Google's toughest job interview questions
Interview Insider: How to Get a Job at Taco Bell
Taco Bell wants young people to eat their food and grow their business. This year,Fast Companynamed it one of the 50 most innovative companies, citing its big-thinking innovation — from new ordering technology that allows users to customize munchies from their phones to its ability to come up with new food ideas (Quesalupa!) in a seemingly exhausted space.
The 54-year-old company encourages team building with employee bike rides and walks, and frequent events where executives and newcomers exchange ideas. The corporate offices in Irvine, California, have an onsite gym; meditation, self-defense, and martial arts classes; and employees can leave early on Fridays to pursue hobbies, volunteer, or just chill.
Stacey Payne, the company's HR director, shares what she's looking for in new employees.
What qualities make candidates stand out in an interview with Taco Bell?
Whether or not you're looking to make an impact, and are you curious. In an interview, if people have a proven track record of innovation and creativity — in a previous job or a sorority, leading a business club, or working a summer internship — we love hearing about it. We're also looking for candidates who can be agile and adaptable. Finally, we're looking for people who are willing to put themselves outside of their comfort zone, or even outside of their area of expertise. Most Taco Bell corporate employees have an aggregated tenure of about 10 years. People are changing jobs every two years, either being promoted or making a lateral move to a different department.
How often are you hiring new people?
We're hiring across the company, all the time. Our headquarters in Irvine, California, employs about 700 people. We have more than 6,500 restaurants in the United States – this includes corporate and franchised restaurants. On average, a new Taco Bell restaurant will employ about 30 people, and 240 restaurants in 27 countries internationally. And Taco Bell and its franchises employ more than 177,000 people across our U.S. restaurants. Last year we hired 65 people in the corporate office, plus about 18 paid interns.
What areas of the company are growing fastest right now?
We're constantly looking at new ways we can talk to our consumer, which leads to new job opportunities in marketing, digital innovation, IT, and consumer insights. We're creating new roles we haven't had before, in areas like e-commerce, web development, digital media, mobile technology, and design. Anything that has to do with tech is steadily growing.
What do you think makes your company attractive to Millennial job seekers?
What do you expect candidates to know about Taco Bell before an interview?
When a candidate comes in, it means we both swiped right. We're both interested in a relationship. So you should get to know us as much as you can before making a commitment. Look at our LinkedIn. Look at our Twitter feed. Look for the latest products, our latest awards, and any recent news about the company. With LinkedIn especially, the world has gotten a lot smaller. You probably know someone who knows someone who can introduce you to us.
How can college students apply for an internship?
We post internships on ourwebsite, and we also post in college career centers. We focus on local campuses near our headquarters — USC, UCLA, UC Irvine. We also go out to Booth [School of Business at the University of Chicago] and Kellogg [at Northwestern University], and host information career sessions every November in our corporate offices.
We have interns across the company — nutrition, product development, social media, HR — but marketing is the area where we hire the most. We're a food company, but marketing is at the heart of what we do. Interns don't necessarily have to have marketing experience to be in the program. Interns as well as employees move around the company all the time, which breeds a diversified culture and employees who are passionate about and understand the whole business.
Do you regularly hire interns into full-time roles?
All interns try to solve a business problem. At the end of the internship, they present their business strategy to a panel of executives. That's how we see they if they are a good fit and will be extended a full-time offer. Our hope is to hire as many interns as possible.
Do most full-time positions require a specific degree relevant to the job to which they are applying?
Not at all. We have people with economics backgrounds in marketing; we have previous finance majors working in operations. It's very fluid.
Do you offer a management-training program or continuing education?
We have an executive mentorship program, where we partner new employees with an executive for a year. We do a business book club hosted by our CEO, who picks a fascinating business book every couple of months and buys it for everybody. We then come together over lunch to talk about how it's gotten us to think about our lives and the business differently. We have traditional training as well, as it relates to managers being good coaches and leaders.
We know a lot of people who work in our restaurants have never graduated from high school. We pay for them to get their GEDs. We also partner with Excelsior College to offer discounted college classes online. Employees and their family members can earn their associate's, bachelor's, or master's degrees with us.
Is the hiring process different for restaurant and franchise jobs than it is for corporate employees?
We encourage everyone to go to the careers site, but a lot of people still do walk into restaurants to apply, and that's OK too.
What types of questions do you like to ask in an interview?
Our interviews are conversations. One of the questions we like to ask is, "What attracted you to the position or to Taco Bell?" Most people have a Taco Bell story from when they were in grade school, high school, or college. We love to hear them. I also try to understand how people think. I'll ask them, "Walk me through your first six weeks. What do you hope to learn? What do you hope to accomplish?" You also have to be willing to take some constructive feedback. I'll ask, "Tell me about your biggest failure — in work or in life." It gives us an understanding of the human side of people and how they learn.
What questions should candidates always ask you in an interview?
People should be curious about what it's like to work here. Ask us what excites us most about coming to work every day. That's a fun question to answer, and it also gives the candidate insight into what this person is working on. People should ask, "What's the team like [that] I'll be working with every day?" At the end of the interview, they should ask, "Is there any more information I can provide to help you get to know me better?" It's their last chance to make a great impression.
What questions should they never ask?
I don't think there are any bad questions. Any question helps us get to know them better.
What's a mistake people make in interviews all the time and don't know it?
Not doing research on the people doing the interview. Everyone has a LinkedIn profile. There has to be something on there you can ask about. Stalk us — in the right way. One big mistake is people don't come prepared with questions to ask us. They see the interview as a one-way grill session where we are trying to figure out if they'll be a good fit. But it's a two-way relationship.
Is there an interview dress code?
It depends on what department you're interviewing with. We're in Southern California, so one day I'll wear flip-flops and jeans, and the next day I'll wear a really nice pencil skirt suit. You should feel your best and wear something you've worn before; something you feel comfortable in.
Do thank-you cards or emails matter to you? Is not sending a thank-you a deal-breaker?
I think they are always nice to receive. Handwritten cards are a really special touch, especially in a day and age when people don't do that anymore. But if you don't send one, it's not a deal-breaker by any means.
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