The Blog - Where Business Collides with Human Nature

Why I Almost Left My Job as a Senior Content Marketer to Work for Minimum Wage at McDonald’s


For the last 15 years I have worked as a content creator and copywriter, first for (what was then) the world’s leading ecommerce software provider and later for myself as a business owner. And today, I considered walking away from that to work for minimum wage at McDonald’s. Let me explain what happened...

Last year our kids attended a summer animal experience at a venue about 30 minutes from our house. The program was 2.5 hours/day for a week. The price of gas had shot up dramatically shortly before they were scheduled to attend, so as I weighed my options, I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of the gas to drive all the way home after dropping them off just have to turn around an hour and a half later to go back and go get them. So, I brought my laptop and walked to the nearest place with Wi-Fi – a McDonald’s. The experience was kind of odd. I frequently go to McDonald’s, and typically have a positive experience, but this McDonald’s was different. It had a vibe like everyone working there hated every moment of it. The employees loudly fought with each other in front of customers, everyone did the bare minimum, and no one acted like they cared about serving their customers at all.

Fast forward to this summer and our kids were signed up to do the same experience again because they loved it so much last year. I, again, brought my laptop and walked to the same McDonald’s preparing myself for the same experience. When I walked in and picked up my mobile order, I noticed that there was a McDonald’s employee just sitting down to conduct an interview with a candidate. Unfortunately, I needed a to plug in my laptop, so I ended up awkwardly sitting at the next table over. What happened next was far more riveting than ever could have imagined!

restaurant-interviewThe hiring manager explained that she was new to the role and that she was determined to turn that McDonald’s location around. (As a formerly jilted customer myself, my interest was instantly piqued.) She explained to the candidate what kinds of problems she was being brought in to fix and what her plan was for doing just that. And by the end, I had one of those wartime “Sign me up!” moments flit through my brain. Of course, I love my job and would never leave it (especially for a job where I would absolutely eat way more Big Macs than my arteries would appreciate!), but she was so compelling in selling her vision that I think she sold everyone within earshot on the idea. By the end of the interview the candidate basically bounded out the door in giddy anticipation, ready to come in on Monday and sign her paperwork to get started.

How was this woman so convincing? She methodically:

  1. Explained the Problem

Having been there the year prior, I was well acquainted with the problems the hiring manager began to describe to the applicant. The location was getting negative recognition due to long wait times and dissatisfied customers (as a result of incorrect orders, rude employees, unstocked supplies like lids and straws, dirty tables, etc.) But then she also went on to explain that the former manager had a stack of complaints against her former employees. The manager had been ruling like a dictator and employee turnover was high. A hostile work culture was brewing and spilling over to customer interactions.

  1. Demonstrated Authority

The hiring manager then went on to explain that she came in and immediately cleaned house, which was why they were conducting a string of interviews this week. She explained that she has fixed other locations with analogous issues using a similar strategy, which positioned her with authority as a sort of “turnaround expert.” She clearly established herself as in charge and proceeded to fully own the strategic vision that she was about to lay out.

  1. Described the Vision

Then, she got to the crux of the plan – people. She explained that she wants to hire people who want to be there. She’s not satisfied with people who just want a paycheck. She wants the kind of people that take pride in their work and want to come together to improve the location as one team. She sold the idea of something more than minimum wage and a free meal while you’re working.

And, as if that wasn’t good enough, she explained the business rationale behind it in saying, “I don’t need three people doing the work of one person. I’m not going to pay for laziness. I’m going to pay people who are going to come in here every day and give their all because our job is to serve people. We’re a neighborhood McDonald’s – we’re part of this community and I want people who are going to act like it.”

She put her way of thinking about their location in a context that I never would have thought of on my own. She explained that because they are in a mixed residential and commercial area that they have a lot of walk-up business that most other locations don’t have. And as a result, people are going to look at that McDonald’s like they would the grocery store down the street, and they have to live up to those same expectations. She said, “They want to get in, get what they want from someone they saw the last time they were here, and get out.”

  1. Valued the Person

Once she was done explaining what she was looking for and the candidate was still interested in the role, she asked about the candidate’s experience. But you could tell by the way she was asking that she wasn’t trying to make sure the candidate was qualified for the job, she was trying to understand what her soon-to-be employee liked doing most at her previous job and why she wanted to work at McDonald’s. And then she did what the best leaders do – she genuinely listened. As a result of this two-way dialogue, she gained valuable insight into what was going to motivate this individual in the role and bring her one step closer to achieving her strategic vision. And then, she did something to instantly endear herself to the soon-to-be employee – she guaranteed her the hours she was looking for and immediately gave her a say in her schedule.

  1. Looked Toward the Future

Now, the interview could have ended there. A hiring manager needed some new employees and got one. A candidate needed a job and was offered one. The transactional nature of the interview was done. However, the hiring manager was smart enough to know that success isn’t based solely on what you’re doing today. She understood that it’s also contingent upon what you do tomorrow.

So, she mentioned that they will pay for employees’ ServSafe certification and that they schedule the training for new hires right away so that they’re equipped to be a shift manager at any time once they learn the ropes. With an eye on the future, the hiring manager told her new hire even before day one that the job is going to be what she makes of it. She explained that there’s career advancement potential for everyone and offered her support and encouragement if/when the new hire wanted to pursue a managerial tract.

And that, my friends, is how you not only right the ship but embark upon a new adventure forward towards success!

About the Author

Kate Pierce – Owner, LionShark Digital Marketing

kate-pierce-2023Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan-based digital marketing company. She is a skilled content writer with experience across a wide range of industries. She produces content for executives and the brands they represent in many different verticals, adapting her writing to match their voices and address their target audiences. Kate is passionate about connecting with and helping people through meaningful content.

She enjoys spending time with her husband and two children and being active in her church. You can often find her baking, reading, or drinking iced coffee. Kate holds a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in English from Bentley University and also studied at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.


Topics: Hiring Leadership Culture Change