Hotel Online  Special Report


The Employee Selection Process; 
Seeking Talent vs Seeking Warm Bodies
by John R. Hendrie, January 17, 2006

Darwin Was Right; A Good Employee Selection Process Will Make You the Fittest!

Beset with Turnover, a less than reliable labor pool which is shrinking, changing and alarming, and facing rising costs and expectations, Hospitality Businesses are between that proverbial “rock and a hard place”.  Seeking Talent has been replaced by the “warm body” count mentality, untrained, unmotivated and unprepared employees thrust into the spotlight as our delivery point for service excellence.  The door keeps revolving, any standards we might have or aspire to are diminished and the Guest, Customer and Visitor Experience is dashed.  We can do better.

The Talent we wish to attract are Consumers, too, and they seek value in the relationship we promote.  Becoming an “Employer of Choice” makes business sense.   Most employers extol their virtues, although many deliver an empty promise.  One, who “walks the walk, and talks the talk”, is Marriott Hotels and Resorts, and J.W. Marriott, Jr. laid out their “Human Capital Strategy” at the turn of this Century.  The tenets have not changed:

  1. Get it right the first time. Hire the right person for the right job. “Good managers identify, hire and wisely place top talent.” 
  2. Money isn’t the only thing. “Money is just one component of value, and managers must offer the whole package: competitive compensation and a great workplace. …other factors combine to outweigh money—such as work-life balance, leadership quality, career development opportunities and work environment.”
  3. Create a caring workplace. “Pay may keep people on the job, but it won’t motivate them to produce more value for the company or go the extra mile. In our industry, a genuinely warm, caring, empathetic workplace is a clear driver of the quality of our product.”
  4. Promote from within: “We give every associate the opportunity to advance as far as their abilities will take them. Not only does this help us build long-term leadership, it also enables us to perpetuate our culture, which provides our company with a sustainable competitive advantage.” 
  5. Build Your Brand:  “Today more than ever, employees seek out brands with strong reputations and high standards.”
Your Selection effort is an investment, and lack of time is not an acceptable excuse - you have all the time there is.  Consider that Personnel Expense is your largest operating expense.  Consider the amount of time you spend on Human Resources issues. Consider what it would mean if you got it right the first time.


It starts with Sourcing/Recruitment – how do you create the “buzz” and the resulting stream of Talent to your door?  Firstly, think how much you are offering in terms of hourly rate.  You get what you pay for – minimum wage can equal minimum talent and effort, sometimes even marginal or non-existent!  One consideration is to add an additional .50 cents or a dollar to your hourly rate. The following is a guarantee:  One, you will get volume; two, you will get notice; and, three, the improvement in applicant Talent level will rise.  This additional “bump” is much less than what you currently expense for turnover (your cost for advertising, interviewing, processing, orientation and especially, training). 

Another tried practice is a Referral Bonus paid to your existing employees.  By and large, we, as individuals, will not “promote” someone who will fail and make us look bad.  That is human nature!  A Signing Bonus often makes sense, too, especially for the hard to find specialists or top talent.  Lastly, there is a need for outreach to create relationships, which will provide you with that applicant flow.  We know that our labor pool reflects more members of the workforce who are older, heavily female and mostly of immigrant status.  There are churches, agencies, schools and associations which represent these diverse groups.  And, here is a wild idea.  Hotel Executives probably make sales calls with their sales and marketing staffs.  Why not have your current employees be your Ambassadors to the community, helping to spread the message of your value as a top employer?  They are more effective representatives than you, and this is a chance to give them some recognition (at paid time, of course)!

The next step in the Selection process is the Interview.  Qualifications and experience are the initial “cut”, but we know we should hire for attitude and be acutely aware of chemistry.  A fit in the culture, our business culture, is essential.  The Federal Law is very specific on discrimination and must be upheld, but your selection process can be enhanced in two ways:  consider a team based approach for hire recommendation and have the applicant “observe” the work to be performed. 

It makes sense that the existing employees who will work with the applicant should meet with them.  It is surprising what will unfold during a conversation with one’s peers.  And, you, as the Manager, are encouraging teamwork, collaboration, performance standards and excellence, which will be further demonstrated to your Patron in a seamless fashion.  Additionally, it shows your respect for your associates.

Many folks new to Retail and certainly Hospitality really have no idea what it takes.  Let them “observe” a busy dining room, some guest rooms being cleaned, the mechanics of an amusement ride or even the delicate skills required in a retail store or any other type of Service environment.  “Look before you leap” is an apt aphorism.  Plus, their questions will demonstrate their interest and their appreciation for the job to be performed.

Your reputation as an “Employer of Choice” starts with the Selection process.  How you treat your applicants from initial contact, through the Interview, to the first day of work indicates your passion for the business, your expectations, your respect for the individual and their dignity and the climate where they can excel.  As Mr. Marriott said, get it right the first time!   

The author, John Hendrie, believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to that memorable Visitor Experience. To learn more, please visit:

John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.

Also See: The Decline of Service and the Devaluation of Product in the Hospitality Industry; Who's in Charge and Who Will Lead the Way? / John R Hendrie / January 2006
Human Capital Crisis in Hospitality / John R Hendrie / January 2006
Shrinking Labor Force is Top Challenge for Global Hospitality, Tourism & Service Industries / Jeff Coy / January 2006
J.W. Marriott, Jr. Outlines the company’s Five-point Strategy to Attract and Retain Employees / Oct 2000
Hotel Owner Jeff Vander Wolk Employee Bonus Program Makes Running the Governors Inn in Santa Fe Very Easy / August 2005


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