We sat down with Jordan Moore, Head of Talent at Gail’s Bakery, to explore his journey from a construction background to talent leadership, his insights into recruitment challenges and the importance of human-to-human connections.
I couldn't wait to get out of school; I qualified as a builder and plasterer. My dad had always been a builder so I’d spent my school holidays working with him and loved being hands-on. But I wanted to do more, I wanted to do something really fulfilling. I fell into recruitment. At the time, one of my close friends had the nicest car among all of us. I asked him what he did, and I thought, 'That sounds great. Can you help me get a job?!'
Initially I started in recruiting qualified accountants for Hospitality, Retail and FMCG businesses in and around London. I spent ten years doing that; I went from working for some small independents to being part of a team that built and sold an agency from scratch, and then I ended up working for one of the big boys. And then I thought to myself, ‘I’m getting a bit bored of following the story halfway.’ I wanted to go in-house so that I could capture the full journey of bringing experiences to life for both candidates and hiring managers.
This led me to join Nando’s where I spent six years initially looking after 126 restaurants in the London area, 12 area managers and 2 heads of operations. By the time I left, I was Talent Manager for the UK and Ireland - covering over 450 restaurants, managing a team of 6, and looking at everything around attraction, recruitment strategies, and social inclusion with some great people.
I had seen Gail’s popping up in a few places, so when I met with the People Director and the MD of Gail’s and got to hear about their growth plans, the ambition, and how people were the heart of their mission, I thought ‘this aligns with me; that sounds exciting.’ It wasn’t long after we emerged from the Covid pandemic. In the hospitality industry, there wasn’t much talk of growth. So, I made the leap and have spent the last two years as the Head of Talent. My role involves defining the talent strategy and overseeing the attraction, selection, and onboarding process for managers, hourly employees, and head office staff. My team handles both internal and external recruitment, so a lot around how we understand our brand, our culture, and how we bring that to life. We are now approaching over 120 bakeries. As we expand, there is a significant emphasis on ensuring we open in the right locations. A bakery entering a neighbourhood has to be a meaningful part of the community. We are not simply looking to establish a presence on every high street in the UK. It needs to be, first and foremost, are we the right fit for that community and how we can give something back, whether through employment opportunities, charitable work, or other means.
Less of a nagging challenge, but something I’ve consistently encountered is creating a recruitment experience that is consistent and effective for both candidates and hiring managers, across multiple locations. In a multisite environment like Gail’s, ensuring a consistent approach can sometimes be quite challenging. Our bakeries handle a lot of the recruiting themselves, so we need to equip our managers with a consistent approach and mindset. Each bakery location may have its unique characteristics, but the role, and the expectations of someone in that role, are the same. It’s crucial that we maintain a consistent standard for the skills and potential we seek in candidates, whilst ensuring that candidates feel equally excited about the opportunity. We need to make sure that our 120 managers can identify and nurture potential candidates while maintaining a natural and organic hiring process. Balancing the need for consistency with the individuality of each location is key.
We lost a lot of experience within the industry. And now, like many other businesses in the hospitality industry, we’re shifting our focus towards recruiting individuals based on their potential rather than 10-years of hospitality experience. It’s really exciting, because helping someone realise their potential is a lot of what hospitality is about. But it does require a different mindset when assessing candidates.
The pool of international candidates that we’ve traditionally relied on has shrunk. Now, we need to support younger people coming into the industry, helping them understand it can be a really rewarding career. But also giving them the space and remembering we’ve all been that age when we don’t always make the best decisions, such as going out on a Friday night and turning up hungover the next day. Managers are having to do a lot more around coaching, supporting, and guiding.
There’s a huge pool of potential in this country. Now it’s on us to help people realise that potential. Instead of expecting the finished article to walk through our doors, we need to look at ‘where can I get someone too?’ And that requires a different type of management style.
Hospitality is built on humans talking to humans. For me, the key to success lies in human interaction, and building personal connections between managers and candidates is crucial. Some candidates apply because of the name above the door, but they stay in a job because of the people they are working for. People work for people. If you connect with someone on a human level, you have a far better chance of helping that individual reach their potential, or at least helping them on that journey. Having that human connection gives you the ability to have tough conversations and avoids a transactional relationship.
But that's one part of the puzzle; first, you've got to bring the right talent into your organisation. We've done a lot of work on how to spot potential. We know what the finished article looks like on paper, but that's just the 'task,' and you can teach task.
Recruitment has lost its excitement factor due to Brexit and Covid; it has become a mundane, admin-heavy task. However, it shouldn't be that way! It should be exciting adding people to your team. You should be asking yourself, 'How can I raise the bar of my team's potential? What's missing in my team? Do I have many Red Energy people who work at a fast pace and are highly driven and determined? Perhaps I also need some Big Blue-Sky thinkers who can bring 'what-ifs' to the team.’ I think we’re starting to get back to that place, and people are realising that spotting potential gives them the ability to help someone on their journey while also moulding them into what they need.
