Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Attitude, Trumps Experience Every Time

I’ve done a lot of hiring over the years, a lot.

Most recently, I opened a Hotel in the highly competitive Vancouver marketplace. We needed to fill approximately 100 positions to open, and we had, on average 50 – 75 applicants for each position, and I met with each and every candidate that we brought in for an interview, and were considering for a position.

What was my role? I had one objective and only one objective, to determine whether or not they had the attitude I was looking for in building a truly engaged and empowered team. Department Managers screened the candidates for experience, education, related skills, etc., and their perspective on attitude, and they had interviewed everyone that I saw, before I saw them.

People often ask me, whether as a part of this process, or, when I am asked to speak at a University or College, which is better, experience or education?
I always enjoy answering because I initially get to say; “neither, I hire for attitude.”

Now, needless to say, both education and experience have their place, and I do let them know that. Especially the students who are at that exact moment asking themselves why they spent the time and money to go to school if I just told them that hiring is based on attitude.

But, at the end of the day, we are in the hospitality business, and everything that we do is predicated on service. If someone does not grasp that basic principle, and what’s more, doesn’t get down right excited about it, then I don’t care if they know how to work the computer system better than the person next to them.

We can teach people how to do the mechanics of what we need them to do, but we can’t teach attitude. You either have it, or you don’t, and I do believe that, you either have it or you don’t.

One of my favourite examples of this was when I worked at a remote resort, in the Canadian Rockies. We had staff housing because we were so remote, where we housed about 80% of our employees, and, we had approximately 90% turnover a year, about 300 employees, again, as a by-product of being a remote resort.

As a result, we were ALWAYS hiring, and ALWAYS training, and we hired a lot of young people, fresh out of school, and they were as green as grass, but they were SO positive it was infectious.

Every once in a while I would see one of them checking someone in, or serving a guest their breakfast, and it was obvious that they weren’t quite sure what they were doing, but they were smiling, caring, genuinely positive people, and guests would forgive their shortcomings when it took them a few extra minutes to check someone in, or, they forgot the toast with the breakfast order.

I found that even when a guest complained, they would complain about what happened, not who did it, and in fact would often say things about how pleasant the person was, or, it wasn’t their fault.

And even though guests could have penalized us because the “service” was not as crisp as it could have been, we consistently had guest service scores in the top 3 of our chain, month after month, year after year, so you be the judge.

What do you think guests remembered about that Resort?

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