Monday, August 7, 2017

What are some interview questions for a general manager of a hotel?

So, you want to run one of our hotels?
This is a question that I took my time answering because I wanted to 'finish' it. But I'm never going to 'finish' it. Even if I could give you an exhaustive list, anyone who approached interviewing applicants for hotel manager accountabilities intelligently and responsibly would keep changing it or adding to it.
(I don't want you to have an exhaustive list, anyway -- I don’t like people ‘gaming’ my interviews, and giving up an exhaustive list would be like posting the 'right' answers in advance for those who'd want to access them.)
I'll add more as I have time and opportunity.
Pic #1 - Job Interview Tips
Frankly, I think the whole model of job seeking, resume-writing, and interviewing that prevails, is a sick game to begin with. Like a parole hearing in a prison it rewards, and even reinforces and encourages, inauthenticity; and it penalizes honest applicants.  The interviewee tells the interviewer whatever he or she wants to hear, the interviewer knows this and corrects (often as not overcorrecting) accordingly, both sides try to look good, very little true communication occurs; and if any subsequent choices or decisions made on the basis of the conversation turn out to be correct or even respectable, it's by not much more than chance. Actual studies have shown that you can make decisions almost as well as most any employment interviewer by simply deciding it on the basis of a coin toss.
But unfortunately, we're stuck with it -- like Sir Winston Churchill said of democracy and its well-known dysfunctions, no one's ever been able to come up with a different way of doing it that works even that well.
That's why I try to come up with questions that are not so easy, for people who want to tell me what I want to hear, hoping to manipulate the outcome in their favor, to anticipate the 'correct' answers to. It’s also why a short class in listening and re-creation, the way the Landmark Introduction Leaders’ Program trains people in doing it, is something that I try to give most people that I have doing any interviewing for anything more than a low-level hourly employee.

Our e-mail notices that we send out to confirm a date and time advise applicants to dress casual. Casual dress prevails at our properties that don't operate under a franchise requirement prescribing a uniform: show up for an interview with me, and I'm going to be wearing blue jeans and sneakers. (What we don't tell them is that we'll notice it if someone's abusing the privilege, and make a note of it. Casual is one thing, but in a hotel, too much is too much. More to the point, we want people who will behave in acceptable, if not always expected, ways in the absence of a lot of rules.)

  • "What business is a hotel in?"
To the extent that hotels are in any kind of 'service' business, they're in the lodging -- most characterize it as 'hospitality' -- business. For Beechmont, this consists of basically two responsibilities:
  • First, creating and maintaining the environment. Providing and maintaining the hotel as a safe, comfortable, and nurturing environment for our guests, doing all things that are necessary or desirable for the sound, economical nurturing of that environment, and finding and taking advantage of every opportunity to enhance and improve that environment; in keeping with our commitment to make the best, most economical and profitable use of the property; and finding and maintaining the correct balance between user-optimal and system-optimal for the guests.
  • Then - and ultimately - making a real, positive difference. Within that environment, finding and taking advantage of every opportunity to a recognizable and appreciable positive difference for the individual guests. (Not wasting time, effort or resources on things that don't make a recognizable, appreciable and positive difference to the guests is equally important: doing so stresses the staff and the facility unnecessarily and to no good purpose, and detracts from our mission to find and do things that do make a recognizable, appreciable and positive difference to the guests.) Rule One in any business is always keep the person who's paying happy.
  • These two responsibilities are inseparable. The second is not possible without the first, the first is wasted without following up with the second.
This is what we demand of both our facilities and our employees. Do those two things, and all the warm, fuzzy, subjective stuff - 'being hospitable', 'making the guest feel welcome', 'customer satisfaction'; etc. -- should be handled. Miss (or screw up) a chance to do either, and we need to make a correction: we're not maintaining the environment and/or making a real, positive difference for the guest; and cannot count upon the warm, fuzzy things coming into bloom as a result.
I'm either going to get a response out of the applicant that reflects an understanding of that, or we're going to have a conversation about it and I'm going to walk him or her into that understanding, and look for some buy-in on the part of the applicant.
How to lose points on this question: overreliance on 'service'. How do you 'serve' your guests? If the learner didn't learn, then the teacher didn't teach: if the guest isn't being served in ways he notices and appreciates, then it's not service. You're just trying to push responsibility on your staff that you should step up to yourself. And I certainly want to see a personal commitment to service: don't make me think the kind of things I'll think about you if you show up as the kind of person who feels that 'service' is something you make your underlings do.

