Are you looking to hire a Food Safety Manager in Arlington?
If you’re in the process of hiring or interviewing Food Safety Managers in Arlington, this guide is for you.
The guide is for hiring Food Safety Managers who work for food, beverage, ingredient or flavor manufacturing companies.
The hiring guide also applies to food or beverage brands that outsource or partner with contract manufacturers to produce their products.
The guide includes interview tips and strategies for assessing candidates for Food Safety Manager jobs.
There can be quite a bit of nuance with Food Safety, QA and QC titles. If you’re confused, you’re not alone!
In this guide, we provide some clarity on what Food Safety Managers are responsible for. Then we give you strategies on how to assess candidates for Food Safety Manager jobs.
What does a Food Safety Manager do?
Food Safety Managers are responsible for managing safety and regulatory standards of food products in food manufacturing facilities.
A Food Safety Manager may also manage food safety programs for brands that outsource or partner with other manufacturers who make their product.
Quality standards may fall under the oversight of a Food Safety Manager in some companies, but for the sake of this guide, we’ve isolated the focus to the Food Safety aspects of a Food Safety Manager job.
A Food Safety Manager may also work in corporate headquarters and lead any number of programs.
This is more common in larger companies with diverse product portfolios, global distribution and large and complex supply chains.
A Food Safety Manager could be narrowly focused in one of these areas:
- Corporate Food Safety & Regulatory
The Corporate Food Safety Manager or Food Safety Compliance Manager could be responsible for keeping up to date on specific certifications(ex. Halal, SQF, BRC or Kosher) or schemes, regulations and protocols(HACCP, HARPC, SQF, BRC, GFSI, ISO, FSMA, Good Manufacturing Processes – GMP)
- Food Safety Quality Systems
The Food Safety Quality Systems Manager could be responsible for managing quality systems or compliance applications or platforms(compliance software, food safety software, food traceability software, quality management systems)
- Supplier Quality
The Supplier Quality Manager could be responsible for ensuring all suppliers adhere to their company’s food safety and quality standards.
Food Safety Training
The Food Safety Manager, whether at the corporate location or on-site, will often be responsible for training every employee on food safety best practices.
The on-site Food Safety Manager may lead training programs that are developed at the corporate level or via a 3rd party training company, or they may design the training program themselves.
The Food Safety Manager does not operate in a vacuum nor are any two Food Safety Manager jobs the same, even at the same company, when it comes to certification and compliance.
At any given time, a Food Safety Manager will be responsible for varying levels of oversight when it comes to systems, compliance and procedures. They may…
- Create new systems
- Maintain compliance
- Update systems, procedures
- Evaluate systems, procedures, policies
- Audit systems, reporting, procedures, behavior
What’s the difference between a Quality Manager and a Food Safety Manager?
We have yet to find any consistency within the food industry when it comes to using Food Safety and Quality in job titles.
It’s unfortunate, because there are important distinctions.
What is the difference between safety and quality in the food industry?
Well, in simplest terms, an end product can be of poor quality but still safe for consumers to eat or drink.
When a company produces low quality products, there are consequences, but they are not the same as a company that produces unsafe products.
In fact, some companies continually produce poor quality products but still have a strong following with customers.
The same can’t be said for companies that have a history of releasing unsafe products into the market.
When it comes time to post your food safety job, interview candidates and tell them what the Food Safety Manager is all about, clarity is critical.
When you interview candidates for Food Safety Manager jobs or QA or QC jobs,they may be unclear as to what falls under the umbrella of Food Safety & Quality at YOUR company.
Chances are, it’s not the same as the company they’re coming from.
For context, here’s how some companies might differentiate what a Food Safety Manager is responsible for and what a Quality Manager might be responsible for relative to Food Safety matters.
|Food Safety Manager||Plant Quality Manager|
|Create food safety program||Adhere to and enforce site food safety program|
|Manage food safety systems||Report food safety metrics in quality reports|
|Audit food safety programs||Report deviations in environmental monitoring reports.|
|Lead food safety training||Report deviations in product quality that impacts food safety.|
|Oversee food safety certification programs||Complies with food safety certification programs|
|Develop food safety policies and protocols for new product development||Works with product development and food safety to launch new products safely, effectively and efficiently.|
|Design and calibrate environmental monitoring program||Reports any deviations in environmental monitoring data or product quality data that impacts food safety.|
|Investigate deviations in environmental monitoring reports and design preventive solutions||Reinforce food safety best practices on a continual basis with each employee.|
How to assess Food Safety Manager candidates during the interview process
The Food Safety Insider recommends using pre-hire employment tests when interviewing and hiring Food Safety Managers.
