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Hotel chains are gung-ho about their robust pipelines, but have they thought about how to efficiently build the future of their staff as they build their future properties? Some have, and comedy sketches, a cappella performances and role-playing guest scenarios are the smart future of hotel hiring rather than stuffy, crowded job fairs.

Hotels spew the terms personalization and authenticity in every pitch they make regarding guest experience and that trend helped give birth to thinking of the hiring process as a stage instead of an office.

Applying online when large hotels receive tens of thousands of applications for as many open positions disadvantages potential employees from demonstrating their unique qualities and prevents hotels from ensuring they’re hiring the right people for their brand. That’s why some hotels no longer refer to hiring as the application process, instead calling it a casting call or audition.

Hyatt and AccorHotels have tested this hiring scheme and found it’s helped identify employees closely aligned with their brands, with Tokyo’s Andaz Hotel testing auditions for open positions and Amsterdam’s INK Hotel (part of Accor) running similar experiments with casting calls. These auditions, which essentially ask potential employees to role-play various scenarios of the guest experience, don’t replace one-on-one interviews with hiring managers but they do save hotels time by determining who to funnel through a series of interviews.

Last December Accor posted a video (see below) about employment opportunities for Amsterdam’s newly-opened INK Hotel on its social networks which helped garner 400 applications in two weeks, many of them in the forms of poems, videos and even newspaper articles. A few weeks later on casting day, as the hotel termed it, 125 people showed up at the Amsterdam hotel and went through interviews, fulfilled a group task, acted out in stand-up comedy and developed moodboards.

“The purpose of all that was to spot the best brewers, masterminds, chemists, connectors, flavor makers, fortune tellers and directors of first impressions,” said Stephane Rousseau, SVP of Human Resources and Employer Branding for Accor. “This casting call had a simple goal: to offer an original travel experience provided by a staff reflecting a new generation of caring hotels with a unique, assertive personality.”

The INK Hotel ended up hiring 60 of those 125 people who vied to become the faces of that property’s image, which Rousseau said correlates to Millennials and Gen Zs. Accor has more than half a million applications on file around the world at any given time, a number that Robb Webb, Hyatt’s chief human resources officer, can also relate to and one he knows makes job applicants concerned.

“An 18-year-old woman from the South Side of Chicago recently asked me at an event Hyatt did with a school there ‘how am I supposed to stand out with all of these applications you receive online? I don’t think applying online is helpful to me or to you,'” Webb said. “I completely agree with that woman and that’s why we’re really rethinking our online application process by looking at a new online questionnaire that we’ll test over time.”

Apart from the staff auditions at Tokyo’s Andaz Hotel, Webb said Hyatt’s overhauled its three-minute staff orientation videos from teaching employees specific tasks to demonstrating more holistic responsibilities they have regarding guest experience, particularly with the arrivals process.

“We’re moving away from telling employees things like ‘did you use the guest’s name twice in the first 30 seconds of meeting them?” said Webb.

Hotel Positions in Demand

Many hotels have taken traditional staff positions and tailored them to represent service guests have wanted for years but didn’t always find.

Accor’s Pullman Hotels, for example, created its Welcomer position in 2013 that spins off the conventional front desk and concierge roles and blends them both together–and them some. This video introduces the concept behind Welcomers and how they’re essentially connectors to everything and anything a guest could want and need during a stay, from touring a property’s event space to arranging airport transfers and room upgrades.

Rousseau said various Accor brands increasingly hire for community/social media managers and that there’s a “surge in need” for revenue managers. The conversation interviewees have when meeting one-on-one with hiring managers has also morphed, like many other industries, into discussing the employee’s future beyond their time at company A or B.

“Something I wouldn’t ask in an interview today is ‘what are your greatest development needs?'” said Webb. “That’s the same as asking a guest ‘is this your first time in New York?’ Are you really going to do anything differently whether their response is one way or the other? But what I would always ask is ‘at the end of your career, you’re being honored for all your accomplishments. What would you like to be honored for, and by who?'”

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Tags: employees, hiring, hyatt

Photo credit: Employees wait for clients in front of the luxury hotel Le Bristol in Paris, France. Stephane Mahe / Reuters

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