The good times have certainly returned for Hong Kong's hospitality industry, as evident in the number of new hotels scheduled to open during 2005. As a result, demand for staff is stronger than ever and there are numerous opportunities now available for young people keen to build a career in a sector set to experience consistent growth in the years ahead.
According to Cynthia Leong, director of human resources for The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, new hotels tend to use a wide variety of recruitment activities. These range from regular print advertisements and online postings to career talks at local universities, job expos and recruitment days. While most of these follow well established formats, Ms Leong notes that modifications are also being introduced by major hotels seeking to present something a bit different to prospective employees.
"For example, in recruiting frontline staff, we have departed from traditional one-on-one interviews and adopted interactive group sessions," she explains. "We can make a good initial assessment of the candidates' personal characteristics from their reactions and attitude towards one another. That helps to decide if they are suitable for our industry."
Despite these changes, the one common characteristic looked for in all candidates is an unmistakable commitment to service. A long-term career in the hotel industry also depends on having patience, the willingness to assist others, and a real sensitivity towards clients' needs. Ms Leong advises potential applicants to start by familiarising themselves with background knowledge about the hotel they hope to join and the main responsibilities of the position they are applying for. "During the interview, it is essential for candidates to show a good understanding of the industry and a genuine interest in their future work," she says. "We look for young people who are serious about their career choices and are confident that the hotel industry is right for them."
With several new hotels opening in Hong Kong this year, many vacancies are expected for operational and frontline staff. Chefs, room attendants, guest relations officers and front desk staff will all be in demand. There are regular recruitment campaigns to fill such positions, which in many cases require applicants to have a passion for the industry and excellent communication skills rather than any specific work experience.
Graduates and professionals from other service-oriented sectors, such as retail and catering, are generally encouraged to apply. "The outlook for the industry is definitely optimistic and is attracting an adequate pool of talent for future expansion," Ms Leong says.
She suggests that younger candidates should think about career development. They should have a clear idea about which area of the business most interests them consider if they are well suited for it. To help them, there are academic programmes offered by local institutes, as well as short-term professional courses which provide practical training and relevant qualifications.
Ms Leong stresses that successful careers are built on a solid foundation, which usually means starting at the bottom and being prepared to work one's way up. "For example, a supervisor must be familiar with the entire operation in his or her section, and this knowledge can only come from hands-on experience," she explains. "It takes time and hard work to pick up the right skills, but our industry offers substantial rewards for those who are willing to make that investment."