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Early Careers: 5 tips to prep for your job interview in Hospitality

Now that you’ve reviewed your CV, applied and got the interview, it’s time to prepare for it! With more and more job opportunities coming up, it’s best to come prepared and set yourself at an advantage for the best chances of success.

At Otolo, we aim to provide you with relevant resources to guide you through your career journey and help you cut through conflicting advice. Here are our top tips to help master your interview like a pro and get that dream job offer.

Put extra effort into your CV, and always supply a cover letter (even if it isn’t required)

We previously covered how to write an impressionable CV and the steps you should take to increase your chances of getting hired for a hospitality job. But we also understand that you might not have years of experience to put on your CV early on so we always recommend writing a cover letter, even if it isn’t required.  

A cover letter can be attached as a PDF or copied into the body of an email. It is a chance for you to impress your employer and show who you are. As much as it should detail your background, it’s also about your hobbies, interests and values. In your cover letter, include an opening paragraph on why you want to work for this company. It will make the employer think you have done your research and show a genuine interest, rather than just hitting send to a ton of job adverts. 

You should give enough of an idea of your profile in your CV and cover letter but leave room for questions. This way, the hiring manager and company can ask you for more information on your past successes and challenges. 

We recommend that you use the STAR technique to help construct your answers when practising. Don’t overlook this area because the recruiters might have it in front of them and will want to ask you questions about the areas you mention.

Make a good first impression, use resources such as Glassdoor to understand their interview process

Dress for the job that you’re applying for. You should look smart and act in a friendly and outgoing manner. As you’ve applied for a hospitality job, you should demonstrate the required capabilities to the interviewers. Show them that you have a calm, professional and likeable attitude that will appeal to their customers. Show them a glimpse of your outgoing personality also, as hospitality is all about people. 

However, first impressions are not only about being professional but also about finding the right culture that aligns with your personality and values. Ahead of interviews, use resources such as Glassdoor to check employee reviews on pros and cons and culture.  

It has a handy feature where past applicants can leave feedback on the interview process, including questions that may be asked. Using Glassdoor alongside your general research is a great way to compile a list of relevant questions to make a good first impression. Having no questions at the end of an interview will look like you aren’t genuinely interested in the role. 

Remember – don’t treat your application and interview too casually. Instead, treat any job interview in hospitality like a corporate interview. Turn up on time, don’t use slang or too familiar language, be polite to all the staff present at the interview, and ask lots of questions at the end of the interview. And don’t forget to ask what the next steps are!

Do your research  

Before you walk into the interview room, make sure you know about the company, including its background, mission, values, the markets they operate in, recent updates, awards or innovations, etc.  

You should also know about the type of interview you’ll be doing – will it be one-to-one, a panel, who will the interviewers be? If you can obtain the names of your interviewers before the interview, you can do research on who you’ll be talking with to find common ground. Use LinkedIn or Otolo to check out the hiring manager’s history so you can ask about their experience, their own personal challenges in the industry and managing styles during the interview. 

Be prepared to back up your CV or experience face to face. For instance, if you have knowledge of a specific hospitality tool, get ready to show your recruiter what you know about the software, how you navigate through it, case studies and how you’d implement it. If you got mixology experience, you may be asked to demonstrate your skills as well, or even to complete a task or shift on a first or second interview – be ready to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in! 

Usually, hospitality interviews happen during business hours and if you’re a suitable candidate recruiters must quickly assess it so make it easy for them and be confident about what you know.

Ask questions

You should show a proactive approach by asking questions about the job role, next steps and anything else that you’d like to know. Asking questions will show that you’re genuinely interested in the job and will improve your chances of getting hired. You also need to be aware of the current news in the world of Hospitality – and asking questions about this, such as ‘how did your company react to this sudden change?’ shows that you are well-informed on the industry.  

One area that is crucial for both the interviewer and applicant is the salary. Make sure that you have an idea of the salary range you’d like for the role but take into account the industry average and other aspects of the job that might make a below-average salary forgivable, such as annual leave, flexible working hours or a company car. Use benchmarks from sites such as LinkedIn Salary, Glassdoor, Harri and others to figure out what the salary brackets are likely to be.

Practice interview questions at home

In your job interview, there are strong chances you’ll be asked the following questions, especially in hospitality. Some questions could be related to guest experience, management and prioritisation such as:   

How would you handle being in a situation with an unhappy customer?   

Have you ever paid a visit to us before as a customer? If so, what was your opinion?

How would you give your guests good customer service?

How would you react if a guest asked you to do something that wasn’t in the employee handbook?

What do you think about the customer service we provide?

How do you manage your stress during peak hours?

What criteria do you use to prioritise your tasks?

