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Job Applications Talk. 
Hotel HR Managers Are You Listening?
By Joseph M. Gravish, February 2007

It’s that time again, Mr. or Ms. Manager. Time for you to suck it up and wade through that stack of job applications. You’ve lost more staff – again. You’re frustrated watching newly hired employee after employee come and go.  No sooner do you get them trained and they leave. What can you do?

As an HR professional I hear you complain all the time. You don’t have time to reflect seriously about the reasons your people leave. You have a “real” job to do. Guest rooms need to be cleaned - now. Emily and Shirley didn’t report to work for their scheduled shift – you’re short staff. You’ll think about the reasons for persistent turnover some other time – if you find the time. You have more important things to worry about - employees who are still being trained, fully-trained employees who’ve lost their motivation, low team morale. The Front Desk is calling again asking if room 314 is ready yet. Supplies still have to be ordered. Equipment needs to be repaired. Budgets and payroll information have to be updated. And now you’ve got these applications to review. What you want are bodies – any bodies – just to make it through another day.

Sound familiar? 

There are a host of reasons people voluntarily quit. Some reasons are certainly beyond your control. But I’ll bet there are an equal number of reasons that are within your ability to control – and change – to improve the quality of your staff. Let’s concentrate on the one of the most basic aspects of hiring – the job application itself.

Presuming the application you use is thorough enough, it contains a wealth of useful information. Overall, how the application greet you? Equally important, what’s not said? The best applications talk to you, as if the person him or herself is telling you why he or she should be interviewed. But are you listening?

I’m going to show you how to listen more closely to what the job application is saying - and how to also read between the lines.

Let’s first agree and clearly understand there’s a real dollar cost associated with hiring staff. Reviewing the application, pre-screening (telephone interview) the applicant, conducting the face-to-face interview all takes time. And time is money. For example, even at the barest, if this process took only 30 minutes, and you interviewed 100 applicants per year, multiple that by your equivalent hourly salary. I’ll bet the result is more that you imagined. (Don’t forget this number excludes recruiting, on-boarding, training, and retraining costs. Not to mention costs associated with separation, for example, degradation of institutional knowledge, compensation given for resultant service errors, possible unemployment compensation claims, etc.). Why not do it right from the beginning? Why waste your time – and the Company’s money?

The second you pickup the application you’re immediately making mental judgments about the job candidate it represents. So what should you be looking for? Let me describe some “red” and “green” lights that may help you determine whether the job candidate is worth moving to the interview.

Like your hotel, first impressions are important. And so it is with the job application. What’s your initial overall impression? Like the front of your property is it neat, clean, is the information provided you well organized? Are all the questions on the application answered completely? If not, red light.

Does it look sloppy – as if done in hast? Does it say “I need a job but won’t spend the time to provide the information requested”? If so, red light.

Does the applicant’s work history show a record of job-hopping without good reason? Are there significant employment gaps? Are the reasons for separation from previous jobs dubious (for example, “bad management”, “wouldn’t work around my other job”, “harassment”, “discrimination”, “wouldn’t give me time off”, “car broke down”, “lost car insurance”, “lost my drivers license”, etc.)? If so, red light.

Does the application boast, without support (“I’m good with people”, “Have great people skills”, “Can do anything you ask”, “Am a quick learner”, “Love to work hard”, “Am a neat freak”, etc.)? If so, red light.

Do the references listed show no ability to speak first-hand about the applicant’s work habits? If so, red light. 

Does the application indicate insufficient education or a very low GPA, no achievements and no volunteer work - ever? If so, red light.

Are there too many blanks left on the application? If so, red light.

Are there too many red lights? If so, black flag!

Conversely there are also green lights.

Applications from young adults with a good GPA, a previous/current job, academic or athletic achievements, a history of volunteering, or club/church group participation get a green light in my book. 

Better yet, if they list teachers, instructors, counselors, previous supervisors, pastors, etc. as references they get an almost automatic “pit pass” to an interview.

Ditto with veteran workers whose work history shows a upward trend of increased job responsibility and advancement, technical training or continuous professional skills improvement.

And let’s not forget military veterans. They usually have a wealth of experience often in stressful situations, understand the need to meet deadlines, were trained in a performance-oriented environment, can think on their feet and adjust on the move, and are loyal. Many have first-line, and higher, supervisory experience. Their potential to succeed is far above the average.

To be fair, not all red lights on the job application disqualify a candidate. And not all green lights entitle the applicant to an automatic face-to-face job interview. Each application must be considered on its own merits. But in combination with other factors, these signals act as important guideposts on the road to employability.

It’s important that you listen to what the application is, or isn’t saying – to be alert for  these signals. Doing so will reduce the risk of a potentially costly accident – a bad hire. 

This is the second in a “back to the basics” series. The first article “Want Fries With That” was published in October, 2006.

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


 Joseph M. Gravish



Also See: Want Fries With That? Hiring Practices in the Hospitality Industry / Joseph M. Gravish / October 2006
Hoteliers, Are You Planting Corn, Trees or People? / Joseph Gravish / November 2006


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