If you lead a PD team, you have undoubtedly asked this question in regards to an interviewee (or three). The truth is, it’s not an easy thing to quantify, particularly if the candidate in question has never been a host before. It’s a quandary in which you may find yourself more often with regional markets growing at an unprecedented rate these days.
Having hired both experienced and “break-in” hosts over the years, in addition to having “grown” some of my own, some common themes have emerged.
A People Person
When you interview any host candidate, the thing you are looking for is a natural tendency to be a “people person.” Ask questions about specific customers the candidate remembers and why. This sort of question works whether you are interviewing someone who has been a host before or not, even if the background of your candidate doesn’t include customer service. Recent college graduates should have some sort of work experience (summer jobs, internships) where they had to provide a product or service to someone. That is what you need to tap into to determine whether they are truly attuned to people as individuals. If they aren’t, keep looking. While I’m not a big fan of “shopping” your property for future employees, it makes sense to look for people like the ones who always show up as outstanding in customer surveys. What makes that slot attendant or steakhouse server stand out? Make the customer service standouts the standard against which you compare host candidates for their “people personality.”
A Positive Attitude
Taking any new job can make someone anxious. Taking a new job where one is responsible for the needs and wants of a casino’s very best players is daunting even on a good day. An angry high roller is of critical importance and a host using a negative approach is likely to fuel the fire; then nobody wins. Devise some interview questions specifically geared to identify whether the prospective host is one who sees things in a positive light most of the time. Ask about a difficult situation with a co-worker or customer and how it was resolved. Whether the candidate solved the problem on his or her own or if it needed to be escalated, how he or she tells the story will give you some insights into a “glass half-full” mentality (or not). If the glass isn’t at least half full, this candidate isn’t the one you want.
A Willingness to Learn
This attribute extends beyond the ability to learn how your property expects hosts to handle the company’s assets. Willingness to learn includes gleaning and utilizing information about individual players and their preferences, how to handle conflict on behalf of a guest, navigating computer systems and how they are integrated, plus a myriad of other intricate details necessary to manage such a dynamic marketing role. Ask about subjects the candidate enjoyed in school and why; inquire as to training programs the individual has experienced and what he took away from them. Also, assess computer literacy during the interview; a host in this day and age who isn’t comfortable tackling a new interface is assuredly going to be at a disadvantage.
Some of the most charismatic hosts I know have a fatal flaw: they require external motivation. These hosts are great with guests, they can talk with people from all walks of life, and they are fierce advocates for their players when the need arises. All great attributes for a host, right? Right!
Interestingly, not all hosts are great at tracking and reporting on their own activity, providing justification for questionable comp decisions, following up on guest phone calls or other correspondence, or completing guest-related tasks such as reservations and confirmation contacts. It only gets done on deadline through much pulling of hair and rending of garments…and that’s due to you hassling them repeatedly to get it done on time.
You want someone who can engage and follow through. Ask about how the interviewee handles follow-ups, requesting long-term assignment examples for recent grads and specific work examples from non-host candidates. An experienced host should be able to give you some idea how many room nights or tournament seats he is able to fill in a telemarketing session.
A Sense for Confidentiality
Some of the best hosts I know have a different critical weakness: they share too much. Whether it’s personal information about themselves or dissatisfaction with something in their professional life, a host who burdens a guest with unnecessary information is not one you want. Just as one shouldn’t tell a guest “that’s our policy,” one should also never say, “I can’t believe they won’t let me give you…”
To screen for this, ask the candidate about a time she experienced a disappointment due to a policy or guideline in her past and how she handled it. Another, less subtle, way to find out about the candidate’s tendency is to ask about a situation where rumors and over-sharing had an effect on her customer service or job performance.
A Passion for Life
Most importantly, a good casino host is likely to become a person for whom Player Development will become a way of life. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I became a casino host in the mid-’90’s, and I cannot imagine my working life without it containing a significant portion of Player Development. I love talking about it, I love sharing war stories with PD pros, and I relate many other disciplines back to PD. It’s one of my favorite things.) The passion with which I love Player Development extends, of course, to other areas of my life.
To find that attribute in a candidate, and determine whether or not the passion in his life might grow into a love of Player Development and casino marketing, ask the tired old question about what he dis/liked about a past job or activity, but add a twist. Ask what she thinks would have made her like it more. Ask her what she would’ve changed if she were in charge. Find out why the role was or wasn’t a good fit and why.
Ask questions about what the candidate does when he or she isn’t working, too. I’m not suggesting that you become overly personal here, but that you look for the thing that makes the candidate’s eyes light up. If it’s something related to being a good casino host, then you’ve got a good one. If you can’t find the thing that makes his eyes light up, maybe you want to keep interviewing.