Interviewing for Hospitality

March 20, 2015 | 2067 Views

Interviewing for Hospitality

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog post for CHART’s website titled “Hiring for Hospitality” ### ( in which I discussed recruiting and hiring strategies that hotel and restaurant managers could use to find the most qualified employees for their businesses.

As a follow-up to that post, below are twelve strategies that your managers can use during candidate interviews to ensure they are getting the best possible new hires.  This list includes a mix of my personal suggestions as well as those from the Live Ask My Peers session at CHART’s 89th Hospitality Training Conference, which took place in Napa Valley, California, during February 2015.

  1. As a training professional, one of the best places to start is to sit in on employee interviews with your hiring managers and evaluate the proceedings.  Are they asking the right questions?  Are they conducting the interviews in a positive and professional manner?  You can not only provide constructive feedback to these managers after their meetings, but also use the best practices derived from your observances to create interviewing training materials or prepare an interviewing training course for your company’s managers.
  2. Make sure your managers have a clear vision of your hotel or restaurant culture and values, and that they are using that information to develop their interviewing questions.  If they ask candidates what is important to them as employees, what kind of business they want to work for, and how can an employer help them achieve career objectives, the answers will better equip your hiring team to find out if the candidates’ values align with those of your company.
  3. Encourage your managers to the make the interview more conversational and less interrogational by asking broad questions and allowing the candidates plenty of time to answer.  They can do so by using open-ended statements such “Please tell me about your previous position” or “Please tell me about your experiences working in a team environment” to really get the interviewees talking (and remember that the goal is for the candidates to be talking at least 80% of the time).
  4. When asked a neutral open-ended question about their previous workplace, positive people will give positive answers; they’ll talk about the friends they made, or the skills they learned, or the increasing amount of responsibility they were given.  These are the folks your managers should hire for a hospitality position.  Negative people, on the other hand, will give negative answers; they will share stories about their bad bosses, lazy co-workers, and rude guests.  They may be the most experienced cook or housekeeper in the world, but if they respond negatively to neutral questions, you don’t want them and their negative personalities infecting your company.
  5. Have your managers include their front line employees in the interviews, and then ask these team members about their impressions of the candidates after the sessions have concluded.  It’s always helpful to have their buy-in regarding the person selected to be their co-worker on the front line, and involving younger staffers will help to develop their interviewing skills and prepare them for a future promotion into a hiring position.
  6. If you are opening or new hotel or restaurant, or just have the need to hire a great deal of new employees in a short time period, consider conducting group interviews with multiple candidates at once and use an interview guide with prepared questions for the event.  Not only is it an efficient use of time, but it allows the hiring team an opportunity to see which candidates can stand out from their peers and how they handle a unique situation.
  7. If your managers use an interview guide during meetings with prospective new hires, this guide should include a scoring system that allows the hiring team to rate candidates’ answers and immediately eliminate anyone from the running who scores below the minimum.  And if all the candidates score too low, your hiring managers should contact their supervisors or the company recruiters to repost advertisements and cast a wider candidate net instead of hiring the highest scorer from the current group of mediocre applicants.
  8. Don’t let a great résumé or a bubbly personality overshadow any Red Flags that pop up during the interview, such as if the candidates arrive late, are not prepared, act uninterested, or did not bother to learn anything about your company.  These meetings are their one opportunity to really impress you, and if they cannot bother to put forth an effort to do so, do you really think it will get any better once they secure a job?
  9. Just as the candidates should be prepared, so should your managers.  They wouldn’t go into a busy shift without planning ahead, and they shouldn’t go into an interview without planning ahead.  Hiring managers should be ready to start the interview on time (and not make candidates wait while they finish up operational activities), have thoroughly read the resume or application, have their list of questions ready, and take the proceedings as seriously as they would if they were the interviewee.  Your manager should also attempt to conduct the interview in the most private and quietest location possible, and not in a place where they will be bothered with interruptions.
  10. How many interviews should be conducted on a candidate prior to hiring them?  A minimum of three for managers, and a minimum of two for hourly contenders, to ensure the person you are planning to hire can connect with a variety of individuals and is committed to working for your hotel or restaurant.
  11. Make sure your hiring managers know how to properly close an interview.  They should not be making statements about any candidates’ job prospects (such as “I’ve got a good feeling about you working here”), but instead should be providing candidates with an opportunity to summarize why they should be hired and answering any questions about the company or the hiring process.
  12. Need a resource recommendation?  Check out Mark Murphy’s terrific book, “Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude,” which is packed with useful advice to help your managers get the right people for their teams.

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