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How to prepare hotel manager interview questions

  Posted in Resources

With a sustainable level of returning travellers since the pandemic, the hotel industry is able to take a breath and get back into hiring. Filling positions at a manager level, from general and assistant managers, to sales and front office managers, has always been a delicate and important task to get right. With record hospitality job vacancies in the UK and worldwide, the market is adding a layer of complexity: now you are presenting your team and hotel as a potential match to candidates, in the hope they choose you, too, when you choose them.

In this blog you will learn how to create an environment to perform successful, insightful and engaging interviews: this includes a guide on structuring the conversation and sample interview questions for general (and assistant) managers, sales managers and front office managers.

Table of contents

How to create your list of hotel manager interview questions

Interview questions for hotel manager level roles are not one-size-fits all, but the structure of any good first conversation can be. Approach the interview as a conversation with three stages of questions:

Open the conversation

Your questions here need to be focused on making the candidate comfortable enough to speak openly, so consider ‘going first’ by briefly talking about the hotel, its history and values or your own background before asking for theirs. This is your chance to learn about their personality and values, unrelated to work, but in the context of life.

Talk about their current role

Whether a candidate already has a hotel background or not, you need to find out what they like and dislike about their current role. It is a simple indicator of what might frustrate them and what motivates them, or what parts of the job bring them joy and keep them engaged. All this is valuable knowledge not just in identifying the right candidate, but in retaining them once hired. Remember that at this part of the conversation you are simply learning about the person by using the example of their current role: this is not about experience. This is about what parts of the work they enjoy most and which they could do without. It’s about what they are looking for in their next role.

Learn about specific experience

Before creating questions on specific experience you have to become clear on what skills or systems are teachable and what experience they must bring. With that in mind, use this part of the interview to understand how much they might have to learn upon joining and what experience they bring that just may not exist at your hotel yet. If they will be leading people, include questions on their leadership style. By asking behavioural questions, such as “about a time when” or prompting for examples, you go beyond learning what they “would do” and instead understand what they “are known to do”. Make sure you leave enough time at the end and prompt them to ask their questions for you: it will tell you what else is important to them in a work environment.

As a general rule, do get to know the person before learning about their experience: this way you may identify candidates that are a great cultural fit to work at your hotel but perhaps may have a better skill-set for another role.

Let’s dive into three key areas for manager level positions, beginning with hotel general manager interview questions that can be used when asking about specific experience.

Interview questions to ask a hotel general manager and assistant manager

While assistant managers do not carry the same level of responsibilities as the general manager, they do at times fill the shoes of the general manager. In a 24/7 environment with a high level of unpredictability, you may want to consider asking hotel assistant manager interview questions that are similar to the general manager role: expect a successful candidate for general manager to consistently show experience above par on the spectrum of skills, where an assistant manager instead would show great potential but likely less experience.

Questions about mindset & leadership style

  • What does hospitality mean to you?
  • Tell me about some successes and failures you have experienced in leading teams in your career so far. What stood out to you?
  • How would you handle conflict within a team or among staff?
  • Give me an example of how you conduct interviews. What is most important for you?
  • How do you remain focused in an environment with competing priorities?
  • What are your career goals?

Questions about specific skills & experience

  • Can you share some past results that you are most proud of and why?
  • Are there any systems, reports or procedures you are used to or prefer from prior roles?
  • How would you describe your level of experience with [insert task or system]?
  • How do you approach deal with [insert relevant topic, such as quality assurance, staff retention or other]?
  • How do you prepare for low seasons?
  • What resources or teams are you used to having readily available?

Interview questions to ask a hotel sales manager

Hotel sales manager interview questions can be geared towards individual contributors, even with different specialties, or someone who may lead a team of sellers, depending on your need.

Questions about mindset & leadership style

  • How did you get into (hospitality) sales?
  • What is your favourite aspect of the sales process?
  • Tell me about your preferred way of working: is it in larger teams, leading others to achieve their goals, independent?

Questions about specific skills & experience

  • What are your results in the last year / quarter against target?
  • What systems have you used to document your sales and handle RFPs in the past?
  • How would you describe your experience in [insert relevant sales expertise, such as meetings & events, corporate RFPs, local sales]?
  • What is your experience participating in road shows, conferences or other industry events? Are you part of any industry groups?

Interview questions to ask a hotel front office manager

Hotel front office manager interview questions can be focused on the day-to-day tasks, exceptions and qualities of someone able to lead a team, depending on your needs. Think of recurring scenarios or situations you need help with to ask situation based questions.

Questions about mindset & leadership style

  • Tell me about your background and experience in hotels. What was your first role?
  • What is your preferred way of organising teams across shifts?
  • How do you usually collaborate with other teams and departments?
  • What do you think is the most challenging aspect of a front office manager’s role?
  • What does success look like in a front office manager role?

Questions about specific skills & experience

  • A large group is checking in and a lot of guests are waiting [or insert any other relevant scenario for your hotel]. How do you handle the situation?
  • How do you handle assigning team members to unpopular shifts, such as New Years or other holidays?
  • How would you describe your experience using [insert relevant systems, such as a PMS]?
  • How do you keep all team members, including night shifts and temporary staff happy and up to date?

What to look for in responses for hotel manager level roles

They may be a fit for another role

Approach any conversation with an open mind: a well-rounded understanding of the candidate will help you weigh up potential weak spots with strengths and ‘coachability’. There may be parts of their personality or experience that align with your hotel but not the specific role they are interviewing for; perhaps they are a fit for another position. An interview or a follow-up conversation can be a great time to bring this up and see if they are open to other opportunities with your team.

Evaluate responses on a spectrum

Evaluating responses is easy when you are clear about what you are looking for. There is a difference between attempting to separate candidates into a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and looking at their full capabilities on a spectrum from ‘not well suited’ to ‘extremely well suited’. An example of what you may be looking for are stories they share that match your or your brand’s values. By considering these examples of their capabilities on a spectrum you avoid simply counting out someone who may not have shared very much about something they are good at: you can either prompt them for more during the interview or consider them as a candidate you may have to coach in this area relatively more than another candidate.

How will they fit with the rest of the management team

Now you know their personal preferences and style, imagine them as part of the team: will there be opportunities for them to fill gaps and collaborate with like-minded team members? Will the rest of the team need preparation because you are bringing in a new mindset or different background and skills? If you need to know more, now is the time to ask. Whatever the answer may be, it may help you make a decision between two otherwise similar candidates, or it may help you set up your chosen candidate for success.

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