Opinion: Duncan Fraser-Smith

Shaking up the recruitment process

We are coming back into that season again, whereby hot topics, swirling around our beloved industry, are brought to the fore and debated in a lively format amongst our peers. One of those topics that always rears its head during this forum season, is the ongoing challenges faced by one and all in recruiting and keeping those associates that best embody the values, vision, and relevance of our humble operations.

We have, recently, been going on such a journey recruiting team members alike for a new opening that is forthcoming, however, this time we decided to do it a little differently.


Gone are the dreary and time consuming ‘open’ days and welcome to ‘open audition’ days! That’s right my friends, given that we are most definitely in the experience and entertainment business we decided to adopt that approach to our recruitment drive.

First things first, all job postings were listed through social media, shared and re-shared by the team to get as much cross exposure as possible. We did this with tight turnaround times so that we knew those applying were keen. Once they had submitted a predetermined set of online questions we crafted per position, these positions were narrowed and phase two began.

For this we invited those who had been shortlisted to upload a short one minute audition video telling us about them but more importantly giving us a look at their personality which is key. To be fair, some people were quite nervous and in contrast, some spoke into their phone, whilst others had people film them in differing parts of Dubai. It was truly amazing to see.

From this we invited the ‘finalists’ to a last stage interview process. Both chefs and front-of-house colleagues had no idea what they were getting into. We bussed them to a secret location and when they arrived they were split up into FOH and BOH.

The chefs were stationed in front of six cooking ranges and provided with a box of 15 ingredients. The main part of their final stage of interview was to create an amazing dish, with no preparation, from the ingredients provided. They had an hour. In the meantime, the front-of-house team were busy doing a blind taste test, their own interpretation of setting a table, bistro, fine-dining, or café style, and finally five minute speed interviews with six different people ranging from social media gurus, heads of marketing and PR, restaurant general managers, and human resource representatives.

The net result of this process was twofold. Firstly, for those that we ultimately hired we are confident in their ability to deliver and execute with true authenticity, the concept we have created for them and secondly, even for those that were unsuccessful, they said it was an amazing experience that gave them a new look at the industry they are in.

CVs and references form such a small part of ensuring the team you build can deliver true hospitality. I challenge you all to look at different ways you can assess skills in recruitment as these are the lifeblood of our business.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the director — global food & beverage for The First Group who is developing, creating and executing more than 30 new concepts to site within the company’s hotel portfolio. Email him at duncan.fraser-smith@thefirstgroup.com.

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