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How to get a Job in a Hotel

Click here to learn about how to get a job on a cruise ship.

Click here to learn about how to get a job with an airline.

So you want to work in an industry that requires 7 days a week and 24 hours a day of serving guests (and yes, that means working public holidays as well), often with poor pay and being reliant on guests largesse. Working hours will be long and irregular - you'll have to take your turn to do the night shifts and be prepared to deal with a wide range of emergencies. Whilst your mates are hitting the night clubs you'll be dealing with unhappy clients. The exception to this are some of the catering and back office jobs (given the huge range of diverse jobs in the hotel industry, exceptions are inevitable). You'll be regularly relocating to new hotels, at least if you're trying to advance your career and gain more experience.

If you don't enjoy working with people (and aren't great at faking it!), forget it - those in with a chance will have a zest for life, be outgoing, friendly, take pride in their appearance, be a team player, have superb skills at taking care of the needs of hotel guests, a bubbly personality and be willing to work their fingers to the bone. You must be willing to muck in and do jobs which aren't theoretically yours, when the need arises - this may involve washing dishes, cleaning toilets or doing the cooking.

Most jobs involve plenty of walking and standing for many hours - so son't bother applying if you're not in good physical condition (except for back office jobs) - and forget about those jobs which involve carrying of heavy loads (e.g. loading & unloading supplies of food & drinks). . This applies to management staff as well, although they may spend some time "relaxing" in meetings. Jobs as chefs carry the additional burden of having to work in hot and sweaty conditions.

If you're a clock watcher don't even bother applying. If you're not competent at English that will severely restrict your options. Whilst there are 11 official languages in South Africa, the reality is that english is the most commonly spoken language. However, being able to speak other languages is a bonus.

One needs to avoid the scams that do the rounds with fake jobs, scumbags trying to take advantage of those who are desperate for work - do not use an agency which charges fees for its services - this is a sure sign of a scam.

Caledon Hotel & Spa

Training

There are 3 paths you can choose:

  1. Learning whilst working, which has the advantage that you are being paid from the start.

  2. Paying to attend a formal course, attaining anything up to university degrees and postgraduate qualifications. In following this route it's important to realise that nothing can replace the experience you'll acquire from doing the job - no book can replicate that. These courses are far from being theoretical only, and it's likely that the course you do will partially entail practical on the job training. The disadvantage of this route is that you're not paid (in fact, you do the paying!).

  3. Some hotels offer courses whilst working which include formally recognised qualifications, allowing you to get the best of both worlds.

For certain roles a degree will be crucial, e.g. to become finance manager.

Applying to a Hotel Group

As a tourist mecca and with business travellers humming to and fro, South Africans have a swathe of options when it comes to jobs in the hospitality industry.

 

City Lodge
Town Lodge
Road Lodge
Courtyard

View vacancies on their LinkedIn page.
Or email careers@clhg.com

Hilton

Click here to find job opportunities for Hilton Hotels

Marriott Hotel

Click here to search for hotel jobs in your area. You'll need to create a login profile in order to apply for a job.

Newmark Hotel

Phone 021 427 5900 or email shamila@newmarkhotels.com

Orion Hotels

Click here to see what jobs are available. Email your CV to lisaa@oriongroup.co.za mentioning your preferred location of work.

Protea Hotel by Marriott

If you have zero experience, then Protea Hotel wont accept you into their in-service training program. You'll need to pick up a year's experience in a hotel first, which isn't necessarily a Protea Hotel. To get the necessary year's experience at a Protea Hotel, navigate to their website, look at the list of hotels, identify the ones you could get to, to work, and contact the hotels directly asking whether they are taking on "Orientation Trainees" - if yes, then apply directly to the specific hotels.

If you already have a year's experience, then apply to join Protea Hotel's in-service trainee program. And bonus, you'll be paid a small stipend. It's a 3 year course where you'll be trained for a minimum of one year in each hotel you are assigned to. You'll also do a variety of short courses. Only apply if have completed NQF 4 or grade 12, you're South African, you are older than 18 and will be younger than 23 at the end of your first year's training, got over 50% for english, over 50% for maths or accounting or over 50% in every subject. If you meet all the qualifications then decide which course you want to enrol for (1) Cookery Program, or (2) Management Program. NB: You will have to work for Protea Hotels for a year after the course has been completed, to repay them for providing the training. This will ideally involve you finding a job at a suitable Protea Hotel, but if you can't find one then you'll simply be allocated whatever job is available at any Protea Hotel. To apply email the following documents to inservice@proteahotels.com : CV + cover letter, work references, school testimonials, a passport sized photo, and NQF certificate or matric qualification. The application must be sent before the end of August, to get into the following January's course.

