Blog Post / March 19, 2021 / Industry Voices

A Seat at the Table: James Trapani, Recruiting Operations Associate at SevenRooms

by Bianca Esmond
Bianca Esmond

In this blog series, we’re showcasing SevenRooms’ special ingredient: our employees! This month, we got to know James Trapani, Recruiting Operations Associate at SevenRooms. Read on to learn more about how he’s navigating work from home, why he chose to work at SevenRooms, and how he decided to go into recruiting. Pull up a seat at the table and dive in!

Why did you join SevenRooms?

Prior to SevenRooms, I worked in an array of recruiting-focused roles across large companies including National Debt Relief, SEQ Technology and HealthTrust Workforce Solutions. As I began my job search, I knew I wanted to work with an earlier stage startup. I wanted to play a larger role in helping a smaller tech company form new processes and procedures that would help them level-up their recruiting operations. I knew that coming into an earlier-stage company like SevenRooms would give me the opportunity to build an incredible recruiting program for prospective employees. When I met the People team here, the first thing I noticed was how passionate they were about what they do and the employees they work with every day. Ultimately, the passion of the team and the incredible culture they have helped build made me choose SevenRooms.

Why did you initially decide to go into recruiting?

When I was in college, I had no idea I would end up in recruiting. I was initially pre-med and swore I was going to become a cardiologist. Then I took my first chemistry class, and wanted nothing to do with science or a role in that field. What I ended up really enjoying was psychology, business and entrepreneurship. When I found out about Industrial and Organizational (IO) Psychology, which focused on the behavior of employees in the workplace, I switched my major and never looked back. As I was taking different courses within this major, I found out about recruiting, training and development, and people operations. After weighing my options, I decided that recruiting would be the best step to get into the HR world, and focused my attention on that discipline.

My goal is to create the best spaces and work environments for employees. I love speaking with candidates as they work through the next step in their career journey, and have gotten so much out of working within the HR/people operations world. I’m so excited to continue to grow my own career within this field, with the goal to one day become a People Operations Manager.

When speaking with potential new 7Roomies, what do you think makes us stand out in a competitive job environment?

Initially, I found that what gets people to click apply is that we’re a young company, have a lot of room for movement within our teams, and large potential for future growth. What keeps candidates engaged in the interview process is the people they talk to. We have a world-class culture, and our people are representative of the incredible work we do in that area. At the end of the day, our people do an incredible job of selling our company to candidates because they believe in the mission and love the work we do here. That’s impossible to fake, and is a huge asset to our People team as we recruit new hires.

How can candidates stand out during the hiring process?

For me, the candidates that stand out the most are the ones that have done their research. Passion for the industry or for solving a problem are also major pluses. At SevenRooms, we hire people from all backgrounds, but one common denominator they share is that they want to make a difference in the hospitality industry. They care about the mission of SevenRooms and want to see hospitality businesses of all shapes and sizes succeed and thrive.

If you’re applying for a role at SevenRooms, you’re obviously in the process of finding a new job. Many people in this process will take the first offer they receive, but I like people who truly want to join the company, understand the vision, and have done their research. They bring new ideas and thoughts into the interview process that make it a no-brainer to extend them an offer for a role.

What advice would you have for those candidates looking to join the SevenRooms team?

First and foremost, be proactive. Many of the candidates I talk to or who make it through the candidate pipeline have reached out to me directly either via email or Linkedin. Over my years in the industry, I have found that many people in recruiting don’t typically respond to Linkedin messages. I take the opposite approach -- making time to reach out and invite candidates to apply for roles that may be a fit for them based on their experience.

The candidates who often get offers are those that truly want to make a difference in hospitality. They’ve done their research on SevenRooms, identified how we fit into the bigger hospitality ecosystem, and are as passionate as we are about helping our clients succeed. This attitude demonstrates to our team that candidates aren’t just treating SevenRooms as another option on a long list of potential jobs. Rather, as one that is truly interesting to them and that they want to make a real impact doing.

Don’t feel like your experience aligns exactly with the role you’re applying for? Always include a cover letter! Write one that’s personalized, not a template. It makes a ton of difference when I’m reviewing resumes. I read all of the cover letters that candidates submit, and when they take time to personalize it, showcasing their personality and passion for the industry, it’s obvious that they’re worth talking with further for a potential role at SevenRooms.

What are some of the recruiting trends you’re seeing this year, and how will that shape the future of SevenRooms?

