Experience? Need not apply

Experience? Need not apply

My hotel consulting practice has focused on clients located in the New York metropolitan area. As a result, the majority of projects I have worked on have been in Manhattan. I love the city’s market dynamics and find its ever evolving and revolving supply profile to be amazing. It’s my job to stay current on new supply, and I diligently research hotel happenings — new deals, openings, renovations or ownership changes. This is a challenge unto itself, with hotel transactions and opening dates changing by the minute.

Much has been written about New York City and its ability to not only survive the recession, but also thrive — 2010 and 2011 were record-breaking occupancy years in spite of thousands of new hotel rooms entering the market. Confirming this, I came across some incredible statistics issued by NYC & Company, the city tourism authority. By year-end 2011, the city had almost 90,000 hotel rooms in active inventory, representing a 24% supply increase over the past five years. By year-end 2012, more than 50 new hotels will have entered the market over the past two years alone.

With these amazing market characteristics, you would assume employment within our industry would be booming, and I’m sure it is statistically. Every new hotel creates new jobs. What I see, however, is that the profile of this employment has changed. With so many new hotels coming on line, I often receive calls from industry colleagues asking me for candidate referrals for management job opportunities. When I ask for the criteria for the “ideal” candidate, I am consistently disappointed to learn that years of experience doesn’t appear to be high on the list. It’s as if too much experience is a negative.  

You certainly can’t learn any of our hotel disciplines — whether marketing, operations or food and beverage — from a textbook. These skills must be developed on the job and are honed as a person’s career progresses by staying in tune with consumer trends, technology and specific market dynamics. Good management skills can only become great management skills with the ability and opportunity to apply them in various employment situations. To me, this equates to having “experience.” Why then isn’t our industry doing a better job of recognizing the value of experience?

Because of employment liabilities issues, we never speak of age, so we’ve created buzzwords for this. ”Seasoned” is the most common word used; another one is “industry veteran.” I prefer the word “seasoned,” and in fact, have used it to describe myself. My years of experience greatly benefit my clients. I couldn’t be effective at what I do without it. So why aren’t hotel employers seeking out industry veterans? What do you think?