7 things to consider before selecting a hospitality recruiting agency

The hospitality industry is known for some pretty demanding work environments. From restaurants, hotels, and event organizers, all sub-industries require job candidates to have certain character traits and skills.

If you are in charge of hiring, you should first look for candidates with “soft skills," which tends to be overlooked in the hiring process. If you'd like to know the value of soft skills to hospitality workers, check out "The Ten Most Important Strengths for Success in the Hospitality Industry."

If you are eager to get started with hiring, realize this is not a one-person job and you need some help. In any industry, you can outsource your hiring needs to a recruiting firm. When you head to Google and type in hospitality recruiting agencies, hotel recruiting companies, or restaurant recruiting agencies, it will return a list of results to filter through. Look for companies with notable introductions, key differentiators, diversity recognition, and strong testimonials to choose the right recruiting agency that aligns with your employee culture, customer experience, and business genre.

The following list contains the top 7 factors to consider when hiring a recruiting agency in hospitality. Continue reading for more information about why these factors are so important and how you can create your own list.

Fine dining restaurant with an amazing interior design.

1. Industry knowledge

When searching for a firm, it's in your best interest to look for where their industry expertise lies. It’s common to find a section such as "Industries we focus on – hospitality" in their navigation menu. However, it should be clear what niche of hospitality they have experience supporting.

For example, is their expertise within the hotel industry rather than the restaurant industry? And if so, do they focus on hotel management and what kind of hotel? Because if you compare the Holiday Inn versus the Mandarin Hotels, you will see a significant difference in the type of services, culture, and clientele it attracts.

The same applies if they are focused on nuances like fast-food, versus casual, versus fine dining. The type of culinary and front-of-house team you need is very different, and all plays a vital role in executing your services. Let's say the recruiting agency's clients are Burger King, Arby's, and Sweetgreen, but you are a hotel restaurant. Extra time and effort will be needed for you and the agency to connect on your business practices and find the caliber of people you need who understand the differences between commercial chains and hotel-owned properties.

Every business has its niche and approach to how they create a wonderful guest experience. So whatever recruiting firm you have your eyes on, they should know what makes you different to the core and ideally have experience with your hiring expectations.

2. Turn-key solutions

Now that you know "industry-specific agencies" is where you should start, it's not the only thing you need to be looking for. More than often, firms provide more than just one service. Some Human Resources agencies can provide you with a complete package if you need more than just recruiting help. From HR solutions, to talent management, to consulting for benefit programs, some offer it all (while others don't), and it's best practice to understand what each of those mean for you.

HR Solutions: A service with extensive offerings.

  • Recruitment methods

  • Staff training

  • Development and designing of human resources systems and policies

  • Support for employee relations issues and workforce administration

  • Implementing or streamlining benefits administration

Talent Management: A service that is focused on culture, loyalty, and growth. Here, the agency should be explaining how they can help you with maintaining and growing your current employees. Look for critical points, such as placing priorities on culture and strategies to help leaders think differently, as well as drive and inspire performance and loyalty. We suggest you keep an eye out for how they talk about culture, because if they can help you with strengthening yours, it will mean the difference between just filling a role at your business versus filling a need.

Consulting for benefit programs: A service that can help your company take care of your employees.

Because benefits packages vary greatly across the hospitality industry, your recruitment firm should understand your particular offerings and be able to communicate things like traditional HMOs versus PPOs to job candidates, as well as dental, vision, life insurance, and more if desired.

3. Search tactics

How does the agency find talent? The most obvious is utilizing job boards and career sites. Types of job boards can range from generic such as Indeed, Zip Recruiter, Monster, to industry-specific such as ours. Since many job sites and career boards contain millions of job seekers' resumes, these resources can act as a strong pool for recruiters, which is why it's standard practice.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used by nearly all recruiters to stay organized and manage their pool of candidates. These systems store resumes and data of each candidate and are technologically built with strong search capabilities. It is an excellent tool and allows recruiters to find and vet strong prospects.

The second method and tool you could expect would be LinkedIn. For recruiters, it's easy to use, but you can expect this to be used more for management positions. The reason for the popularity of this method is because recruiters can use marketing and advertising tools, which makes their hunt for the perfect candidate easier.

