Interviewing (members ed.)

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The interviewing process can be difficult and time-consuming for both restaurateur and potential hires. But it is important that legal guidelines aren't sacrificed in favor of saving time, and that all questions asked in an interview focus on applicants' qualifications for the job. The following information provides clear instruction and helpful tips to obtain and provide applicant background information legally and efficiently.

3-step process of conducting an interview

Right-on-target interview templates

What not to ask: Illegal interview questions

3-Step process of conducting an interview
Like everything in the restaurant business, interviewing requires preparation. This quick process will help you get ready. For more detailed questions to ask for back-of-the-house, front-of-the-house and management positions, see the easy-to-use interview templates within Restaurantville’s Human Resources solution center.

Step 1 - Interview

Step 2 - Learn the details

Step 3 - Audition

Step 1: Interview
Should last about three minutes. Determines what prospective employees know about your restaurant and gives them an opportunity to describe themselves.

Make the applicant feel at ease
Be sure to look over their application for any red flags, such as job hopping or lack of references
Tell them about the interview process and audition. May be a two manager interview process.
Ask them to introduce themselves to you.
Look for "winner" attributes.

Step 2: Learn the details
During the next three minutes, determine the prospective employee's background: experience, references, salary required, hours desired (part time or full time). Sample questions:

Who was your previous employer?
How long were you employed there? (month/year to month/year)
If I were to call your previous employer, what would they say about you?
How long have you lived in (area)?
How much money do you need (as opposed to want) to make?
Do you need full time employment (38.5 hours) or part time?
What other commitments do you have?
What days would you be unavailable to work?
How far in minutes do you live from the restaurant?
What other companies are you interviewing with?
How were you paid by your previous employer?
Where do you go to high school or college?

Step 3: Audition
Ask for a performance.
Communicated different expectations.
Introduces an element of competition.
Use the next four minutes as an audition to determine the applicant’s personality traits and ability to serve and sell customers. Have them audition using the following techniques.

Echo statement. Have them repeat what you said. What could you tell about someone while doing this?
Monologue Have them repeat greeting statements in several different ways. What could you tell about someone while doing this?
Simultaneous Story. See how they do telling a story at the same time you do. What could you tell about someone while doint this?
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If you're not using attitude testing prior to the interview as a screening tool, be sure to add questions like these to the interview suggested below:

Dependability (What is your definition of being on time? How many days were you late for school or work in the last six months?)
Honesty (Have you ever borrowed money without asking? When is the last time you shoplifted something and what was it worth?)
Customer service (Tell me about a time you experienced bad customer service. What did you do about it? Do your friends turn to you when they need help?)
Drug use (Do any of your friends use illegal drugs? Are you willing to take a drug test?)

{For a downloadable version of this interview template, click here!}

Back-of-the-house structured interview questions

Front-of-the-house structured interview questions

Management & Administrative position structured interview questions

What not to ask: Illegal interview questions
Various federal, state, and local laws regulate that all questions asked by a prospective employer about an application, in an interview, or during the testing process must be related to the open job. For the employer, the focus must be on whether or not an applicant can perform the function of the open job.

Common Illegal Questions and Their Legal Counterparts
After Hiring

Common Illegal Questions and Their Legal Counterparts

Inquiry Area

Illegal Questions

Legal Questions

National Origin / Citizenship

• Are you a U.S. citizen?

• Where were you/your parents born?

• What is your "native tongue?"

• Are you authorized to work in the United States?

• What languages do you read, speak or write fluently? (This question is okay, as long as this ability is relevant to job performance.)


• How old are you?

• When did you graduate from State University?

• What is your birth date?

• Are you over the age of 18?

Marital / Family Status

• What’s your marital status?

• Who do you live with?

• Do you plan to have a family? When?

• How many kids do you have?

• What are your child care arrangements?

• Would you be willing to relocate if necessary?

• Travel is an important part of the job. Would you be willing? (This question is okay, as long as ALL applicants for the job are asked it.)

• This job requires overtime occasionally. Would you be able and willing to work overtime as necessary? (Again, this question is okay as long as ALL applicants for the job are asked it.)


• To what clubs or social organizations do you belong? • List any professional or trade groups or other organizations that you belong to that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this job.


• How tall are you?

• How much do you weigh?

• What is your hair and eye color?

• Are you able to lift a 50-pound weight and carry it 100 yards, as that is part of the job? (Questions about height and weight are not acceptable unless minimum standards are essential to the safe performance of the job.)


• Do you have any disabilities? Please complete the following medical history.

• Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations? If yes, list and give dates.

• What was the date of your last physical exam?

• How's your family's health?

• When did you lose your eyesight? How?

• Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations? (This question is okay if the interviewer has thoroughly described the job.)

• As part of the hiring process, after a job offer has been made, you will be required to undergo a medical exam. (Exam results must be kept strictly confidential, except medical/safety personnel may be informed if emergency medical treatment is required, and supervisors may be informed about necessary job accommodations, based on the exam results.

• Can you demonstrate how you would perform the following job-related function?

Arrest Record

• Have you ever been arrested? • Have you ever been convicted of ______? The crime should be reasonably related to the performance of the job in question.


• If you've been in the military, were you honorably discharged?

• In what branch of the Armed Forces did you serve?

• What type of training or education did you receive in the military?

After Hiring
Once they intend to hire an employee and make an offer of employment, employers may legally ask for the following:

Birth certificate
Affirmative action statistics
Status - married / single
Proof of citizenship
Physical exam and drug testing
Social security card

SOURCE: Career Development Office, Pomona College, 3/30/2000 (, and the Minnesota Department of Economic Security.

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