The start of the year is always a time of transition. Most servers are in their best financial situation of the year after coming out of the holiday season. This often leads to them setting a new year’s resolution to find a new job. Whether it was the stress of the holidays or simply the need for change, this is the migration season for servers. Resumes are tightened up and applications are being submitted.
Interviews are always part of this process. They are also the scariest part of the process for most applicants. Nervousness about their experience or work history leads many servers to simply try to survive the interview process. This is unfortunate because it causes servers to make decisions about their future without needed information. Proceeding without this knowledge leads to many stressful weeks after starting a new job.
The root cause of this problem is that applicants often do not fully understand the purpose of the interview process. An interview should be time for both the employer and the applicant to find out if they are a good fit for each other. Employers hold the power in the process, but also stand to lose the time and money they invested if they are not a good fit for the applicant. Failing to ask questions until after the job has been offered often leads applicants to take a job that they will not be able to maintain. Looking at this process as a mutual interview allows both parties to be confident that they are moving forward in the best possible way.
As the person seeking the job, you must rid yourself of the notion that asking questions will be perceived as rude. While there are certainly questions that are inappropriate to ask, most questions are not. Taking a job is a commitment. A commitment of this nature should not be taken lightly or without careful consideration. The perception of a wise manager is that you are showing the same level of consideration in accepting the job that they are in offering it to you.
There is also another advantage of asking questions. If you look at a first interview as a first date, you can understand the logic here. You will go in and try to sell your skills and talents to the interviewer. When you do not have any questions of them, you will be perceived as desperate. Desperation in a job hunter, or a first date, is incredible unattractive. Showing that you value yourself and your abilities will make them want you more.
With that in mind, here are some questions to ask on an interview:
What is your target for a shift for sales per server? This is a far better way of asking what you will make. Managers have a nasty tendency to only remember the notably good nights their servers have. Asking the question in this way makes it easier to get an accurate answer.
How important is seniority in scheduling/station assignment? This is an important answer to know. If you are looking at the job on a short-term basis, you do not want seniority to be an issue. Likewise if you are looking for a long-term position, you should choose someplace that will reward your commitment.
Is there potential for advancement? If you are looking to be in the industry for a number of years, this is great to know. For those who desire to be managers, bartenders, etc, this is important to factor into your decision.
What is the sidework like? Managers are not the most accurate sources for this information. They will however give you a good idea of what their perceptions of your responsibilities are. This will be very telling about your future boss.
Who is tipped out what amount? This is another incredibly important piece of information to have. How much of your tips go to support staff will significantly impact how much of the potential tips you will get to keep.
How many hours a week will I be scheduled? Managers will often hire more employees than they need. They will also sometimes hire so few servers that overtime is expected. Know what you are walking into in advance.
Is there are set schedule? If you are used to a set schedule, adjusting to life without one can be tough. For a server who needs to keep more flexibility in their work schedule, this may be a deal breaker.
What is the best part of working at the restaurant? This gives them a chance to sell you. This question requires them to brag about their restaurant and the opportunity they are giving you. Now they are investing their time into trying to hire you. This question can often help equalize the power advantage of the interviewer.
What is the biggest struggle your restaurant faces? This takes the previous question to another level. They are telling you exactly what problem they are hoping to solve by hiring you. Tell them how you can solve the problem and they will begin imagining a better restaurant with you on staff.
What is your smoking policy? If you are a smoker, you need to ask this question. Do not assume it is what you are used to or that your plan to quit will take affect in time to start the job. Knowing this in advance is important to a smoker’s job longevity.
An interview should not be a one-way transfer of information. You should do everything you can to sell yourself. You should also gain the necessary information while giving the interviewer the opportunity to sell you on the position. Failing to inquire about important information can make you look uninterested or desperate. Take the time to ask questions in order to make the best possible decision.
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