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By Jon Michail

The search for outstanding talent is fierce, even more so if you run an SME. How good are you at choosing and hiring people for your team?

Apart from the qualifications and previous experience on offer, what else helps you to make the right choice? The answer may be no further than your nearest eatery.

The simple act of your prospect turning up to meet you for a meal and then sharing the next hour or so with you is guaranteed to tell you more than the most sophisticated aptitude test.

First of all, did they arrive on time and then thank you at the end of the meal? Common courtesies demonstrate that the prospect is able to fit right into the accepted norms of business and personal behaviour.

What’s more, their manners and attitude were not learnt from the web the day before your lunch date. They reflect the way that person tends to interact with everyone.

Do they have a high standard of personal presentation? It’s not necessary for their clothing to be expensive or brand new, but it should be clean, well pressed and obviously part of an ensemble that was considered for the occasion. In addition, hair, makeup and accessories should also reflect thought and care – and that means men as well as women, no ifs no buts. It’s all part of your personal brand.

Along with this is the attitude they project. Are they calm and collected about the way they look, or are they constantly pulling at their clothes or pushing hair into position? We can all be nervous at times during an important meeting however a calm demeanour indicates self-control and a focus on the meeting rather than their appearance and self image.

How did they interact with the restaurant staff? An arrogant or disrespectful interaction is a good indicator of how that person will fit into the company hierarchy. Arrogance and an unwillingness to compromise are likely to translate into poor relationships with other team members further down the employment ladder.

Of course, the opposite is just as telling; politeness and respect for wait staff indicate that within the company, that person is likely to maintain firm and productive relationships with other staff members at every level.

Ordering a meal is another interesting challenge. Did they change their mind or stare longingly at the food that others have ordered? Decisiveness may indicate a propensity to make good choices or to prioritise well. If they have a food allergy or dietary need, the way they handle their order and convey their requirements will also be illuminating.

One of the most effective ways to see how people react is by alcohol. Although not politically correct to do with many firms, the ritual of alcohol and business can reveal much ‘un-saids’.

Of course, you’re making assumptions from a brief meeting in a place where you may never meet again. Something may have happened earlier to put your prospect on edge. You also may not be feeling totally up to speed. But you should have gained a good sense of how that person made you feel.

Their personal energy should have resonated with you. Your instincts will now be giving you a yes or no. Trust them. If you’re not totally convinced you should hire that person, you’re probably right.

And remember – they were assessing you too. If they get in touch later to say no, they don’t think they’ll continue with their application, you might spare a moment to wonder why. Perhaps it was because you clicked your fingers at the waitperson. Or was it your favourite tie with the hula girl on it? – a very 70’s look even if vintage is a current fashion. But one thing’s for sure, whatever your final decision you have valuable insights to make your next move.

Remember, life’s too short not to respect your time.

What are your experiences? I’d love to know.

Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.

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