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  • Sergei Timshin

How we hire for a new location

Hi Friends,

It's been almost 2 weeks since the last post. Just a quick update: SAVA on Roncy is still under construction, but we are quickly getting closer to the end. The store is painted, and a big portion of the equipment is already there.



Sofia checking a new counter (coffee station)

Jan 2024

End of Feb 2024

We just realized that a freezer does not fit under the AC unit (hello, low ceilings), and

it will cost $700 to move the AC. Additionally, our equipment supplier delayed the ingredient fridge delivery until April, and we need to pay $800 to sort it out. But this post is about a different topic.

For the last 3 weeks, I have been actively working on hiring the team. When you need to hire the entire team from scratch, it becomes a big challenge. It entailed some problems that I initially did not even think about. Here are some of them:

  1. How to sort through all the resumes. We received 1300 on Indeed and around 80 from Facebook and Telegram groups. Indeed has an awful user experience and glitches a lot.

  2. How to handle potential candidates and keep track of them: who we interviewed, availability, work permits, notes, etc.

  3. How to schedule shifts to give people enough hours, but at the same time have extra people on the bench to substitute employees who call in sick. Let me explain: if you have 5 full-time employees and one of them cannot work, how are you going to cover for this person?

  4. Finally, how to find time for interviews while dealing with the construction and also running an existing cafe. Quite often, candidates do not show up, which is a huge waste of time.

So, here is my personal list of insights and life hacks I came up with:

  1. I created folders in Outlook and moved candidates between them (candidates, potential candidates, for interview, etc.).

  2. We started calling people! It is a big change we adopted a couple of months ago. Previously, Sofia (the owner and my partner) invited people to the interview based solely on the resume, and often she realized that some people could not speak English or lived 1.5 hours away from our location. When I call people, I ask about their availability, food allergies, location, and work permit. This significantly reduces "no-show" cases. Sofia once had 6 interviews scheduled without prior screening call, and all 6 candidates decided not to come eventually (rainy days matter).

  3. I created a database with people whom we invite to the interview. It takes a little bit of time but allows us to see who we talked to and take notes.

  4. We do not tolerate when a candidate is late, especially when the person does not even try to explain being late or apologize. It speaks volumes about their personality. Don't you agree?

  5. The first impression is very important, especially in our industry. If a candidate does not smile when we are greeting each other or even sounds rude (it happened before), there is almost zero chance that this person will provide good customer service to our guests.

  6. We try not to spend too much time on interviews. We have seen a lot of cases where candidates turned out to be completely different people after starting work. Why would we waste our time on rounds of interviews if the best way to assess the person is actually to let them work?

  7. We are not specifically looking for relevant experience as a barista or a crepe maker. Personality and willingness to work are the most important things. We can teach people how to make crepes in a couple of days, but we cannot change the lack of work ethic.

  8. I do not have any magic tricks or special questions to find the best candidates. I usually just ask some basic questions: tell me about yourself, what's your plan for the next 12 months, how do you handle conflicts at work, etc. As I said, I just need to know whether the person is naturally nice and reliable.

This role of HR is completely new to me. I bet mature HR managers may see a lot of mistakes in my strategy. But at least it works for us now.

By the way, seven years ago, I was on the other side when I was looking for a job as a newcomer in North America. That experience also helps me interview people now as I understand them (believe me, I was in the same shoes). And I should probably say sorry to people who we did not respond to. It's really hard to reply to all of the emails since I am not using any HR services. Remember, I said at the beginning that we got 1,300 resumes only on Indeed in just 4 days!

But be aware, if you send your resume to our email hello@savacafe.ca, I always see them and move to a special folder called "Candidates"! :)

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