Recruitment at its purest form is one person talking to another person. Recruitment should never reduce people to mere CVs or numbers. It's about connecting with individuals on a personal level and recognising the positive or negative impact that a recruitment process can have on them.
I’ve played around with this question in my head. You always have those areas that tend to present more challenges than others, but if I’m honest, perhaps not as much in our case. When a specific role will come up requiring a really niche set of skills and experience, then we need to think creatively. But a lot of the time, most of the challenges we face stem from external factors beyond our control, such as geography. But we find ways to approach these challenges differently. I firmly believe in controlling what's within our control and not being overly rigid when dealing with external challenges.
One big positive: the stereotypical belief about who fits a particular profile no longer exists in the same way. There’s a lot more openness to considering different individuals or qualities that may fit a role, including potential. It's about getting underneath the skin, not just focusing on what someone brings to the business today, but considering what they can offer in a couple of years.
The candidate experience has to be your “North Star”. From a human perspective, we all have a duty of care to anyone interviewing. This holds true across all industries, but it's particularly vital in the Hospitality industry: if we can’t bring the industry to life during the hiring process then something is broken. The experiences during the hiring journey are defined by human beings and it needs to be honest and real.
Everyone automatically thinks that for a candidate’s experience to be positive, it has to end with them getting a job offer. And whilst that’s certainly the ultimate goal, some of the most positive experiences actually conclude with a candidate saying, 'Thank you, but this role isn't quite the right fit for me.' You’ve had a really honest conversation about your organisation, instead of trying to sell the dream. You need to be honest about expectations to make sure it’s right for both parties.
Misrepresenting the role or organisation and bringing in the wrong individuals only pushes the problem further down the line. Instead of worrying about filling roles, you risk retention issues and end up chasing your tail. You increase recruitment, onboarding and training costs, and risk candidates sharing their negative experience through platforms like Glassdoor.
One of the challenges specific to the hospitality industry is that our candidates are also our potential customers. The communities surrounding our bakeries are not only our pool of candidates but also our customers. The impact of getting it wrong with one person can have huge consequences. Regardless of the final outcome, there should never be a negative candidate experience.
I’m a bit of a data geek. I’ve had an interesting journey with data over the years. I used to think data just got in the way, whereas now I can’t get enough of it. I’m always intrigued by the balance between gut feeling and data. In a world full of technology and access to data, sometimes it’s the simplest data that provides the most valuable insights.
We conduct monthly data reporting to track key metrics, such as our click through rates on job adverts through to engagement on our careers page. But it’s important to start by working out what data you need and why you need it. It can be tempting to gather as much data as possible, but sometimes this can lead to data overload or paralysis. If you have enough data at your fingertips, you can make it tell a positive or negative story, depending on where you take it. But this doesn’t necessarily help you identify areas for improvement. By clearly defining what you want to measure and why it matters, you establish a consistent approach to how you look at it which enables you to understand the impact of various initiatives.
I also think it’s really important to collect qualitative feedback on our recruitment from candidates, regardless of whether they took a role with us. It’s crucial in understanding and improving our recruitment process and adapting to the changing needs and expectations of candidates. The things that worked well in the past, won’t necessarily work well in the future, and we want to keep ahead of any changes.
Historically, recruitment primarily focused on meeting a business's wants and needs. But over the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift towards prioritising the wants and needs of the candidate. Largely driven by the challenges we’ve faced, the power has shifted. Candidates now feel comfortable saying what they want and need, and if these are not met, then they will look elsewhere. Businesses that stay rigid in their approach have been left behind.
I still think there is room for improvement in terms of how we give back: if someone comes for an interview, how do we make sure they have valuable takeaways, whether in the form of personal or professional feedback.
AI and technology. It’s such a hot topic and I’m really intrigued to see where it will lead to. I firmly believe that when technology is applied thoughtfully, it has the potential to push boundaries and enhance the candidate experience whilst streamlining administrative tasks and improving efficiency. However, I also have concerns about the point at which technology might negatively impact human interactions. We're already witnessing a heavy reliance on digital communication channels like smartphones, emails, and WhatsApp. If you look over the years, it’s clear the art of face-to-face conversation is dying. Are we comfortable with this shift? Is it the direction we want to take? Are our conversations becoming more transactional in nature?
Ultimately, the future of technology will be shaped by people. As experiences and expectations evolve, I anticipate that the candidate market will adapt once again. Candidates may seek different types of information and experiences in the future, and it's crucial for us to remain attuned to these shifts.
Remember that recruitment in its purest form is one human being talking to another. It doesn’t need to be scripted, it doesn’t need to be staged. Be comfortable being uncomfortable, and see where the conversation will take you. Keep your authenticity. It’s all about one person understanding the other.