Sun International

Click here to see what jobs are open, and apply for any that you are keen on. Note that you'll only get one opportunity to apply for a job, so be sure that you get the answers to the questions right the first time.

As Sun International also operates casinos, there is the added opportunity to take up gaming-related work. You can also register your CV here. Once you've registered and made an application, you can track its progress there.

Answer the job specific questionnaire which will ensure that you qualify for the basic criteria required for the position. Ensure that you answer this truthfully or this will jeopardize your application. You will only be able to apply for any one position ONCE Only.

Tsogo Sun

Click here to see what jobs are available. Tsogo Sun also operates a casino, so there may be gambling-related jobs available.

If the corporate scene isn't for you, you could try get a job at one of the many guest houses in South Africa. Do a search with Tripadvisor to find the hotels and guest houses which are near to where you stay.

General Job websites

The other way of finding hotel jobs is by looking them up on various careers websites which employers use to advertise jobs:

Applying to Specific Hotels

Cape Town

12 Apostels Hotel jobs

Belmond Mount Nelson jobs

Bushmanskloof jobs (Clanwilliam)
recruitment@bushmanskloof.co.za
HRmanager@bushmanskloof.co.za

Pepperclub Hotel & Spa careers

Taj Hotel careers
021 819 2000
capetown@tajhotels.com

The Cellars Hohenort Hotel careers

The Vineyard Hotel careers

Durban / Umhlanga

The Oysterbox Hotel careers

Johannesburg

Four Seasons The Westcliff jobs

The Capital Hotels Careers

Jobs

All hotel employees thinks that the toughest job in the establishment is being done by them; but the truth is that all the jobs come with challenges.

Hotel jobs cover the full monty of careers. Note that you will have to apply for a particular job, as the "I'm willing to do anything" approach doesn't work. So, start off by deciding which job you want to do (which usually comes down to what you're most qualified for).

Whether specific jobs listed below are available at a hotel group depends on its size and setup - e.g. you wont find a job raking the sand traps at a hotel without a golf course!

Sales & Marketing

The pinnacle of this area is becoming a sales manager. A starting position would be a market researcher or a meeting and convention planner. Expect to be involved in:

  • Online marketing

  • Traditional marketing

A key account manager would be responsible with building and maintaining relationships with existing key account holders (e.g. large corporates), and discovering and adding new key accounts. This would involve monitoring competitors, cold calling, arranging meetings, pitches for business and presentations. Sales targets would be set and bonuses would typically depend on meeting them.

A reservations manager assists the public and/or travel trade in making reservations by supplying knowledge and suggestions. You'll need to become skilled at using the hotel's reservations system. If it's a large group you'll need to visit the various hotels to build up your knowledge.

Front Desk

Working at the front desk requires the most mental sharpness of the jobs at a hotel, and the greatest ability to take verbal abuse with a smile, as guests scream and swear at you for things that aren't your fault.

Whilst it's housekeeping's job to get the rooms ready by check-in time, the front desk staff will take the flak from clients should the rooms not be ready on time.

When working the evening shift there'll be fewer staff at the front desk, and you may be the only person there to sort out guests' problems.

Other frontline staff are:

  • Receptionist

  • Switchboard operator

The hourly wage for jobs as valets, doormen and bellmen are very low, but if you're good at the job you'll be pulling in a lot of tips (housekeeping also often receive tips). As you can experience you'll learn the psychological tricks to maximising the tips you receive: key ingredients are respect with a bit of humour mixed in.

A job as valet at a classy hotel allows for a real chance to drive top-end vehicles owned by the rich and famous. Think ferraris and lamborghinis, but also lower end vehicles like Toyota Yaris's. Similarly to other jobs, it's awesome at the start to be driving the exotic vehicles, but be warned that the thrill wears off over time. Like the doormen and bellmen; your are likely to get tips from hotel guests who you are assisting - they want you to look after their previous vehicles. The tips are usually provided when arriving at and leaving from the hotel (not for assistance with car trips mid stay). You may find yourself in competition with the doormen for tips. As for experience, you'll need to know how to drive every make of car - from automatics to manual transmission, hybrids and electric vehicles. Don't:

  • even think of taking the guest's car for a spin - you'll lose your job instantly.

