Key Questions to Ask Candidates In a Restaurant Job Interview

Let’s face it: recruitment is tough, but that doesn’t mean you should hire any candidate that sends in an application. Hiring the wrong employees can cause speed bumps in your recruitment process and prolong your search for the right person. So, it’s important to do your due diligence and ask the right questions in the job interview.

If your current hiring processes aren’t driving the results you desire, then reevaluating your interview questions can help you find more qualified candidates. Even if you have a pre-set list of questions from management, it’s important to add questions to help fill gaps where information may be missing. This is your time to find exactly what you're looking for!

By asking the right questions at the right time, you can expedite hiring and find candidates that fit your role and work environment.

In this article, we’ll help you get ready for the interview process by:

  • Outlining job requirements before the interview to ensure better hiring
  • Picking the right questions and knowing the purpose behind each of them
  • Making a good impression with the candidate during the interview

Let’s get started.

Pre-Screening Questions: Interviewing the Right Candidates

Before you invite a candidate for an interview, you may want to consider these helpful communication techniques.

First, you should have a discovery phone call or video chat to get to know your candidate. You can even conduct the official interview via video-chat since it has become an accepted means of professional communication.

So, while phone calls are good, video chats are even better. They give you an opportunity to really get a first impression and provide a quick solution for interviewing. You can confirm the candidate’s availability, experience, and start date in a short video call.

If you want to automate this entire process and only see qualified candidates in the interview stage, then you should try HigherMe’s screening questions. The software can save you time by putting your pre-screening questions in the job application.

If there’s an absolutely needed criteria for the job, then HigherMe’s knockout questions can speed up the vetting process even further by filtering out unqualified candidates immediately.

The 3 Types of Questions to Ask During the Interview

There’s only so much time in an interview, so it’s important to get your ducks in a row before the interview starts. You want to avoid the moment after you’ve left the interview where you finally remember that one important question you were supposed to ask.

To make sure you ask the important questions at the right time, we grouped common restaurant interview questions into three main categories.

  • Understand needs, availability and logistics
  • Understand their skills and experience
  • Understand their motivations and interests

Questions to Learn About Needs, Availability and Logistics

The purpose of asking these questions is to help gauge if a candidate has the available schedule for your required shifts.

Even if you have already asked these questions during the pre-screening stage, we recommend confirming the information with the candidate during the interview. Change is always possible in people’s schedules, plus it’s possible candidates included their ideal schedule rather than their full availability. So, it’s important to verbally confirm these logistics in the interview.

This is also a great time to confirm a reliable transportation method and the candidates willingness to work extra shifts if needed.

Needs, Availability, and Logistic Questions to Ask:

  • What hours are you available to work?
  • How long does it take you to get to the restaurant?
  • Do you prefer working in a team or alone?
  • How do you feel about coming in early, staying late, or picking up an extra shift here and there when we get busy?
  • What qualities of company culture would fit your personality most?
  • What do you like doing when you’re not working?

Questions to Learn About Skills and Experience

Skills and experience are assets in any restaurant position. They help to understand a candidate’s leadership skills, how well they handle problems with customers, and how they handle stress with colleagues.

It’s also worth checking a candidate’s references if they’ve worked in other restaurants to understand their work ethic and overall morale.

Skills and Experience Questions to Ask:

  • How long have you been a manager / server / cook / other job title?
  • What kind of work environment are you used to and what kind of work environment do you prefer?
  • What has been your favorite customer experience you’ve had?
  • How do you demonstrate leadership when others aren’t pulling their weight?
  • Are there people you’d refuse to serve?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake on the job and how you went about fixing it.
  • What is your greatest strength and weakness?

Questions to Learn About Motivations and Interests

Asking candidates about their motivations and interests can help you get a better understanding of the candidate in the long run. By learning your candidates aspirations, you can gauge if your workplace culture aligns with their values and if they’ll find interest working at your restaurant. We’ve actually written another article specifically on finding fit between a candidate and your brand.

This section of the interview can also be used to ask fun questions like "How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" While on the surface this question seems irrelevant, the answer can tell you about the candidate’s attention to detail. If they’re detail-oriented at home, they’ll also be when working at your restaurant.

It’s possible the candidate received other job offers between the time of the interview and the time they start. So, this is a great time to leave a good and lasting impression with the candidate. You really want to show how working for your restaurant will provide more value than income.

This is an opportunity to have a little more fun with your questions, but don’t forget the intention for these questions—you’re trying to figure out if this candidate shows ambition, or if they’re looking for a quick paycheck.

Motivation and Interest Questions to Ask:

  • What are you excited about right now?
  • How would you define success in your career?
  • Describe your favorite dish and why you love It
  • Have you eaten at our restaurant before?
  • Why do you want to work at our restaurant?
  • What do you hope to learn working here?


The first step to hiring qualified and long-lasting employees is to vet them properly in the interview process. When you take the time to select employees that align with the values of your company, you can create a strong team, improve employee retention, and help drive down overall costs from training. The cost of training and of low unproductivity of new employees can add up to 28% of their first year salary. That’s a hefty price to pay for poor onboarding.

While the interview process may seem daunting, HigherMe can save you ample time by screening employees before the interview process. With a little software, you can prevent unqualified candidates in the interview stage and spend more time recruiting those who are actually right for the job.

Happy hiring!

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