28 Jul 2017

12 Tips for Hiring Winning Reservation Agents

To build a sustainable, profitable business in the hospitality/travel industry, you need great employees. In the early days of your business, it might have been easy to keep all the plates spinning yourself, but as your business grows and matures, you have less and less time to dedicate to every single area of your business.

If you want to survive and thrive, you need to hire and train people who can take some of the responsibilities off your shoulders, and help you scale your operations.

As you focus your time and energy managing other areas of your business, one of the first teams you’re going to want to build out is your reservations team—the people who can help you nurture relationships and bring new guests (and money) to your property.

To build an effective team of reservation agents at your property this year, follow these 12 tips:

1. Identify Your Needs and Goals

The first step you need to take when preparing to hire reservation agents for your property is to think about what it is that you’re actually looking for. Before you can write a good job description or start interviewing candidates, you need to think about why you’re hiring more people to work for you, and what it will ultimately accomplish.

To start identifying your needs, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you need more people to help you with reservations and sales?
  • What tasks take up most of your time today? If you had more free time, where else in your business would or could you invest it?
  • Are you able to easily transfer the knowledge you have and the processes you’ve created to a new employee? If not, what can you start doing now to prepare?
  • What kind of employee are you looking for? What characteristics should they have? What experience do they need?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your new hire or hires? Do you want to free up some of your time? Would you like to drive more sales?
  • Are there specific goals you can set and think about as you go through the process of hiring someone to join your team? What are they?
  • Are you prepared to manage and mentor a new employee?

Taking the time to come up with answers to these questions will help prepare you for the tasks ahead.

2. Describe Your Ideal Candidate

After you’ve spent some time thinking about your needs and your goals, the next step is to describe your ideal candidate. This is an important step to take, especially before writing your job description. Why? Because it will not only help you think more about the role you’re looking to fill and the type of employee you’re looking to hire, but it will also help interested candidates better understand what your expectations are. If you can be crystal clear about what you’re looking for in your job description, you’ll find that you can naturally weed out bad candidates and avoid wasting valuable time during the interview phase.

So how do you go about describing your ideal candidate? Here are three tips:

Tip #1: Think about what you like or don’t like about your current employees. What skills do you wish your current agents had when they came into the role? What challenges have you experienced with your current employees?

Tip #2: Think about your corporate values. An ideal candidate should not only be able to perform the job duties they are assigned, but they should also align with your company values and expectations.

Tip #3: Make a wish list and a deal breaker list. Be specific as possible about what you want and don’t want in a new employee. Use your list throughout the interview process to find the right candidates for your role.

Describing your ideal candidate ahead of time in this way will help you recognize the right future employee when they walk through your door.

3. Write a Great Job Description

At this point, you’ve thought about the role, you’ve thought about the ideal candidate, and you’re finally ready to sit down and write a job description. As I hinted in the previous section, writing a good job description is a crucial part of hiring a winning employee. It’s not something you should simply breeze through—it matters. Remember: you’re trying to attract the best talent available in your market.

So, what does a good job description look like? It’s going to be different for every business, but here are some key components worth including:

  • A brief summary about who you’re looking for—i.e. why should they care?
  • Information about what makes your team and your property different
  • A job title and a clear set of responsibilities/duties
  • A list of required skills and qualifications that candidates must meet in order to be considered
  • Information about any benefits or perks you offer
  • Salary and commission information if you’re comfortable including it
  • Contact information and additional information about your business

After you’ve written a first draft of your job description, share it with other members of your team to get feedback. Make necessary revisions based on the feedback you get, read through it a few more times, then finalize it for publishing.

4. Offer Competitive Pay & Benefits

Before you interview candidates for your open reservation agent position, you need to decide what kind of pay and benefits you’re going to offer as compensation for the role. If you already have a team of reservation agents, you likely already have a fairly good idea of how to structure your compensation package, but if you’re hiring your first employee to help, it might be less clear.

To attract the best candidates, you need to ensure that your package is competitive compared to the other resorts, lodges, and properties in your area. For help deciding what kind of monetary compensation to offer, utilize resources like Glassdoor. If you’re not sure what kind of benefits or perks to offer, spend some time reading through these blog posts:

If you’d like to also offer commission as additional incentive to agents, spend some time going through this post to decide what kind of commission plan will work best for your business and your employees.

5. Prepare for the Interview

When you’re finally ready to start meeting potential hires for your reservation agents position, you should take a few hours to prepare for the interview. For candidates and employers, there’s nothing worse than an interview that feels rushed or a waste of time. Here are some things you should do to prepare for your interview:

  • Gather and organize all of the information and thoughts you put together from the first few sections of this article.
  • Come up with a standard list of questions that you plan to ask all candidates.
  • Review your company values so that you can recognize traits and characteristics that might reflect what you’re looking for.
  • Prepare any writing or verbal communication exercises you want your candidates to go through.
  • Be ready to clear your schedule—it will help you avoid coming across as rushed or uninterested when your candidates come in for their interviews.

