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How to Hire a Line Cook

line cook

Hiring a line cook is one of the toughest tasks in the restaurant industry today. It’s hard to find applicants, much less schedule interviews.

In some cities, like San Francisco, the labor pool is so depleted that line cook positions are going unfilled for weeks, if not longer. Luckily there are some strategies you can consider the next time you need to hire a line cook (which statistically is probably right now).

Write out your job listing before you need it

A job listing is a form of marketing. With so few line cooks in the labor pool, you need to compete with all the other restaurants trying to hire a line cook. From reviewing thousands of job postings as wells as from talking to a lot of job seekers, here are a few things that can help attract applications.

List the compensation: As costs of living rise, workers need to cover their expenses. Give prospective candidates a sense of whether they can afford to work for you.

List the hours: List the expected hours you’re looking to fill – especially if the job is part-time. Workers like stability as much as employers do.

Write a clear description of the job: “Line Cook” can mean a lot of things, so follow up with more information about the job.

Highlight any opportunities to grow: Saying that you promote from within is a huge plus for job seekers. People are often looking to develop their skills and knowledge. If you provide opportunities to learn more about the industry, you’ll see an uptick in applicants.

Emphasize you’re an equal opportunity employer: This goes without saying, but be welcome to everyone with the skills to do the job.

Be flexible when scheduling the interviews

You’re busy, but line cooks have a lot of options when it comes to getting a job. Be prepared to work with a candidate to schedule the time for an interview – especially if you’re hiring for a part-time position. Consider using an interview scheduling and communications tool like the one offered on Poached.

Be a good interviewer

Interviews are stressful for everyone involved. The candidate wants to say the right thing, while the employer has a dozen other things on their mind. Make sure to offer a drink, even if just a glass of water. Review the candidate’s resume ahead of time and have some basic questions prepared. You want to both learn as much as you can in a short amount of time and to leave a good impression. If a candidate feels rushed or interrogated, they may not accept an offer for a job.

Ask for a stage, but not for free labor

If you are a fan of the stage, make it clear to the candidate what the goals of the stage are. Generally, the point of the stage is to both see how a candidate handles themselves in a professional kitchen, as well as to evaluate their knowledge and skill level. Avoid having a candidate work a station, but instead have them follow someone and perform light prep duties. For example, one chef I worked with had his stagiaires mince parsley, only so he could see if their knives were well maintained and sharp – not because he needed minced parsley.

That same chef would also limit a stage to two hours, maximum, and invite the candidate to a free meal off the menu at the end. The result of this was most candidates who worked a stage accepted an offer.

Make the hire

Once you’ve found your best candidate, make them into an employee as quickly as possible. It’s a very tight labor market and job hunters are likely entertaining multiple offers. If you wait too long to reach out to a potential employee – some other restaurant will get there first. You’ll want to call or text as soon as you can and immediately schedule a start date. A candidate may accept your offer, but if they have to wait a week before starting, they just might take another job.

Hiring a line cook is always a challenge – and it’s likely not going to get easier. The sooner you have a plan, the better.

Jack Hott

Jack Hott has more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry. Along the way he’s flipped burgers, tossed pizzas and spilled a lot of wine on white table cloths.

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