When the owner dictates the hire

How often has one of these scenarios happened to you?

  • You’re interviewing to fill a position, and the owner presents the “perfect” candidate … only, in your estimation, he’s not right for the job.
  • The owner has found a “terrific addition to the team,” and there is no current opening for her.
  • You are asked to “find a place” for someone who you feel is not a good fit for the property.

What do you do?

Many boutique operators find themselves in the delicate position of having to navigate these kinds of situations more often than they would like. How does one do it without unduly rocking the boat with the owner and existing staff? Is there a one-size-fits-all solution?

Hiring — or not hiring — a person who is hand-picked by the owners of the hotel you manage can present a difficult challenge if not handled properly. It can put you in a tough situation with the owner and may become a distraction among staff members. When the owner suggests hiring a specific person for a particular role, in some cases the person’s capabilities match up, but in many instances, they are not even close. And when the candidate is presented for a position that doesn’t even exist, it adds an additional level of stress to the situation.

I advise clients and colleagues, when faced with these situations, to use diplomacy, honesty and common sense, keeping the owner’s best interests in mind and staying committed to what is best for the operation. Depending upon the situation — those mentioned above and others like them — consider the following responses as a guide:

  • If an opening exists, agree to add the owner’s candidate to the list of others being considered.
  • If you like the candidate, but not for the open position, determine whether there is a more appropriate place within the operation — if not now, perhaps in the future.
  • Consider hiring the hand-picked candidate if you can adjust the job description to fit the candidate’s profile depending upon the owner’s desire to hire the individual and availability of budget.
  • Let the owner know if the existing budget does not allow for adding a new position at this time.
  • If the candidate is simply wrong for the operation, address it directly with the owner, giving credible reasons why.
  • If the candidate could be right, but just not now, let the owner know that you will keep the resume on file and will be back in touch when the appropriate opening arises.

Deciding whether the person is right for the job usually takes the least amount of time. Determining how to explain to the owner in a diplomatic way that his or her candidate is not right for the job can create anxiety and prolong the discussion.

Remember that your job is to act in the owner’s best interest. Using that as your foundation, and approaching the challenge from a position of strength and trust, will turn what could be an issue into a non-issue and ensure that the property is operating with the best staff possible.