If you already do, great – this guide will help you zero in on what’s important.
Most pre-hire assessment tests use general language that applies to any job with any company – this section of our hiring guide will zero in and use terminology that is Food Safety specific, with specific examples of how someone’s work or thinking style may manifest on the job.
If your company doesn’t use pre-hire assessment tests, you should encourage your company to do so – we have pre-hire assessment tests we can recommend, including ours that are customized for Food Safety, Quality, Regulatory and R&D roles in the food and beverage industry.
Assessing candidates can be difficult, especially when multiple people are interviewing a candidate with their own agenda and criteria – to make better, more informed hiring decisions, narrow your focus to assessing a candidate’s Thinking Style and Work Style.
We recommend looking at a candidate’s work history of course as well as their personal interests and aspirations when we assess candidates, but for this guide, we want to help you narrow your focus on identifying the right blend of thinking style and work style for a Food Safety Manager.
Todd I. Lubart in Thinking and Problem Solving, 1994, describes thinking styles this way: “Thinking Styles are preferred ways of applying one’s intellectual abilities and knowledge to a problem. Two people may have equal levels of intelligence but differ on how they focus their abilities on a task.”
In the context of recruiting and hiring food safety professionals, especially Food Safety Managers, we recommend assessing how well a Food Safety Manager expresses themself with words and numbers.
We also want to determine how well a candidate grasps the technical vocabulary in a food and beverage manufacturing environment, whether they be on the plant floor or at corporate headquarters.
Verbal skills refer to a Food Safety Manager’s command of food safety related vocabulary as well as terminology that reflects where they will be working and with whom they will be interacting.
These settings could include:
- Manufacturing setting
- Corporate headquarters setting
- Supplier sites
- 3rd party consultants
In the context of interviewing, hiring and workplace success, verbal reasoning refers to a Food Safety Manager’s ability to use words to reason, problem solve, lead, influence and communicate in all the settings they’ll be required to work in.
Numerical skills refer to a Food Safety Manager’s aptitude in using formulas to generate production or performance data in their daily work. It also includes their ability to work with data that’s intrinsic to their work in Food Safety using data analytics applications.
Numerical Reasoning refers to how adept a Food Safety Manager can work with work-related data.
In other words, how efficiently can they mine through large amounts of data, extract what is pertinent and either act on these findings or influence others to take action based on the data.
The table below shows an ideal range for each aspect of Thinking Style for a Food Safety Manager.
Working Style & Tendencies
A Food Safety Manager who is most comfortable working at a steady, consistent pace has a low work velocity.
A Food Safety Manager who believes they’re most effective working at a steady pace may further limit their promotability – their own belief system may keep them from taking on more complex projects, roles or jobs that require speeding up their pace.
Someone with high work velocity has the capability to work at an accelerated or steady pace.
An ideal Food Safety Manager not only has the capability to work and produce with velocity, but also the confidence they can take on anything that comes their way.
A Food Safety Manager with situational awareness and who can respond and adapt to the speed and urgency is an ideal candidate.
For the most part, steady and consistent is acceptable, but for future promotability, it may be limiting.
A Food Safety Manager who relishes an increase in workload, pressure and volatility becomes a force of nature, especially when that capacity is fed with training, mentorship and stretch projects.
Note the higher end of the range(>8) is not considered ideal.
This would be someone who gains energy working in chronically chaotic environments or large swings in workload and drama – most if not all Food Safety Manager roles will not satisfy this candidate’s desire for such a volatile work environment.
This candidate may thrive in this type of environment because the company was flawed or operated in an unethical manner.
Be careful viewing this candidate’s background relative to the environment from which they came – view them against an ideal.
Presence reflects a person’s ability to impose their will and influence on another person, group or company culture either on a one-off basis or at all times.
A Food Safety Manager who lacks presence could be viewed as unassuming or ineffectual relative to the plant’s performance or the company’s Food Safety Culture.
A company may have a stellar Food Safety culture but an unassuming Food Safety Manager may not be missed if they were to leave.
Make sure to assess what each Food Safety Manager brings as an individual – assigning merit to a candidate because they worked at a certain company is common but a deeply flawed selection criterion.