This is a natural follow-on to the previous question, if the answer to it didn't come close to being all it should be. But even if that question did get a good answer, I'm going to ask it anyway: it creates an opening to share a little important information about how we do things.

  • "On your application, you tell us that you worked at the Courtyard in Podunk for three years. But what we got back on your reference checks is that you worked there just under two years. What's up with that?"
This isn't my first question, but I ask it early on. I want to see how the applicant responds to getting busted, being called out on something. Will (s)he get belligerent or defensive, or try to fast-talk or smooth-talk or glib-talk his or her way out of it; or will (s)he own the 'mistake' and take responsibility for it and agree to never let it happen again?
It also lays the groundwork for our talk about how everyone has something in their past that's not all it should be: I'm going to give you every chance to communicate to me the best you have to offer; in return, let's be candid with each other up front. Anyone we hire is going to have problems. If we know what we're getting in to, we can anticipate them and deal with them as they come up, and find ways to compensate for them in the meanwhile so they won't be such a problem.
(Any material inconsistency or omission that can be made into grounds for calling it a falsified application and archiving it will do, and my cynical observation over the years is that every application has at least one; and if we didn't find it, we didn't do a very good job on our end of background and reference checking. If we did that badly, we'll make do with a flaw in the application -- that we discovered on our own, not amounting to a misrepresentation -- that we'd normally ask about in a similar question toward the end; and if we didn't discover at least one of those, I'm going to put someone else doing reference checks from now on. If your application indicates that you're someone who can turn water into wine, or heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons with a voice command, I'm going to demand an ID and make sure, O Lord, that's it's really You.)

  • "Name three or four people to whom you have made a significant contribution to their business or career success."
This is a canned interview question that turned up in a recent Inc magazine article, but I like the concept behind it. The people I want to hear about are coworkers or subordinates; because I want each of my own people contributed to, and I want people working here who I can count on to look for ways to do that. On the other hand, if the only people you consider 'worthy' of your generosity are higher-ups, or someone who can maybe do something for you in return if you impress them, if it's all about yourself and making yourself look good . . . well, I own the company, I don't have to impress anyone with this great new person I hired; and if you actually can double my revenue without wrecking my operation, the potential for that should show up elsewhere in your background or pedigree.

  • "Bad" questions. Some people, and some 'human resources professionals', believe that these are the worst interview questions you can ask, but I ask them anyway, I am confident based on years of observation and experience in the value of them (for the reasons shown where they came up as individual topics in a previous question on Quora, which I linked for each), and I'd better like your answer.
  • ”Why should I hire you?”
  • ”What is your biggest weakness?”"
For many interview questions, few if any people are going to get the answer just 'right', what I'm looking for is a better answer than the other applicants to whom I threw that same question; and you can score a few points or maybe be penalized a few with each, but as long as your other qualities can perhaps compensate, you still have a chance.
Questions like these, by contrast, can be 'dealbreakers'. Give just the wrong answer on a question like this and . . ."it was nice meeting you, best of luck to you, we'll call you if something comes up . . .". Maybe.

