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Remembering the ‘human’ in human resource

Let me start with an apology for being so quiet in recent weeks. No, I wasn’t lounging with a piña colada by the pool this summer. I was busy with consulting projects for two private clubs in New York City. The value of a professional hospitality background in a private club setting is striking … but more on that in a future blog.

What’s on my mind now is a pet peeve of mine. It may not be unique to the hospitality industry, but it should be part of the fiber that translates into the culture of hospitality. The topic is how we treat and dialogue with job applicants. To me, the manner in which we interact with applicants is a mirror of how we interact with our own employees — and that says a lot about a company’s culture.

I hear so many disconcerting and discouraging stories from industry colleagues in their quests for jobs. Based on these anecdotes, I would like to suggest a few guidelines for properties that are conducting searches on their own or with executive recruiters for management positions.

Can we agree to these simple ground rules?

If a resume arrives unsolicited:

  • No cover letter: No response needed, unless you want to screen the applicant based on background alone. In my view, any applicant unwilling to send a note with a resume does not warrant a response.
  • Cover letter with resume: Even if there are no job openings or no interest on the hotel’s part, a courteous response of “thanks, but no thanks” should be sent.

When reaching out to arrange an interview:

  • Respect the applicant’s current job schedule, and don’t insist on setting up interviews during his normal work hours or during a rushed lunch hour. How about after work or on someone’s days off? That way an applicant doesn’t have to take time off from work. Logical, no?

During the interview process:

  • Have consensus among all interviewers on job criteria. It’s amazing how these specs can appear to change depending upon who conducts the interview. Sometimes a job doesn’t even sound the same from the first interview to the last.
  • Make sure the candidate is well briefed on whom he is meeting with and what role that individual plays in the employment process.
  • Conversely, make sure the interviewer has been supplied with the candidate’s resume in advance.
  • Advise the candidate on the scope of the search and the anticipated timeframe to fill the position.

Once the candidate is in the interview process:

  • On the first “go-around,” communicate quickly with the candidate if there is no further interest — don’t leave anyone waiting around for the phone call that never comes.
  • If a candidate is brought in for subsequent interviews, keep the candidate updated on the progress of the job search. If the candidate is eventually cut, this warrants personal outreach by the key individual leading the search. If possible, the candidate should be provided with feedback on why he didn’t satisfy the search criteria.

Basic advice? Yes, but, worth reviewing. In any job market, but especially in the competitive environment of the past four years, many people who have been unemployed, underemployed or simply seeking career advancement have been frustrated. They’ve been frustrated not only by the process of applying for jobs, often via unwieldy online application sites, but by the lack of response to their efforts. A former colleague of mine was recently left hanging for weeks after being told he was one of two finalists and after he’d been to the property on four different occasions for interviews. He finally received a form letter in the mail from an assistant in HR whom he’d never met.

Treating candidates with common courtesy is more than just the right thing to do. It is a reflection of your brand and speaks volumes about how management treats employees. In the hospitality industry, it shouldn’t have to be the topic of a blog. Let’s make a pact to apply the Golden Rule to the care and feeding of job applicants going forward … and get on to happier topics.

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