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How not to hire wait staff

Restaurant's alleged practices earn nomination for HR Worst Practice Hall of Shame

By Todd Humber

Are you a 110? If so, odds are you aren’t working as wait staff at a trendy restaurant or ringing up sales at a fashionable retail outlet.  What’s a 110? It’s a leading candidate to be a first ballot induction into the HR Worst Practice Hall of Shame. (It joins last year’s honoree — the American firms that came up with the idea of stating unemployed workers need not apply for job openings.)

The “110” designation comes courtesy of Darren Hawker, a former assistant general manager at a Moxie’s restaurant in Toronto. Hawker told the tale of how the restaurant chain allegedly hires wait staff to a reporter at the Toronto Sun.

He claims he was directed by senior management to hire only busty and thin applicants, regardless of qualifications. Applicants coming through the door were screened, and a “110” was marked on resumés of unattractive candidates. It meant do not call. Draw a diagonal line between the ones and it spells “NO” — I’m assuming they thought this was pretty clever.

Officially, and unsurprisingly, Moxie’s came out against the practice. Sue Thomson, vice-president of marketing, told the Sun it was “possible” people who have come from other companies have used the 110 code, but “it is not something we endorse or teach.”

Retailer American Apparel was also singled out for its requirement that applicants submit a photo — and not just a headshot, according to its website. It instructs jobseekers to send in a photo, preferably head to toe “dressed in such a way that reflects your personal taste and fashion sensibility. Please remember that we are open-minded and are looking for individuals who are of all shapes and sizes.”

But a former manager at a Toronto American Apparel told the newspaper only petite, good-looking people are hired, regardless of experience.

Asking candidates to submit photos is a terrible idea. Photos, after all, reveal more than just how a person looks — they also potentially show race, age, religion and whether or not a person has a disability. Those are all prohibited grounds of discrimination under human rights legislation.

And it’s not like hiring on looks even makes economic sense. Ostensibly, the thinking is that — at restaurants like Moxies — attractive waitresses translate into more business. Guys may decide to go to that restaurant more often, stay longer and order more to drink — which boosts the bottom line.

But I’m not buying it. If that were the case, Hooters would be the most successful restaurant on the planet serving up chicken wings on every corner. It’s not, and it doesn’t.

There are certainly desirable skill sets when it comes to people dealing with the public, such as wait staff and retail clerks, and looks aren’t at the top of the list. That honour goes to personality. A personable, knowledgeable and chatty individual will do far more to boost sales and engender loyalty than someone who is good looking, but can’t engage people.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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