Hospitality Hiring: 11 Unusual Characteristics to Look For

8 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 18 June 2020

Hiring talented hospitality professionals is both an art and a challenge. Exceptional individuals possess a rare combination of warmth, charisma, and are motivated by a desire to create unforgettable guest experiences. However, with a tidal wave of applicants vying for jobs, the hiring process can quickly become overwhelming.

Whether you’re seeking a concierge for a luxury hotel, a bartender for a local pub, or an energetic host for a nightclub, the hospitality industry encompasses a diverse range of roles under its umbrella. At the core of every exceptional hospitality worker lies a genuine friendliness and an unwavering commitment to ensuring each guest’s experience is extraordinary.

But how can hospitality recruiters separate the gems from the mediocre? In this post, we’ll explore 11 key characteristics that every hospitality hiring manager must carefully assess before making that critical hiring decision, ensuring that only the crème de la crème get hired.

The full list:

  1. Listening
  2. Oral communication
  3. Customer orientation
  4. Stress tolerance
  5. Quality orientation
  6. Work standards
  7. Multitasking
  8. Problem solving skills
  9. Teamwork
  10. Cultural awareness
  11. Attention to detail

Listening

Great hospitality employees know how to listen properly. Not just hear what a customer is saying to them, but intuitively understand exactly what the customer wants, or doesn’t want from them.

It’s also not just about audio here, listening involves reading body language effectively. Talented hospitality staff are able to pick up on visual cues – is the guest stressed or uncomfortable? How might this impact on how you approach them?

There are some great ways that recruiters might assess a candidate’s ability to listen through role-play exercises or through a situational judgment test or a more comprehensive realistic job assessment.

Oral communication

Being able to articulate effectively is a valuable skill in any industry, but it’s essential for hospitality staff. 

In all guest-facing hospitality roles, candidates will have to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and temperaments. When issues arise, they need to be able to communicate in a way that is clear and understandable. Oral communication skills are vital in ensuring customers’ issues are resolved effectively.

It is also vital for new employees to be able to communicate clearly with fellow staff members, especially in busy, high-pressure environments like bars, pubs, or restaurant kitchens.

Oral communication and language skills are best assessed via phone screen interviews and face-to-face roleplays.

Customer orientation

“The customer is always right” is a long-lasting mantra for service businesses throughout the world – but one that is especially prominent in hospitality.

The level of service in a restaurant, bar, hotel, or live event is part of the experience for many. Therefore, staff need to be aware that the customers’ interests are always number one. 

Recruiters need to establish whether candidates have a natural desire to resolve issues and make other people happy. They need to find fulfillment by ensuring their guests are enjoying themselves. 

Customer-based role-plays and job simulations come in handy here, testing the candidate on how they handle real-life job scenarios and whether they meet your standards of service. At the end of each exercise, whether conducted online or via a face-to-face interview, ask a few questions on how resolving the customer issue made the candidate feel. This is a good way to measure whether they have a natural tendency to want to make things better.

Stress tolerance

The hospitality business is fast-paced and unpredictable. Sometimes, there’s no let-up from taxing situations – from guest complaints to staff squabbles to management overloaded with work.

Hospitality workers need to be able to deal with these situations in a calm and collected manner.

When hiring for hospitality, a recruiter needs to assess candidates on their ability to tolerate stress. Group exercises are a good way to assess someone’s tolerance for these types of situations and realistic job previews can provide candidates with a visceral online experience of life in the job.

Quality orientation

When it comes to receiving guests in your hotel, restaurant or bar, quality standards are taken up a notch. Staff should be mindful of standards and regulations in hospitality that aren’t applicable in other industries; take pool regulations, first aid, and food safety standards for example.

You can give them all the training required, but at the end of the day, it’s up to them to maintain quality.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, you need to make sure staff are aware of their responsibility regarding quality standards. You can get a good indication of a candidate’s character when it comes to adhering to company rules by setting them tasks in a role-play exercise.

Work standards

Hospitality work means being on your feet for most of the day, working long shifts, working weekends – all whilst maintaining a cheerful and friendly face in front of customers. 

Therefore, if candidates aren’t willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, they’ll get found out quickly.

In order to avoid early departures and false expectations, it’s important for hiring managers to establish that applicants have what it takes to be on their feet all day. Previous experience can be a valuable way to judge this, but don’t let that exclude candidates with potential but no experience. A useful way to assess this is to incorporate some ‘on-the-ground experience such as a trial shift in your selection process. Be careful though, it’s unreasonable to ask candidates to work for you for free in the hiring process.

Multitasking

No two days are the same for hospitality employees. Tasks are varied and continuous, such as serving customers, answering phone calls, remembering orders and requests, and dealing with difficult guests – often coming at the same time. In fact, the growing trend in hospitality is for staff to be able to cover multiple roles. 

In order to do this, hospitality employees need to know how to prioritise and manage their time effectively, handle pressure and remain calm when things get chaotic.

Assessing candidates’ ability to multitask is a must when hiring for hospitality. One way to assess this is with priority-based questions such as “list these things in order of priority”, or “when faced with this situation what would you prioritise?“ or by using an out-and-out multitasking test.

Problem solving skills

Responding quickly and effectively to issues in the hospitality industry is essential for delivering great customer service.

The easiest way to keep customers happy is to provide solutions to their problems. If recruiters can find a candidate that is proactive and keen to get issues resolved, then it’s a good indicator for future success in hospitality.

Assessing problem-solving capability can be done through role-play exercises at the final stage interview.

Teamwork

Without effective teamwork, customers won’t experience the quality service that they expect.

Hospitality is a team game – from manager to front of house staff, to kitchen staff, to cleaners, to receptionists; if a cog isn’t turning then the machine will break.

Therefore recruiters need to assess candidates on their experience and skills in connection with teamwork. Teamwork can be assessed online with more priority-based questioning, but the best way to assess this would be in a group exercise as part of an assessment day or via a trial shift.

Cultural awareness

Hospitality is a wonderfully diverse industry. A large percentage of the customers’ staff serve face, as well as the colleagues they’ll be working alongside, will be from different countries. This means working with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. 

Customers will share different values, have different cultural cues, and perceive behaviours in contrast to candidates.

As a result, recruiters need to be sure that applicants’ are culturally aware and can adapt to attitudes and norms that are different from their own. The best way to assess this is by role-playing with colleagues from diverse backgrounds or by creating a personalised pre-hire assessment that presents the candidate with a culturally diverse set of realistic job scenarios.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail can distinguish a good candidate from a great one. Whether it’s recognising errors on billing receipts, keeping up physical appearances, or spending a little time building rapport with a customer – it can be the small things that make all the difference for management and customers alike. 

Recruiters should prioritise those candidates that have high attention to detail as they can often make very successful hospitality hires.

Attention to detail comes in various forms, but one great way we’ve identified for spotting attention to detail in hospitality is by presenting candidates with various pictures of table settings, bar shelves, hotel rooms etc and asking which pictures meet the candidate’s standards and which don’t.

Final thoughts on successful hospitality hiring

Hospitality hiring can be a hard task. You’re up against a lot of competition and are presented with a huge pool of candidates. Locating and nailing down those outstanding hospitality candidates can seem impossible.

But, if you stay focused on these 11 key skills and structure your pre-hire assessment around them, then you’ll be on the track to hiring success.

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