Michael O’Neill, HR manager for the five star Westin Hotel in Dublin, knows a thing or two about recruitment. Last year Michael won the HR Manager of the Year award for his work, helping to make The Westin one of the Great Place’s to Work Institute’s top ten list.
Here Michael talks us through how to ace group interviews, answer theoretical questions and why you need to be professional from the first moment.
WHAT’S INVOVLED IN A GROUP INTERVIEW
Because The Westin uses employee referrals and group interviews to recruit, it can be quite a heavy interview process but that works best for the right people Michael says.
“We find employee referrals successful because our employees aren’t going to refer someone who’s not going to fit the culture of the hotel. We also use recruitment assessment centres, it’s like a group interview with staff from throughout the company but we cant find a sexier name for it!”
“Basically, when we’re looking for someone in a department we put the job up on Jobbio. We then invite around 20 people in one day and do a group assessment. We tell them about the hotel, give them activities and bring in managers from all departments to talk to them. It gives them a real life example of what hotel life is about.”
“We recruit for attitude and personality, that’s really the very soul of what we do, so the group interviews are about finding about that more than anything. It’s about having a genuine commitment to delivering what the company expects.”
“WHAT WOULD YOU DO?”
Many customer-facing companies use ‘behavioural’ interview techniques where they ask candidates what they would do in certain situations. Veteran interviewees will have read the handbook and prepared for every possible question but Michael says that’s not always the best approach.
“It can be tricky when people think they’ve cracked the question and got the job done. Their way might not be the way we do it here. So I always find that people that try to give you strategic answers they’ve read from a book don’t always work. We prefer a more honest, humble approach and it’s usually the simple answers that pull someone over the line.”
A CUP OF TEA CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Everyone knows the importance of researching before a job interview but not everything about that can be learned online.
“I interviewed someone recently who mentioned that they had been in the lounge having tea the day before. We were recruiting for a lounge manager so that was exactly what we wanted someone to have done. You have to soak up as much of the culture as you can.
“No matter what level of interview you’re going for, you have to research the company but I think you actually have to research the people. When I interviewed for my job at the Westin I looked up who the manager was and what their background was. That tells the story of the company as well as the other stuff.”
THE CLOCK STARTS STRAIGHT AWAY
Before group interviews Michael susses out potential candidates by ringing them to thank them for their CV. This he says isn’t just a formality, it’s an opportunity to get an insight into someone’s true professionalism.
“We measure the whole process to rate candidates from the very initial phone call saying ‘thanks for your CV’, that’s when we start to monitor the professionalism and attitude that they have. Based on that initial conversation, we might not even invite them in.
“We need to insure that we have the right people to deliver to our customers expecting the five star treatment they paid for. That’s the same in any business.”