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What to Consider When Conducting a Background Check on Potential Restaurant Staff

Restaurants are fast-paced, stressful work environments, so the staff often includes some interesting people. It’s common for college students, reformed criminals and individuals struggling to make money to pursue a job in the restaurant business because it requires minimal experience and credentials.

However, restaurants should only hire people if they ask a few thoughtful questions first. Here are six things to consider when conducting background checks on potential staff members.

References Matter More Than Usual

When screening applicants for an open cook or server position, references matter much more than qualifications. Anyone with a can-do attitude and work ethic can succeed in these positions. The only way to get an unbiased description of the candidate’s character is to contact multiple references — former supervisors, teachers, peers and others.

Each of these people can give you unique perspectives. Supervisors will know how they follow orders and handle stressful situations. Teachers understand their work ethic and learning habits better than anyone else. Peers have arguably the most valuable insights because they’ve seen how the person behaves when authority figures aren’t around.

Additionally, people sometimes put references on their resumes strictly out of obligation, hoping the employer won’t contact them. Of course, most employers do reach out at some point in the hiring process. Conducting a thorough reference check is the simplest way to weed out the toxic personalities and unserious candidates.

Know the Resume Red Flags

An incomplete resume isn’t ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. On the contrary, perfect resumes are much more suspicious. A resume can have everything you’re looking for in a restaurant employee, with one or two red flags hidden in the text. These issues are particularly concerning:

  • Contradicting information about previous employers
  • Lack of proof they had a job or attended a school
  • Incorrect reference contact information
  • Evidence of criminal history that the candidate didn’t mention

Some of these red flags might be difficult to find. You can never be sure if someone’s resume information is truthful. According to surveys, more than 55% of Americans have admitted to lying on their resumes at least once. Scour the fine print for any inconsistencies and don’t be afraid to point them out during interviews.

Look For Expunged Records

It has never been easier for criminals to conceal their history with the justice system. States like New York, New Jersey and Hawaii have outlawed asking convicted felons about their criminal activity during job applications. Even more states have automatic record expungement laws, which enable people to wipe their criminal backgrounds from public knowledge.

However, those expunged records are still hidden in the databases of background check services. They officially don’t exist, so you can’t use them for pre-adverse action, but they can still help you put the person’s past together. If they feel the need to hide something from you, they probably won’t be a trustworthy employee.

Not All Crimes Are Equal

People who are open about their criminal history are much more desirable candidates, assuming the crimes aren’t too egregious. The average citizen doesn’t know all the minor differences between the many types of felonies and misdemeanors, but employers absolutely should. Misdemeanors are generally less serious than felonies, as a rule.

Of course, a misdemeanor can still provide more than enough justification for not hiring the person. Even if they got a lenient sentence, you still need to know the details of the crime. Some severe crimes like petty thefts and opioid possessions can technically be misdemeanors. You don’t have to be a legal expert, but you should at least know the basics.

Ask the Tough Questions

Interviews for restaurant jobs don’t have to put the candidates through the wringer, but they should include some tough questions. After all, restaurants are some of the most challenging places to work. Candidates need to show they can handle some adversity. Present them with common scenarios — belligerent customers or messed up orders — and ask how they would react.

Pleasant customer service is the ultimate goal in the restaurant business. Restaurant workers must be humble and friendly to everyone — especially the bartending and waiting staff. Give them a challenge during the job interview so you know they can handle the heat.

Check Their Social Media

Social media gives companies fantastic opportunities to see their employees’ true personalities. You should take full advantage of these resources and check each applicant’s accounts if they have any. LinkedIn might have lots of professional information, but you’ll find more relevant insights on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can’t refuse to hire someone based on their social or political views, but you can refuse to hire them if their posts have lots of profanities, inappropriate images and other signs of bad behavior. If they conduct themselves poorly on social media, how will they conduct themselves in your eating establishment?

Rebuild Your Restaurant Staff

The hospitality industry saw millions of workers leave during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and staff shortages remain a problem in 2023. You can rebuild your restaurant staff and make it better than ever with a thorough background check process. These tips will help you find eager employees looking to make a change in their lives.

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