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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, June 6, 2008

Factors for Successful Interviewing
Potential Hotel Sales Candidates

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.
                                    James Thurber US author, cartoonist, humorist,
& satirist (1894 - 1961)

My last three columns have discussed decisions to be made if your hotel needs a professional totally dedicated to the selling of property services, potential sources on where to recruit from and the significance of having everyone know what is expected in the job.   I have had a good amount of feedback on all of them and I thank readers for their questions and comments.

Factors for successful interviewing potential hotel sales candidates

I offer the following as a refresher or as considerations for those new to the process.

  1. Plan your interview. 
  2. Thoroughly review the job descriptions and specific job requirements. 
  3. Decide which skills are most critical and important.
  4. Create your interview plan. 
  5. Formulate job related questions that will help the interviewee give behavioral examples. 
  6. Do not use hypothetical questions that should show how a person handled specific tasks or situations in the past. 
  7. Write out your questions.
  8. Arrange for an interview environment.  
  9. Make sure there are no interruptions.  
  10. See that the interviewee is comfortable. 
  11. Plan for enough time.
  12. An out of your office setting is best to help relax the interviewee and allows you to avoid interruptions.
  13. Conduct the interview.  Use rapport-building questions. 
  14. Ask open-ended questions. 
  15. Allow silence.  
  16. Seek contrary evidence.  
  17. Control the interview. 
  18. Gain behavioral examples.
  19. Use intuition to help you ask better questions. 
  20. Confirm or refute your gut feeling. Protect other people from your hidden biases or prejudices.
Suggestions to remember in the interview process:      
  • Rate skills. 
  • One behavioral example may provide evidence for or against several skills.  
  • No one is absolutely perfect or absolutely bad.  
  • Ask yourself if you have enough information to do a good rating. 
  • Allow for unmeasured skills.
Sample Interview Questions
A wide variety of questions can be used to help gain information about a candidate's job skills. Use these questions as guides to help you develop questions that target a specific job's skill requirements.

General Questions

  • Describe a time on any job when you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
  • Give an example of a time that you had to keep from speaking or not finishing a task because you did not have enough information to come to a good decision. Be specific.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your spoken communication skills in order to get a point across that was important to you.
  • Can you tell me about a job experience in which you had to speak up in order to be sure that other people knew what you thought or felt?
  • Give me an example of a time when you felt you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates at work.
  • Give me an example of a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy in which you did not agree.
  • Describe a situation in which you felt it necessary to be very attentive and vigilant in your environment.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to use your fact-finding skills to gain information for solving a problem. Then tell me how you analyzed the information to come to a decision.
  • Give me an example of an important goal that you set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
  • Describe the most significant written document/report/presentation that you have had to complete.
Specific Questions You Might Ask
  • About Sales, Catering or Convention Service backgrounds
  • Skills critical for success: 
  • Organizational, supervisory, versatility, interpersonal relations, communication with employees and guests, responsible, detail oriented.
  • Give an example of when you handled a function that was off-schedule.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to organize an event that involved multiple departments and what you did to create a teamwork environment.
  • Describe a time when you had to handle a person or group of people under the influence of alcohol and out of control. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when a deal you put together seemed to fall apart. What action did you take to salvage the situation?
  • Recall a time when you had a very dissatisfied customer and what you did to appease the customer and get him/her to use your services again?
  • Give an example of when you were in direct competition with another hotel. What did you do to get the business?
  • What do you rate as success factors? 
  • How do you pace your work load?
  • How do you meet deadlines?
  • How do your prioritize your work week?
  • Is the customer really always right?
  • How do you define customer service from a sales professional perspective?
  • How do you personally deliver customer service?

Feel free to share an idea or to contact me regarding consulting and speaking engagements at anytime and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

All rights reserved by John Hogan.   This column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He holds a number of industry certifications and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,100 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He has published more than 350 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from a range of industry sources and  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –     The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008

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