Hotel Professionals

Interviewing for Superstars.


In today’s tight job market, it is important to select the best and the brightest applicants quickly and effectively before you lose them to the competitor. To be sure, there are many unemployed who make no effort to find a job. Similarly, their job skills may not be in demand, or they want to have their dream job, rather than adapting to market demand.

Finding the superstar – that ideal individual, requires more, much more than just luck. Sadly, all too often employers rely on instincts, selecting the person they like best, or most unfortunately, the individual “most like me”.

This method is generally a hit and miss proposition and should be avoided. An equally unacceptable method is hiring of the most attractive applicant. Experts agree that the best method of selecting suitable employees is to devise an effective interview plan.

An interviewer should look for three criteria; the first of which is “can do” (the ability, talent, education, training, experience, attitude and knowledge).

The second; “will do” and which comprises of motivation and a logical thinking pattern.

The third is to determine an applicant’s potential.

Employers must have clearly defined standards, and articulated job criteria.

An interview must be well structured, based on questions of the job description. Each candidate must be asked the same set of questions, his/her answers recorded and compared with predetermined, expected ones.

This enables interviewers to evaluate answers and maintain neutrality. The first step for such an interview is obviously to develop a job description, if none exists. This document provides a map for the interviewer to explain what is expected of the applicant.

Vague questions during the interview send the wrong signal.

The requirements to consider are: education, job-knowledge, judgement, ingenuity, initiative, mental ability, physical requirements, skill, training, experience, reliability, co-ordination and personality.

While for a back-of-the-house position appearance is of secondary importance, for a front-of-the house position, it becomes important. Employers should look for positive attitude towards work. A genius with poor attitude and lacking drive is of no help to any company.

It is important to conduct the interview in a quiet place, free of any interruption.

Frequent interruptions mean management by crisis and profits by surprise.

Professionals agree that an applicant must be put at ease in order to obtain a true picture. This can be achieved by asking a few general, unrelated questions.

Using a data based questionnaire will help you quickly screen the most suitable applicant for the job. Managers are expected to have a high energy level.

If you ask an applicant interested in management his/her favourite occupation during off-hours, and the answer is reading or listening to mellow music, the candidate may well be unsuitable.

In every enterprise several types of people are needed. An individual unsuitable for a particular position must not be turned away; rather one ought to look whether there is a suitable position for such an individual. Needless to say, the interviewer must be honest when describing the requirements of the job – working days, hours, vacation period, and many other important points. In the hospitality industry, enthusiasm is crucial and its importance must be made very clear. A lethargic individual is unsuitable.

A potential manager must enjoy the process of training, constantly strive to learn as well as teach, and generally be inclined to improve the service or production in the restaurant/hotel.

A valuable manager must be a “builder”, who considers the company his/her own, and performs accordingly. A “worker type” is suitable for repetitive jobs. People in the know suggest asking open-ended questions and then listening very carefully to the answer.

Before deciding to hire, have two or three interviewers ask the individual the same questions and compare his/her answers. If there are wide variations, re-consider your decision.

Hourly employees should be interviewed differently to management staff. Friendliness is important in a server-position, as is compatibility in team-oriented jobs. Availability is another criterion.

Employee turnover in restaurants/hotels/pubs has been, continues to be, and will continue to be, of major concern. If an applicant has an erratic employment track record, chances are he/she will leave in a few weeks or months.

Cleanliness and general appearance are crucial and provide unmistakable clues.

Non-verbal signs are always helpful to evaluate, at least to consider in the final decision.

Eye contact tells you if an applicant is genuine, of normal social adjustment, has confidence, and is sincere. Avoidance of eye contact may signify self-doubt or instability. Excessive eye contact may indicate that the applicant is a manipulator.

Body movements tell you the traits. Excessively animated, conversationalists are generally suitable for restaurant management positions.

Dress is also of importance. Here the emphasis is not on cost, but rather on co-ordination, style, and neatness. Jeans and T-shirts show poor sense of taste, or lack of flair.

The vigour of a handshake suggests several things; excessive vigour indicates power orientation or insecurity, firmness hints on self-confidence, and limpness is indicative of lack of confidence or uncertainty.

Reference checks after the interview are critical. Human resources professionals suggest ignoring references listed on the resume; instead they advocate contacting former supervisors. This is good advice. Studies show that applicants often conceal job performance, compensation-, academic-, and employment history.

Recently, a team of three independent professionals was involved in screening applicants for service positions. To our amazement, we found that many admitted to being untruthful when their practical examination clearly revealed that they had no clue about service.

Many candidates, especially in North America, consider restaurant service a menial and easy job.
When checking references, ask relevant questions.

Some follow:

• Does the individual have a drinking or drug problem?
• Would you re-hire the person?
• Is the individual punctual, willing, and does he/she possess a positive attitude towards work?

These questions will tell you the story, not any reference letter, however complimentary it may be.
After the interview, check all references.
Have a bonding company run a check,and then decide.
Once the decision is made, do not neglect to inform unsuccessful applicants as a matter of courtesy.

The perfect candidate may well not exist, but you have to make concerted efforts to select the best suitable applicant.

Do not ask the following questions during an interview:

• marital status, pregnancy, future childbearing plans, number and ages of children.
• sexual preference
• citizenship, if the applicant has legal immigration status.
• Age, for those who are older than 40 years of age.
• Financial status
• Information not related to the job.
• Open-ended questions you can ask.

Describe a typical day on your present job. Explain where you fit into the organization of your present employer.

• How well did you and your manager work together, and what problems did you discuss?
• Tell me a little about your supervisor and your job.
• How did you get your present job?
• When and why did you begin to think of leaving?
• What are some of the reasons that made you stay at your present job?
• What do you hope to find here that you do not have at your present job?
• What are your short and long term goals?
• What did you not like about your last job?
• How do you feel about your supervisor?
• What are your most significant accomplishments in your present job?
• Describe some of the problems you encountered in your job.
• How much did you progress in your last job?
• What will you do to make this a better operation?

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