Remember to also review which questions you legally can and cannot ask when interviewing candidates. For a refresher, read through this quick blog post.

6. Design Role Playing Exercises

As mentioned briefly in the previous section, you should take the time to design and prepare role playing exercises for your candidates to go through during their interview. As reservation agents for your property, they will be talking to all sorts of people—it’s important that they possess the ability to communicate effectively with others. Here are some types of exercises you could design for candidates:

  • Idea #1: Ask candidates to follow up over email with someone who has reached out through your website asking for more information about your property.
  • Idea #2: Pretend to be an interested traveler who is calling in to learn more about your resort. Ask your candidates to answer the call and walk through some qualifying questions (you can prepare and offer material for them to reference during this exercise).
  • Idea #3: See how your candidates interact with people while talking to them in-person. Have another member of your team come in and run through a common exchange that they might experience if they were to become an agent for your property.

Keep in mind: it’s OK if your candidates don’t know all the answers about your property, rooms, amenities, etc—and you should let them know this upfront before going through your exercises. The point isn’t for them to already know everything about how to do the job—that’s what training is for. The point is to see how they communicate over email, over the phone, and in person.

7. Watch and Listen Closely During Interviews

In addition to watching for communication style and effectiveness during your interviews, you should also be watching for personality traits, culture-fit, and whether or not candidates align with your corporate core values.

This means that you need to be an incredibly active listener during the entirety of the interview. From the moment a candidate engages with you, you should be watching and listening to how they act and how they respond.

If you’re worried that you might not be able to listen or watch closely enough, consider having a second person from your business involved in the interviews. Your job might be to keep the interview running smoothly and efficiently, and their job might simply be to listen and chime in when they have questions or comments for candidates.

8. Don’t Rush the Process

When trying to find the right fit to join your team, it’s important not to rush the process. This is where planning and management really comes into play. You need to be keeping a pulse on your business and be able to start the hiring process before you really need a new agent to join your team. If you wait too long and only start the process when you are desperate for help, you risk hiring the wrong person.

It can take a long time to find the right person to fill your open reservation agent role—take the time to make sure you’re hiring the right person. Bad hires are not only expensive, they can wreak havoc on productivity, team morale, and business growth.

If a candidate seems promising when they first apply, but you feel less excited about them later in the process for one reason or another, it might be a sign that they aren’t the right fit for your business. Listen to your gut, and don’t be afraid to start the entire process over again if you have to.

9. Be Prepared for Onboarding

As soon as you have found the right person to join your reservations team, you need to be prepared to immediately start onboarding. For employees, there’s nothing worse than starting a new job but not feeling ready or able to perform the duties of your new role. Hiring winning reservation agents doesn’t just end when you make the offer—in order to build an effective team, you have to follow through and set them up for success.

Employee onboarding at your property might include things like:

  • Filling out standard employee information forms
  • HR training
  • Role training
  • Getting new employees set up on tools
  • Outings with your team to build morale

For help developing an effective employee onboarding program at your property, explore this resource.

10. Invest in Training

In order to ensure a successful, effective hire, you should also be prepared to train your new employees. A new employee comes into an organization with skills, experience, and drive, but they will need specific help from you or a member of your team when it comes to learning how to interact with your guests, how to perform their job duties, and how to use the tools and technology you expect them to use.

If you don’t necessarily have the time to train employees yourself, ask one of your senior employees or another reservation agent to take on the job. The best thing you can do is design a standard training program that can be packaged and used by anyone at your business to train new employees. It’s part of building an efficient, scalable business.

Tip: Start training on day 1—don’t make your new employees spend their whole day filling out employment paperwork and meeting your team. Give them something to sink their teeth into right away.

11. Give Them Access to Tools

To build an effective team of agents, you should also give them access to tools that can help them be successful in their roles. With TRACK, for example, you can give your new reservation hires the tools they need to have smarter interactions with leads, prospects, and guests.

When you invest in tools, you’re ultimately investing in your employees and their success—and when you’re employees feel like they have what they need to get the job done, they’re happier, more productive, and more loyal to your business and team.

12. Follow Up

Finally, you should take the time to regularly follow up with employees after you hire them. How often or how soon you follow up is entirely up to you—it could be after a week, after a month, or after 90 days. Your goal is to make sure your new employees have a voice, have the opportunity to be mentored by you, and have what they need to go above and beyond for your business.

Over to You

What other hiring tips can you share with our readers? Leave your advice and stories in the comments below.


Ryan Bailey

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