How to Hire Great Hospitality Staff

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In my first career as a customer-facing service person, I saw plenty of hospitality staff come and go.  One might assume that high turnover is a given in the industry, especially in food service.  But there are keys to finding and hiring the right staff.  Staff who will hopefully stick around long enough to positively impact the business!  Below I’ll share five hospitality-focused tips for hiring an exceptional team of staff.

Here are five key hospitality-focused tips for hiring an exceptional staff- and ensuring a high level of service for your customers.

How to Hire Great Hospitality Staff


The hospitality industry encompasses businesses of all sizes, in a variety of settings.  While your small cafe business has vastly different needs (and budget constraints) than a six hundred acre theme park, the end goal of both is the same: happy guests!  A competent and invested front line staff is your biggest asset when it comes to receiving and impressing clients.  But how to find them in a pool of prospects?


1. Look for passion

If we’re being realistic, most applicants are looking for a job because they need the money.  We all have to make a living, of course.  But it’s important to keep an eye out for those who are saying the right thing to get in the door, and don’t plan to invest much in their work.  Look for those who are actually enthusiastic about flipping burgers, answering telephones, and repeating themselves thirty times a day (ha!).

There are workers who exist that don’t mind the particulars of their daily jobs, when they know the service that they provide is part of the bigger picture.  In my personal experience, it’s not a passion that can be grown from a distaste for the work.  It can, however, be fueled by positive reinforcement and a supportive team environment.  One that you’re building as you create your ideal hospitality team!


Service Wins the Game - Tony Allesandra

2. Expect a desire for growth

While an interviewee may not blatantly state that she hopes to move up the ranks to director one day, listen for her career path direction.  A great employee will look for ways to grow with the company.  This is true of every industry, of course, but in hospitality the relationships we build with clients are priceless.

Hiring a team member who hopes to stick around, whether in your department or the neighboring one, ensures loyalty to the organization.  Great for those repeat customers, and great for the company overall.  A career seeker will contribute more positive energy than an undecided who hasn’t yet zeroed in on his end goal.


3. Pose sample scenarios

When asked organization-specific questions about plausible scenarios, does the interviewee give answers that she expects you want to hear?  Or does she think in a way that is novel to the rest of your team?  We know diversity is key in great teams, and the same is true of our approach to problem solving.

The more hands on deck, the more ideas tossed out, the less likely the ship is to sink.  Consider thinking outside the box to be a stellar asset.


4. Get a feel for personality

An interview allows you to experience a small snippet of a prospective employee’s personality.  It can be hard to deduce how much is best-face-forward, and how much is true nature.  However, it should be noticeable if this potential team member uses humor to diffuse negative or uncomfortable situations.

Behavior in an interview- a high stress environment- can tell us a lot about how this individual handles conflict.  Does he avoid eye contact and fidget when faced with a difficult question?  Does he stay calm and keep a poker face?  This can hint at how he’ll respond to difficulties on the customer service stage.


5. Aim for team cohesiveness

Power struggles can harsh the mellow of your work space- and ultimately result in the loss of A+ employees.

Power struggles can harsh the mellow of your work space- and ultimately result in the loss of A+ employees. Click To Tweet

Aim to blend a hospitality team with complementary traits, and avoid forcing dominant personalities into competing roles.  If your ideal employee is a cold-calling, hard-hitting sales machine, then a strong and independent personality suits your organization.

Conversely, if you’re hoping to blend a team of strategic thinkers that will team up to put your guests first, feel free to forward that sales machine to another department for consideration.

In conclusion

You want a passionate, forward- and quick-thinking personality that will mesh well with existing team members.  Hospitality is not the place for cranky or self-serving employees, and you’ll quickly learn through attentive interviewing which ones fit your expectations, and your business’s needs.

What is your number one demand for curating an exceptional hospitality staff?  Feel free to add to the list!