Ms. Connolly

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Identifying Four Elements That Make An Amazing Hire

By Zoe Connolly, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Hospitality Spotlight

As readers of HotelExecutive.com know, finding the right people to fill leadership roles in their company or facilities can provide a challenge. For hospitality companies that aren't using a recruiter to fill key roles, the following are four traits that can help hotel leaders identify the right people, along with suggested interview questions that might help to identify whether these traits are present in a candidate. After all, some people can ace an interview, but may not ultimately be a fit. Using the approach below should help you build a management team that functions efficiently, limits turnover, and most importantly, keeps guests coming back for more.

Customer Service

A dedication to customer service is an obvious place to start when looking for your next hire. Even at the top levels of an organization, dedication to the customer must come first, especially in the hospitality space.

When they were building their newest hotel in Chicago, Virgin hotels replaced all of the typical buttons of a phone (reservations, room service, etc) with one simple button, labeled 'Yes'. The same author who wrote the story about 'the yes button' also tells a great story about a local Inn that saved a couple's romantic getaway that highlights the way customers at hotels should be treated.

Identifying which candidates say they're dedicated to customer service, and those who really are dedicated to customer service can be a challenge. To separate the wheat from the chaff, hiring managers can incorporate a few specific insights into the interview process.

  • When asking a candidate to identify an experience where they provided customer service that went above and beyond, be certain to make sure the candidate knows or remembers the customer's names. Someone who really made a customer's day will likely remember that person's name (or some other characteristics). By asking for details about a story, a hiring manager can better identify people for whom customer service really matters.

  • Another way to identify whether a candidate might be a customer service fit is to use prior hotel experience. Hiring managers can draw on actual guest experiences, perhaps by looking at complaint cards, to see how a candidate would have handled things differently.

  • Ask the candidate if they had free range to implement anything that would enhance overall guest experience, what would it be.

Knowledge

When people are on travel, it's often to see a place they haven't been before. Many guests want to take advantage of local opportunities, and for hiring leaders for an individual hotel, it's important to prioritize local knowledge. Local dive bars, family attractions, off the beaten path restaurants, are common requests from guests, and the ability to answer these questions effectively can be the difference between a mediocre stay and an amazing experience.

That's not to say you can't hire from another city; it's more important that a manager has a plan to find the types of places that a guest may request.

Key questions to ask during the interview process might include:

  • The types of places a candidate might enjoy spending time- Asking about variety of experiences can help to paint the picture of a candidate who's one dimensional (only interested in sports) versus one who might have more interests. A willingness to show flexibility of interests can be very helpful in having someone who can make great recommendations for guests.

  • Another way to identify a candidate's versatility and ability to generate local knowledge is to ask about the most fun thing they've done over the past few months. This question may identify how willing to go out of their typical comfort zone to find new experiences a candidate might be.

  • If the candidate is from outside of the location or market, ask them what they would do in order to become an expert in all things that guests might enjoy.

Sociability

Whether or not we want to acknowledge it or not, the internet writes in ink. It's imperative that leaders in hospitality organizations make sure that all of the interactions the company has are geared toward making sure everything online is either positive or leading to a resolution.

For instance, if a customer sends a less than flattering tweet to a hotel chain, the corporate communications and customer service teams need to be able to remediate the issue. In cases where those tweets are specific to a local hotel where a stay is taking place, that same corporate team needs to be able to respond in real-time, with input from someone at the hotel location. By way of example, if a guest tweets that they wish they had more towels, the coordination between a social media team and local hotel should have a guest services person at the hotel door with more towels, almost immediately.

How do you identify whether a candidate understand all of the components to this type of real time, real and digital world feedback?

  • To begin with, hiring managers should ask about a candidate's social presence. Are they on multiple platforms? Are they aware of various tools that consolidate various sites into one location (like Hootsuite, for example).

  • Another way to identify whether a candidate 'gets' social media is to ask is they read any particular blogs or publications focused on the medium. From Mashable to Forbes, Hootsuite to TheSocialTimes, there is no shortage of materials being written to discuss how to best use social media for customer service.

  • If the candidate doesn't have the best social media presence, ask them what they would do to change it and what they've done in the past in order to learn new things. This will show how the candidate will address challenges outside of their comfort zone.

Cultural Fit

Corporate culture is a key ingredient to a successful leader, and making sure that someone is a fit professionally and personally is critical to making hires that will stay for the long term. Our firm, Hospitality Spotlight, actually uses a corporate culture analysis for both our clients and candidates to identify synergies before making an introduction. In many cases, this can serve to eliminate candidates who are qualified on paper, but who may ultimately not stay for long.

To identify cultural fit within a candidate, it's important first for leadership in a hotel to identify the traits that make people successful, as well as what makes them happy in their role. This might be as simple as a level of friendliness amongst the staff, an out of work program that lots of people participate in (perhaps a sports league), or any number of other things. When we do a cultural analysis, we identify multiple variables that can combine to make up a corporate culture.

Once the culture is identified, it's important to identify whether a candidate will fit into that culture.

An easy way to begin building a cultural analysis is a brief employee survey, asking open ended questions about why people like working there. Once that's done, HR managers can look for trends. Those trends are generally what define a culture, either at a particular hotel or across the organization.

Key questions to ask candidates during the interview process to identify whether a candidate will be a cultural fit can be drawn from the employee survey.

  • Things like 'do you enjoy (the identified cultural elements) or anything that's similar?' If multiple employees mention the soccer league they're a part of, a candidate who enjoys various athletic challenges (perhaps a runner) might be a fit.

  • You can ask the candidate if there is a social aspect created by their current employer. If yes, what are the activities. If not, what would they change about the social aspect at their current employer.

  • For a senior level employee, ask if they plan on or hope to be able to bring any of their current team members with them (assuming there is no poaching language in their contract). This will show that they've worked on their current relationships and may show a willingness to work on current relationships. Adaptability is a key factor at any level.

  • Ask about how formal or relaxed their current work environment is and if they enjoy this aspect or if they would like to change it and why .

  • Also ask about how they usually deal with conflict with employees or co-workers. You may want to include a type of issue you currently have. It is important for the candidate to instinctively want to be a problem solver.

Hiring the right people is critical to setting a hotel up for success. It is apparent to guests when people enjoy the work they're doing, and when the team cares immensely about the guest experience. Using the questions above can help to better identify which candidates will both be successful, and stay around longer.

Zoe Connolly is the co-founder and managing director for Hospitality Spotlight, a full service executive search firm for the hospitality and travel industries. For more than a decade, she’s pioneered innovative and proactive recruiting efforts, connecting the best talent with the best companies, across all levels of organizations. Currently, through working with clients like Starwood, Viceroy and Pacifica Hotels, Hospitality Spotlight has emerged as one of the go-to firms for senior level talent in the hotel and travel technology space. A refreshing combination of an expansive network and brutal honesty continues to push Ms. Connolly and her clients, both companies and candidates into a bright spotlight. Ms. Connolly can be contacted at 858-230-8501 or zoe@hospitalityspotlight.com Please visit www.hospitalityspotlight.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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