  • "Tell me the differences between hotels like Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard, Fairfield, or Hampton Inn; and hotels like Comfort Suites, Wingate, LaQuinta, or Country Inn and Suites by Radisson."
  • "At which of those brands, or two sets of properties, would it work out best to have you as a general manager, and why?"
  • "What kind of person would work out best as general manager for either of these types of properties?"
All of these are Class A, mid-market hotel brands. 'First-tier' franchises like Marriott, Hilton, and IHG brands, have an automatic transmission, an autopilot, and maybe some self-driving capability; all of course provided by the franchise organization. Other Class A franchises have a stick shift or maybe a tiptronic, and you need a different kind of driving (and maybe some mechanical) skill.
If you dance with Marriott, Hilton, or IHG, they're going to lead. Dance with any of the others, and if you don't lead, there's going to be a leadership void that's going to badly affect the performance of your property. That's why, if you compare their published rates in any town, these other brands nearly always seem to underperform by contrast to Marriott, Hilton, and IHG-branded properties. It's not because they're inferior brands. (They are inferior brands, but there is more than one reason why, and it's a little more complex than that. We want people who can compete successfully against Marriott, Hilton and IHG even if they're not running a Marriott, Hilton or IHG property.)
Hilton, Marriott and IHG brands (Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard, Fairfield, or Hampton Inn), have highly fixed standards, much more of a structure for the management of the hotel to which franchisees who operate under their brands must conform, and are viewed by many as more supportive of their franchisees in their individual locations; but stifling of individual initiative by the ownership or management of one of their franchised properties might be a problem from time to time. The others have slightly more flexible standards and aren't as tightly structured, but they can also be a bit more weak in their support of their individually franchised properties: you won't get as many referrals out of their central reservations system, and you can only hope that the revenue that they generate for you is worth the cost of having the franchise.
A manager who will have absolute faith in the brand, the management company, the franchise organization standing behind it, and their established structures and procedures; and who keeps that faith religiously, can be counted on to link up with the brand reps and work very closely with the organization, and is meticulous about conforming to their standards in every respect; would do well with an Express, Courtyard, Fairfield, or Hampton, and find more honor, status, and a greater sense of job security in doing so.
A manager who has high confidence in himself or herself, who is okay with being on his own with it, whose strong suit is individual initiative, who is up for more of a challenge, who is more comfortable with taking the responsibility into his or her own hands, who doesn't expect to have a whole lot handed to them and has the knowledge and skills to compensate for that, and who likes to get things done without having to ask "May I?" nearly as often; would work better, be happier, and find more fulfillment and grounds for pride in a job well done; with a Comfort Suites, Wingate, LaQuinta, or Country Inn and Suites by Carlson.
The more that an applicant's answer to this series of questions reflects an understanding of this -- and just how so in his or her own case (I want to hear more from the applicant than that (s)he's read this answer on Quora), how all of that might realistically apply to himself or herself, and where (s)he might fit into it -- the better I'll feel about that applicant.
Managing a first-tier franchise (that's what mortgage lenders like to call them, anyway, but at any property, it's all in the local management . . .) is seen as higher status, but some people -- including myself -- work better and are more content at being able to take the stick and go after their Marriott, Hilton or IHG competition with one of the others (in my case, preferably a Best Western Plus or a Red Lion; hopefully, in a few years, one of our own brands).

Indeed, Beechmont was formed to be the kind of management company that could take a Best Western, Comfort Suites, Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, Red Lion or LaQuinta; and hold its own against a directly competing 'first-tier' property like Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express or Fairfield by Marriott, and give them a run for it  Even if an applicant's own bias favors Marriott, Hilton or IHG, (we may eventually buy or develop a Holiday Inn Express, but we're in no real hurry, Hampton Inn you can forget about unless a client-investor insists, and Beechmont likewise doesn't particularly aspire to be a Marriott developer); if (s)he has some experience with one of their brands, (s)he can perhaps bring a tighter, more training-focused, more operationally disciplined approach to our organization from which we could probably benefit, provided that we match him or her with a strong, aggressive, sales manager who's more in sync of our way of doing things.
On the other hand, an answer that reflects a notion that you put your 'best' managers in a first-tier franchise, and use the others as a comparative 'dumping ground' for your lesser managers and employees, is one of those dealbreakers we discussed -- automatic and instant archival, in all likelihood permanent, of your application package. (We never ‘reject’ anyone; but say something like that, and your chances of ever becoming the manager of a Beechmont-operated hotel look just about as good as those of Jared Fogle if he ever gets paroled. We treat every one of our properties with absolute respect, and never treat even a cheap economy property as a 'dumping ground'. There are things you can do with an old 48-room Econo Lodge that even the Waldorf can't do, and had maybe better not try -- and a good manager at one who does those things is much to be desired over an ambitious but more marginal one at a 'first-tier' franchise who can't pull it off quite.)

