Hiring for a little food company, our first hire

So far 2016 has been great, we’ve been involved in some excellent events and business has been growing steadily. The problem was that I’ve been doing all the cooking, and even though I was proud to see Karkli grow, part of me despised having to do all that cooking, as I was literally cooking 12 hours a day, and then having to do all the other sides of the business.

It came to a head when I returned from a week holiday to a large number of orders and one gigantic order, the only way to fulfil this was to cook 18 hours a day for 7 days straight.

I knew this was totally unsustainable and something had to be done about it to grow the team, and especially someone to help with the cooking.

The thought of finding someone to take the load off me by cooking was exciting, but at the same time nerve racking.

How can I trust someone with our recipe? How will we find the right person? Will they put the same effort into cooking Karkli as I do?

After a couple of days sleeping on it and speaking to friends in the food and drink world, I decided I need to do something about it.

So we put a couple of job ads.

We tried ads in

  • Gumtree — great to reach a large number of people, but not necessarily the best quality candidates
  • Jobcentre — was hard to speak to a real person in our local job centre (the job search website is even worse!!!), but luckily our local council’s head of economic development was really helpful and put me in contact with the a real person at the job centre. They were really keen, but only had one C.V come through the door, so pretty worthless — just as well it was free!
  • The local paper, Worksop Guardian — it is powered by indeed.com and I decided it was a little too expensive (£190–200 approx).

The challenge with Karkli’s HQ is

  1. there’s a small population in close proximity, so a small pool of people to choose from.
  2. there’s a much large pool of people in nearby Sheffield, but with the level of pay we could afford, it does not make sense for people to travel that far to work here.
  3. poor access by public transport

So I thought about creative ways to find the right person.

My first thought was where can we find someone who has experience cooking Indian food? TAKEAWAYS!

Plus most takeaways are only open in the evenings, so the cooks can come in the day, work on Karkli, then go to the takeaway before finishing for the day. Even though it would be a long day, the right person would have the chance to earn much more money. So I contacted some of Worksop’s Indian takeaways, and surprisingly lot of the managers were willing to listen to my pitch. We did have one person who was especially keen to learn more, and came to see us.

What I learned during our conversation is that in takeaways the food is cooked by chefs, and it’s a role where they would like to add their own touch and didn’t want to copy the same recipe over and over again.

Another interesting thing I learned was, due to the cut in visas, there was a smaller pool of chefs, therefore their wages had spiked. Here’s an interesting article on the take away chef market if you are interested. .

So into the bin went takeaway staff sharing, but it helped me evolve my thinking.

I didn’t need a chef, I needed someone who has done production jobs, where the repetitive nature is not seen as a negative.

So I did a google search to see local large scale production facilities, independent of the sector. Thankfully Worksop has a lot of large food production facilities, we have Premier Foods, Cargill, Greencore, plus non food like B&Q and Wilkinson’s distribution centres.

So I knocked up an little ad, like the kind that are posted all around universites during house hunting season, and then posted them by the bus stops close to the above sites.

Our bus stop ad

The little ad to find our first Karkli chef!

Interestingly this led to the best quality candidates, and had a surprisingly high hit rate. We had around 13% response rate to the ads. Quite often it would be someone who saw that ad would tell one of their friends at work, who they knew were motivated to find another job.

Of course within this pool you still have to find the right person, as some people work the production role, but hate it, and don’t do it properly.

At the same time as we started to find good candidates through this route, we had an excellent C.V through Gumtree. A student, who sent a well constructed letter, and replied straight away to emails and voicemail with polite and informative messages.

He interviewed really well too.
Even though he was young and at university full time, he still held a number of jobs, and was motivated to do a good job and earn money. His referees came back with glowing reviews. So we invited him for a trial day, to come and cook with us.

A little tip I learned from reading some random blog, was to have something purposely dropped on the floor, eg a pen or a wrapper and see if the person picks it up, or just leaves it there. Such a simple test shows the motivations of the person. Thankfully he picked it up and initially it was just a 1 hour unpaid intro day, but he stayed for 3 hours, working through the whole process, helping with the cleaning, and asking good relevant questions. The good thing with this extended chat is that you get to learn a lot more about the person to see if they are a right fit.

Thankfully he continues to work with Karkli and has been doing an excellent job!

Key points

  1. Identify clearly the role needed
  2. think what the motivation for someone doing that role maybe
  3. find people who are doing a similar role, that have transferable “mindset” rather than “skill set”
  4. go to the places where they could be and approach them
  5. don’t get desperate to hire someone, we had email coming through with nothing more than
    “I saw the ad, what’s the job.” Don’t even bother replying. It would be much more painful getting the wrong person!
  6. Telephone interview — look for general time keeping, telephone manner.
  7. Interview in person — Is the person consistent with CV and telephone interview? Are they complainers? Are they sticklers for all the rules? Do they know every legal aspect of work and their rights?
  8. Check References — at least 3 people
  9. Trial day, hopefully for a couple of hours, place a few innocuous tests (the fallen pen), learn about their motivation.
  10. Train and motivate them.

A question I ask myself from the interviews and I still think about is, just because you can’t see yourself going for a pint with this person, could they still be the right person for the job? You may not match up on the personality front, but if they are good at the job, does it matter?

Nothing ground breaking in what I’ve said, but thought I would share for people who are thinking about that first step to hiring. If you want to run your business instead of it running you, it is a must, so figure out a way to address your fears with the right person, even if you have a bad experience it will help you improve your process, and ability to hire the right person in the future.

Would love to hear what you guys think, if you’d like to add something comment below and if you want to reach out to me directly via twitter @chomponkarkli or via email chompmaster@chomponkarkli.com