Interviewing for a back-of-house position in your kitchen or restaurant is one of the most important job responsibilities you have. Ensuring that your staff can perform their jobs from the beginning, whether you are working beside them or handling other tasks is vital to the health of your business.

Keeping food costs down is important at all times, but especially in these economic times. Ask job candidates about their experience in this area. Do they already have tried-and-true methods that will save you money while keeping your quality high? Reducing food costs goes hand-in-hand with increasing restaurant profitability. Does the potential employee have any experience in contributing to previous restaurants’ profitability?

Another big area that interviewers should be concerned with when interviewing potential culinary employees is recruiting, training and hiring personnel. Anyone who has ever worked in, or even spent time in a kitchen knows how much of a pressure cooker it really is. Asking questions to gauge how a candidate would handle not only the different temperaments, limited resources and curve balls at the eleventh hour is critical. An easy way to measure adaptability is to prepare certain questions meant to rattle the interviewee and throw them out sporadically throughout the interview.

While food skills and techniques are important, keep in mind that an employee’s character is perhaps the most important hiring criterion. Consider asking questions that will clue you in on the candidate’s dependability, endurance, initiative, flexibility, responsibility and resourcefulness. Here are a few examples of character-based interview questions:

•Has there been a time in the last year that you were either late or couldn’t make it in to work? What was the reason, and how did you communicate with your employer? (Dependability)
•If you see a product getting low during the dinner shift, what would you do? (Initiative)
•You have been assigned a product, but you notice that you don’t have everything in stock that is needed to make it. How would you handle the situation? (Resourcefulness)
•You are working a double. How do you pace yourself through the day? (Endurance)
•You receive a customer complaint about a meal you prepared. How do you handle the situation? (Responsibility)
•Your boss changes the special at the last minute. What would you do? (Flexibility)