Networking events are an excellent resource for recruiters, allowing them to network with active job seekers, learn about the position they are hiring for, and build a network with professionals in the industry.

If they mention that they are able to locate candidates through referrals, you might have a killer agency in front of you. Agencies often stay in touch with candidates they previously placed. Referrals are great ways to find candidates, because there's someone who can vouch for them.

Line cook or head chef in the restaurant kitchen doing their job.

4. Qualifying candidates

How does the recruiting firm qualify candidates? In any industry, it's essential you and the recruiter have this nailed down together. When looking for key factors such as characteristics, level of motivation, hard and soft skills, and preferences, you and the agency should sign-off on what that checklist looks like.

And keep in mind, a resume can only say so much, but the firm uses a tool like our video interview questionnaire/ introduction, they can learn a lot about job seekers in a minute or two (and share the virtual intro with you).

For many hospitality jobs, the field work says it all. If you are hiring for a chef, cook, bartender, or servers, standard practice is to have them come in and see your candidate in action. A potential chef can look great on a resume, but if the candidate doesn't know how to make a proper medium rear steak, then you have your answer. And there is only one way to find out: test, test, test!

Vetting methodologies can provide you with a much clearer picture as far as the candidate's learning abilities and analytical skills are concerned. Know your recruiting firm's.

5. Steady communication

Will the agency provide weekly search updates? Each day your restaurant goes without a critical staff member, your business and team can suffer. Quickly filling a vacant role with the right candidate can take time, but your recruiting agency should be communicating their progress on a regular basis.

Set your recruitment goals before you reach out to a talent acquisition firm so you can track and set expectations. Follow the example below.

Be specific – start by clearly defining your recruitment goals. For example, you need to build a new culinary team, and they need to be able to produce X, Y, and Z

Be timely – aim to have a certain number of candidates in a specific time frame (and make yourself available at certain times to enact your responsibilities as a hiring manager)

Be resourceful – identify tools or strategies do you need to accomplish your hiring goals

Be realistic – make sure the goals of your business and the agency are aligned

Aligning your goals with the abilities of the recruiting firm is a sure way to success.

Reviewing applicants through ATS system.

6. Tech power

How are they screening candidates? Talent acquisition agencies often invest a good amount in systems that help them assess candidates. As mentioned before, ATS systems play a big role in this. The foundation of these programs is to scan resume content and match them with the job content. The systems will then give the candidate a score or grade of how likely they fit the job.

However, there is a con. The system relies too much on keywords, which means you can miss out on great applicants simply because they used different terms in their applications. And as you can guess, systems such as these don't tell you everything about a candidate. Ensure that the agency doesn't rely too much on this and has a humanistic approach to recruiting to create a fine balance.

Working in hospitality takes grit, talent, and customer-facing "people skills," so it's essential you focus on hard and soft skills. Hard skills and experience can be read on a resume, but personality traits can only be read through in-person, phone, or video interviews. Keep this in mind when you are considering outsourcing your hiring efforts.

7. Team building

Your business harbors a unique team culture, so hiring is more than just filling a vacant seat. You're inviting a person into your business "family" and the recruiting agency should have a strong sense of who that person should be. While they're focusing on the right person, know that they're keeping in mind the best practices of team building. Oftentimes, they can even help you reach goals of diversifying your workplace or bringing more uniquely qualified employees on board.

Create your list of needs (using this one as a guide), then compare and contrast agencies and their pros and cons. It is wise to look for human resource firms that can deliver additional value on top of recruiting. We suggest you use your recruitment goals as a path to guide you to the right firm that understands hospitality, your business, and its culture to the core.

Below you will find Recruiting Firms in the top U.S states for hospitality.

Florida Recruiting Firms

· Epic Staffing Agency

· Hospitality Staffing Solutions

· RMG Staffing

California Recruiting Firms

· Brad Metzger Solutions

· Boutique Search Firm

· Bristol Associates

New York Recruiting Firms

· Epic Staffing Agency

· Hospitality Talent Scouts

· RestaurantZone