A Food Safety Manager with an effective presence projects credibility, authority, self-assuredness and when needed, the willingness to be assertive to any individual or group, including suppliers, subordinates, their executive team, supervisor or peer.
The ideal level of presence indexes towards the high end for an ideal Food Safety Manager.
Food Safety Managers have an enormous responsibility to gain group compliance as well as accountability – since many employees resist complying(see low inclination to conform) , the Food Safety Manager will be tested by peers, subordinates and partners in other departments.
A Food Safety Manager needs a high level of assertiveness and self-assuredness to work through this dynamic, not to mention endurance – it’s a never ending part of a Food Safety professional’s job.
Another aspect of a Food Safety Manager’s presence is their willingness to speak up and out when necessary, even when it may violate perceived “chains of command”.
Presence is often less a tangible characteristic and more a perception.
A Food Safety Manager’s body language, tone and demeanor reflects on their co-workers, and their co-workers who resist rules, protocols and what they perceive as “busy work” are always looking for weakness.
Inclination to Conform
When interviewing a candidate for a Food Safety Manager job, the hiring team has to validate the candidate’s inclination to conform to rules, norms and regulations.
A Food Safety Manager has multiple “North Stars” to which they must comply, even if they’re not naturally inclined to do so.
- They must comply with company policies.
- They must comply with regulatory requirements for their company’s products.
- They must gain compliance from their own team, who may or may not have the same desire to conform.
- They comply with their own internal beliefs, norms and ideals, some of which may be opposed to the company, their boss, the FDA or USDA or an influential executive.
Our recommendation on assessing a Food Safety Manager and their inclination to confirm is to skew towards strong-willed individuals versus those that are compliant for compliance sake.
A Food Safety Manager will more often have to be strong-willed than compliant at the Manager level.
The nature of their work is to instill and deliver conformance, but it’s through their strong-willed nature, not their compliant nature, that will be a catalyst for achieving desired outcomes.
Nothing stands in the way of progress more than prejudices, biases and faulty beliefs based on past experience or future fear.
The same holds for a Food Safety Manager.
Objectiveness reflects a Food Safety Manager’s ability to assess a current state or situation without prejudice or bias and act accordingly.
Environmental monitoring data may fall outside deviation today, but it may not be for the same reason it did yesterday.
A packaging operator may have made a mistake relative to Food Safety protocols, but to assume they did so because they recklessly dismissed company policy is inappropriate – it may have been a mistake due solely to lack of reinforcement at this stage in their learning.
A Food Safety Manager is in the business of recognizing deviations in behavior and data – that requires being objective.
An effective Food Safety Manager leaves behind prejudices, biases, unrelated history and irrational fear to make observations and course-correct in the moment.
Course correction of employees at the Manager level requires an objectiveness that’s neither overly cynical nor naively trusting.
At any level, a Food Safety professional works to train others and influence behavior.
A high level of trust in their peers violates the laws of learning new habits – reinforcement of a behavior in a supervised manner until the student is “consciously competent” is an ingredient of training success.
An overly cynical or dismissive view of peers, executive teams and production employees sabotages a Food Safety Manager’s best efforts to motivate, influence and gain buy-in from employees who are attempting to learn.
The ideal mix of trust and cynicism is best stated this way – an effective leader “trusts, but verifies”.
Candidates for your Food Safety Manager job who fall outside on the edges are not ideal hires; they can find balance, but more often there is a deeper held belief system in place that has them on the edge that may prohibit or diminish their ability to find balance.
When a hiring team assesses a Food Safety Manager’s Risk Tolerance, they face an exercise filled with contradictory requirements.
It’s very similar to the layers and complexities associated with assessing a Food Safety professional’s inclination to conform.
A Food Safety Manager has to comply with regulatory requirements as well as company policies.
At the same time, they have a relative amount of latitude in their work to make decisions – some thresholds can’t be crossed. Some that don’t directly impact food or product safety do have margin for error though.
A Food Safety Manager that treats every decision as life or death will have decision overload.
A Food Safety Manager by their nature will have direct reports, which means they are interacting, mentoring and influencing all types of personalities.
This in itself is an inexact science – there is no one-size fits all answer when it comes to mentoring or motivating employees – it requires a degree of boldness and improvisation at times.
