The trial shift: Top tips for success
For most businesses, once you have progressed beyond the interview stage, they will want to see you in action doing what you do best; wowing your guests on the floor, or delivering fantastic quality food in the kitchen.
What is a trial shift?
A trial shift is where you are supervised on-the-job to see if you have the necessary skills required for the role. After all, it makes sense to test if you can ‘walk-the-walk’ in what might be an extremely hands-on role.
But don’t worry; we’ve put together some tips and hints to ensure trial shift success. We’ve even gathered some exclusive pointers from our hospitality consultant team. All of our consultants have previously worked in the hospitality industry, so have first-hand experience of both invigilating and completing trial shifts, and can therefore offer you valuable advice.
Before the trial
Make sure you’ve allowed plenty of time to travel to and from the venue – the last thing you want to do is arrive late! A great way to quell some of the nerves that you may have is to visit the venue as a customer before the trial and dine there. This will allow you to become familiar with the layout of the venue – the table set up, number of floors etc – as well as give you a chance to meet and interact with some of the team.
When you arrive at the venue, try to introduce yourself to everyone on the floor. The person conducting your trial, whether they are the General Manager, or Head Chef, will most likely have informed the team that they will have someone trialling with them, so they’ll be eager to meet you and say hello. Remember that once the trial has concluded, your invigilator will generally ask the team who were working with you for feedback on how you came across; if the unanimous feedback is that you made a great positive first impression, this will always help!
The trial itself
Many businesses have moved away from having a very structured trial; they feel that sometimes it’s better to leave people to their own devices as a test of their initiative and pro-activity. You should always try to make the most of the time you have, and feel empowered to manage your own time as you see fit. As a guide, you should try to spend a little time on each section of the business; if you are trialling for a front of house role, spend some time on the door, touch some tables, run some food (if the business are happy for you to do so), spend some time on the bar, and go and interact with the team in the kitchen. If you are trialling for a back of house role, spend time on each section, ask questions and try to get involved with the production of as many different dishes as possible.
What businesses look for
Generally speaking, when companies put candidates through a trial shift, they are looking for evidence of 3 different competency areas:
1) Presence – your presence on the floor/in the kitchen; do you look confident, comfortable and in control? On a busy stressful shift, customers and team members will always look to management for reassurance, and expect to see them calm and confident. If you are able to demonstrate that you are perfectly at home on the restaurant floor/in the kitchen then you’ve already ticked one big box! Be aware of your posture and body language at all times and smile!
2) Willingness – more than anything else, it’s important to show that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in! Businesses are looking for people who are hard workers, hands on and love to get involved with the team. If you spot a team member who needs help – don’t hesitate to jump in! And of course it goes without saying that if you’re asked to do something, respond quickly and positively. If your shift is due to end at 5pm and at 4:59 the restaurant needs resetting – offer to help and don’t clock watch!
3) Relationship building – as referenced before it’s important to demonstrate that you have the ability to make a positive impact on members of the team and have meaningful interactions with your guests. If you are trialling at the site that you’re applying for then bear in mind that the team on shift are the people that you’ll be spending a lot of time with if you’re successful – so it’s important to make that first impression count. Employers are looking for evidence that you can quickly establish the correct tone for working relationships, balancing friendliness and inclusivity with professionalism and hard work. Make sure that you speak to everyone and try to find out something about everyone who is on shift with you.
After the trial
Once the busy service has died down you will normally get a chance to sit down and have a ‘de-brief’ with your invigilator. This is a great chance to reflect on the trial itself, passing on thoughts on your performance, whether you enjoyed it, and any observations you made.
A few key pointers here:
- Show self-awareness, be humble and always positive when analysing your own performance – but don’t be too hard on yourself!
- If you have constructive feedback or observations make sure they’re delivering in a positive manner
- Be proactive in seeking out feedback from the management team and see this as a positive
As you leave be sure to thank the team you worked with and say a warm goodbye (or goodnight) to everyone in the business – leaving a lasting impression as positive as the first one.
Above all else, you need to relax and have fun. Despite what you may have read, a trial shift is not designed to be a traumatic ordeal or something to be stressed out about; on the contrary, a trial shift is as much an opportunity for you to see how you feel about the business as it is a chance for them to see you in action. Ultimately, if you have a great time on the day and enjoy working with the team, you should see this as affirmation that you’re making the right decision in applying for the business and will in all likelihood enjoy coming to work should you be successful.
Furthermore, you should draw confidence from the fact that the trial shift is an opportunity for you to show a business what you’re great at – what you do every day. Even though the environment, the team and the menu will be different, fundamentally the process of delivering a fantastic service in a busy restaurant is much the same wherever you are! You’ve got the experience, you know what you’re doing, and, with the help of this guide, you’ve got all the tools you need in order to be successful!