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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Hired in Hospitality

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • Why Is Breaking in So Difficult?

  • The One Thing You Should Know Before Applying to Any Hospitality Job

  • The Three Golden Rules for Drafting Your Resume

  • Nailing Your Job Interview in Six Simple Steps

  • Conclusion


In my 30+ years spent studying customer loyalty in the hospitality industry, I’ve often been approached by those looking to “break in.” It’s such a common question, in fact, that I decided to document my insights and suggestions in the form of an eBook. In this publication, I’ll discuss the unique differences of getting hired in hospitality; what managers are really looking for in an ideal candidate; the most common (and avoidable) mistakes made by those trying to break in; and what to expect during the interview process. By the end, you’ll be equipped with essentially everything you need to know to kick start a successful career in hospitality.

Let’s dig in then, shall we?

Why Is Breaking in So Difficult?

When it comes to hospitality, getting your foot in the door is often more difficult than even well-prepared graduates may think. Why? Well, that’s part of it. One of the most significant parts of the hiring process is understanding why: why a company operates the way it does, why customers behave the way they do, why you need to measure up to certain potentials. The other crucial part of this process, of course, is how. It’s not a question of whether you can perform the required tasks, but rather how you perform them. Mastering “why” and “how” is the biggest barrier to entry for many looking to break in.

Think about it: the customer experience is the last true differentiator for companies today. This is exactly why 89 percent now compete solely based on the customer experience. Hospitality, of course, is no exception to this rule. Every business in hospitality relies on maintaining a positive reputation as a brand that delivers truly memorable guest experiences. This reputation is largely earned or lost through the employees that are hired. Consider that 69 percent of job seekers would not take a job with a company that has a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed. In a world today where companies like AirBnb now offer competitive digital hospitality experiences, employees have emerged as arguably the last greatest asset for hotels to remain market relevant, differentiated and profitable.

Driven by customer demand for greater quality, agility and speed, hospitality employees today can no longer leisurely coast. They can no longer rely on just education or training. Their job is no longer about simply performing a task (after all, isn’t it expected that every employee can do so?) Rather, it’s about being able to engage guests based on the anticipation of their needs. It’s about being situationally aware of customers, and treating them accordingly. Today, customers should feel as though hospitality employees know them so inherently that they have no choice but to return.

Long gone are the days where simply being knowledgeable was enough. Long gone is the time when fulfilling your job meant simply being able to use a computer system or make phone calls. Driving this next-generation guest experience (while, of course, treating every customer with respect and dignity) is the only true way to lock in long-term loyalty. For managers, this means hiring employees who have a sixth sense about the customer experience and who treat guests with respect—two things that can be difficult to gauge from a basic resume and interview.

In short, a hospitality job isn’t about what you can do: it’s about why and how you do it. Education and training are formalities; meanwhile, the customer experience is the beating heart of hospitality.

The One Thing You Should Know Before Applying To Any Hospitality Job 

Hospitality is a continually evolving industry with ample job opportunities (overall employment in the industry has been steadily increasing month-over-month since 2012). But you need the right strategy to snag one, even before you fill out an application. So, what’s the one thing to know before applying? Above all—sterling qualifications, stellar design—is the need to inherently know the company you are applying to. In short, this means doing your due diligence. Put your nose to the grindstone to find out what each company does; understand how they do it; and grasp why they do it.

This doesn’t mean you need to assemble a large file on each company. What it means is that you must ensure you are familiar with the basics of each place you plan to apply to. Read each company’s mission statement. Know what each brand takes pride in and, more importantly, how you can help them enhance in that area. This means understanding the differences of applying for a role in hospitality geared toward business travelers, verses applying for the same role in a business that caters primarily to tourists. Also, try and read a few online reviews to get a sense of why different target customers are loyal to each brand.

No doubt about it: before you apply to any hospitality job, you must have a finger on the pulse of the company you’re applying to.

The Three Golden Rules For Drafting Your Resume

Did you know that every job opening attracts an average 250 resumes, but only five are strong enough to be considered for an interview? Every job application process begins with the resume, but being hired depends on the strategy behind that piece of paper.

