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MASTERCLASS: Making your job adverts work for you

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We speak to Clare Stone from Caterpeople on how to best tailor your advertisements to ensure the highest success rate of applications from the perfect talent pool.

What are the best ways for boutique hotels to recruit for new entry-level staff?

There’s no doubt that it’s now just as difficult to recruit a good entry level staff member as it is to recruit a head chef. At entry level employers should be looking for the right attitude and ability to learn, rather than previous experience. Develop relationships with schools and colleges, be open to offering work experience placements. Also develop relationships with “back to work” agencies, who place people back into the work place. These could include people leaving the armed forces, people who have been long term unemployed for a range of reasons or people who are ex-offenders. Be open to older, career change candidates. The retail industry has filled many of its entry level staffing gaps by opening up to older candidates. It’s time hospitality did the same. Currently it’s often a challenge to get clients to even see an entry level candidate over 40. There’s a perception that they won’t stand the pace. This needs to be challenged.

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Which avenues of advertising work best?

Google are in the process of launching job ads, and its reasonable to expect that these will have a big impact on the market once they are fully up and running. At the moment Facebook leads the field, with LinkedIn following closely behind for more senior positions. Though we still use the traditional job boards there’s no doubt that they are becoming less effective each year. Facebook ads can be difficult to master, but once you do they give you huge flexibility in reaching your target market.

How can hotels ensure their job advert best describes the type of person they want to attract?

I think the best way of creating an ad that attracts the right people is to think about who you are as a business, what you do, what you aspire to and what makes you unique. If you think about it most people are not hugely self-aware, so writing out a list of characteristics that you would like to see in your ideal candidate (dynamic, creative etc) is probably not going to yield positive results. On the other hand if you take the time to describe what’s great about your company honestly and in detail that is going to resonate with and attract the right sort of people. So for example at CaterPeople, we are a small, owner managed company. We are determinedly un-corporate. We are committed to helping people, even if we can’t do business with them. We believe work should be fun – life’s too short to be doing work you don’t enjoy. We remember everyone is a person – not just a client or a candidate or a colleague. We are very upfront about all of this when we write job ads for ourselves, and it results in applications from people who really enjoy the process of recruiting, rather than people who want to climb a career ladder, or people who want to get rich quick. This is exactly what we want.

What methods of recruitment work best, in your experience? Open days, social media, online adverts, head hunting etc.

There’s a place for everything, but I would say social media and other “word of mouth” methods are really key at the moment. Our view is that most hotels could probably fill the bulk of their junior to mid-level vacancies without ever calling an agency or placing a job ad if they really worked their professional and personal networks. We are actually developing a coaching program to help hotels do just that.  A great fist step is to make sure you have a really sound “Recommend a Friend” programme In place and really encourage your staff to introduce people. Not only is there a huge cost saving to be had, but recommend and friend hires have been shown to be higher quality, with lower attrition rates than those gained through other methods.

What are the most effective ways to attract talented chefs and how can they judge if they are right for the business?

Rosettes may not matter so much to the dining public right now but they are still really important for chef attraction. As is the profile of your head chef. Head Chef should be encouraged to enter competitions, do demonstrations, be active on social media. A head chef with a strong reputation in the industry will play a big part in attracting the right chefs for your business. Judging whether they are right for the business is all about the working trial. But to get the results you want from a working trial you need to put some thought into it’s planning. Our clients who show the best levels of staff retention typically offer a 24 or 48 hour working trial. This will include a service, time looking round the kitchen, the whole property, the staff accommodation, formal interviews with head chef and other key managers or HR and a stay in the hotel as a guest. It might sound like overkill, but it rally works in terms of making sure you get the right people.

Can you detail any recent success stories that you have helped with?

Success for us is when we don’t hear from a client for six months because their team is full and no one is leaving!

This year, for example, it’s been a real pleasure to place some key team members into the re-opened and award winning restaurant at Gravetye Manor. They have put as much thought into the staff experience as the customer, with an amazing new kitchen, staff accommodation and a structure geared towards a 4 day working week. Today, even Michelin starred restaurants can struggle to attract the staff they need. Putting thought into making a property a great place to work, as well as being a great place to stay and eat, makes all the difference.

What would your advice be for new hotels looking to build their complete teams? Where do they start?

Start Early! Over-recruit, people will drop out in the early days of a new opening. Accept that you will probably end up opening without a full team and get some temporary staff booked up well in advance – you can always cancel nearer the time if you are lucky enough to have a full permanent team. Get an agency partner on board from the start. An agency who specialise in the boutique hotel market and have experience in new openings/re-launches will be able to add value right through the process.

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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