Interview strategies help uncover top candidates

I have participated in many candidate interviews during my 20-plus years in the world of hospitality, and it’s not always easy to determine if someone is going to be a great addition to your team. Based on my experiences, however, I do know that using the seven interviewing strategies below will help you find the best possible employees to represent your brand.  

  • Be prepared. Read through the candidate résumés and have questions developed prior to the start of the interview. Don’t waste time trying to figure out what to ask on the fly. 
  • Be quiet. Candidates should do the bulk of the talking, so interviewers should use open-ended statements (“Please tell me about your previous position,” “Tell me about the kind of company for which you would like to work”), allow the interviewees plenty of time to answer, and actively listen to the responses.
  • Be positive. When asked a neutral open-ended question about their previous workplace, positive people will give positive answers; they’ll talk about the skills they learned or the increasing amount of responsibility they were given. These are the folks you should hire for a hospitality position. Negative people, on the other hand, will share stories about their bad bosses, lazy co-workers and rude guests, and you don’t want their negativity infecting your company. 
  • Be realistic. Don’t let a great résumé or a bubbly personality overshadow any red flags that pop up during the interview, such as if candidates arrived late, are not prepared or didn’t bother to learn anything about your hotel. 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?  
  • Be inclusive. Include front-line employees in the interviews, and ask them about their impressions of the candidates. It’s always helpful to have their buy-in regarding the people selected to be their co-workers, and involving younger staffers will help to develop their interviewing skills and prepare them for a future promotion into a hiring position. 
  • Be efficient. If you have to hire a large number of new employees in a short time period, consider conducting group interviews with multiple candidates at once. Not only is it an effective use of time, but also allows the hiring team an opportunity to see which candidates can stand out from their peers and how they handle a unique situation.
  • Be cool. Don’t close an interview with overly optimistic statements about candidates’ job prospects (such as “I’ve got a good feeling about you working here”). Instead, provide an opportunity for them to ask questions about the company and summarize why they should be hired. 

And remember, not everyone can work for you, but they can all be potential guests. Give candidates your full attention, be respectful, and always ask what they think about your property and what could be improved upon.

Patrick Yearout is president of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers and director of recruiting and training for Ivar’s Restaurants.

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