What does combating listeria risk in a hummus production plant and hiring success have to do with each other?

Food industry recruiting firm

What does combating listeria risk in a hummus production plant and hiring success have to do with each other?

Hummus has grown into a consumer staple enjoyed by more than a quarter of all US households in the last 15 years, an enviable growth trajectory.  

It’s even afforded farmers the chance to get into the chickpea business in favor of less profitable or lower demand crops, a boon for many.

Yet the growth of hummus as a favored spread has not come without its challenges – manufacturers who’ve embraced the item have been chronically challenged to avoid and mitigate the threat of listeria in their manufacturing facilities.

Multiple high and low profile recalls of hummus products have been occurring for years – companies have increasingly become more aware and more adept at meeting the challenge while some still struggle.  

No one believes the listeria threat will ever disappear but all agree, especially those in the Food Safety community, that continual improvement and hyper vigilance during the manufacturing process are necessary, minute by minute, to combat listeria. 

What have these Food Safety experts found?

Hummus facilities that rely on metrics acceptable for other food categories have failed to combat listeria in some cases.

Those that have struggled or failed have succumbed to the consequences of recalls, either in flat out closure, bankruptcy or liquidation of their business, or dramatic hits to their market share(translating in some cases to 9-figure revenue losses).

A “clean” plant by most definition of “clean” will not suffice in a hummus facility.

What works?

Identification of harborage sites, diligent oversight of those areas and constant refinement and recognition of potential new harborage sites are critical to maintaining containment and mitigation of listeria growth.

Human interaction and involvement during the cleaning process, especially in an intricate, complex plant layout present in hummus facilities, is required. 

In other words, it takes extra “elbow grease”, on a daily basis, to keep the presence of listeria to acceptable levels.

Engagement and diligence of sanitation workers, their supervisors and food safety subject matter experts in that plant have to be in lockstep(especially those on the graveyard shift) and realize that human interaction, or “elbow grease”, is the only way to get to the “hot spots” and harborage areas where listeria live and breed.

So what does that have to do with hiring success?

Companies and recruiters that rely on resumes and standard interview questions as their primary determinants for a candidate’s future success will fail to hire the best performer for the role.

Old job descriptions, or worse yet a job description cut, spliced and pasted from another job class won’t suffice.

Companies that fail to pinpoint specific, present day needs for a role end up hiring candidates based on outdated or poorly defined or undefined requirements.

In the worst case, a candidate will either leave prematurely, fail miserably in the role only to be terminated for cause, or will perform at a sub-par to mediocre level, draining those around them and pulling their counterparts down to a similar level.

What are successful companies doing to combat poor job fit and mis-hires?

Companies, and even more specifically the line managers in each area, need to identify specific attributes of top performers for the specific roles in their oversight.

Intense scrutiny and assessment of those attributes through the interview process as well as with psychometric testing dramatically increases the chance of hiring success but also significantly reduces the likelihood of a poor hire.


Resumes only outline a candidate’s work history – the past up to current. 

A resume partially determines whether a candidate HAS PERFORMED in a similar role in the past.

It is NOT a determinant of whether they WILL PERFORM in a different role in the future with another company.

Interviews, whether they be structured, video, panel or one on one, do the same – they get us closer to determine whether a candidate CAN PERFORM, but leaving us only with a “gut feeling” whether or not they WILL PERFORM in the new role.

These strategies fail to address or sufficiently predict future performance.

What have companies who’ve successfully addressed these gaps realize?

Hiring a candidate based on resume alone or industry experience alone does not predict future success.

Companies that integrate pre-hire assessment tools that test cognitive ability, a candidate’s problem-solving acumen and their internal motivations for success and satisfaction have a markedly higher rate of hiring success than companies that don’t.

Companies that continually refine the requirements and attributes of high performers in each role of their organization mitigate the risk of a poor hire AND dramatically increase the output of the individual in each seat.

WIth successful hires in Food Safety and Quality roles, that means dramatically influencing and executing on Food Safety and Sanitation objectives of the company, minimizing the risk of a crippling recall and turning a clean manufacturing facility with low waste, low turnover and low risk levels into a profit machine.

As Food Safety leaders have come to realize with hummus manufacturing, awareness, constant refinement of sanitation practices, and a little bit of “elbow grease” have gone a long way to combating listeria and ensuring their company stay free of crippling recalls.

The same goes for hiring leaders, talent acquisition executives and food and beverage industry executives who’ve recognized that embedding pre-hire assessment tools that accurately predict future job performance drastically increases their company’s performance levels.

Gulf Stream Search is an executive search firm that specializes in the placement of top talent in the food, beverage, ingredient and flavor industries, especially in the areas of Food Safety & Quality.

Gulf Stream Search is an authorized partner of PXT Select™ – PXT Select™ are a comprehensive suite of reports that help companies hire smarter and engage employees fully through the entire life-cycle of their career.

For information on Gulf Stream Search and PXT Select™ portfolio of reports, contact us here:

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