Interviews. The bane of, well, everyone; although that does not need to be the case!
Allow me to plant a seed, a potent mental habit that I wish someone would have planted in my brain back when I was just starting in this industry. The habit of near-instantly evaluating establishments - prospective employers based on visual cue's. Great! Yes, it can be, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's not that straight forward. Humour me if you will.
For years now I have been obsessed with industry related data. I love the way numbers on a page can tell me so much about any business. This obsession has given me the above mentioned analytical habit. For example, walking into a small to medium sized cafe - while the waiter is still leading me to the table, I have already made mental notes, a list.
It will look something like this:
• Seating: +- 60
• Waiters: 4 on duty, too many, they are not smiling, underpaid
• Location: access to local business offices & nearby residential, great foot traffic.
• Manager: Seems disinterested, probably to heavily micromanaged by proprietaries. Also, what is she wearing?! Doesn't take this too seriously.
• LSM: 8
• Lighting & Atmosphere good.
• +-50% full & it's 13:00 on a Wednesday.
Now I'm seated. A quick browse through the menu tells me there is a big container of bland, overcooked veg in the back and there's frozen hake tails, spring rolls etc. Also, pricing is not accurate.
The above info gives me the figures I need:
Cafe with this style of operations in this area is in the ballpark of R 200 000 takings on a good month. Expenditure per head is only at around R103.00 per person. 15% of online reviews are negative. Customers are mostly ancient. The sort that gets the free stuff by manipulating that manager. A quick search on my phone reveals hardly any social presence. No marketing.
There's lots more, but let's stop there for now. How will the above aid you in an interview?
Both myself, as well as many others who have been in the industry for a few years, have had the misfortune of working for the wrong establishment. Personally, I have worked for drug addicts, alcohol addicts, fraudsters etc. This sort of scenario could have severe impacts on your career. Your name will be attached to their negatives, your pay will suck, are you even getting paid this month? You get the idea.
The above style of analysis can help you safeguard yourself from future issues of a similar nature. Early in your career, you want to work in establishments that are going to boost your experience and future sustainability - not drag you down into franchise oblivion.
On the positive, if a said establishment is excellent and you really want in, but you are one of many applicants, an analysis will give you great conversation tacts to lay an impressive interview foundation. For example, when you are finally asked: "Do you have any questions?" don't say "No" - ever! Try something along the lines of "If I'm not wrong, you have 60 seats & you're packed! I see one waiter on duty; there is obviously some intense training offered", or, "judging by the way you run your business I would imagine there are great things on the cards for the future!" etc.
It shows you're watching, analysing, and interested. No one likes to hire planks of wood; I'm just saying. With practice, you can turn it into a potent tool boosting your confidence & getting prospective employers to take notice of you!
There is a lot to learn in this industry, but hopefully this will help some of you in the job market. It's not that scary. But it can be if you are not in control of your surroundings.