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Want Fries With That?
Hiring Practices in the Hospitality Industry 
By Joseph M. Gravish, October 2006

Much continues to be written about hiring practices in the hospitality industry. Some hotels have adopted a very rigorous process of vetting applicants. Others have not. Unfortunately it appears that many hotels are in the latter category. That’s why following the advice below can help you, Mr./Ms. hotel manager (and hiring authorities).

This article provides more than just generalizations why hiring is perhaps the most the important task you perform. It gives you, especially those of you without a human resources professional on staff, a practical tool when deciding who or who not to hire.

Hiring is foremost a business transaction. And like any other deal you want to get the most value for your investment. So why not approach hiring the same way you would select a critically important vendor or contractor?

Hiring is, in essence, renting a person’s time and talents. If hired that person must agree to lend maximum effort to the organization, to contribute as a team member, to deliver more than the guest expects - to be involved in revenue and profit creation.

But here’s where many hoteliers make their first mistake – you want to get something for almost nothing. Forget it - you get what you pay for. All too often hoteliers persist in paying close to poverty-level wages. Though I doubt many pay the minimum wage I have no doubt that many pay so little – or offer so few employee benefits – that not long after you hire and train someone, they’re gone. Want proof? Check your turnover rate. A colleague told me that hospitals, for example, love to see former hotel maids apply for a job because they know the person has been exposed to similar job requirements, had similar technical training, and as a bonus probably received guest relations training – a big plus for hospitals. They’ll pay extra for these people. Meanwhile, high hotel turnover continues sending knowledge and experience out the front door. 

Rationalizing – the “I’m paying a competitive wage” game – is useless. You can’t close your eyes to the hidden but undeniably real financial costs of persistent turnover. The goal should be to create a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee; hopefully to be recognized as the local employer-of-choice. Can you imagine? More applicants than you could use, more talent to choose from, more ability with which to wow your guests in less training time, more ability to generate revenue. Not to mention less stress on you and your hiring managers. Statistics clearly show a direct correlation between employer-of-choice companies, those on the best-to-work-for lists for example, and increased revenue. Nobody has to lose. But far too often it’s the employee.

So how do you do hire the best among those people knocking on your door, whether you’re the employer-of-choice of employer-of-last-chance? 

First realize it’s not the equivalent of heart surgery. But like any medical procedure it takes up-front analysis, forethought and preparation time. Every person charged with hiring should have a clear set of job performance expectations and commit them to writing. What should the new employee be expected to accomplish within 30, 60 and 90 days? What attitudes and behaviors would make the potential employee totally successful from the viewpoint of your most discriminating guest? To start make a list of the top ten job factors required of a five-star performer in the position, in priority sequence. 

Second, decide to hire more than a warm body. The goal is to add a value multiplier to the team for the long run. Would you be better off hiring someone with a multiplier of one or ten? During the interview ask yourself if this person is likely to be here in five years? If not, why not?

Third, plan for the future. And the future involves young adults, often initially ill-prepared for the service demands of today’s – let alone tomorrow’s - workplace. Though fine dining for them might mean a stop at McDonald’s in which the order taker remembers to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” young adults are more talented, more eager to please, more creative and participatory that you might otherwise believe. (I recommend reading Eric Chester’s website Your job during the interview is to peel back a outer-most layers of the onion and look for the heart inside. Then train, reward and train some more. 

Lastly, reduce the emotion of the process. Remember, it’s a business transaction. That’s where this hiring tool can be helpful (figure 1). Rate the interviewee using the job factors you identified, on a scale of 5 to 1.

Figure 1
Now it’s decision time.
  •  Don’t hire anyone with a 2 or 1 rating in any factor. Escort them out the door – quickly .
  •  Don’t hire anyone with a 3 or lower rating in any of the top five factors. Close - but you need better.
  •  Think twice before hiring anyone with a 3 or lower in any of the factors. (Perhaps have someone else conduct a second interview.)
  •  Don’t hire anyone with a 5 rating in all the factors. You’re not being honest and objective.
  •  Do make an immediate job offer to anyone with a 4 or higher rating in all of the factors before they’re hired by your competitor.
  •  Validate your assessment of each hire with a formal 30-day performance review using the same five-star format. 
  •  Adjust your future hiring criteria and decisions as necessary.
Hiring should not be a rush to judgment. It’s a deliberate, calculated business decision targeted on one goal - improving the bottom line. It’s more than a question of how many rooms can this person clean in so many minutes. It’s how can this person, while performing the job to at least (if not beyond) expectations, create the memorable experiences that guests yearn, and return, for? It’s a non-fattening experience that involves more than the ability to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” Be advised, though. It can fatten the owner’s pocketbook.

Mr. Gravish is a human resources professional with over 25 years leadership experience at numerous organizational level and among diverse environments, both national and international. He is an advocate of building business success through, and by, people – first.

Joseph M. Gravish

Also See: The Devil's in the Details - Pay for Performance Programs Revisited / Joseph M Gravish / October 2006
Nothing Happens in Hotels without Bob, Betty and Bryan, the Front, Heart and Back of the House / Joseph M Gravish / August 2006
Negotiating Issues Between Hoteliers and Unions – It’s About the Money / Joseph M. Gravish / July 2006
Hotel Companies Need to Be on the List – the Right List; Employees Can Make it Happen / Joseph M. Gravish / May 2006
Opportunity Is Knocking - Will Hoteliers Answer the Door? / Joseph M. Gravish / May 2006
Hotel Labor Union Negotiations - a Perspective / Joseph M. Gravish / April 2006

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