Hospitality recruitment – Attracting talent

Never has it been tougher to attract talent to the sector; and I don’t just mean senior talent, management roles etc, but more importantly those troops on the cliff face of service who drive guest experience and make hospitality what it is.

Why is that I hear you cry? Well, I think there are a good handful of contributing factors, and chief amongst them are two unforgivables: complacency and outdated practices.

We’ve had it good in hospitality for a while now haven’t we? Employers could take advantages of their team – pay them peanuts, show no empathy to individual’s circumstances, over-work them, ignore development paths to nurture the talent of tomorrow; and why was that – because there was always someone to take their place. The pipeline was plentiful.

Uh-oh, but what happens when the pipeline has a blockage? Now, we’re in trouble. In life and in business I’ve always worked to the mantra that you develop and build from a position of strength. The strength in this case was the supply of candidates. In some locales you’ll know that if someone left you one day, if you’re onboarding ‘practises’ were such, you could have a replacement in place the next day (let’s not start down that rabbit hole).

And so we got complacent. We became known from the outside looking in as the sector that overworked and underpaid. Too many employers never really developed their people, they just threw them a set of keys when the going got tough and expected them to sink or swim without support or mindfulness around their wellbeing.

Am I being flippant here and using a worst case set of examples? Of course I am. Far be it from me to tar all operators with the same brush. I know first-hand that there are some great people-centric hospitality organisations out there who did it right, who do it right, and it’s no surprise that these employers find themselves in a stronger position today because they invested in their people approach from a position of strength back then.

Fast forward to post-pandemic (is that where we are now?) and the barren landscape we find ourselves trying to nurture back to life. How do we do it? Well we can’t keep rolling out the same old practises we used pre-pandemic. The landscape has changed, the world has changed. Candidates are demanding more (yep ‘demanding’, because the power is with the candidate now) of potential employers – but change is happening too slowly to make a real difference in the here and now.

Just look at traditional recruitment practises for the best example of where we’re not evolving. In the main too may are still ploughing the same recruitment channels as before. Then if you’re lucky and get a bite, a candidate applies; it takes days to get back to them, days again to arrange a 1st interview, days (nah, weeks) to arrange a 2nd interview. Only the ‘lucky’ ones will hear back, the rest discarded without notice, left to hang on, wondering (which is a shocking practise by the way). I say the lucky ones because after all these steps and hurdles candidates are made to jump over it is the employer who is lucky if the candidate is still available after all of this.

The jobs market is moving quickly. The recruitment process needs to match that pace and become more efficient, more dynamic – it needs to change – employers’/recruiter’s approaches need to change. Sadly change in hospitality recruiting is too slow if changing at all (and don’t get me started on recruitment open days; that’s one for another time).

The recruitment piece is only one part of the current problem in attracting talent to the sector, there is much more to be done. To that end it would be ill of me not to mention the sterling work being done by the ‘Hospitality Rising’ campaign. For those who haven’t heard of the Mark McCulloch, Mark is founder of Supersonic Inc and the driving force behind a multi-media campaign to attract top talent into the sector (currently only 1 in 5 see hospitality as a viable career choice) and address the industry’s recruitment crisis. You can find out more about the campaign here.

So what can we do differently to make sure our recruitment and retention practises match the level of evolution and development we put into our food, drinks and ambience? I’ve put together a few bullets as discussion starters:


The goals of the likes of Hospitality Rising are admirable, it’s the shot in the arm we all need, we all want, to overcome our inability to fill our teams with engaging, skilled people; but raising interest around a career in hospitality can only be the start, it can’t be the end of it. Let’s look in the mirror and ask ourselves what part we played in the sector finding ourselves in the place we are today?

Most importantly, let’s learn from the mistakes of the past; value the recruitment process, value a new way to move forward becoming an employer of choice, a sector of choice in your market, and let’s not be complacent this time around.

Article by Mark Wright of WHAM Consultancy – hospitality and leisure specialist in operations and recruitment

Follow us on social media for more news, blogs and info.