Interviewing and Culture – Takeaways from our live session on February 10th – 17:00 GMT 

In our third session “Interviewing & Culture”, Craig and Trudi Parr, People + Development at Mollie’s, shared their insights into prepping your interview, the questions to ask and not to ask and support to help you get the dream job offer.

Craig Prentice, Founder of Hospitality Talent Partner mum 

“There’s a lot of competition out there and a candidate has a choice. Candidates have amazing opportunities to take their time, build a well-informed opinion, and do their research. When I welcome a candidate, I hope he’ll have visited the venue first, to experience it from a guest perspective as you can pick up a lot from the staff.” 

“At an interview, I’d expect and ask the candidate for a summary. Unfortunately, lots of people walk recruiters through their entire CV but what I want is to hear from their 5-minute journey. I like to personally get a snapshot of the candidates I’m interviewing.” 

“At the end of an interview, don’t ask ‘How did I do?’ but about things like Diversity and Inclusion. If these are really important to the company, ask what initiatives they’re taking behind the scenes. Another thing, if the recruiter asks if you got any questions, don’t say ‘no you answered them all’ – it’s the worst.” 

“Best is doing your research, looking at the whole experience from start to finish, be you and if you really want it, show it!” 

Trudi Parr, People + Development at Mollie’s 

“Everything’s about the prep. Plan your journey, show your interest, have energy (no need to be hyper), be brave to ask these questions that mean a lot to you.” 

“As recruiters, we are reviewers, it’s a cultural thing – we review everything. Investigate before knowing where you’re going. Try to understand what the business is. Think about how you want to come across and align to that brand. Ask yourself what are the benefits, is this company culture aligned to your values? Values are so important, they should be brought to life and living through the company. They interact through your team and you want everybody to connect with people, be nice, open. Values work both ways.” 

“As a human you want people to do well. If I’ve got your CV in front of me, I want the interview to go well, I’m looking for the right person. I don’t want a candidate to feel stressed about being interviewed. And take a copy of your CV with you for convenience.” 

“I’d ask a candidate to walk me through things like… how did you convince that client to use your hotel or your business? I won’t ask a candidate “What’s your weakness” – I hate that question. It’s all about what’s more practical. I’m not a fan either of asking questions like ‘Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?’. It’s better to understand where the applicant sees himself or herself in the role. Plus, how much of that do you want to share at that stage? It’s quite an odd question.” 

“I love when candidates ask questions, it shows they are genuinely interested and want to get to the bottom of the business. I like people thinking outside the box and it does help me recruit. Culturally, I’d suggest asking this at the end of an interview: how this company recognises this staff, what do you like about the job, how does the manager set goals? What do you find challenging about the job? etc. And for a summary, keep your mind on what the job is for. You’re here to solve their problems, that’s how you should lead your answer.” 

“I’d always do an initial 20-25 minutes phone interview, to gauge the candidate’s interest, personality, and it helps bring you to life in front of a recruiter. Then, conducting a 1-hour screen interview with a candidate helps build a bigger picture, and understand the next steps. It’s very much a communicative approach.” 

Luce Watson, Marketing Lead at Otolo 

“Culture and values are really important to me, it’s even a top priority. I want to be inspired by the people I’m working with. I usually do a little bit of LinkedIn stalk, and Glassdoor is great for checking company culture and values, interview reviews, etc.” 

“Treat an interview as a two-way conversation – we’re all humans after all. It’s not life or death. Be professional. An interview should be an open conversation. It helps determine the fit for you as well. Then the interview becomes naturally easier. When you’re passionate about an industry it helps you be authentic during an interview. I want to interview someone who’s not worried to get stuck in. Would you be happy to clean the toilets (laughs)? The answer will tell you a lot about the candidate.” 

“It’s hard to summarise everything you did in your career in 5 minutes, so it has to be relevant to the role. If you had projects you’re really proud of, shout about them.” 

“Usually I’d expect for a candidate to walk to an open day and be chatty and open. You have to remember this business is about people. I remember a terrible example from a General Manager who walked in an interview and didn’t even introduce himself. He was even quite rude, it’s all about awareness and respecting people.” 

“You’re not gonna tick all the boxes of a job description. But there’s strength in that and you may only need the training to help you improve your skills – it’s all fine. This industry is a lot about attitude and the right dress code. Take a step back, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the job. It’s part of the process.” 

James Lemon, Founder and CEO of Otolo 

“So many websites feel really generic, especially hotel websites, it’s all about where do you go to get an authentic view of company values.” 

“Don’t ask questions like ‘Where are your venues, where are your hotels?’ because the recruiter will have assumed you already know this before the interview.” 

“At the end of an interview, give us some really funny stories. We want to hear about it!” 

“Confidence is built by prep and research. So do your investigation thoroughly before the interview.”

Watch the replay 👇

We hope we helped you get on with your interview process. In the meantime, take a look at our list of job boards and apps to find your dream job in Hospitality. Good luck!

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