Ms. Connolly

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Three Ways to Pinpoint Great New Hires

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

So you're looking to hire a new team member... While graduation is mostly over, the workforce is still adjusting to an influx of recent college grads. In hotels, leadership and hiring managers have likely already met multiple candidates in making an addition to the staff, and in some cases, making the decision to hold off. It can be hard to choose the right candidate for the job for many reasons, but there are ways hiring managers can identify candidates that will ultimately be successful in their roles.

1. Character Counts

One of the main traits of a successful hospitality worker is a great personality; someone that can get along with all of your guests. "Personable" should be easy to identify, but sometimes a great interviewer is not the best candidate for the job.

  • Be sure to start a conversation during the interview, beyond simply covering the basic questions try to understand how they will interact with a stranger (i.e. you). If they can have a solid conversation with you, they'll likely not be afraid to have a conversation with a new guest.

  • Have coworkers come in and chat, if they get along well, they will likely continue to get along once on the job. A successful business has a workforce that understands and enjoys each other.

  • Check for a smile. It is something everyone looks out for in good service, "service with a smile," if they are smiling and laughing during the interview, that will translate into the workplace.

Consistency is another important characteristic. How a candidate treats one person is how they will treat all people, including and especially your guests. Don't forget about your receptionist: they are the first and last person your candidate sees, and while they aren't necessarily someone the candidate has to interact with, asking advice "from the front lines" will help to identify candidates who are generally pleasant vs those who just interview well. If your candidate, who supposedly is warm and friendly, has walked in, sat down without a word and left without even a smile towards your front desk, they likely are not a great fit for the hospitality industry, especially not your company.

Beyond introductions, it's often difficult to understand a candidate's diligence, or persistence, which will define the candidates who are willing to go above and beyond to help a guest. These traits can be recognized pre, during, and post interview. If a candidate that hasn't been followed up with after applying for an opportunity, reaches out to connect, they likely want to work for you… as does the person who sends a thank you note post-interview. If someone is constant in their attempts to work for you, they will do the same in the treatment of your guests and their experience during their stay -- a committed team member focused on guest experience is a team member that will have guests coming back time and time again.

Another way to identify diligence is to ask questions about your own company. A candidate who can explain your company in detail and expand on ways to improve has gone beyond "doing their homework" - they're someone you want on your side.

An additional way to understand a candidate's follow-through is to keep an eye out for a thank you note. A candidate should send in a thank you within 24 hours of the first interview. Some will go above and beyond, if your candidate handwrote a letter thanking you for your time, they will then bring the same attitude and approach to the workplace, bettering the experience of your hotel and increasing satisfaction for your guests.

One final trait to watch out for is teamwork. A great candidate must be willing to be a team member. Teamwork is most easily recognized in storytelling, a good member will likely explain about a time they succeeded in leading the team to success, a great one will detail a time when they were able to work together with their group to achieve the desired output.

Your company's culture is defined by the people in it. Without a diverse group of people that get along well, there won't be a successful workplace, especially in hospitality - your guests recognize and sense the culture your team cultivates. Look beyond the resume and first interview to more applicable tests. Take your candidate out for lunch with a few other team members, have them hang out and actually see how well they will fit in. If you have a sarcastic group, or a fun loving one, you're going to want to make sure your candidate fits in - for their benefit as much as your own.

2. Behavior Also Matters

This task is a bit more conventional; the actual questions part of the process. It's okay to ask leading questions, to have the potential member of your team tell you how exactly they would help someone in a situation that has actually occurred at your venue. Questions in the form of experienced based responses allow your candidate to discuss a time when they were successful, or struggled, or dealt with an issue. These answers will help you understand their decision making process and decide whether or not that fits with your best practices.

A great way to check how spot on their own depiction of themselves is to test them on exactly what they say they are good at. For example, ask if the candidate is good with constructive criticism, then later (constructively) criticize something you noticed about them earlier in the interview/on their resume. They likely will not realize that you are testing their responses, and you will have the information you need to make a good decision about the role you have to fill. You should be able to take note of a few character traits about a person. For example: how much they enjoy helping others, their demeanor, whether or not they respect the guests they work with, and how they treat people in general.

Remember the atmosphere you are trying to create at your venue when you decide who to hire. Every hotel has a different vibe, whether that be hip, luxurious, affordable, etc. and that is in part created by the people who work for you. If you are hiring a hip person at a luxurious place, they are likely not going to live up to the standards you are expecting.

Look-out for inconsistencies. This seems obvious, but check the resume: if they say that they are attentive to detail and there are errors, that's a red flag. If they say they're personable, but when you meet them they can't speak, another red flag. Do they listen well, are they interested in your company, are they creative in their responses, do they interact well with others as they say they do?

3. Understand the Full Resume

A resume is your first line of insight into a candidate, and also your first line of defense in the interviewing process. To make your life easier, weed out candidates who have obvious errors that you can't see past. When you post a job, add something specific to the job submission requirements to ensure the application is specific to you and your company. For example: request they add a requisition number to the cover letter, then at least you know they edited it before sending it in. If they don't, consider that as an issue (perhaps one to address in the interview).

Don't be afraid to provide specific details in your job description. Be clear about what you need from the person for the role. This includes behavioral traits, skills, and overall demeanor. If you add "must be sarcastic" or "must be able to laugh at criticism" into your job requirements list, you will automatically lighten your application load.

Rely on the other submission components to further engage with the potential candidates. If a cover letter lacks the disposition you're looking for, it's doubtful the candidate is the right candidate. The type of person whose voice you hear in the cover letter is usually the type of person you're about to interview.

It's important not to shy away from candidates without a cookie cutter resume. The most innovative workers are usually those whose job experience thus far is not an exact match to your requirements, and that is the best thing your company can hire. A fresh set of eyes and ideas are what will influence your venue in the end, they will likely bring skills from other jobs that taught them to think outside the box.

  • Perhaps it's their love of rock climbing that makes them see ideas that should be fleshed out, or maybe it's their sorority experience, where they were the "historian," and now they care deeply about tradition - something that could add to your guest experience.

  • Even better, maybe they worked in a bakery for years where they had to come up with a new weekly recipe, and now have the ridiculous creative ability to put a new spin on your recreation activities list.

  • Whatever the random experience is, don't push it aside just because it's not hospitality or hotel specific, the candidate has likely learned things in their area of work that will change the way your hotel works for the better

Finally, be kind, be interesting, and enjoy the process! If you do it right you could end up with an exceptional new hire, one that can have a real impact on the property's revenue and bottom line.

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 Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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