Make a career move into hospitality — one of Singapore’s fastest growing and most vibrant sectors — with these insider tips from a hotel hiring expert.

The hospitality sector in Singapore is booming, with an estimated 4.2 million international visitors to the Lion City in just the second quarter of 2017. We sat down with Vasundhra Nasa, 31, Assistant Sales Manager at Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay, part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

With seven years of hiring experience in hospitality, she shares some thoughts on key factors that would convince her to hire a mature PMET, aged 40 and above, in one of Singapore’s fastest growing industries. Here are her top tips.

1. Research the Industry — and the Company

Before even applying for a role in hospitality, says Vasundhra, decide if you are ready for the non-traditional working hours and weekend work schedules.

“If you are switching industries to hospitality, you need to be open to change. In the hotel industry, for example, it’s not a nine-to-six job and you won’t always get a fixed weekend off,” she adds. “During interviews, we make sure that job candidates are aware of and comfortable with this. If we know that someone is not comfortable [with such hours], then we make a decision on whether they suit our work environment.”

If you are switching industries to hospitality, you need to be open to change.

Before applying or attending an interview, it is also important to research current hospitality news and trends. “Visit TripAdvisor or similar travel-related sites to find out what everyone is talking about,” says Vasundhra. “By demonstrating your knowledge of the most buzzed-about hotels or restaurants, you won’t come across as someone who doesn’t know what’s going on.”

Research the company in detail via its website, as well as look to the internet for any news stories. Become familiar with its culture, management style, competitors and approach to industry trends. According to Vasundhra, weaving this information into your job interview will help project your image as someone who is interested in the job, puts in the effort to find out more and pays attention to detail.

2. Pretend Your Interviewer is a Hotel Guest

Treat your job interview as you would a one-on-one conversation with a hotel guest, advises Vasundhra. Looking and acting the part will make it easier for the interviewer to visualise you as a hospitality employee. In addition, project confidence and poise by giving a brief and firm handshake, maintaining eye contact and relaxing your arms so you do not come across as insecure or defensive.

Vasundhra shares the story of Raymond See, Housekeeping Manager at Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay. The 43-year-old impressed during his job interview by zooming in on the core business focus of the sector: customers.

“In our interview [with Raymond], he was very articulate about how he would go about carrying out his tasks but always [kept] the hotel guests in mind. When I conduct job interviews, many people discuss skills and technicality but not people. At the end of the day, hotels are a people-first industry. That’s what made him stand out [to me],” shares Vasundhra.

3. Highlight Your Transferable Skills and Unique Selling Points

Set yourself apart from other candidates by emphasising unique skills and on-the-job experiences that have helped you achieve success and can be applied to your new job position.

Vasundhra hired Sharon Lee, 40, in 2017 as Associate Director of Sales at Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay. Despite having no prior experience in hospitality — she previously worked as a real estate agent — the company decided to hire her over other candidates who had a background in the hotel industry.

“We hired Sharon because she brought a fresh perspective to our sales approach. She asks questions, like ‘Why don’t we push an extra $2 for this corporate package rate?’” says Vasundhra.

“With on-going changes in the hotel industry, and many hotels entering the market, it is critical that we do not look for the same cookie-cutter responses when hiring for this position. Since she joined, we’ve closed sales at a much higher rate.”

When it comes to standing out from the crowd, the detail in resumes matter, adds Vasundhra. “Simply stating that you have experience in guest relations doesn’t tell me much. What would help is stating key achievements or challenges that you faced and were able to overcome. The basics we can talk about in person. But the additional details would make an applicant stand out.”

4. Never Stop Learning

With technology rapidly changing how hotels operate and what consumers expect of them, it is important for mature jobseekers to refine or learn new skills to stay relevant and add value to potential employers. If you have no prior experience in hospitality, check out government programmes such as Workforce Singapore’s Professional Conversion Programme that provide classroom and on-the-job skills training aligned with business and industry needs.

“Within the last two years, there have been close to 20 or 25 new hotels that have opened in Singapore. If there is someone who wants to explore this career path, there are jobs available,” says Vasundhra. “You just need to develop and hone your skills, and use it to your advantage!”

Reference: Singapore Tourism Board Q2 2017 Tourism Sector Performance Report