Recruiting and retaining top talent in the boutique and lifestyle hotel sector

Dino Penge By Dino Penge
Uploaded 18 November 2013

It is clear that the fundamental success of any business in the service industry is its people; therefore it is critical that the hospitality industry attracts and selects the right people with the right skills for the job they are applying to.

Is it possible that the industry employs like for like people without the correct key competencies rather than look outside the industry for staff with the key competencies needed for a particular role; and is it possible that top candidates are missed in the interview process and slip through the net by poor interview techniques that could have been superstars of the future for a business?

Many organisations's struggle to attract the right people and more often than not don't retain them. This can have serious implications to the success of their business and sometimes in a boutique/independent hotel this can be the difference between success and failure.

Can competency based interviewing help in the selection process with better results and retention figures? By following this selection strategy your hotel will achieve a much better chance of hiring the right person for the right role. The aim of CBI is to dig deep and penetrate into situations a candidate has been in and not accept the first answer to the question, as that is merely the first ring of the onion. The idea is to drill down and peel away every layer of the onion on a specific question to ensure that you have gained satisfactory evidence on the subject/question you are asking until you get to the core of the onion. This will mean one has a proper understanding of the question asked and a good idea on the candidate's skills. Each question will have a series of more refined questions to follow, as it's important to aim to achieve a deep and fuller understanding of your candidate and their skills.

However, one of the key things that interviewers lack is preparation and to that end recruiting hoteliers can inadvertently not be clear on the key competencies that they are looking for - if you don't know this then how can you prepare and conduct a professional interview?

To give an example - if you are looking for a sales person, I suspect the key competencies that you are looking for would be:
1. Sales Ability, Negotiation skills and Persuasiveness
2. Strong planning and Organisation
3. Drive
4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
5. Self Management

Here we outline some example competency-based interview questions one should always ask at an interview based on the above competencies that are essential in hiring a top salesperson.

1. Describe to me your most satisfying/disappointing experience in presenting to, and gaining support of top management for an idea or proposal?
2. Tell me about an account you lost. Why did you lose it and what did you do to get it back?
3. What are the most important time eaters in your work? How do you handle this?
4. What is your procedure in keeping track of matters requiring your attention?
5. Describe a time in the last two years when you have achieved something significant on your own?
6. Describe a problem for which your first solution did not work, so you were forced to try other solutions
7. Tell me about a commitment you made in difficult circumstances. How did you succeed to keep your promise?
8. Give me an example of an achievement you are proud of over the last 2 years in your career.
9. What goals have you set yourself from a career prospective over the next 2 years
10. Tell me about an unpopular idea you had that you were able to sell to people at work?

Keep your questions relevant and probe to get to the core of the candidate. There should be five to six sub-questions per question. It is all about finding what their true skills are and how they fit your requirements.

Also remember the candidate should be doing 70% of the talking, sometimes it is easy to talk about your business and how passionate you are about it, keep this to the 30% rule!

For more information on the above or hotel and hospitality recruitment and retention in general feel free to contact Dino Penge, managing director, Leisure Jobs [email protected]

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