You Can’t Hire Them If They Don’t Show Up

March 30, 2017 | 3202 Views

You Can’t Hire Them If They Don’t Show Up

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

Many hospitality companies have struggled lately not only to keep their best employees in this tight job market, but also to get applicants to show up for job interviews. Unfortunately, it seems like it has become common for hiring managers to set up interviews with a bunch of prospective candidates only to have just 1 or 2 show up (even though everyone initially agreed to their interview times and places). 

To combat this issue, one of Ivar’s General Managers suggested that we start asking applicants to not only come in for an interview, but also for a free lunch or dinner. People are much less likely to blow off the appointment if a free meal is included, and it would provide an opportunity for them to try out our food and get to know the operation a little better.  

Other ideas that we are considering include:

I also asked some of my colleagues in CHART about strategies they were using to get candidates to show up for interviews, and here are their responses. 


Host an open-house job fair. The application and interview(s) happen while the candidate is still in the building.  

– Nikki Fuchs de Calderon, Director of Learning & Development, Buffalo Wild Wings 


We are definitely having the same struggles with interviewing and hiring. Like most, we have multiple managers interview candidates and we can lose people if we do not get the interviews all in the same day (there’s a lesser chance of the candidate coming back for another interview). One solution that we are playing with is creating job fairs where we have a handful of managers (sometimes all GMs) on site to interview and then hire without extending the time period of interviews. This is helpful in a saturated market because the candidate can go to one of many locations, and we are making better use of interviewing time with these resources. 

– Georgette Vlangos, Training Manager, Chopt Creative Salad Company 


1. Schedule open interviews each week. This is a dedicated hour for interviewing, planned in advance. Carving time out can be more effective than “on the fly,” and it allows seekers to get a time scheduled immediately, with confidence. Even hourly staff can direct job seekers to come in during open interviews for an immediate meeting with a hiring manager. 

2. Position the interview as mutual. Managers are interviewing the candidate, and the candidate is interviewing the Manager and company. Think: mutually beneficial and respectful of time, win-win, “can’t wait to meet you in person.”  Essentially, managers who are likable leaders in the invitation seem to be able to tap into the emotional component of the job seeker in areas that are clearly an employee market. 

– Donna Herbel, Lead Director of Training & Development, Perkins & Marie Callender’s 


For us, the biggest thing we’ve done is increase our pay (we are trying to attract a potential employee that maybe has higher expectations and understands we will also have a higher expectation of them). One test is a 30-60-90 day increase so the employee earns about $1.50 above minimum wage after 90 days, with milestones and expectations to be met to move to the next increase. In other areas, we are using a pre-interview assessment that the applicant has to pass before the GM even sees the applications as well – interestingly the ones that don’t pass are the ones that call us about why they can’t get interviews!

 – John Kelley, Vice President and Chief People Office, White Castle


 As a former recruiter, I used to share "benefits" of the company right up front on the recruiting call. “We're opening 25 stores this year and are looking to grow people," or whatever the value proposition is, so I can see if they are interested in growth. 

– Kirstie Johnson, Founder and Chief Experience Officer, Enlighteneer Enterprises


I believe the key to our success is communication. I feel like it’s important to call the candidate the day before the interview to confirm their attendance, and to ensure they know where to go for the interview, and to answer any additional questions they might have. I believe that too often people think that an email will suffice as an effective form of communication, but I’ve found more success picking up the phone and calling, instead of sending an email. I’ve also learned that people do not check their email very often. I am in front of a computer all day, so it’s very easy for me to check my emails throughout the day. However, for many people, especially those in the restaurant industry, they are not in front of their computer all day, which is another reason why I believe calling is better than emailing. 

It sounds like a simple concept, but I truly believe that if you take the extra minute to call instead of sending an email, you will get better results. Not to mention, I feel like calling adds another level of commitment to the candidate. Anyone can blast out a bunch of emails, but as an employer, you stand out when you can add an extra personal touch to your recruiting process by taking the time to call. 

– Dean Milar, Talent Development and Culture Specialist, Karl Strauss Brewing Company


One technique I have used in the past and we are hearing about from several companies is creating a company recruiting culture. Take half of the recruiting dollars and put it back into the employees’ hands. For example, team members received $100 after a referred hourly hire worked 40 hours and $200 for a manager hire. I know some companies even pay an additional amount to the referring employees if those hires stay an additional 60 days. As an extra incentive, one company conducts a company-wide raffle each quarter, giving referring employees a chance to win a prize with team members receiving one raffle entry for each new recruit. 

Getting the right candidates to show up is no doubt a challenge. Conducting on the spot phone interviews for the initial screening can help. If an applicant knows they already made it past a first interview, he or she may feel the job is more attainable and worth an in-person interview. 

– Sara Anderson, Workforce Development Manager, National Restaurant Association


We had more issues in the past, and definitely 4-10 years ago in Alberta it was a common phenomenon to book 5 interviews and have only 1 person show. The labor market has eased off a little since then so it hasn’t been as much of an issue. Back then, employers tried anything and everything from giving signing bonuses, referral payments, and a few competitors actually gave a free trip to Mexico for any employee who stayed with them for more than 1 year.  

We have been very fortunate that our turnover is relatively low. We do a lot of work with vocational cooking schools and high schools to bring in potential candidates as work experience, doing practicums – it definitely helps that we are certified to teach levels 1, 2 and 3 of the red seal chef program as it helps to attract those who are interested in a culinary career. 

We tend to be part of any career fair that is happening in different communities we are in, have partnered with groups that help new immigrants find work, and many locations set aside a specific day of the week to hold walk-in interviews, which they advertise in their lobbies. 

– Carina Hirner, Manager of Human Resources, White Spot Restaurants


First off, if they don’t show up, we look at it like a blessing in disguise. We’d rather not go through the interview process with someone that’s “well-trained” at interviewing. Instead, we look at it like a big red flag. That said, we’ve been working to ensure that our candidates are attracted to Pacifica as a brand. Our People Services & Training Departments have been working very closely with marketing to ensure that we’re effectively communicating why Pacifica Hotels is a great place to work. 

– Alie Gaffan, Vice President of People & Culture, Pacifica Hotel Company

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