This should come as no surprise, but one of the biggest focuses for companies across the world this year is on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. As a company, SevenRooms has always put a focus on DEI initiatives, but we’re doing even more internal work to embody DEI best practices at SevenRooms. This includes a completely revamped recruiting process that is more equitable and inclusive. This starts with how we approach recruitment as a whole, how we source candidates, and how we conduct interviews. We’ve completely revisited the types of questions we ask, how we follow up and engage with candidates throughout the process and so much more. Most importantly, we’ve worked to standardize the process and created more transparency throughout so that candidates feel supported. We’re giving more chances to people who might not be the perfect fit on paper -- like a waiter or host looking to transition into technology but stay in hospitality. We've learned that a resume doesn’t always tell you how great someone is at their job, or the experiences they’ve had that may relate to the position. We’re doing better in our recruitment process to give everyone a seat at the table.

At the end of the day, joining a company isn’t just about the benefits. It’s about what they offer you as a person, what they stand for as an organization, and what impact they have on their greater community. Today, more than ever, this is incredibly important to candidates, as well as the people that work within the company already. People want to work for a company that is doing good work, and we believe we’re creating that environment for employees and candidates alike.

What advice would you have for restaurant operators or those looking to revamp recruitment at their own companies?

My advice would be for them to outline what it is they’re looking for in a candidate, establish the framework for success in that role, and the skills and behavioral traits they want the person to have. Create questions and assessments that specifically test people on those skills to help you get to an answer faster on whether or not this person is a fit for your company. Most importantly, take a chance on someone looking to make a change in careers or with a unique background. Sometimes the least obvious choice for the role can bring a new perspective that will benefit your company.

What is one thing you think SevenRooms does really well when it comes to our culture and people?

I get this question every other interview, and my answer is always the same. SevenRooms excels at creating open lines of communication with employees and embodies transparency across the entire organization. It’s evident in the way our managers approach people management, and in the way our executive leadership team addresses both challenges and changes by explaining the ‘why’ behind a decision. There is always a focus, first and foremost, on providing people with the information and context they need to bring their best selves to work.

On a more personal level, one of the things I love most about SevenRooms on a peer-to-peer level is that people are always reaching out and checking in with me to see how I’m doing, how my day is going, or just to say hello. This has stayed consistent from when I first joined the company to today in a fully digital work environment. I now make sure I’m extending this same level of support and hospitality to new employees at SevenRooms, and always make sure they know that they can reach out and rely on me as a resource and friend.

How do you ensure you stay connected with SevenRooms’ NYC-based HQ in a WFH environment?

Staying connected while working remotely can be incredibly difficult. One thing I try to do on a regular basis is to check in with those within my team and outside of it. I ask people what they did over the weekend, what they’re watching on TV, or how they’re feeling today. Staying connected on a more personal level can be hard, but it can be as simple as taking time to tell a joke, or starting a meeting with a few minutes of conversation that’s non-work-related. It’s so important to always try to have fun at work and engage with your fellow employees.

This past year, more than ever before, people have experienced heavier workloads, shifting schedules and personal challenges related to working from home. It’s so important to remember to take time off, take weekends for yourself, or even a recharge day (one of my favorite SevenRooms perks!). Separating work from home has also been important for me this year. I try to end around the same time every day, and not get tempted to open my laptop late at night. For me, it’s been all about balance.

What has been the most rewarding silver lining you’ve encountered over the past year? Personally? Professionally?

Personally, I got to go home to Tennessee and spent a lot of time with my mom. For the past four years, the most time I’ve spent with her is 3-4 days here or there. Throughout COVID, I ended up living with her for 7 months! A major silver lining was getting to spend time with my cousins, nieces and aunt. It’s been a blessing to get to spend so much more time with my family than I normally would have.

Professionally, I would say the best part would be starting in this position at SevenRooms. It was not what I expected, but in a good way. I was nervous coming into a smaller company that I might not have new projects or roles to recruit for. In reality, it’s been the complete opposite. My colleague on the People team, Natalie, has given me the opportunity to do so many new things outside of recruiting, and it’s been fun to try my hand at something new. I’ve loved diving into new professional development areas, particularly in helping build out our recruiting operational processes and our external candidate presence across channels like Linkedin. I didn’t expect any of this, and it’s been great to explore different areas as I think about the future of my career in HR.

Where are you boarding your first flight to after travel restrictions are lifted? Which restaurant are you dining at?

I’m not sure where it’s going to be, but wherever I go, it will have a lot of sun! After a long, grey and cold winter, I’m looking forward to the freedom that being outside gives you. Ideally, this sunny locale will be somewhere out to the country!

For restaurants, my big focus over the last few months has been supporting my local restaurants and small businesses. I very rarely order the same thing twice, and typically always try something new. Local, smaller businesses have been particularly hard-hit this year, and I’m doing everything I can to give back and help keep them in business for the long term.

About the Author

Bianca Esmond

Bianca Esmond is the Director, Brand Marketing at SevenRooms, where she heads up brand awareness, communications and event programming. Based at New York HQ, she's always on the hunt for the best sushi in the city.

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