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Building a Great Candidate Experience in Hospitality

At your hotel, you’re used to putting a great deal of thought into your guest experience. But if you’re not putting the same emphasis on your candidate experience, you’re missing out on top talent — the true foundation of success in the hospitality space, as having enough skilled people on staff can make all the difference when it comes to driving long-term customer loyalty and ultimately revenue.

The candidate experience is more than just an easy application process. It’s about the overall effectiveness of your hiring process — everything from how you communicate and continue to keep candidates engaged to how you portray your company online and in-person. Sufficient to say perfecting your candidate experience can be a lot of work. So why is it necessary for your hotel?

The recent talent shortage continues to make attracting new talent increasingly difficult. It’s not only been tough to get folks to apply to your open roles, but to get talent to show up for interviews has proved challenging as of late for businesses across the country. Employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 2.2 million from its level in February 2020, and while a great candidate experience isn’t all that’s needed to retain your staff, it’s a great place to start when trying to attract talent that will not only do a great job, but will stick around long-term.

Following this outline will help you create a candidate experience that keeps talent engaged and excited about the opportunity to work at your hotel. 

Create an online presence

It’s pretty common that the first time a job seeker hears about your company is through a digital platform — whether that be LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or your website. For this reason, you need to make sure your company appears as appealing as possible across all channels. That means ensuring your career site is informative and enticing, with employee testimonials, highlights of what makes working for your hotel great, pictures of your staff at company events, and career growth opportunity callouts.

When it comes to social media — especially LinkedIn and Facebook, where applicants are likely to apply — you should talk about your open positions and employer brand. Showcase company awards and anything else that distinguishes you from the competition. 

Make your application process easy

Your job postings should be informative without being too long, SEO optimized, and the application itself should be short and to the point. For example, don’t make applicants submit a resume and fill out their job history. Keep the process concise and use skills tests to garner any additional information that you may not uncover from a resume.

And make sure your roles are mobile-optimized, because an increasing number of job applicants are relying on their mobile devices as their primary means for applying to jobs.

According to our 2021 applicant survey — in which we asked nearly 5000 new hires about their job search preferences — 46% of respondents said their smartphones were the tool they used the most during their recent job search. Ignoring the desires of applicants is an easy way to miss out on or turn away loads of qualified candidates.

Set expectations

Let applicants and candidates know what your timeline is for filling your open role. Each step of the way, give them an idea of what’s next. You can start with application submission by sending an automated response email that details how long before they’ll hear back from you. You can also include a look at what’s ahead, like skills tests, reference checks, and background checks. Once you’ve scheduled an interview, give an outline of who they’ll be talking to and their role so they can do some research beforehand. And during the interview, let candidates know when you’re hoping for them to start. 

Continuing to set expectations will prepare candidates for what’s next and get them excited about the process. It’s a great way to level set and make sure everyone is on the same page so they aren’t waiting to hear from you.

Personalize the process

Personalizing the experience is definitely a requirement for a great candidate experience. In the hospitality industry, personalization is one of the most necessary ways to keep guests happy, so it should be part of your employee experience as well.

Don’t let any interviewer go into a room with a candidate and ask “What’s your name again?” or any other clear indicator that they haven’t done their research. The best candidates spend a lot of time researching your hotel and learning about your company, so it’s important to make sure candidates don’t feel like they’ve wasted their time or are just a number. Each person should feel like their time is valuable.

Prioritize frequent communication

This goes for the interview, the time between making your decision, and after an offer letter is accepted. Frequent communication matters always.

People want to feel welcome and valued, and regular contact from you facilitates that. Not to mention, without a sense of urgency and frequent check-ins, talent can slip through your fingers, because 61% of applicants surveyed in the Hireology study mentioned above said their time to hire was under a month. Open the line of communication ASAP so your applicants don’t go looking elsewhere.

Set a response time goal for each step of your hiring process to keep communication flowing. Bonus points if you sprinkle in some text messages, as a growing number of candidates (20%) prefer text to any other communication form (not to mention companies that use text have hired up to 8 days faster than those that opt for more traditional communication).

Here’s what we suggest for candidates you’re excited about: 

  • 48 hours to respond to an applicant once an application has been submitted using email, phone, or text
  • Send an email with interview best practices one or two days prior to the interview, or a text reminder of the date and time
  • Text or call your candidate within one to two days of their interview to ask about their experience and set up more time to talk with your remaining hiring team if necessary
  • Follow up after the final interview to let them know you’re still interested and see how they’re feeling
  • Send the offer letter within 48 hours of their final interview

There’s of course some wiggle room with these times, but following this general outline will keep your process on track and help you fill your roles as quickly as possible.

And don’t discount the candidates that aren’t necessarily the exact right fit for the role. Keep your communication flowing with them as well so you can reach out to them in the future if a better fit opens up. 

Let candidates know why they aren’t a fit

Speaking of candidates that aren’t the right fit, giving feedback is extremely helpful to making sure candidates have a positive experience with your company. Letting someone know where they can grow or improve will not only give them some closure that many companies don’t offer, but it will make them more likely to apply again in the future when they’ve developed their skills a bit more. Plus, having actionable feedback rather than a vague “you weren’t the right fit” message will have a positive impact on your Glassdoor reviews as well, causing more people to apply. 

Each and every person that applies to your open roles is valuable and their experience matters, so make improvements where necessary to ensure you’re providing a quality experience to your candidates, just as you do for your staff and your customers. If you’re looking for more guidance on hotel staffing, check out this blog for tips to help you staff up for what’s ahead.

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