HR Insiders Reveal What Hotel Hiring Managers are Really Looking for
What are hiring managers looking for?
HR professionals find that some positions in a hotel are more difficult to fill than others. Steve Nawrocki, V.P. Director of Human Resources at AHC+Hospitality, which owns the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Tiffany LeRoux, Director of Human Resources at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, say that filling food and beverage positions is challenging for them. “Grand Rapids is certainly becoming a foodie town,” Nawrocki notes. The hotel has to compete with other restaurants for culinary talent, so “restaurant operations, management, and culinary chefs are at a premium.”
Engineering is another area where finding qualified applicants is challenging. “There's a really high demand for skilled labor right now,” LeRoux says. The hotel has to compete with the construction industry for facilities managers, mechanics, building and grounds roles, electricians, carpenters, and decorating roles.
Scott Starek, General Manager of Renaissance Columbus Westerville-Polaris in Westerville, Ohio, which opens in spring 2018, says it’s challenging to find entry-level employees such as housekeepers. Although these positions don’t require many formal qualifications, they demand soft skills that enable employees to work professionally both with guests and with other employees. “We all have to work together as a team. There's a lot of different disciplines and departments here in the hotel, a lot of different personalities, so having those skills to be able to critically think and interact with people positively and look for solutions to problems on their own [is important],” Starek says.
Mistakes to avoid if you want the job
In addition to the challenge of recruiting candidates for in-demand roles, hiring managers have to determine which people from the pool of applicants would be a good fit for their company culture. There are some common applicant mistakes that can raise concerns. For Starek, red flags include arriving at interviews late or asking to reschedule an interview at the last minute. Another is when an applicant is poorly prepared for the interview. “It used to be everyone would bring a copy of their resume with them. Nowadays it's pretty rare,” he says.
Applicants should be careful to convey a professional, positive demeanor during every encounter with the hotel, not just during a formal interview. For example, Starek sometimes meets applicants who arrive at the hotel and are trying to figure out how to get to the interview location. “I see somebody, and I go outside to ask if I can help. That first impression is really important,” he says. Applicants don’t know whether the hotel team members they meet are involved in hiring decisions, so they should try to make a good impression on everyone. Interactions on the phone also matter. Starek recommends that applicants always answer the phone with an upbeat and professional tone, because they never know if the next call will be from a potential employer.
When he reads resumes, Starek looks for applicants who have stayed with the same employer for a while. “If you don't have some stability in your job history to put on the resume, that's going look just as concerning as any kind of spelling error,” he says.
LeRoux notes that applicants sometimes exaggerate their abilities, which calls their integrity into question. “Don't put something on your resume that says, ‘I'm an Excel expert’ if you've never used Excel,” she advises. “If an interviewer asks you, ‘Are you an expert in Excel?’ you don't have to just answer ‘yes.’ You can say, ‘I haven't used Excel in a few years, but I'm a quick learner.’ But don't pretend to have skills that you don't have.”
Employers check the accuracy of applicants’ claims, so misrepresenting work experience can backfire. Nawrocki has even seen internal candidates try to stretch the truth. For example, “We know your whole history with the company, yet you present yourself on your resume [as having] been the security manager for years, and it's like, ‘No, you just recently got promoted.’”
How to impress hiring managers
Employers see a lot of generic descriptions like “detail-oriented” on resumes, so it’s helpful when applicants give details that back up their assertions about themselves. “I really like to look at things that say ‘organized a team of 49 people,’ or ‘[I’m] detail-oriented because I reviewed budgets,’” LeRoux says.
Nawrocki looks for candidates who are enthusiastic. “There are those individuals, you can see that sparkle in their eye, where you just can tell that they're passionate about what they do,” he says.
LeRoux advises applicants to be authentic. “Being yourself is extremely important,” she says. “If you walk into an interview trying to sell yourself as something you're not, that's going to show.”
Starek prefers to hire candidates who are thinking ahead and pursuing goals instead of candidates who don’t have a plan for their career. “We'd rather they be working towards something and growing their skill set, and helping us at the hotel improve, and then hopefully even preparing themselves to take on a role in leadership down the road,” he says.
“The most important thing is just to come in with a positive attitude and open mindedness,” Starek says. Candidates need to be flexible and willing to take on new tasks and to accept constructive criticism.
Starek encourages job seekers to put effort into their applications because they can go far with a hotel career. “It's a great opportunity to get into a hotel,” he says. “There's so many different avenues that you can go, different departments, whether it's HR, maintenance, accounting, management, food and beverage. To get your foot in the door and to have a positive attitude and a can-do attitude really can take you a long way in the hotel industry.”