How virtual job fairs help fill roles in hotels
 
How virtual job fairs help fill roles in hotels
14 JULY 2020 8:12 AM

There’s an abundance of talent in the industry right now, and to safely hire during the pandemic, some hoteliers have turned to online hiring processes, sources said.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.— Whether they are trying it as a new tool or have used it in the past, some hoteliers have seen great success with online hiring, especially during the pandemic.

Tim Heim, area GM for Focus Hospitality Management and GM of The Tuxon in Tucson, Arizona, which opened on 3 July, had to start hiring associates in mid-April and the beginning of May. His team reviewed several hiring options and eventually landed on hosting a virtual job fair for the first time, he said.

“We really weren’t comfortable having any of the candidates come to the property (due to COVID-19), so we worked with our PR company and thought it would be good to do a virtual job fair,” he said. “How the virtual job fair worked is we had five different links for various postings.”

At the time, The Tuxon was looking to hire roles such as kitchen leads, cook leads, a food-and-beverage manager and a front-of-house supervisor. He said they posted five different links for the jobs on a landing page with a five-to-seven-day window and received a good response.

His team then decided to extend that window up until two weeks before they decided on the final hires because candidates continued to apply.

“It worked really well and … we will actually continue this platform going forward,” he said.

Victor Caguindagan, GM of the new Lotte Hotel Seattle, which is set to welcome guests 24 September, said via email as soon as cases of COVID-19 began to spike in King County, Washington, all in-person hiring was canceled and immediately turned to online job hiring.

How and why it works
Heim said virtual job fairs have a variety of benefits, especially during the pandemic environment.

How it works is the candidate will find the job postings on the hotel’s career page and choose the desired link. Once a candidate clicks the link, the page will walk them through the interview process. Focus Hospitality Management can ask the candidate about seven to 10 questions and the candidate will be prompted to record their responses within a time limit.

Having fun and getting creative is key, he said. One of the last questions in the interview asks the candidate to do something entertaining 30 seconds. He said The Tuxon is about creating a guest experience and associates need to be able to engage and communicate effectively.

“Once we get it at the hotel, the candidate has introduced themselves, they have told us the position that they are interested in and then we get to see the full interview. They answer all of our questions in a video,” he said. “The best thing about this platform is it’s really a great way to see talent, because a lot of times you get candidates, or different associates that work in your hotel, and a lot of them maybe have a (hidden) talent … it’s a fun way to see everyone’s personality.”

Caguindagan said he’s found that online job hiring has attracted more candidates, because more are comfortable attending a virtual gathering than an in-person event during these times. It is also important to spend ample time discussing culture and company values so the candidate is fully aligned and engaged with Lotte Hotel Seattle’s expectations.

The convenience factor was also a selling point for conducting a virtual job fair, Heim said.

“We still want to be able to attract talent, retain talent and we know that there’s still people moving into areas (for jobs),” he said.

Even if someone is relocating or moving, the candidate doesn’t have to physically be in the location of the hotel in order to participate in the virtual job fair, which amplifies convenience, he said.

“What a great way to be able to submit your virtual interview immediately online, it goes right to the hotel. It really is a direct contact to us,” he said. “The minute that interview is received, then it is communicated to (me) and to our assistant GM.”

Heim noted that the online job hiring process takes about the same length as traditional hiring, but in some cases it can speed it up.

Grey Raines, president of Raines Hospitality, which implemented online hiring in May, said via email that it has provided costs savings through efficiencies and convenience.

Bryan DeCort, EVP of Hotel Equities, said his company has done online job hiring for several years but more so now in the current environment because none of its teams are traveling right now. He said Hotel Equities’ portfolio has grown exponentially and leveraging technology, such as online hiring platforms, has become essential.

“When we’re (hiring externally), we always use a collaborative team approach to interviewing. Much of that is done over the phone and via (video conferencing). At one point of the process, it’s important to get eyes on each other so you can see emotion and body language,” he said.

DeCort said there’s an abundance of talent out there right now. He said the quality of talent, particularly at the corporate, salary executive level, is the most he’s seen in his 25-plus years in the industry.

“Unfortunately, when you’re running almost 20% unemployment, you’re going to see some of that—in particular (the hotel industry), we’ve been decimated by the pandemic,” he said.

Tips for hosting a virtual job fair
While there are benefits to hiring virtually, challenges are still present, especially when gauging a candidate’s personality if they are nervous.

In order to help ease the candidate, Heim said the types of questions Focus Hospitality Management asked as well as the follow-up processes were important.

“We really wanted to get to know that individual. We also wanted to understand what (culture looks) like to them, what do they expect from a company,” he said.

His team went through all the interviews and followed up appropriately by making contact through a variety of different methods such as phone interviews.

“You never know how the conversation is going to go,” he said. “In all fairness, you have to be open-minded.”

Even if a hotel is looking to hire a director-level versus a line-level role, Heim recommends that other hotels give virtual job fairs a try.

“You can really customize (it) to what you want. Maybe for a manager position you might do something differently than you would for a line-level position, but this really does give you the platform to be specific (and) let the candidate know what you’re looking for before they take the interview,” he said.

If a hotel decides to keep the links up for a five-to-seven-day window period, Heim suggests advertising beforehand with a sense of urgency.

DeCort said there’s some pressure to making the right hiring decisions, more so now than ever because these jobs are so coveted, and sometimes it’s tough to do that over the phone or video. They key is to spend time, look over reference checks and be intentional with the questions you’re asking.

As EVP, DeCort said he interviews every single candidate who has made it to the final round.

Caguindagan said online hiring can also present issues with technology or losing stable Wi-Fi connection, which can sometimes lead to needing an interview rescheduled.

Raines suggests both the hiring team and candidate both have a sable internet connection.

“Connectivity issues will disrupt thought flow more than anything and, while out of most hands, can seem unprofessional on both ends,” he said. “Utilize websites like speedtest.net to make sure your connection is stable enough, or even Facetime a friend prior to double check. Also, find a room with preferably carpeted floors and few windows. While the picture may look prettier with natural light and hardwood behind you, those reflective surfaces can really hurt your audio quality.”

Jennifer Murray, regional director of human resources at Valor Hospitality, which began online hiring once stay-at-home orders began to lift, said via email to always do a test run of the platform that your team will be using prior to the first candidate signing on

Depending on the platform used, she said a chat option and ability to post downloadable material and videos about company culture that potential candidates can review before applying can also be incorporated.

“The chat function offers this potential candidate a direct line to the interviewer to ask the questions that they have before making a decision as to whether they would like to interview or not,” she said. “This streamlines the process for the interviewer and potential team member to determine if the company matches their values and provides the opportunity they are looking for.”

Longevity of online hiring
Heim suspects that even post-COVID-19, there will still be individuals who will want to complete the application process virtually. There will also be those who prefer the traditional in-person method.

“We will do applications on the spot; we will take the virtual interviews,” he said.

Caguindagan said given the flexibility that virtual hiring offers, his team hopes to continue to implement it on a case by case basis.

“Our plan moving forward would be to begin with an initial screening from HR and the corresponding department’s representatives, and then offer the option of an in-person—in compliance with existing guidance from the city or the state) or virtual interview as the next step in our hiring process,” he said.

Raines said Raines Hospitality does not foresee online hiring going away post-pandemic. The company is currently seeking a VP of human resources, and his team knows virtual hiring will be key in finding that right person.

Murray said Valor Hospitality will continue to leverage technology that allows her team to do things like online hiring as it will enable them to stay competitive.

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