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    Exemplify The Spirit of Hospitality in The Hiring and Onboarding Process

    In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was invited to become a member of a Facebook group that currently counts nearly 60,000 people in the hospitality, tourism, and travel industry as members. It has been both fascinating and insightful to read the many comments posted daily by people of all disciplines and experience levels. While this group originally served as a sort of support group for those who were furloughed or laid-off, members also share interesting comments and observations on other aspects of the industry. 

    Lately, I have been reading more and more posts where these members are sharing their experiences throughout the hiring cycle—from application, to interview, to the receipt of an offer, and eventually, to onboarding and “first day” experiences. Others share their views from the other side of the equation, which is of course that of the individual who is doing the recruitment and interviewing.

    When I read these posts and also when I speak with owners or managers that I know as clients and friends, I often hear complaining that despite the unemployment rates, they are having a hard time finding qualified applicants. However, I also hear that many applicants are frustrated and disappointed with their experiences. The following are some observations and recommendations:

    Mystery Shop Your Application Experience. Just as companies use mystery shoppers to evaluate the guest experience, it would be insightful to have friends and other contacts in your professional network mystery shop the experience of applying for a position at your properties. How easy or hard is it to find out where to apply when visiting your website or Facebook page? How easy or frustrating is the entire application and interview process?

    Mandatory Fields in Online Applications. Do you frustrate applicants by requiring them to re-enter information too many times or to enter irrelevant information? Most online applications allow for the resume to be uploaded, but many also require the details for all previous employers to be entered manually. This can be time-consuming for those with a longer work history, so consider having your system require applicants to only manually enter the three most recent employers.

    Pre-employment Assessments. I assume they are proving to be of value because of widespread usage, although I have always had my doubts because I believe test-takers will select the response they feel that the employer is looking for vs. what they actually think. While I concede to their value, consider that requiring every applicant to complete one when first applying could throw up a barrier to candidates who are perfectly qualified but move on down the list of job postings when they see a required test. If you are using them, consider doing so only once an applicant has been invited to interview, or as a final precondition to schedule an interview.

    Interview Process. I have seen several posts about how impressed applicants were with how their interview was handled, whether in person or virtual. They seem to be particularly impressed when a senior manager such as a GM or division head takes time to speak with them, even when the main interviewer was a first-level manager.

    Avoid “Ghosting” Applicants. The biggest complaint I read is how disappointing applicants are when they have been told they are a finalist, then never hear back. Have the courtesy to thank the applicant for their interest and for the time they took to interview. At the least, send a personalized email, but really, you should make a phone call. Not only is this common courtesy, but it also leaves a lasting impression on candidates who may reapply in the future when the labor market is less advantageous to the employers and when the applicant has achieved additional experience and become a more desirable candidate.  

    The First Day is Like a First Date. Once hired, make an extra effort to welcome newly hired staff with the same spirit of hospitality that you want them to have when they welcome guests. Think back to your last “first day” experience. Chances are that you probably slept lightly in anticipation of the big day, feeling both excitement and trepidation. Chances are that you could not wait to get home and tell a loved one, parent, or roommate about your first day experiences. Larger companies may have staff begin in a group orientation class. If so, be sure that the GM and/or other executives stop by early on to welcome them and to discuss the mission statement or core values. If the first day does not start with a group orientation, be sure the onboarding supervisor properly introduces the new hire to coworkers and leaders. Remember to cover the “soft skills” of hospitality and guest service excellence before they first start training on computer systems and processes, to demonstrate that creating personalized guest experiences is always the first priority.

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