Finding our tribe: How we INTERVIEW for the world's most hospitable team.

Copyright: The Walt Disney Company
In this post, we will share some insight into how we INTERVIEW for the world's most hospitable team via three lessons that we have learned along the way.
In our blog post Finding our tribe: How we RECRUIT for the world's most hospitable team, we discussed the importance of being thoughtful and intentional throughout your campground's recruiting process. As a campground investment and third-party management company overseeing properties nationwide, how and who we recruit is an incredibly important part of each of our campground's success.

In this blog post, we'll assume that you are now attracting candidates who are a better cultural fit for your organization and that you've narrowed the applicant pool to those you'd like to interview. If you are not yet seeing the right candidates, please click here. In this post, we will share some insight into how we INTERVIEW for the world's most hospitable team via three lessons that we have learned along the way.


Lessons we have learned in our past that you can apply in your future:
1
Lesson one:
Dig for insights… not for answers
2
Lesson two:
Trust your Jiminy Cricket
3
Lesson three:
Benchmark away the bias and use that data for continued improvement
Lesson One: Dig for insights... not for answers

We've all heard the saying: "It's not what you say, it's how you say it."

For the hundreds of interviews we conduct each season, we prefer a slight variation of this saying: "It's not what you ask, it's how you ask it".

Two candidates walk into a bar (don't worry, they are interviewing to be bartenders).

The manager looks at candidate one and asks, "We want to make our customers happy. Do you consider yourself to be someone who is hospitable?"

Candidate one nods her head and says, with complete self-assuredness, "Yes, I would consider myself to be someone who is hospitable."

The manager then looks at candidate two and asks, "We are on a mission to be the most hospitable bar in America. Tell me, how do you define hospitality?"

Both questions are intended to achieve the same outcome - to determine the candidate's likelihood of delivering extraordinary hospitality to the bar's customers.

The first - outside of the obvious bias presented through the question itself (it is unlikely that someone applying for a role in hospitality would respond in this situation that they are not a hospitable person) - includes a massive assumption - that the candidate's definition of hospitality and the manager's definition of hospitality are in agreement. The question, as asked, was looking for an answer. In reality, the question should have been looking for an insight: one piece of a much larger puzzle that, when paired with a series of other insights, will allow the manager to form an opinion on the candidate's likelihood to succeed in the position.

Lesson one: Dig for insights, not for answers.
Lesson Two: Trust your Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket: the Disney-illustrated personification of a conscious. Remember him?

He's the voice in our head that tells us what we're feeling before our brain has fully processed why we're feeling it.

One of our managers is full of energy. Tough, no-nonsense, and as kind as they come. When they reached out to interview for the position, they were, true to form, bold and direct.

I am applying to work with your company because I believe in your mission. I left my last job because the owners didn't like hearing how to run their business from someone like me. Let's hop on the phone to discuss how I can add value to your campground, team and guests. I promise you, I won't disappoint.

Some may have read this as brash and would have been quick to dismiss. But not Jiminy. He said, hmmm… the downside of having a conversation with them is limited - the conversation can be as short as we need it to be. But the upside here is huge… we could potentially add a bold, direct, confident team member who believes in our mission. Seems worthy of a chat. And it was… just a few weeks later, they were managing (and continue to manage) one of our top performing campgrounds. Good thing we trusted Jiminy.

Alternatively, Jiminy can protect us from what might otherwise be less desirable situations.

We recently set up an interview with an applicant for a Community Manager position at one of our campgrounds. Their resume was impressive - ten-plus years managing large, high-trafficked campgrounds across the country; but something was off.

>>>>>>>>>>

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your interest in joining us on our mission to build the most hospitable company in the world. Your experience is impressive. I would look forward to speaking with you to see if the Community Manager role on our team would be a good fit for your next adventure.

If you are interested in learning more about the opportunity, please let me know a few times that work for you to speak by phone this week or next, along with the best number to contact you. I don't anticipate that we'll need more than thirty minutes for this first conversation.

With Warm Hospitality,
Josh

>>>>>>>>>>

Hi Josh,

Thank for getting back to me. Saturday morning, maybe?

Michael

>>>>>>>>>>

On the surface, this might seem like an OK response. Sure, we asked for a few time options and the best number to reach him, neither of which were provided. Perhaps he read the email too quickly, and we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But something beyond that wasn't adding up.

"Saturday morning, maybe?"
"Thank for getting"

>>>>>>>>>>

Enter, Jiminy, with his little white-glove-covered hands waving in the air. Jiminy - we hear you, loud and clear. We want team members who get the job, can do the job, and WANT the job. While Michael might "want" the job, his apathetic demeanor and lack of attention to detail is not going to work well on our team. We'll let Michael know that we will no longer be moving forward with his candidacy.

Here are a few other examples of situations that have made Jiminy ring the bell…

  • A candidate who told us that their nickname at the last campground they managed was "the sergeant"
  • A candidate who, when asked about their leadership style, told us that they are "more of a boss than a coach"
  • A candidate who referred to a guest as "the money"

It is way easier to part ways with someone before they join your team (during the interview process) than once you have on-boarded them and invested in their growth. We all have a Jiminy - it's your job to listen to him.

Lesson two: Trust your Jiminy Cricket
Lesson Three: Benchmark away the bias and use that data for continued improvement

It is easy to feel biased in favor of or against certain candidates based on factors that are totally unrelated to their prospective performance in the role they've applied to. We all express biases differently; it is our job as interviewers to remove those biases altogether.

To "benchmark away the bias", we have developed, amongst other tools, a scorecard to evaluate each candidate based on their alignment with our values. As part of our campground interview process, each candidate is asked a series of questions (consistent from one candidate to the next) that helps us to determine if the candidate will be a good fit on our team.

For example, one of our core values is: "we get better every day". To ascertain a candidate's alignment with that value, one of the questions we ask is: "what is something in your life that you are better at today than you were a year ago, and what was the process you used to achieve that improvement?" Answers are then scored using a "+", "+/-", or "-". (We would recommend creating questions for each of your campground's core values and using this same exercise with interviewees… we have found this to be a remarkably helpful and reliable tool.)

Additionally, we use a "yes" or "no" to evaluate if the candidate has the technical skill, desire, and a clear understanding of the role and its responsibility, as determined by their answers to a variety of questions and discussion points.

Taking an objective approach to hiring has two primary benefits:

  1. It allows us to limit the amount of bias that goes into our decision making process
  2. It allows us to look at a candidate's success with us after they have been on our team for some period of time and to determine, based on the questions we asked during their interview, which questions were most indicative of our team member's success. In doing so, we regularly iterate and improve the questions we ask in expectation of attracting and identifying the best candidates to join our company.

Lesson three: Benchmark away the bias


Interviewing is tough. There is no way around it (if so, please let us know!). And until someone has been on your team for at least a few months (assuming they weren't a total misfit), it's near impossible to determine how effective you were in conducting your interviews and selecting the people to work alongside you.

With that said, at LLA Hospitality, we believe that following the formula of 1) digging for insights, not for answers; 2) trusting our Jiminy Cricket; and 3) benchmarking away the bias and using data for continued improvement are all necessary steps towards building a team that delivers an outstanding experience to our guests.

Interested in hiring our team to work with or manage your campground?
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