Want amazing startup employees? Look for people with food service experience.

(I was at lunch at T/aco today, bidding farewell to one of the amazing servers who helped me through the past few difficult months, and was reminded that I've been meaning to write this post for a long time.) 

Over the years, among all the startups and in my cubicle jobs, I've hired many people. Over time, a set of "sorting rules" have emerged. At the very top of that list, I look for people who have wait staff experience. I think it's one of the hardest, most stressful jobs one can have (and I've been a paramedic and 9-1-1 dispatcher). Almost without exception, they are better with customers, better organized, and (obviously) the best at multi-tasking. When I ran a 9-1-1 center, there was no single better predictor of completing our one year training program than if the dispatcher had previous restaurant experience.

Remember, company culture isn't something you create (nor is it something you can change through policies or foosball tables), but is what emerges from the people with whom you choose to share the journey. Choose wisely. 

Also of note, the final step in my interview process is to have lunch or dinner with a candidate. Demonstrating (without prompting) they treat their server as a professional and an equal is an absolute requirement before the offer letter goes out.