When the Shake Shack founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns renowned restaurants like Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, first started hiring, he says he looked exclusively for people with impressive credentials who really knew how to cook or open a bottle of wine.
But he found these people weren’t always genuinely interested in taking care of his guests.
“Some people who had the least impressive technical skills ended up being the biggest stars at the restaurant, while others — with the most impressive technical skills — ended up weighing the ship down,” Meyer writes for Time’s new advice website, Motto.
Now the restauranteur looks for a combination of technical skills and what he calls “innate hospitality skills.” “People who thrive when they make others feel better would become our biggest champs,” he writes.
The five emotional skills Meyer looks for are:
1. Kindness and optimism
“We work long hours, and I want to be surrounded by friendly, hopeful people. Sceptics rarely work out well on our team,” Meyer says.
2. Intellectual curiosity
“Do you approach each moment as an opportunity to learn something new?”
3. Work ethic
“In addition to being trainable on how to do a job the right way, does it matter to you to do that job as well as it can possibly be done?”
4. Empathy and self-awareness
“Do you know your own personal weather report and how it’s impacting other people and you today? Do you care how your actions make other people feel?”
“Do you have the judgment to do the right thing even when no one else is looking?”
Meyer says he doesn’t have a specific test for finding these emotional skills in prospective hires. But by going into each interview conscious of what skills he’s looking for and “being mindful about what success means for ourselves and our employees,” he believes he’s able to find the best employees.
“You distinguish yourself first and foremost by picking your team even better than the other guy,” Meyer writes. “And I always felt that would be our advantage.”
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