A Food Safety Manager has to act, decide or speak in spite of the fear or discomfort or lack of data in some instances.
When it comes to assessing Food Safety Managers, we recommend viewing their inclination to conform alongside their Risk tolerance, their tolerance for risk and their decision making style when they lack certainty.
For perspective, a Director of Food Safety or VP of Food Safety works with others on the executive team to develop thresholds for risk management – this team determines how much deviation and tolerance is acceptable that ensures consumer safety but allows for maintaining or improving profit margins.
In this case, a more senior food safety executive has more latitude but at same time more data to work with, plus they have more experienced cross-functional peers who bring perspective to the larger risk management questions.
At the other end of the spectrum, a Food Safety Specialist or Technologist doesn’t and shouldn’t have the same latitude or permission to take risks. They don’t have the full perspective, nor the data to support their behavior.
An ideal Food Safety Manager will be moving towards a higher level of risk tolerance and risk capacity in their career.
If a Food Safety Manager candidate doesn’t express a desire for more latitude in time or is admittedly risk-averse will face decision overload and become ineffective as workloads and decisions increase.
A Food Safety Manager who is risk-averse will struggle to move to a higher level in responsibility or rank.
Sufficiency refers to the degree a Food Safety Manager is reliant on direction from others versus being autonomous and fully self-sufficient.
Hiring Managers should always look for Food Safety Managers with a “high ceiling” – capacity for high workload, increased scope of responsibilities whether it be leading larger groups, taking on larger projects or transitioning into broader roles with additional oversight beyond food safety.
For this reason, an ideal candidate for a Food Safety Manager job has an appetite for and success being self-sufficient in their current role.
But be careful, in cases where a Food Safety Manager has a high degree of self-sufficiency, a Director or Vice President of Food Safety may believe they’ve just hired the perfect, plug and play Food Safety Manager.
This is faulty thinking.
At some point, an autonomous and self-sufficient Food Safety Manager becomes so hard-wired to learn things on their own that, when faced with a Food Safety or Food Defense issue that exceeds their capacity, they may fail to call in help.
Senior management may have been lulled to sleep to the point where they’ve never found reason to intervene, or validate the Food Safety Manager’s decision making process under duress.
The best way to assess this fine line between self-sufficiency and over reliance on senior management for guidance is to test how the Food Safety Manager candidate approaches decision making under duress and overwhelm.
Your hiring team can assess a candidate’s situational awareness relative to when they would call in support, what conditions would prompt them to escalate an issue and what typically triggers their decision to seek help outside of themselves.
When assessing a candidate for a Food Safety Manager job, it’s important to understand their decision making process in different contexts.
If one extreme of decision-making is fully intuitive, or “by the gut”, and the other extreme requires a full slate of data in order to make a decision, it’s easy to understand why a balance is critical.
A Food Safety Manager who “goes with their gut” will quickly lead their company towards a recall, regulatory issues or worse.
A Food Safety Manager who waits for all data to be collected before making decisions will be crippled with decision overload.
Neither is sustainable – assessing a candidate for a Food Safety Manager job requires presenting them with situations that will test their “process” – in an interview, you might test a candidate’s decision making process by presenting them with a situation where they must act quickly with conflicting or incomplete data. At the Manager level, the hiring team should focus on how they reached their decision, what they factored in and where they chose to lay off or accept risk.
As you’re assessing a candidate, look to see how they’re using the data and observations in front of them to make decisions – in Food Safety functions, you’ll want to see an above midline tendency to rely on facts versus intuition.
Hopefully, this guide on hiring and assessing Food Safety Managers has been helpful in clarifying what a Food Safety Manager does, the difference between a Quality Manager and a Food Safety Manager.
I also hope you gained insights on how to interview, assess and hire the best Food Safety Manager for your team.
If this guide to hiring to Hiring a Food Safety Manager was helpful, please SHOW YOUR THANKS BY SHARING this guide with other members of your team that recruit, interview and hire Food Safety & Quality professionals.
If you’re hiring a Food Safety Manager or any other positions in Food Safety or Quality in Arlington, post your Food Safety jobs with us at FOOD SAFETY INSIDER.
You can read more about some of the tools we use to help you make better, more informed food safety and quality hires here – PRE-EMPLOYMENT ASSESSMENT TESTS.
If you’d like to discuss how our Food Safety & Quality Assurance recruiting expertise can help you, reach out here – GULF STREAM SEARCH