Internships in the Hospitality Industry

What Students Want and What the Industry Needs

By Leora Halpern Lanz President, LHL Communications | June 04, 2017

Co-authored by Jovanna Fazzini, Assistant Director of Finance and Accounting, Boston Marriott Cambridge Hotel

Hospitality schools and industry professionals have been working together to provide internship experiences that introduce students to different sectors of the hospitality industry, as well as expose students to the corporate culture and skills required by companies the student could eventually work with post-graduation. But if industry professionals and students are to leverage one another’s abilities and resources for a successful internship experience, understanding underlying desires and motivations is key.

The Student Perspective: What do Students and Recent Hospitality Grads Want in an Internship?

Today’s hospitality students pursue internships to test the waters of an industry segment for which they are interested in working post-graduation. For example, Oliver Tang, recent Cornell Hospitality graduate and now analyst at Horwath HTL in Atlanta, knew the company presented an ideal internship opportunity for him, thanks to his interests in feasibility and development planning.

“I had recognized my strengths and interests in development planning while taking a feasibility class at Cornell,” shares Oliver. “So before I connected with Horwath HTL I had an idea that this was something I wanted to do. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to live as an industry professional in development planning through assisting in feasibility studies.”

Yoshihiro Kanno, recent graduate of Florida International University and former analyst with HVS in Chicago, also pursued the internship to test the waters of his field of interest- consulting and valuation services. Yoshihiro also noted his ability to grasp the corporate culture while interning. “The culture attracts intelligent and motivated individuals. I am challenged every day, and the environment is extremely supportive. Everyone is always willing to help.”

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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.