That Long-distance Feeling
By Jane Auster
Nothing beats a face-to-face interview, especially in the hospitality industry, where customer service is all-important. But when you're asking a job candidate to relocate, you don't always have the luxury of a first, or even second interview to "reach out and touch someone." In these cases, the long-distance telephone interview becomes an integral part of the hiring process.
In a typical scenario in the hospitality industry, if a multinational hotel company headquartered in Toronto is hiring a director of operations for a property in Vancouver, and the job candidates are located in Calgary and Winnipeg, the first contact will be a phone interview, followed by a second interview in one of the properties in the job seeker's city. After passing that hurdle, the candidate will be flown to Toronto for the face-to-face.
"Our experience and opinion is that the telephone interview is more of a qualifying process, a behavioral assessment, part of digging into somebody's resume, asking very specific questions on a more qualifying information basis," says Jordan Romoff, vice president of Lecours Wolfson, a leading North American hospitality recruiter. "The two parties have the opportunity to connect and see if they're working off the same page before the employer goes to the expense of flying the candidate in for an interview. In the hospitality business, you must make sure the candidate really fits your culture, understands your concept, and understands all the important things one needs to work through when applying for a job requiring relocation."
Tips to maximize the telephone interview
The "getting to know you" phone interview is at least as scripted as the face-to-face encounter. As the prospective employer, you (and the job candidate) must be as professional as you would be if you were sitting across the table from one another.
* Decide beforehand what type of information you are seeking from the phone interview. Are you looking for a further explanation of accomplishments? Or is this more of a behavioral analysis, perhaps gleaning, for instance, if a particular food and beverage manager would fit in to your operation?
* Make sure to use a standard script that spells out the responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, type of culture, and benefits of working for your hospitality company.
* Be on time to conduct the interview. Make sure you know the time zone (and phone number) of the job seeker before placing the call.
* Use a land line. Nothing is more annoying than taking a call from someone who's talking on a cellphone and driving at the same time. Find a quiet spot and block out half an hour, when you won't be interrupted, for a thoughtful phone interview.
* Listen for verbal cues that will help you decide whether to fly the candidate in for a face-to-face meeting.
"The biggest challenge of telephone interviewing for a position that requires a certain type of personality, a certain type of energy level, a certain type of leadership, is that it's often very hard to draw a conclusion of the person from a phone conversation," says Romoff.
That's why it's so important to invest the time in a thoughtful first impression. "Some companies take an approach: have a quick conversation about the company and how great it is, then qualify the person's qualifications, fly the person in and determine the person is not right," Romoff adds.
If done properly, however, the final face-to-face interview caps a successful process in which you've already invested time, energy and planning. Take the time for the long-distance telephone interview, and there will be no surprises when the job candidate walks in the door.