  • "What do you expect of us if we hire you? What is important to you in terms of pay, advancement, working conditions, and opportunities to excel or improve yourself? What would make working for us the kind of thing you would enjoy doing even if every job in the world paid the same and everyone made the same amount of money no matter what they did?"
I want to know what moves this person. Money? Ego? Personal ambition and prestige? (All somewhat respectable.) Self-actualization? (More respectable.) You're out of work and just need a steady job? (Still respectable, to a somewhat lesser degree, but at least you're honest.) Desire to be the boss, maybe become a vice president of the company in a few years (points off, especially if you don’t have in mind a contribution to make that -- at least you feel -- is so unique that it would rate such consideration)? The best answer of all? (I'll have to hear that one from you: I'm not giving it to you here, even in a list of options. I didn't post this answer on Quora to support people in 'gaming' my employment interviews in their favor -- and the fastest, most permanent and enduring 'dealbreaker' of all is if I pick up on it that you are overplaying the 'sell yourself' game and trying to manipulate or 'game' your interview with us in your favor.)
Points off if you hesitate because you've never given it any thought. A bad answer is better than no answer on this one.

  • "Survey" questions. We're going to try to throw at least two of these trick questions at you. You will get at least one of them 'wrong' (that is, your thinking on the subject is going to be grossly inconsistent with the prevailing view at this company), and getting even several 'wrong' won't be held against you (actually, we want you to get at least one or two 'wrong'. . .). Our intention is to get some idea about how you think, how flexible you can be in your thinking, whether you can be coachable without selling yourself or another out, and how your thinking fits – or together we can make it fit - within our own way of thinking or doing things.
"What do you think of Hampton Inn's ”100% Satisfaction Guarantee”?
"If a poor, starving person who is penniless and hasn’t eaten for a day or two takes a loaf of bread from a store without paying for it, is (s)he guilty of stealing? Is (s)he wrong? Explain your answer."
"What are your feelings on ’locals’, ‘guests without baggage’, or ‘shacks’, as they are frequently called?"
"At two a.m., an elderly guest wanders downstairs, appears somewhat disturbed, complains of alligators in his room (yes, those big, long, four-legged critters with scales, long snouts and lots of sharp teeth that can take your leg off or eat you alive; like you see in the Florida swamps on Animal Planet . . .) and asks to borrow an axe. He has family in the hotel, occupying another room, but they're not in the hotel at the moment. They have stayed several days without any problems. You are in charge: the only other member of the staff on the property is a contract security guard. What questions do you ask, and what are you probably going to end up doing?"
"You see three people sitting in a car in the parking lot, with no apparent intention to come inside. What do you think?"
"You're working at the front desk of a 51-room property that usually stays pretty full. Check-in time is 3:00 p.m., and nearly everyone who makes a reservation is advised of this at the time they make the reservation. Nonetheless, on most days, you have people trickling in beginning at 1:30 p.m., with guaranteed reservations for that evening, wanting to check in - and as often as not, the housekeepers do not have their rooms ready. What's going to happen? Pretend you're the general manager of that property: what would you make happen?"

  • (If you have a specific property in mind to which to assign this applicant:) "What are you going to do with this hotel if I turn it over to you?"
I -- or any competent night auditor, sales manager, or underutilized desk clerk who's been there several years -- can just babysit the property, complete the D sheet each day, make the bank deposits, make sure the staff shows up and call someone else in if someone doesn't, and enter the payroll: why do I need you?
I want to see if you've gone through the TripAdvisor reviews and gotten a sense of what any problems that you'll be confronted with are. I want to hear the makings of a realistic plan on how you'll capitalize on the property's strengths and opportunities, compensate for its weaknesses, guard against its threats, and make it perform, have it do things no one thought it could do, achieve things with it that even I didn't know were possible . . .

  • (If you don't:) "Pretend that we're building a new Wingate Inn in the _____ area of (the applicant's city of residence), and we're considering you as the general manager. How would you market it to achieve stabilization and ultimately, competitive parity with the nearby Hampton Inn, within as few months as possible?"
("Stabilization" is a term used by hotel mortgage lenders to describe a state where a hotel's revenues are sufficient to cover its operating expenses and mortgage payments. With a new hotel, that can take six months to a year to achieve, because you haven't quite built up your customer base and your business -- and meanwhile, you've got a cash flow problem.)
Wingate by Wyndham is a weak Class A brand, of a weak franchise organization whose strongest brand is the economy tier Super 8, which itself isn't that good but there are no better economy tier brands out there to be had. (If Wingate's not a credible example in that particular market where the applicant lives, say because there's already a Wingate there, Choice Hotels' Comfort Inn will do as an example instead and vice versa . . .). Nearly everywhere you go, the published rates of a Wingate Inn are significantly lower than those at a Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn, brands of comparable quality. The only way the rare exception is going to occur is if there is strong local marketing at a given location -- and even then you're going to be handicapped because Hampton is a stronger brand. (Fortunately, Hilton brands -- and those of IHG, and even Marriott -- do get overbuilt in some places.)
I want to hear a realistic plan for addressing this in the new, fantasy make-believe Wingate we're creating, and compensating for it as much as possible. I don't want to hear how it's going to occur by osmosis because Wingate is 'just as good as Hampton', and I certainly don't want to hear that it's not possible because Hampton Inn is a stronger or more reputable brand.
And if the applicant at least once in his life thought enough of a certain place that he was willing to make his home there, I want to hear how familiar he is with the hotel market there.

