Burger King Won’t Hire You If You Say You’re Smart

It's the wrong answer to an important interview question.

Burger King Won't Hire You If You Say You're Smart
Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart

We can learn a lot about how fast food restaurants run from Daniel Schwartz, the CEO of the restaurant group that owns Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes. Schwartz, who was only 32 when he got the top job, has revealed how he chooses employees. And he’s very particular.

During an interview with The New York Times, Schwartz, who is now 36, said he has a desire for hard work, which he learned from his parents, and he expects the same of his staff.

It’s a characteristic he specifically looks for during the interview process:

One question I ask is, ‘Are you smart or do you work hard?’ You want hard workers. You’d be surprised how many people tell me, ‘I don’t need to work hard, I’m smart.’ Really? Humility is important.

He said if his parents taught him anything it’s to respect others. And that has trickled down into the culture of his fast food empire. “Neither of them led teams or organizations, but there was always this emphasis on kindness and manners and just being a good person. I always have that in the back of my head, regardless of who I’m talking to. The world’s a small place, life’s short, and so you should only be nice to people. I don’t raise my voice at work. I don’t have tantrums.”

As for how he hires, he says he likes people who are passionate and who have persevered and who are clearly humble and not arrogant. “It’s okay to be confident, but not arrogant,” he said. “I like people who genuinely are looking for a project and not a job. We’re looking for people who want to be part of something bigger. We don’t want people who see us as a steppingstone.”

“I also like people who say they’re willing to do anything. They just want to get in the door. I had that attitude earlier in my career. I didn’t care what I was going to do. I just wanted to be involved in interesting projects, working with interesting people.”

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