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Hospitality’s challenge: Finding and keeping the best people

4 min read


Susan D. Strayer, author of “The Right Job, Right Now,” is a seasoned HR professional, consultant and career coach, with expertise in hospitality. Angela Giroux Scheide, SmartBrief’s travel and hospitality editor, spoke with her recently about how the economic landscape is affecting the hospitality job market. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation.

ANGELA: Recent news stories have described hotels being deluged with hundreds of applicants when just a few jobs are posted. What strategies can employers take to narrow the pool of applicants to those who are best qualified for the positions?

SUSAN: In hospitality, experience is important. Look for applicants who have experience in service, which is a good indicator that they understand the needs of the guest or customer. Another good sign:  service awards. Almost all hospitality companies give service awards to employees of the month or the quarter. Those awards, often peer-nominated, are a strong indicator of good performance. In interviews, focus on the factors that are important to your location. For example, if your hotel primarily welcomes business travelers, look for experience in handling these types of guests and their specific needs.

Have a strong selection process in place, one that evaluates applicants’ ability to do the job and what their behaviors will be like on the job. This may include a rigorous use of selection tools, structured interviewing or performance-based tests. Tools like these should be developed, launched and managed by professionals with experience in selection and testing to ensure legal compliance.

Likewise, how can hospitality professionals looking for new opportunities make themselves stand out among the masses of applicants?

First, be clear that you can perform the tasks requested. Pay close attention to the job description and make sure your resume, application and interview answers demonstrate an ability to do the job. After that, emphasize service above all else. Hospitality companies survive and thrive based on their reputation for meeting and exceeding expectations, and they need employees who will help them achieve that mission. You should be able to provide specific examples of times you provided exceptional guest service, as well as times you managed a difficult customer or guest situation. For hourly applicants, flexibility is also important — being able to work nights and weekends, in addition to holidays, will strengthen your application.

Most forecasts indicate that the hospitality industry should begin to turn the corner towards recovery in 2010, yet many hotel professionals  working at struggling hotels face job uncertainty. What advice can you give them regarding when to stay and when to move on?

It’s all about communication. Employees should talk to their supervisors and managers regularly. Ask questions about the state of the company, about occupancy and about what they can do to help.

Employees should show they understand the state of the economy, as well as demonstrate that they are committed to helping the company and the property turn around. Employees should offer to reduce their schedules when possible and show they are willing to pitch in during this tough time. They should pay attention to factors that indicate how well the company and location are doing, like schedule changes and occupancy that may dictate performance.

Employees should also investigate options to move within a company. Unless you work for a hotel or property with only one location, you may have the opportunity to work for other locations within the company. Check with your HR professional to determine what the requirements are for transfer.

(Of course, union employees may have specific rules and requirements to follow and should be aware of their rights and responsibilities as it relates to hours, schedules and slumping business.)

Image credit, thelinke, via iStock