  • "Tell me about some of your favorite episodes of Hotel Impossible."
  • "Tell me about an episode of Hotel Impossible where Anthony did something that you would have done differently, and why."
  • "Tell me why the hotels Anthony fixes in Hotel Impossible so often, a year or two later, continue to have problems or get bad TripAdvisor reviews."
  • “Tell me about a hotel that Anthony fixed in an episode of Hotel Impossible, that you would consider a success story, and why.” (Here's one of my favorites, so maybe I should hear about a different one from you, unless you read my review and saw something I missed in that episode, or thought of something I didn't that might have worked for the LaJolla Cove Suites.)
Points off if you don't watch this show, unless -- like me -- you live somewhere that you don't get The Travel Channel; and then you get bonus points if -- again, like me -- you 'own' all the back episodes on Amazon. (In either case, you're running out of excuses; because legally or not, most of the first seven seasons of Hotel Impossible are viewable on YouTube.) How I define 'professional': someone who's always in the game. I watch the show, it's good, it's realistic, Anthony Melchiorri knows his stuff, and even I learn from it.
My only criticism of it is that in some episodes, Anthony tries to fix a problem within a one-hour episode, or the four days he's at a particular hotel shooting it, that's going to take more than four days to fix if it's fixable at all, and leaves behind a band-aid-and-a-prayer 'katrinka fix'. The show gets its happy ending -- it's a show, after all -- but the problem's going to resurface and pay the owner back with dividends. I appreciate people who can spot a katrinka fix like that when it occurs in an episode, and tell me why, and suggest what would have been a better solution.
('Anthony Moments?' Here's a 'Mike Moment' for you: I went ballistic in place watching one early episode in Season Two where, at a hotel in Puerto Rico, he called up a temp agency to recruit a new general manager for a hotel -- and seemed to have made his pick based on who could inspect a room on camera, like he does on TV, then answer a single bonus question like a quiz-show contestant.  would have run that guy off as soon as Anthony was gone, too . . . Perhaps what Anthony was thinking was that young wife/girlfriend of the old guy who owned the hotel, had to be removed as general manager, he needed to replace her right away; and that nobodyno matter where they came from, could do worse. And in real life, I'll admit, some g.m.'s didn't get the job for the most respectable of reasons, and are that bad. But this is a classic example of the sort of problem that, when it comes up, is going to take more than 43 minutes to really fix. And Anthony's capable of better. I've seen better. Twice, in subsequent episodes, I've seen him replace a g.m.; and having the applicants spend twenty minutes walking around the property -- I'd allow a little more time, but Hotel Impossible comes in one-hour episodes that have to fit into 43 minutes of run time -- then come back prepared to tell him what most needs doing to improve it, makes so much more sense as an interviewing technique.)
Why do many of the hotels Anthony visits, and ‘fixes’, continue to have problems later? The answer to that one has to come from you. (Need a hint? The answer shows up at the end of most episodes -- it literally gets flashed on the screen after the credits roll. Need another? I've already referred to it here, and one specific episode's example of it.)

  • "Tell me about a previous job, or a project you were given on one of your previous jobs, in which you were able to turn in a stellar performance, or make a lasting difference, or otherwise contribute something that's a source of lasting pride to you to this day."
This is a canned interview question of some long standing, but anyone worth having should have at least one or two stories like this to tell. Anyone who can find an opportunity to achieve something extraordinary even in a low-paid, hourly 'joe job' scores a few points. Anyone -- especially someone with management experience -- who can't cite such an achievement in their career probably shouldn't bring more of the same non-performance to our organization.

