Industry Update
Opinion Article23 January 2018

Top five interview tips for hospitality jobs

By Emily Birling, Freelance writer

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If you are hoping to find a dream job in the hospitality sector it pays to prepare thoroughly for your interview. This is common sense for all jobs, of course, but here we're going to look at specific guidance for hospitality job seekers.

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1. Do your research. First and foremost, know all that you can about the parent company going in – its general history, what other brands it's responsible for, its approximate turnover, staff numbers and locations.

Is it a market leader, or is it striving to upstage a leading competitor? Which other companies offer direct competition for the same target client groups? What are the immediate challenges and opportunities it faces over the coming month, year and decade?

2. Closely related to the last point: Keep abreast of relevant news and recent developments for the company or wider sector. Being able to discuss the pros and cons of up-to-date changes impacting the industry or business you're interviewing for is a fantastic way to show a level of interest, initiative and intelligence that goes beyond the baseline 'turn up, get paid' employer-staff relationship.

Besides, you're very likely to be asked questions about the near-future – your own, and that of the brand – as a key part of your interview anyway, so a degree of knowledge about ongoing developments is always going to stand you in great stead.

3. Play the 'secret shopper'. If you've got an interview lined up for a job with a particular chain or location you're unfamiliar with as a customer, it can be an extremely worthwhile exercise to actually pay the branch a visit and see how you rate the experience. Take notes on the levels of service, overall presentation and availability of facilities you find.

Clearly the purpose of this is not to deliver a critical review at interview stage – that's generally a very bad idea! – but to show a depth of knowledge, and to help you come up with some insightful, constructive suggestions for quick and viable ways you could personally help the company innovate or improve.

4. Pay close attention to dress codes. While some organisations prefer a more casual style of dress, it's very rare in the hospitality industry to stumble on a successful enterprise that doesn't value neatness, cleanliness and smartness among its staff. In the vast majority of cases, this is precisely what you should aim for at interview.

Also, if you really want to improve your chances, err on the side of a more conservative look, at least for any initial meetings. You may worry it doesn't reflect your keen sense of individuality and creativity the way a more daring ensemble would – but in fact, the ability to recognise when it's appropriate to tone down shows empathy and emotional intelligence, two of the most important industry 'soft skills' that many employers will be looking for in a new interviewee.

5. Practice your interview in advance. Despite this being an obvious way to give yourself a calming confidence boost ahead of time, it's one tip that we often ignore, forget, or don't feel we can carry out as effectively. But even if the only available 'interviewer' you can call on for a practice run is a parent, friend or neighbour (and one who knows nothing about the hospitality sector to boot), they can still play the role of prospective employer in person or over the phone.

You'll find many resources online giving examples of the most commonly-asked interview questions out there; all you need to do is get them to ask you a random selection of them, while you play the role of...well, you. By far the best way to approach this task as an interviewee is to stay in character throughout – don't break the all-important image of efficiency and professionalism you're looking to project until the mock interview is over, no matter how well you know the other person.

At the end, it's important to gather feedback, even if it feels a bit awkward. Your fake interviewer may not be able to rate the accuracy of your answers per se, but they can certainly comment on your overall bearing and presentation – and that can lead to some very useful pointers more often than you might think.

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Emily Birling

Emily Birling is a British writer with several years of experience in the hospitality industry so know how to build careers within it. Emily lives in the South West of England with her partner and three massive dogs.

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