September 10, 2021
By Kim Campbell

Hospitality goes hand in hand with having a positive attitude, embracing others, and making guests feel at home. From small boutique hotels to booming vacation resorts, the hospitality industry is built on the guest experience, and hiring hotel staff is a major part of that. A rude or disruptive employee can negatively affect a hotel’s guest feedback scores, online reviews and, in the end, its overall success.

In this blog post, we take a deep dive into the process of hiring hotel staff, what to look for in potential employees, and the importance of having a strong team. To help, we spoke with an accomplished industry professional with two decades of experience in hospitality. Daniel Walters, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing with Kaylan Hospitality, spoke with us and provided his perspective on the hiring process, some best practices for hiring managers, and more.

Everything you need to know about hiring hotel staff

Hotels may seemingly operate as one big unit, but profitable hotel operations require the success of many moving parts. Every employee plays an integral role in the overall performance of a hotel. As a result, hoteliers know that hiring the right staff, and creating the right team, can make or break a property.

What does “hiring for hospitality” mean?

“Hiring for hospitality” is a philosophy of hiring hotel staff with hospitality at the front of your mind. Hotel employees are essentially the face of a hotel, and they comprise most of the interactions guests have while staying at a property. A meaningful interaction with a staff member could mean the world to a lonely or weary traveler, while a negative interaction could have significant consequences on the future success of your property. 

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Enthusiastic employees can help take positive guest experiences to the next level. Guest satisfaction is directly reflected in online scores and reviews, and it plays a big part in hotel reputation management. Tenured hoteliers know that, even with an older product, a hotel can excel with the right staff in place.

But before delving deeper into the intricacies of hiring with Mr. Walters, or Danny, as he prefers, let’s break down the hiring process as a whole. 

The process of hiring hotel staff

There are three main stages in the traditional hiring process: recruiting potential employees, the official hiring and onboarding process, and retaining hired employees. Hiring isn’t just about getting employees in the door; it’s also about getting them to stay.

  • Recruitment is the first stage of the hiring process. The recruiting process includes everything from writing job descriptions and posting online listings to working with local career services or attending area job fairs. At this stage, hiring managers are focusing on marketing available positions and appealing to potential candidates. The recruitment process also includes encouraging employee referrals and compiling a list of applications for review.
  • The hiring stage covers everything from meeting with a potential employee to onboarding them. This process includes pre-hire activities such as candidate interviews, screenings and background checks, as well as making an offer, having the offer accepted, and effectively onboarding a new employee.
  • Employee retainment occurs after the hiring process. Employee retention rates are strongly affected by staff satisfaction, their level of trust in management, and how valued employees feel.

Recruiting the right candidates

Successfully recruiting candidates starts with reaching those candidates. There are various tools and tips hiring managers can use to aid in their efforts.

  • Craft detailed job descriptions and market your listings well. Online platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, and even Facebook can help hoteliers reach a large audience of job-seekers. Craft detailed job descriptions that clearly outline the position: Job duties, responsibilities, full-time or part-time information, and potential scheduling options. Highlight any preferred candidate skills or required training. Include any background check or drug screening requirements in your posts to prevent wasting time later in the hiring process. Additionally, be sure to include employee perks and benefits information in all job descriptions to better appeal to serious candidates.
  • Recruit hospitable candidates by advertising for attitude. In addition to clearly outlining job details, benefits, and expectations, use job descriptions as an opportunity to appeal to individuals with a personality for hospitality.
    • Look for candidates with a positive attitude. Hoteliers know to expect the unexpected, so look for employees who can encounter unforeseen challenges and stay positive.
    • Hotel success relies heavily on the ability of different departments to work together, and strong communication skills are a valuable asset in potential team members.
    • Professionalism is a vital part of any customer service role. In the hospitality industry, guest service is a top priority.
    • Hotel operations are a team effort, so punctuality and reliability matter. Employees who fail to show up on time or put effort into their work may end up putting additional stress on fellow employees.

Helpful tips for interviewing and hiring

The interview process is the ultimate opportunity for hiring managers to get to know a candidate before moving forward with the hiring process. Because the hospitality industry is such a personable one, there are a lot of details to consider when interviewing a potential employee and selecting the right candidate.

Are they interested in a career in hospitality? Do they enjoy making others feel welcome and comfortable? Are they comfortable speaking with or assisting people they don’t know?


Our interview with Danny really kicked off when we started digging into his interview processes. We wanted to know what questions he asks potential candidates, as well as what he learns from their responses. With a long history of hiring for various departments, he told us his favorite question to ask candidates.

“I have always liked asking candidates to tell me what they think the expectations of the position are," he told us. "I want to hear from the candidate’s perspective ‘what the job is.’ It allows me to see how they view that position and is very telling about what they see as the most important aspects of that role."