Here are my three golden rules for drafting your best resume:

  1. Keep information concise: Pretty self-explanatory here. I would advise keeping your resume to one page.

  2. Focus on your skills and accomplishments: Potential employers will always be more interested in what you achieved in previous roles, verses your daily tasks or responsibilities there. What positive impact did you make on your previous employers, and what skills did you use or build to do so? Also, keep in mind that you must demonstrate how the skills you’ve developed match what your potential employer is looking for. Are you a people-person? Detail-oriented? Visual-centric? Most importantly, consider how these skills can be transferable across departments or industries. The goal is to tout yourself as a dynamic, multifaceted worker who is capable of wearing several hats.

  3. Typos are obliterating: Often, an unspoken aspect of any hospitality job is getting every detail right the first time; therefore, editing and formatting are critical. Typos look particularly glaring on resumes and, in some cases, even have candidates rejected out of hand. Screen your resume carefully before sending it in; have a few friends read it to ensure it’s clear and easily digestible. Do not shrug this off.

Nailing Your Job Interview In Six Simple Steps

A well-drafted resume will likely result in an offer to come interview for the role. At this point, one common mistake I see people make is that they assume the job is practically theirs on the offer of an interview, only to walk out surprised they didn’t get it. Remember: hospitality is extremely competitive.

Here are six simple steps that create the kind of interview that locks in roles:

Step 1: Remember that an Interview Is Not One-Sided

I’ve found that in hospitality, an interview is often as much about ensuring the company is a good fit for you as you’re a good fit for the company. Ask questions throughout the interview, and be sure to show enthusiasm. If you really want to work at a company, it’ll show. Also, couch your questions in ways that visualize you in the role. For example, ask the interviewer how you can specifically help in the role you’re applying for, and then follow-up by discussing what you can do. Hiring managers always tell me they want to see enthusiasm; showing that you’re already considering the role yours is a good way to show them what they’re looking for.

Step 2: Ask Smart Questions

Ask your hiring manager about the job, the brand, and the challenges you might find yourself facing in the role. BUT BEWARE: Do not ask about things that you can learn by browsing the Web. These are simply questions, verses smart questions. As I mentioned, do your due diligence. At the same time, however, recognize opportunities to learn about the brand from the employer’s unique point of view. Be sure to ask only about information that the interviewer knows about, and be detailed about your questions. Show that you’ve taken the time to study the company. Let your questions show that you have a sense of the company’s culture and how you ideally fit into it.

Step 3: Offer Concrete Answers

You would never give vague answers to important questions in your current role, so be sure you don’t do so in your interview. Be concrete in your discussion; for example, talk about specific strategies you’d use when solving problems and why you’d use them over others. The more specific and concrete your answers are, the better impression you’ll make.

Step 4: Follow Up on Your Questions

When your interviewer answers a question of yours, think for a moment about follow-up questions you might want to ask. For example, you may ask the manager if you feel there’s room for improvement in the department he or she is looking to hire you into. If he or she says “yes,” you can then ask how you can help do so by tapping into specific skills or performing tasks outside of the given job requirements. In other words, what above-and-beyond characteristics or job duties can you assume to get business to where it needs to be?

Step 5: Talk About Challenges You Faced and How You Solved Them

At any job, something will inevitably go wrong for reasons that are out of your control. It’s happened to me, and it’s likely happened to you. But, as we all know, these challenges are learning opportunities. We can extract crucial learning lessons from these challenging experiences and transform them into useful ideas for improvement. Emphasize these types of stories in your interview, as well as how they translate to the hospitality industry.

Step 6: End on A Positive Note

When you wrap up the interview, always take a moment to thank who you’re speaking with for their time. Be sure to follow up in a day or two with a thank you note, as well. Remember: memorable experiences always begin with those you work with/for. And again, attention to detail helps you stand out as somebody who needs to be hired in an employer’s mind.


In the end, there’s only so much you can do as a prospective employee to get your foot in the door. Don’t become discouraged if progress doesn’t happen right away; I can tell you from firsthand experience that you’re probably not going to break in on the first interview. Another candidate may do better, have more experience or have family connections they can leverage. It happens all the time, and it will likely happen to you. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t skilled, proficient, strategic or qualified. It simply means a better opportunity awaits.

The key is to keep trying. Keep redrafting your resume, applying to jobs, and following up on tips that someone might be hiring. Above all, keep a focus on making a positive impression no matter where you go. I’ve found that hospitality managers will contact previous candidates to come back in for an interview when they’ve made a good impression, or recommend a good interview that wasn’t necessarily the right fit for that company, but might be ideal for another. With hard work, you will get to where you want and need to be.

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