The Key to Hiring Great Line Cooks (and the Skills to Look For!)

In the foodservice industry, hiring your kitchen staff can be especially daunting – after all, these individuals will be responsible for managing the heart and soul of your business. Furthermore, it’s critical that the kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine, producing consistent and high quality results for your guests.

Line cooks can be especially challenging to hire for, as individuals with experience in this role are harder to come by. This is why it’s important hiring managers are able to identify the most important qualities and soft skills in their candidates to determine their potential in the role.

Here are some great tips on evaluating candidates without previous experience in the service industry!

Highly organized

Line cooks need to be on the ball 100% of the time, as they are required to coordinate a number of different orders and have many dishes on the go. At any given point, they should know what is currently on each of their stations and manage their time accordingly to push out completed orders at a good pace.

When evaluating a line cook candidate on organizational skills, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they punctual? Did they arrive on time for the interview?
  • Do they have a sense of urgency when it comes to deadlines?
  • Do they seem scattered during conversation?

Maintains cleanliness

Every restaurateur knows that health and safety is one of the top priorities in the foodservice industry. Therefore, it’s important for line cooks to maintain their workstations accordingly – in fact, the best line cooks adopt a “clean as you go” method. Cleanliness can also be a benefit when it comes to plating and presentation, which will only elevate the quality of your establishment’s product.

When evaluating a line cook candidate on their cleanliness, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do they have certifications in the foodservice industry? (i.e. Food Handler Certification)
  • Do they consider food presentation an important part of their job?
  • Do they present themselves as neat and well put-together generally?

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Ability to work in a team

Having the ability to work in a team is important for any role in the service and hospitality industry – for line cooks, however, this skill is absolutely integral to their success. They are expected to take direction from the Chef and feedback from servers and other customer-facing co-workers. With the added pressure of managing an ever-changing workstation during dinner rush, their fortitude and patience will be tested.

When evaluating a line cook candidate on their fit with your team, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this individual show general respect for the people around them?
  • Is this the type of worker who’s out for themselves? Will they support their co-workers if they’re bogged down with tasks?
  • Should a conflict arise, will this person be able to maintain composure during service?

An active communicator

While a line cook is not expected to engage in extended conversation with guests as servers do, communication is still highly important in their role. These workers must not be afraid to initiate check-ins with kitchen staff members to execute orders in a timely and coordinated fashion. Staying quiet and waiting for others to check in with them is not an option, as it will heavily impact your service operation and drag the rest of the team down.

When evaluating a line cook candidate on their communication skills, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do they initiate conversation and ask questions?
  • Are they detail-oriented enough to spot mistakes and alert their team members?
  • Will they take accountability should they make any errors in the kitchen?

Works well under pressure

With your establishment’s product on the line, your line cook team must be able to produce dishes at a consistent level of quality. It doesn’t matter how good their cooking is in the morning if they crumble under the pressure of the lunch rush. While a lot of this lies in the person’s technical skills, much of this can also be attributed to their individual work-ethic.

When evaluating a line cook candidate for their consistency, ask them the following questions:

  • How do they motivate themselves on their down days?
  • Do they take pride in their work and how their product is received?
  • How do they handle high-pressure situations?
  • Can they adapt to changes and unpredictable situations?

In your experience, what is the most challenging service position to hire for? HigherMe provides recruitment solutions for businesses in the foodservice industry across North America! Connect with us at to learn more, or explore our Applicant Tracking System page.

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