If you're a hospitality professional, chances are high that your employment has been affected by the ongoing coronavirus. But businesses are now looking towards reopening, and job opportunities are becoming increasingly available. Your best chance at success is being prepared and knowing what to expect.
Read on for advice from an experienced hospitality hiring manager on how to ace a hospitality interview and trial.
So you've written up a killer hospitality resume, and got yourself an interview at a great venue. Congrats! Unfortunately, getting your foot in the door is only half the battle in hospitality.
When you're looking for work in hospitality, it can be quite tempting to under-prepare or "wing" your interview - especially if you've got a bit of experience under your belt. But the workplace culture can differ a lot between different hospitality venues, which is why it's absolutely vital to do your due diligence before an interview.
Good news! Reading this article is a chunk of your due diligence done.
As a hospitality professional with over 10 years of experience, I conducted a lot of job interviews - and there were mistakes that came up time and time again. So to give yourself the best chance possible at coming out your next interview feeling like a superstar, read on for my top tips.
Treat a hospitality interview like you would a corporate interview
As a hiring manager in hospitality, this is probably the number one mistake I saw candidates make. Even when I was holding interviews for more senior roles, where applicants were very experienced, many of them would treat the application and interview far too casually.
This may seem like straightforward common sense, but I saw these issues again and again. Any of the following would usually get candidates turned straight into my mental ‘no-go’ file:
- Approaching the application like buying a second-hand sofa – i.e. “Hey man, is the job avail?”
- Turning up late for the interview
- Ignoring, or being rude, to any of the other staff present before, during, or after the interview
- No call and no show (on many occasions, candidates just plain didn’t turn up and then asked to reschedule the interview after the fact – not a good look)
Remember: regardless of the venue or type of role you’re applying to, it’s always safer to go in too formal and become more casual if appropriate than risk offending or looking unprofessional.
Dress for the job you want
In corporate environments, this advice usually means turning up to your interview wearing business attire, even if you think the office will be fairly casual. This is excellent advice, because it shows you’re organized enough to prepare properly, understand the culture of the industry, and take the job seriously.
In hospitality, the exact same advice applies. Obviously this doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit (although dressing more formally might be appropriate for some roles and venues, such as hotel management or fine dining).
What it does mean is turning up wearing the most formal clothes you would expect to wear if you were already on staff. In a restaurant, this might mean black trousers and a collared shirt. In a suburban café, this might mean clean and tidy jeans (no trendy rips!) and a plain shirt.
Ideally, you would have found a way to figure out what staff usually wear (either by visiting the venue before your interview, or a sneaky look on Instagram) and dress accordingly. Bonus points if you spy a uniform and dress to reflect that!
Like it or not, first impressions really matter in interviews – and how you present yourself says a huge amount about you before you even get to open your mouth.
The same goes for your personal grooming. Demonstrate that you’re familiar with health and safety codes – if the role will require you to work around food, arrive at your interview with hair up and out of your face, facial hair kept trimmed, hands and nails clean, and so on.
In fact, you may well be asked to demonstrate any practical skills you claim to have experience with. Interviewers will be looking for signs that you understand the demands of both the industry and the role. Which brings us to our next point…
Be prepared to back up your resume in person
This goes doubly if you’ve claimed to have practical skills. Gun barista with expert latte art skills? Get ready to jump behind their espresso machine at a moment’s notice. Wrote that you’ve worked with a specific POS software before? If they also use it, they’ll want to see that you can navigate it easily.
Don’t assume that practical skills will be taken for granted, or left until a trial shift. In hospitality, interviews are often held during business hours and hiring can happen very quickly, so hiring managers need to be able to tell lightning-fast if you’re a suitable candidate. The easier you make this on them, by eagerly and confidently demonstrating your knowledge and skills, the faster they’ll warm up to you.
You should also be prepared for any questions they may ask you – both general job interview questions as well as hospitality-specific interview questions.
If you don’t have any skills or experience, don’t worry! Unless you’ve applied to a senior or management role, these attributes aren’t the be-all and end-all.
Did you know that completing Typsy courses earns you certificates? Upskill in any area from espresso to culinary to management, and receive a printable and shareable micro-credential to prove your skills and impress your manager and network alike.
Most importantly: be honest and earnest
Throughout my hospitality career, I interviewed so many candidates who had clearly lied about their experience to get their foot in the door.
It’s incredibly obvious almost immediately when staff lack experience in hospitality, no matter the role. There are so many small, nuanced habits that can only really be picked up with solid training and experience – the way guests are addressed, how orders are collated and entered. Even the way water glasses are set down and poured can be a give-away. To an eagle-eyed hiring manager, that kind of experience is not something that can be faked.
Being lied to is incredibly frustrating, and is also a huge red flag – if this candidate is comfortable lying in the interview, will they be dishonest on the job? It calls your integrity into question. Just don’t do it.
But – and this is important – skills and experience are only part of the package, especially for more junior roles.
Above all, go into a job interview with a good attitude. The right personality and a sunny disposition goes much further than experience on its own.
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Hospitality is a fast-paced industry, requiring the ability to stay calm under pressure, think on your feet, and eagerness to finish any task asked of you, even if it’s not strictly ‘your job’.
The ideal approach is to be able to tell a hiring manager, “This particular thing is a weakness/knowledge gap/blind spot of mine, but I’m aware of it and am eager to upskill in that area. However, I have particular strength in XYZ”.
The best thing you can do in a hospitality interview is be confident in the knowledge and skills you already have, forthcoming and earnest about those that you don’t, be professional and polite, and demonstrate you’re familiar with both the venue and applicable health and safety regulations.
Keep those tips in mind, and you’ll ace any interview you go for.
Have a question? We’re always ready to talk.
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