  • help yourself to some of the guest's items in the car, you will be under suspicion and may lose your job.

The doorman is the face of the hotel - he's that smart dressed person, usually a middle-aged man, standing outside of the hotel at its door. In smaller hotels the doorman may double as being the bellman as well; and help fill in for the valet. He's the person who will organise a taxi cab for you, and you'll give him a R20 tip in exchange - note that he may have his own motives - and always call the cab with which he gets the best kickbacks; but he'll also ensure that you don't get in a ride where they'll overcharge you. He will take your luggage from the porter and place it in the cab for you. If there's a valet service, he'll give you a ticket for your car and take your ticket when you come to pick up the car. You're almost certainly to be confronted with the moral dilemma of whether you assist somebody looking for something illicit, e.g. marijuana. After the bellman, the doorman is the next most likely to benefit from guests' largesse. If the doorman doubles as the valet, he could be making a large amount of money in tips. You'll learn how to manipulate people to get yourself tips: tip - humour helps, but not cracking the following joke when a guests says "Call me a cab"; doorman: "you're a cab".

The bellman is the smartly dressed (also usually a man) person who assists you with taking your luggage up to your room. This is the job which is most likely to result in tips from guests. The bellman is also known as a bellboy, baggage porter, bellhop or hotel porter; at night he's known as a night porter.

The Night Porter may involve a multitude of tasks one may not immediately think of as his responsibility, given the name - he's responsible for security and reception duties. He may be required to do some cleaning, even preperation of light meals, and if there are functions on the go, to set up the areas for the functions.  

Concierges are required to assists hotel guests with resaurant bookings, local tours, theatre bookings, transportation and whatever other reservations guests may want to make (e.g. dry cleaning). Concierges work extensively with the bellmen and housekeepers in resolving guests' issues.

Five star hotels may also offer a butler service. They'll rove about ensuring that all the guests' needs are met seamlessly; from unpacking clothes from suitcases, to arranging spa treatments and ensuring that your special meal request is met. It being a frontline job, you are likely to get tips from hotel guests.

The pinnacle of front desk work is becoming the front office manager (FOM).

Once you've been in the job a while you'll probably subconsiously start profiling and stereotyping:

  • e.g. you'll think that Americans are often the loudest and expect 24 hour service. Once you've gained even more experience you'll realise that even amongst Americans you can start differentiating the polite behaviour from those from the south and the midwesterners' more formal friendliness.

  • Most likely to complain are the British, with the exception of the Scottish, the Irish and the Welsh.

  • Eventually, after you've gained a few years experience, you'll realise that all nationalities have a mix of chops, respectful and fun people.

Housekeeping

Housekeeping is the most physically challenging work in a hotel - the housekeepers are the only ones who clean bedrooms, corridors and other public area - they spend time on their hands and knees scrubbing and cleaning, working with chemicals and the job is repetitive. Expect to be enduring backstrain at the same time as being yelled at to work quicker. It's important that other employees aren't allowed in bedrooms, to minimise the chances of theft, and housekeeping staff must be beyond reproach. They must change the linen on the beds and replace used towels, being careful not to change towels which clients have indicated they want to reuse, to save water. They must empty the garbage bins, dust, make the beds, polish furniture and vacuum the floors. About twice a week a "deep clean" of each room is done, which entails more work than on the other days. They must take lost items to the lost and found, and report issues requiring maintenance. If a guest should approach them, they should be able to point them in the right direction. You will probably have your own area and not work with other people much.

Housekeeping staff often benefit from tips; the trouble is that working schedules change, so after a couple of days of cleaning somebody's room, they may end up tipping somebody else who fortuitously was cleaning the room on the last day (to avert this problem, guests would ideally tip on a daily basis...unfortunately the world isn't perfect...or always fair). Some guests may even keep the "do not disturb" sign up, so as not to have to feel guilty when not tipping you!

The Housekeeping Supervisor will take all the flak for things going wrong in the rooms and have to deal with the inevitable HR issues amongst the housekeeping staff. Often the Housekeeping Supervisor will also be involved in cleaning rooms in addition to her/his supervisory duties.

Positions include:

  • Room & linen attendant (the bottom of the pile)

  • Cleaners

  • Chambermaids

  • Executive housekeeper

  • Housekeeping supervisor

Housekeeping are also the ones who first see any disasters guests have left in their rooms, examples which have happened, e.g.:

  • A guest with a skin condition had flaked off his skin the bath, which had hardened against the base of the bath and had to be scrubbed off.

