Most hiring managers would tell you that a candidate's experience is the most important criterion in the decision-making process. While the concept of organizational fit has gotten more attention in recent years, many employers would rather take a chance on a skilled candidate who may need time to adjust on a personal level than an unskilled candidate who seems to be a great match for the staff culture.
In the specific context of the hospitality industry, however, this equation does not always hold true. The intangible qualities that make a particular property uniquely attractive to guests are often seen as equally important to core service competencies, and factors like personality and team fit are a big part of maintaining that mystique. So, how should decision makers in the hospitality industry balance the concerns of personality, fit, skills and experience in the recruitment process?
While there's a lot to be said for technical competence, personality is one of the most vital components of success in the hospitality industry. Although it may seem to be counterintuitive, decades of market research suggest that, for example, a restaurant with excellent food but lackluster personnel is unlikely to be as successful as a competing facility with a middling menu and a dynamic staff. Likewise, guests usually report that a hotel's amenities and features pale in comparison to a staff comprised of personable, outgoing, empathic team members.
Most consumers seem to be motivated by much more than a utilitarian need for food or lodging. Instead, guests are seeking out a multi-dimensional experience in which every controllable variable should be superlative. However, unforeseen circumstances can impede the quality of the core service or product, but if the property is staffed by amiable, outgoing workers, it is likely that the impression that guests take away from the experience will be largely positive.
Although personable staff members are one part of the equation, no single individual can buoy an team alone; instead, it takes a group of likeminded, compatible people working together to create an environment that is so appealing that it represents a amenity in and of itself. The key to fostering such an atmosphere may be the variable that HR experts refer to as FIT, which refers to the way an individual's personality matches and complements the needs of the employers and the dynamics of the existing staff.
Even without the benefit years of accumulated experience in the field, some people seem to be naturally skilled at a particular role or task. Likewise, many of the skills that are beneficial in the hospitality industry can be gained in non-professional venues, such as hobbies, volunteer organizations, extracurricular activities, or even the performing arts.
As such, some employers tend to prioritize potential candidates' skills as the top criteria when making a hiring decision, but skills may sometimes be overrated, particularly in the unique context of the hospitality industry. Some employers in the hospitality industry report eschewing accumulated skills in favor of genuine warmth and hospitability, qualities that are not always readily cultivated. Still, for highly technical positions, skills should carry more weight in the recruitment decision-making process.
Much like skill, experience functions as one of the most significant variables in the recruitment decision-making process. In mission-critical roles that require a threshold level of skill and experience to ascertain a candidate's suitability, accumulated experience may serve as the most important factor. For example, it would be ill-advised to rely on factors like fit and personality rather than verifiable experience when filling managerial positions, or when staffing technical kitchen roles.
However, in the hospitality industry, many of front-line and front-of-the-house positions do not actually require a great deal of prior experience in order to ensure long-term success. Indeed, because of the considerable guest interaction requirements associated with most front-line roles, it may be better to bypass experienced candidates in favor of those with personable, outgoing dispositions, keeping in mind that skills and experience will be accumulated over time.
Personality, fit, skills, and experience are all factors that should play a role in the recruitment decision-making process. But in the unique setting of the hospitality industry, the traditional paradigm that assigns more weight to skills and experience may be reversed. Guests' impressions of a property are heavily influenced by their interactions with front-line staff, so team members with exceptional fit and personality but relatively little experience may be the key to generating a loyal, lasting customer base.