Aside from the typical interview questions you ask when you're hiring servers for your restaurant, some questions are particularly helpful in making hiring decisions. Once you know the server meets basic requirements, such as experience in the industry, good memorization techniques and math skills, local health department or liquor licensing certification and training for restaurant workers who serve alcoholic beverages, you should focus on questions that help you understand what kind of employee she will be and how well she relates to both restaurant customers and staff.
All restaurant servers interact with customers, and many of them have might be considered textbook-style customer service skills, such as "The customer is always right." But restaurant servers who obviously enjoy what they do differentiate themselves from servers who are merely there to deliver plates to customers' tables and collect tips. Asking, "What do you like best about being a restaurant server?" is a better question than "How would you rate your customer service skills?" Servers, who are your most effective form of advertisement, often are the reason restaurant customers return. Questions that get a potential server to open up about why she enjoys her job often are more insightful than typical questions about customer service protocol.
Restaurants succeed because everyone on staff -- bussers, servers, sous chefs and hostesses -- work together to create an enjoyable dining experience for your customers. Ask questions to determine how well she interacts with her co-workers and the duties she takes on to show she's not just interested in her own success, such as "What kinds of things do you do when you're not busy with your own tables?" A potential server's response to this question sheds light on whether she's a team player, especially if her answers include volunteering to help other servers, pitching in when bussers need help clearing tables or helping the bartender slice and dice garnishes.
Seasoned restaurant employees understand how erratic work schedules can be in the food-and-beverage industry. Applicants who are flexible with few constraints on their time often are the best-qualified candidates, especially for popular, busy restaurants that have late-night hours. Someone who's looking for a normal day shift and is only available certain days each week might not be the ideal candidate. Ask questions such as, "What hours are you available to work?" "How soon are you able to start working?" and "How flexible can you be if, for instance, we have to schedule you for a shift on short notice?"
Depending on whether you're hiring for a family restaurant, fine-dining establishment or a trendy bistro, servers should know how the food and beverage industry operates. For example, you could ask "Which area of the restaurant is most important -- front of the house or the back of the house?" The perfect answer to a question like this should be something along the lines of, "Back of the house and front of house operations are equally important. In the back of the house, employees ensure our customers have the finest quality food and in the front of the house, employees ensure customer receive the finest quality service."
Turn the Tables
Some of the best restaurant servers are the ones who can put themselves in their customers' shoes, meaning when they're being served, what do they appreciate in a waiter or waitress. Ask candidates questions such as, "When you go out to eat, what do you appreciate most in your server?" and "What principles do you follow when you encounter dissatisfied or irate customers?"