  • "Tell me about either
a) the most upscale dining establishment in which you have ever had dinner out:
b) a particularly memorable resort or vacation spot where you got to spend several days.
c) a memorable concert or event at which you had a particularly good time.
d) a time someone working with a government agency or the school system went the extra inch to help you, even though they didn't have to, and you didn't really expect it.
Give particular focus to the sort of people who worked there, tell us everything you can remember about them, and share with us anything they might have done to make the event work well and/or make you feel special."
People who have had positive experiences in a service setting frequently have a better idea how to create such experiences for others than people whose experience with customer service has been limited to the McDonald's cashier, the guy at the DMV or the post office, or apathetic teachers back in high school. No serious points off for not having much of a story to tell here (we don't want to bias the selection process against people in lower socioeconomic brackets), but everyone should have at least something of a story to tell in response to this question.

  • "You have a staffing need for one or two more people on your front desk. What would you look for in the kind of people you would hire to fill it?"
What I like to hear here are some paramaters that will take into account the actual, individual, human qualities of real people who might actually show up looking for a job as a desk clerk (rather than the training video's -- or your -- notion of what a desk clerk should be), no unrealistic expectations or evidence of standards and ideals that are tied to personality or irrelevant factors, and that those parameters aren't enslaved to some image of a potential hire that amounts to nothing more than a caricature
(I actually saw a job listing on Job Search | Indeed a few weeks back where some Hilton Garden Inn was advertising for "Happy Morning People". The job description appeared to be for breakfast staff. You've got to wonder if even a minimum-wage breakfast hostess or waitress that would take a job like that, and brain-dead enough to sincerely buy into a caricature like that, would be too brain-dead to be worth having. What are they going to do after they find one and hire her, hire a bunch of little munchkins to dance around her while she's pouring the coffee?)
"Hire for personality and train for ability" is a slogan among the HR staff at many hotel companies, but spout it off at me like you really believe in it or something, and I'm going to move along to applicants of perhaps greater ability (who don't believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, either); while you peddle your personality to Marriott or some Hampton Inn run by people with whom you're a bit more like-minded. Pleasant personality counts, let’s hire nice people, unpleasant personalities are to be avoided, but it's not why people choose a hotel.
I would like to see an analysis, or at least some contemplation, of needs based on what's missing from what you already have. Service actually is an issue? Let's look for someone who's particularly strong in that area, whose showing up would raise the standard for your entire staff, and go to work on it. Paperwork and recordkeeping is a mess and the night auditor's going nuts every night trying to fix it and get it in order? This time, let's look for someone who's got extraordinary organizational skills.
What I really want to hear from you in response to this one is a desire to focus on desk clerk applicants that can be more than hotel clerks, or room attendants who can be more than 'maids'.