If you find yourself struggling to get a candidate to open up, consider asking some open-ended questions:

  • “What does hospitality mean to you?” This is a wonderful question that can help a hiring manager uncover how a candidate feels about the industry as a whole. This can also help hiring managers identify candidates who are more interested in the specific job than a career in hospitality, per se — which is perfectly fine too!
  • “Explain a time you overcame a challenge.” Use this prompt to see how a candidate describes themselves, as well as what they may view as a challenge. An excellent follow-up question would be, “How have you handled a workplace conflict in the past.”
  • “What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?” An engaging question, asking this of a potential employee can give the interviewer deep insight into what they value personally. It can also help spark further questions about individual goals or the kind of personal growth they’re seeking.

When offering the position to a candidate, be sure to provide them with any pertinent information when they accept the job. In addition to the start date and time, clearly outline any materials they will need to bring on their first day, such as a photo ID, driver’s license (if required), social security documents, or emergency contact information. This will help the onboarding process run smoothly. 

How to retain top talent

Employee retention is a struggle consistently faced by hotels. The average turnover rate for hotels in the U.S. is around 73%. However, managers can improve their employee retention rates, keeping strong employees for longer, by both creating a work environment that values employees and working hard to ensure that every member on the team feels supported.

  • Create an “employee-first” culture. We asked Danny what his number one piece of advice would be for hotels struggling to retain staff, and he didn’t hesitate: “Create a strong, welcoming, and inclusive employee-first culture,” he said. How do you do that? “A strong culture can be created by offering honest wages, good benefits, opportunities to grow, and career training while seeking to elevate people’s natural talents,” he said.
  • Provide strong employee benefits. Over half of the employees surveyed by TechnologyAdvice Research ranked employee benefits as "very or moderately important" when evaluating a job. Offering health insurance, retirement benefits, paid sick leave, ample vacation time, or even opportunities for remote work could have a large impact on a hotel’s retention rate.
  • Encourage personal development and career growth. Employees will stay with a company longer when they feel valued, and one of the best ways hotels can value their staff is to invest in their career growth. In fact, 93% of employees say they are willing to stay longer at a company that is committed to investing in their career.
  • Invest in training. According to Employee Benefits News, it costs a company 33% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them. While additional training services or classes may be an extra expense, investing in well-trained and supported employees may cost a lot less in the long run, especially for hotels with significant turnover rates. Additionally, cross-training employees in different departments is a fantastic way for hotel managers to help prevent employee burnout.
  • Create an employee referral program. Consider implementing a policy that rewards employees for candidate referrals. Create a program that rewards both the referring employee and the new hire after certain goals are met. If a referral is hired and remains with the company for at least six months, for example, hotel managers could reward both employees with a monetary bonus. Referral programs of this nature may help encourage current employees to make reliable candidate proposals. They can also help promote teamwork and peer support, as employees will actively want to help referred employees succeed so they both reach the reward.

Danny has over 19 years of experience across various hotels and with multiple hospitality management companies. He has seen an array of employee retention problems, numerous referral programs, and a variety of employee incentives — some successful and some not. He understands the power of employee satisfaction and how it directly impacts retention, and he knows that hotel success starts with an empowered staff.

“I think in a digital age we have forgotten the importance of word-of-mouth referrals," he said. "We often rely on online ads and job postings, but when you create a solid culture, your employees will naturally want to tell their friends, family, and neighbors about the company." 

Frequently asked questions about hiring hotel staff

Other than online job sites, where can I find hotel staff?

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to recruiting new employees. Research local job search resources in your area. Are there upcoming job fairs you can attend? Can you leave information with your county employment office? Consider reaching out to colleges and universities in your area to speak with their hospitality department. 

What kind of staff do I need to hire for my hotel?

Focus on creating a team that takes pride in a job well done and appreciates the value of teamwork. Seek employees with a positive attitude, a friendly demeanor, and a reliable history of employment. Don’t shy away from giving individuals new to the workforce their first job, however, as it can be easier to train an employee from the ground up than to re-train an employee with bad habits.

How many employees do hotels need?

The size of a hotel’s staff can vary greatly depending on the type of hotel — the size of the property, the number of guest rooms, the services the hotel provides, and so on. While a small inn may only require one or two front desk members and a small staff to manage housekeeping and property maintenance, a large hotel may require hundreds of employees to operate efficiently.

What do hotels look for when hiring staff?

When hiring hotel staff, managers often look for candidates who are approachable, empathetic, and enthusiastic. Successful managers also frequently seek out potential employees who represent the goals and values of their company.

How do you hire hotel staff quickly?

Have a clear outline of your hiring process and know how long each step will take. Try to make the most of candidate reviews by scheduling multiple interviews in one day. This is also helpful for managers and hiring staff looking to fill a position with many applicants. If your property performs background checks or drug screenings, try to get both started immediately after the interview process. Additionally, know a candidate's availability and start date ahead of time in case you want to make a job offer as soon as the results come back.

Make hiring hotel staff and building out a top-tier team a priority!

Up next: You know what your employees, both present and future, want. But what about guests? Our guide to what guests want from a hotel takes a deep dive into the importance of catering to all of the different types of guests who may frequent your property. 

How can we help?

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list. Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.
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