Hiring Advice Inspired by David Lee Roth


rothreview4Holly Howard is our go-to business consultant. She’s helped countless small businesses in Brooklyn and beyond (including us here at Brooklyn Based) with her expertise and know-how. This summer, in an unprecedented program, 10 small businesses in Red Hook, Brooklyn have come together to work as a community to grow their businesses through Holly’s From Artisan to Entrepreneur® Business Growth Program.  This program was made possible through the generous support from ReStore Red HookNew York Business Development Corporation, and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. Over the next 10 weeks, Holly will dedicate her weekly advice column to a specific business in Red Hook that is participating in her in hopes that their journeys will bring enlightenment and inspiration to your business as well. This week she fields a question from the owners of Sunny’s.

Dear Holly,

What are the best sources where I can look for employees? I have people recommended to me all the time, which is good, but I feel I need to broaden my horizon a little and look for people that can meet a specific need for my business. I have only hired one person through an interview. I’m not sure about craigslist because I feel like I’m not sure what I would get. I also do not want to be overburdened with applicants. What is in between craigslist and friend recommendations, and what is a reasonable number of applications that I should review?


Tone Johansen
Sunny’s Bar

Dear Tone,

Employees are such a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to operating a small business. And, the biggest mistake most food entrepreneurs make is that when they open their restaurant or bar, they think it’s all about the food, but it’s really all about the people—the people that run their establishment.

You’ve taken a classic path that I’ve seen with most entrepreneurs. They tend to hire friends and friends of friends. And you’re right that hiring through craigslist can be time consuming and often the quality of responses questions your faith in today’s workforce. The best approach you can take to hiring is to start with a solid and crystal clear job description. Once you have that, I would share it not necessarily with friends, but with people in your network. I would always put the word out to fellow bar owners, vendors, distributors, and anyone you network with. That’s different than hiring friends. You can also post to food and beverage job specific boards such as Good Food Jobs and with Culintro. These are more industry specific than craigslist, but come at a higher price for posting.

I can’t tell you a reasonable number of applications to look at, but I can share with you a tool I use to know immediately which applicants to rule out and which to consider. It’s a little trick I learned from David Lee Roth. See, David Lee Roth was famous for sticking remove in quirky clauses into his riders for concert contracts. Specifically, he asked that a bowl of M&M’s with all the brown ones removed be placed back stage. Not because he had a disdain for brown M&M’s, but he knew that if he walked back stage and this task was not completed or it was incomplete, then the crew did not thoroughly read the rider and did not set up the stage properly. That’s the key. You need an applicant who has thoroughly read the job posting and is following instructions immediately. If they don’t respond to the posting as you ask them too, then they don’t pay attention to detail, and you should rule them out. So a tactic that can help you weed out applicants quickly, is to ask a very specific, possibly quirky question that the applicant must answer in the cover letter. If they do not answer the specific question, then you can weed them out immediately, and you know which candidates are serious, and which are just applying to any posting they see.

Good luck! If you take the time to consider how you present yourself, no matter where you choose to seek out candidates, your success rate will likely be higher. Take the time to flush out that job description. Write a posting that includes the specific requirements that a candidate will immediately need to succeed and this will make the hiring process more successful.


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