  • (If the applicant’s pedigree doesn’t show that (s)he has fully met the requirement that our managers have a minimum of six months’ experience as a night auditor – whether that experience is completely non-existent on the application or falls a month or two short – this needs to be confronted and dealt with, so use this question and skip the next one): We have a requirement that all of our salaried and management personnel have a minimum of six months experience as a night auditor, and you don’t seem to (quite) meet this requirement. Why should we overlook this and give you a chance anyway and proceed with your application?"
This is going to be a coachability check: Beechmont has a unique policy that requires all of its managers to have a minimum of six months’ experience as a night auditor, and we’re stubborn about it almost to the point of being stupid about it. Every Marine is trained as a rifleman in an infantry platoon regardless of his eventual occupational specialty, every Marine officer is likewise trained as an infantry platoon commander even if he's eventually going to be a combat engineer or a military lawyer, every sailor in the Navy is trained as a firefighter even if he's going to be a yeoman or a mess cook, every captain of an aircraft carrier must be a Navy pilot (who's had several successful years flying Navy aircraft before the Navy gets serious about even teaching him to drive a large ship), and every manager of a Beechmont-operated hotel has been a night auditor.
Usually, the answer you can expect to get back is that the applicant has previous management experience. One of the reasons Beechmont exists, however, is because most hotel companies don’t use the most valid or sound criteria in the world for selecting hotel managers, and experience as a night auditor gives us some assurance that you really do have it in you to run a hotel. So, even previous hotel management experience doesn’t fly, and if we cut someone a break, they’re going to meet the requirement before we put them in as a g.m. at any of our properties. (At our small properties, the night auditor is the assistant general manager, and vice versa.)
They’ll warm up to it once they’re running a hotel and have to replace a night auditor. In many hotels, if a night auditor leaves, someone in a management accountability must fill the job until a replacement is found and trained: it's a job that nobody wants on a shift that nobody wants, and this can take weeks. When we have an opening for a night auditor, our more ambitious hourly employees know that it’s a required station of the cross if they want to advance into management, so they compete for it.
Dealbreaker material: Mouthing off about how stupid the requirement is. If you think our policies are stupid, you probably shouldn’t be working for us. Lecturing me about how no other hotel company has this requirement is cutting it close, but you can recover by opening a conversation about why we have the policy– even if Marriott does do it differently. We may be the only hotel company that has such a policy, but we’re keeping it. Marriott does a lot of things that we think are silly, they're so policy- and rule-bound that they sometimes can't get out of their own way; but they're a great company that is really good at doing what they do and making it all work. So usually when we intentionally choose to do something differently from the way Marriott does it, we have our reasons.
Another way to cut it perilously close to dealbreaker material is attempting to argue that you should be exempt because you have a four-year degree, and that is all that is required by most other hotel companies for entry-level management positions. We don’t care. If you learned something while you were in college that expands your capabilities, that’ll work in your favor in the long term, but as far as just having a degree goes, you get no points for that at all. Beechmont is very much a “mustang” company– nearly all of our senior management have experience as hourly employees and learned the business from the ground up, regardless of whatever educational credentials they showed up with, or earned while they were here (we have a tuition assistance program for courses relevant to what we do).

  • "One of your reference checks didn't come up so good: they tell us that you (have whatever sort of an attitude problem, were fired for something, can't make it to work on time even if you leave the house an hour early, etc.). Why should we overlook this and give you a chance anyway if we proceed with your application?"
Half the time, I don't care -- if I thought it was really likely to be a recurring problem that I can't solve or manage or put up with, and it would drive me nuts, I wouldn't call the person for an interview -- but there's always going to be something. I want to see the person's willing to own it and make a more aggressive effort to resolve it himself or herself, I don't want to hear justifications, I don't want to hear excuses, and I don't want to be left with the impression that (s)he is just telling me what I want to hear.
Ever see the movie Armageddon, with Bruce Willis, some twenty years ago? "I only want to hear five words . . .".

  • "Do you like cats?"
A few extra points if you do, no penalties or hard feelings if you don't (some people are allergic, after all; and one of the best in the business, our previously mentioned friend Anthony Melchiorri, suffers from asthma and can't handle being around a cat, even though he was once the general manager of the Algonquin in New York City . . .).
Can you open yourself to, and be generous with, a creature who is independent, can perhaps be a bit persnickety and snobbish (for what might not seem to you to be the best of reasons), with which a relationship of any kind might have to be negotiated, and might reciprocate or like you back only if (s)he chooses to? 
Like a strange cat, obviously? 
Or a hotel guest? Or one of our employees?

  • "Describe your dream property. Pretend that your dream is our command, that we’ll actually acquire or build this property, that when we do, we'll remember that it's just the one you always wanted, and that you’ll be the general manager and remain there for as long as you work with us if you'd like. Where would it be? Would it be an existing property or new construction? If it were a franchised property, what flag would it fly? What would be its distinguishing features; how would it be different from any other hotel, and how would it stand out from other properties of the same franchise that you selected, if you selected a franchise? What market segments would you pursue; what kind of people would you have as guests? How would your staff at this property be set apart from the staff at any other hotel? Would you be willing to leave it after several years to advance to a circuit manager accountability that includes five to twelve of our hotels? And finally, what annual room revenue, occupancy rate and ADR would you expect for this property? "
I'm going to take this as the standard to which you feel a property should be run, and a picture of what you would turn mine into if I'd let you; so perhaps I should like your answer to this one. Oh, and pay attention to the last part of the question: I want to hear some realistic numbers without further prompting or coaxing -- your dream has to fit into reality.

I'll be back.

Originally appeared on Quora.

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