A Peek Inside Five Star Food Service: Human Resources – Hiring for Success

Within the last five years, Five Star Food Service has not only taken root, but also bloomed beautifully. We have more than doubled our total revenue, as well increased our company footprint multiple times over. Our outstanding growth may seem astonishing to those on the outside, but to everyone who works at Five Star, it comes as an expected result of a company wide dedication to success. Maintaining that level of dedication, however, has never been an easy task. It has taken perseverance, the ability to adapt, an open mind, and a slew of other important company characteristics and skills to drive such continued success, and build a successful business. Out of all of the skills that have helped us reach this point, we truly believe that the ability to hire for success is one of the most important, as well as one of our strongest.

In a quick interview with Peggy Russell, our Human Resources Director here at Five Star, she sheds some light on how we have used hiring to move the company forward and gives some insight on what to look for when hiring for success.

Q: What are the most important qualities you look for when selecting an individual for a position?

Peggy: I believe this varies in accordance with the position. For instance, a few years ago, Five Star took an in-depth look at what makes a ‘good’ route person. What we found is that our best route drivers are very steady people. They prefer stable routines that allow them to be able to come in, put in a good day’s work, be compensated fairly, and go home without having to worry about their job. However, this is not necessarily what we would look for in other roles. Someone in marketing or HR would have different attributes.  For instance, they must be very adaptable to change, enjoy working and communicating with a wide variety of people, and be willing to travel. Overall qualities for every employee: Honesty and integrity are foremost; willingness to do whatever it takes to get a job done successfully; a strong sense of urgency.

Q: When hiring do you look more for how the individual fits the company or how accomplished/success driven the individual is?

Peggy: We have to look for fit. While it is important to hire the best people that we can, along with this has to be a fit with our culture. We have hired people before that were very successful in prior roles, but struggled here because the culture of the company was not a fit for their personality. I tell managers that hard skills are easier to train, it is the soft skills that will make a person successful or not. We now put most of our candidates through an assessment which aids us in determining fit with the Company.

Q: Are there any specific qualities that you have noticed are beneficial for potential employees in the vending industry?

Peggy: Not necessarily, especially with change that Five Star has experienced. Again, even 5 years ago, we would have looked for slightly different traits than we do now. Especially in leadership roles, we look more towards leaders and not just managers anymore. We need people that can look out towards the future and develop a strategy and execute a plan. Five Star is much more fast paced than in years past.

Q: Are there any traits that encourage you to hire, or cause you to disqualify potential employees from employment?

Peggy: I think everyone looks at job history. It used to be so crucial, but with the recent recession, job change has become much more acceptable, as long as there is a reason behind it. One thing that I do look for is the progression someone is making.  Have they moved forward or gone backwards in their career?  If they went backwards, was it due to cutbacks and having to take a lessor position?  We will disqualify anyone that is dishonest. Also, a huge turnoff in an interview for any position is someone that bad mouths their previous employer. I am always interested in who someone considers to have been their “worst boss” and the reasons surrounding it. I look for real answers to interview questions so when I ask for an example, I want an actual example and not some general ‘this is what should be done’ type of answer. Also, because the vast majority of our associates have some type of customer contact, I look for people that are able to carry on a conversation, be reasonably outgoing (they don’t have to be an extrovert, just able to speak, look you in the eye, etc.), and again, if someone is a complainer in the interview, I take a pass on that candidate.

Q: Are you an advocate of personality testing in the hiring process?

Peggy: I am, as a piece of the interview process, not the deciding factor. Also, one has to decide is a personality test relevant to the position. I don’t believe it is applicable for everything.


Peggy Russell has been the HR Director here at Five Star Food Service for the last 9 years, and has been a key figure in the growth of the company. Without her many of the things we have accomplished so far, would not be possible.