your business are long gone. Sure, free resources are available in some small markets, but they are usually free for a reason: they simply aren’t relevant to job seekers and, therefore, don’t work. In larger markets, where online recruiting is most popular, a plethora of web- and app-based recruiting solutions exist, each with their own promise of how they will save employers time and money, and ultimately, “revolutionize your recruiting pipeline.” With so many options, this leaves hospitality owners/operators asking the question: “If I have to pay to recruit online, what am I getting for my hard-earned dollar?”

Usually, very little. Or, too much. And both can be costly for your business. But, we’ll get into that in a minute.

Hiring in a One-Of-A-Kind Industry

The hospitality industry is unique when it comes to the positions offered, the nature of the shift work, and the type of individual that is typically attracted to the industry. Restaurants are busiest at meal times (duh!), times when people working in other industries are off work or on breaks, and into the late night. As a result, hospitality rarely affords the run-of-the-mill 9-5 work week. Additionally, due to the seasonal nature of the industry, workers’ hours can vary dramatically from month-to-month and paycheques can be unpredictable at certain times of the year. This type of work generally attracts a younger demographic such as students, whose work schedules require flexibility to accommodate their studies, and others whose family and social calendars are of high importance.

As a result of these factors (and others), employee turnover can be relatively high in hospitality and a steady stream of quality job candidates is needed to sustain business, especially during the busy summer months when patios are open. But what kind of recruiting solution is most appropriate to this unique industry? One where the candidate’s application experience is priority number one.

Applicant-Focused vs. Employer-Focused Recruiting

Recruiting for a restaurant is markedly different than recruiting for, say, a mining company. Or, an accounting firm. Or, any business other than hospitality, for that matter. And yet many hospitality businesses rely on the same recruiting tools and processes that these other industries do to source and on-board new hires.

A quick scenario: A logistics company is looking to hire a warehouse manager. The company posts on the various paid classified sites and job boards, sponsors posts on social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, and may even employ an outside recruiter to assist with the search for the perfect candidate. In all cases, their advertisements instruct candidates to apply via their Applicant Tracking System (ATS), for which the company pays hundreds to thousands of dollars every month. This system requires that candidates write and upload position-specific resumes and cover letters as well as complete long employment forms and questionnaires, all of which take candidates significant time to complete.

This scenario makes sense from the logistics company’s perspective: they get all of the information they need up front to fully evaluate each candidate on paper and funnel them through their on-boarding process. Plus, the process eliminates those candidates who aren’t fully invested in applying for the warehouse manager position due to the lengthy application. Generally speaking, the logistics company wins (though they may lose out on some quality applicants due to the process).

However, is this application process appropriate for a server, busser, host, cook, or even sous chef position in your restaurant or bar? Not a chance. At first glance, a potentially great hire will balk at time involved and will send their resume off to a competitor instead. Your company loses.

Choosing a Hospitality-Appropriate Recruiting Solution

The above example highlights the need to focus on the applicant when selecting a recruiting solution for your hospitality business. In a customer-facing business, restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, and hotels do not require everything down to an applicant’s underwear size (okay, a slight exaggeration) to determine whether they can do the job. In most cases in hospitality, who the applicant is is much more important than what they have done when determining suitability for a particular position. The old adage rings true: skills can be taught, attitude cannot.

In this industry, then, businesses must focus on selecting a recruiting solution that allows candidates to apply in the fastest and easiest way possible while providing the applicant with the ability to showcase who they are and what they have done. A hospitality-appropriate online application process includes more than just an emailed resume while avoiding potential barriers and turn-offs like long questionnaires, cover letters, and personality assessments. Instead, it allows applicants to present to you what they want to highlight about themselves. At the end of the day, everything a candidate shares or chooses not to share with a potential employer says something about that candidate, and it doesn’t take a shrewd hiring manager to spot the great candidates from the not-so-great.

The Importance of Recruiting Right

In today’s labour market, the competition for excellent employees is strong and the process by which your business accepts applicants can determine whether a customer-service star increases your sales or that of your competitors.

Making sure that your application process is hospitality appropriate involves considering the demographics of your candidate pool, which is entirely influenced by the types of positions, hours, and work environment that your businesses offers. By no means are hospitality applicants lazy or un-engaged when it comes to applying for their next serving or cooking job; time-consuming in-person applications used to be the de facto process, after all. The simple fact is, the nature of the industry often results in the need for shorter-term, flexible employment, and an application process that enables candidates to conveniently find new jobs while providing you, the employer, with just the right information to holistically evaluate their suitability is key.

Recruiting solutions that may be appropriate for many other industries can be entirely inappropriate for the one-of-a-kind hospitality industry, and selecting the right one or wrong one for your business will, undoubtedly, show up in your sales figures.


Justin McAleenan is a co-founder of EightSix Network, a leading job marketplace for the customer service industry in Canada. EightSix's easy-to-use software allows employers to affordably recruit amazing people on demand via job postings and access to its 150,000-strong Talent Community. Justin can be reached via LinkedIn.