February 21

How To Prepare for a Working Interview

Tips on Creating a Structured Plan for Hiring Managers To Follow When Performing Successful Working Interviews

In the restaurant industry, working interviews are a great way to see folks in action and help you make that final decision to hire. 

More common in the back-of-house, where chefs can demonstrate their cooking techniques and knife skills— there are many front-of-house positions that can also benefit from adding this to the interview process. 

In-person interviews can be intimidating, causing some people who might actually have a lot of skill to be overlooked. This is why if a hiring manager sees any potential, performing a working interview is a good opportunity to get a real-life glimpse into the person’s work ethic and priorities. Seeing the worker channel their experiences on the floor in real-time can offer great insight into their service knowledge and capabilities.

With the cost of turnover being so high, businesses can’t afford to lose more money by making a bad hire. 

If you have a couple of prospects for an open position, here are our tips to prepare for a working interview, so you can better assess who will be a great fit for the team. 

Set Up for Success

The initial interview is done and you’re ready to invite the candidate to the next step of the interview process by scheduling a working interview.

Some establishments and roles differ on what is expected during the working interview— i.e. whether you simply trail or demonstrate techniques. However, one thing will be universal—we want to see if the worker can keep up.

Prior to the big day, it’s best to set up all parties involved for success with the knowledge they will need the day of. Provide a copy of the menu and floor map so they can study beforehand or explain the dress code if there is one. 

There should still be a little ambiguity as seeing how they arrive is part of the skill test. Are they on time or early? Do they arrive prepared with the tools needed, like non-slip shoes or a knife bag? Do they look clean, sharp, and ready to work?

Seeing how prepared they are for the working interview will allow you to gauge their level of sincerity for the job and what to expect when hired. 

Lay of the Land

Upon arrival, give the stage a warm welcome by offering a tour so they can familiarize themself with the layout— where the lockers are, walk-in, bussing stations, dish pit, and bathrooms.

Introduce yourself and everyone you run into along the way, so they can get to know the team as well. Take note of their demeanor– if they are friendly and polite, or arrogant and sassy. 

Asking team members which candidates they interacted with for their input will also provide different perspectives and could better inform your decision on who to hire in the end. 

Some things to look out for during the tour:

  • Do they seem interested and engaged? 
  • Are they aware of their surroundings?
  • Do they treat everyone respectfully and equally, regardless of position? Are they nice to the dishwasher?
  • Are they barreling through the restaurant or allowing guests to go first? 
  • Can they keep up?

Answering each of those questions will help you weigh each candidate’s potential, so you can select the more suitable person for the job.  

The Shift

The working interview should be a good representation of normal day-to-day tasks. Pick an employee that will set a good example for the prospective new hire and have them work alongside or guide the interview. Bonus points if it’s someone that knows how to stay busy during lulls! 

Have them start with a good overview of the role, whether at the host stand, in the dish pit, or behind the bar– the stage should have an understanding of key responsibilities. Note if they are writing anything down or asking relevant questions that will help them in the future. 

Some trainers will just want to keep them out of the way and busy by giving them prep or side work. The point of this working interview is to see if they have the ability to thrive in your restaurant. So, make sure they know how to carry plates, trays of drinks, shake a cocktail, or julienne veggies – whatever basic skills are needed for the role you are hiring for. 

You don’t want to discover after you go through the entire orientation process that they can’t carry three plates at once. 

Offer a Shift Meal

At the end of the working interview, offer the worker a meal so they can get a taste of what your restaurant has to offer. A telltale sign of their seriousness for the job is the level of enthusiasm to try a dish they have been running all night!

This is a good time to sit down with the candidate and talk about how the shift went for them. Give them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about the position, the food they just ate, or what the next steps will be. 

When on the lookout for your next position, don’t hesitate to schedule a working interview before so you make an educated decision on who to hire. 

Federal law requires employees to be paid minimum wages under The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), even for stages or working interviews. Always double-check your State’s Department of Labor for full rules and regulations. 

Don’t forget when hiring with Poached, you can always try before you hire by utilizing our Shifts feature! Let us manage that process for you! Poached Shifts allows you to book a potential worker on a single-shift basis so you can find the right kind of help for your business. 

About the author


Rebecca Gill began her love affair with restaurants at the ripe age of 16. Her dedication and hard work have directed her towards the administrative side of operations, where she helped train and educate team members. When not working, she enjoys cooking + eating, exploring, and cuddling her dog, Louie.


Interview Advice, Interview Tips

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