Food Safety Culture starts with the hiring process

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Food Safety Culture starts with the hiring process.

Yet when food safety leadership lets other departments take control of the hiring process, it’s a lost opportunity to improve the company’s food safety culture.

At a minimum, you’ve missed an opportunity to exact a larger influence on the quality of hire for the food safety or Quality opening.

The bigger miss though, is you’ve let an opportunity slip by to promote the company’s food safety culture to potential new hires.

Let there be no confusion about who LEADS and OWNS and is ACCOUNTABLE for hiring and selection for food safety & quality hires in a food or beverage company.

It’s NOT the Plant Manager.
It’s NOT Talent Acquisition, Staffing or HR.
It’s NOT the CEO, COO or VP of Operations.
It’s you, the Food Safety & Quality leader.

HOW you lead the hiring process is similar to an exercise you’re already familiar with – creating a HACCP plan.

To borrow from HACCP terminology, no one but you has as intimate a knowledge of the HAZARDS and CRITICAL CONTROL POINTS that make or break a successful hire.

And just as important, you have as much an obligation to show full commitment to the hiring process as you would expect YOUR senior leadership team to support the development and execution of an effective HACCP plan.

So how can you positively influence the hiring and selection process and effectively promote the company’s food safety culture in the hiring process?

Assemble a cross-functional hiring team and serve as the leader.

When you set out to create a HACCP plan for a new site or an existing one, you don’t leave the particulars to a 3rd party or Operations.

You own it – you set the team, the workload, schedule, cadence and the ongoing tweaks to the plan.

The same should go for the hiring process.

Even if the new hire reports to a Plant Manager, VP of Operations, COO or the CEO, the most senior Food Safety leader should still lead and heavily influence every step of the hiring process.

Talent Acquisition, Staffing and HR play a critical, invaluable role during the hiring process, but they should not be the lead.

It should be clear and apparent that direction, accountability and ownership of the successful hire sits with you, whether or not the new hire reports directly to you or not.

The Site Operations team and the Site Manager may have the most interaction with the new hire and certainly can influence the hiring decision, but it should never be a question who’s ultimately responsible for the hiring process and final decision. You.

The Food Safety leader is the best option to keep the hiring process on the right track.

Another critical reason why the Food Safety leader needs to stay involved is because of the complexity of the hiring and selection process and how easy it is for the search to get off track, off schedule and off target.

Talent Acquisition has other priorities – it’s hard for them to stay on point with so many other openings. On top of that, as well-intentioned and experienced as they are, they will never understand the nuances of a candidate’s technical aptitude as you do.

Job descriptions, hiring specifications and search parameters are fluid and the Food Safety leader knows the best what can be adjusted and tweaked without compromising the quality of hire.  That’s why it’s best that, when used, the Food Safety leader should set the parameters for the ideal candidate with pre-hire employment assessments.

Effective sourcing and recruiting of top Food Safety and Quality talent requires a deep understanding of someone’s career aspirations, and no one is more empathetic and can speak on the same level as the Food Safety leader.

No one can get a search back on track faster than you – ask any Talent Acquisition or Staffing Manager the most frustrating aspect of their job and it’s stalled out requisitions that the Food Safety leader isn’t pushing through or communicating direction on.

These are just a couple examples why the Food Safety leader has to stay involved and is the best option for leading the hiring team for each of their openings.

It’s certainly not convenient, but unless your company is operating as a mature food safety culture, then to do otherwise would be to miss an opportunity to get a step closer.


Advancing a company’s food safety culture can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task for food safety leaders. But if there’s ever a question about what to do next, focus on influencing the hiring process.

We do a deeper dive on why Food Safety Culture is critical, and why hiring and selection impacts not only Food Safety Culture but your company’s ability to reduce Cost of Quality here – Food Safety IS a competitive advantage.

Please comment below and share this post with others who’ll appreciate it.

Signature Bob Pudlock Food Safety Insider

Bob Pudlock is the publisher of Food Safety Insider and President of Gulf Stream Search, a search firm that specializes in placing top talent with consumer packaged goods companies and the technology companies(SaaS and PaaS) that support them.  

Bob is one of North America’s most-respected and top Food Safety recruiters.

The Food Safety Insider has been recognized as one of the top food safety blogs by Feedspot.

This post was updated October 1, 2020.

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