  • Guests who have died (natural or suicide)

  • Blood all over the bed and walls.

  • In the heist of the decade, nothing was left in the room - it has been stripped of everything - bed, seats, desk and TV.

Maintenance

The maintenance worker has just as demanding a job as housekeeping, if he or she is doing the job properly.

Food & beverages

To qualify for this:

  • get a qualification from a hotel, chef or catering school.

  • get experience working in a restaurant (ideally fine dining

Conferences & banquets
  • Banquet manager

  • Banquet cook

Hotels which serve 3 meals a day kitchen staff are busy for some 18 out of 24 hours a day. However, at hotels which only serve breakfast, the restaurant staff sometimes may only earn a pittance, as they are only working in the morning.

  • Restaurants manager / maître d'hôtel.

  • Assistant restaurant manager

  • head waiter.

  • Waiters and waitresses. They are responsible for taking orders and moving food & beverages from the kitchen to the guests' tables. They may be responsible for taking payments.

  • Assistant waiter. Laying tables and clearing used dishes from tables.

  • Sommelier / wine waiter. Takes orders for drinks.

  • Junior Sommelier

Cooking & Kitchen

Kitchen staff are responsible for ensuring a high quality & presentation of food and drinks (it's not enough for the food to be of a high quality, but it doesn't look good). To facilitate the high quality of food they must ensure they receive the freshest ingredients, are knowledge enough to prepare it properly and do so in a clean hygienic kitchen. They must:

  • order sufficient food but not too much, to avoid wastage.

  • keep the menu up to date with changing receipe requirements, cost and implement new recipes

The various positions in the kitchen are:

    • Head Chef (aka Executive Chef).

    • Sous Chef, the second in command after the Head Chef. Is responsible for ensuring that standards of cleanliness, food quality and food presentation are maintained at a high level. The Sous Chef is typically also responsible for coordinating with the food purchasing manager, banqueting staff, the restaurant and room service.

    • Chef de partie

    • Cooks

    • Assistant cooks

    • Pantry chefs

    • Pantry girls

    • Scullery assistants

    • Kitchen cleaners

Flower Arranger

Large and posher hotels will have specialised jobs like flower arrangers, or they may outsource this work to a florist.

Finance & accounting

Security

Human Resources

You'll implement the business's HR policies with the staff. A bachelors degree in HR will help you get this spot, as well as any relevant experience.

A payroll specialist would maintain a database with details of employees, prepare payslips for employees, make payments to staff, make payments to retirement schemes, make payments to unions, pay the receiver of revenue, keep track of employees' leave, field staff enquiries, administer garnishee orders and making sure the payroll is correctly entered into the financial accounting system.

HR will administer the sick leave process, ensuring sick leave dates are properly recorded for each employee, file doctors' certificates, and make payments to medical aid.

When hiring HR will:

  • maintain an up to date list of vacancies, and regularly update the online and offline publications of vacancies.

  • ensure that the hiring process abides by South African labour law.

  • conduct telephonic interviews with prospective employees

  • escort prospective employees around the hotel on interview date and attend interviews.

  • follow up with references given by previous empoyers.

  • set up offers of employment and conditions of employment.

  • ensure that new employees are added to the payroll, and leaving employees have their status changed.

HR are also involved in facilitating job shadowing and showing groups of students around the hotel.

Information Technology

Think maintenance of servers, networks and computer systems (including desktop). A minimum of 2 years relevant experience would be required, together with the appropriate academic qualifications.

Spa

Spa therapist.

Gambling

Naturally these jobs are only available at hotels which have casinos:

  • Floor Manager Tables

  • Floor Manager Slots

  • Croupier

  • Cashier

  • Cashiering Supervisor

Golf courses

A very small number of hotels own accompanying golf courses, and there are jobs available there like raking the sand traps.

Selecting a hotel

The more profitable the hotel and the higher the room rates and the bigger the hotel and the more stars, the more likely you'll be able to work your way up to a position which makes money. Keep aware of your hotel's revenue goals, so that management know you're thinking about the bigger picture.

If you choose a hotel with an active trade union you may get slightly better working conditions and wages.

At your interview assess what management are like - if they're a bunch of chops or want to work you like a slave you'll have a torrid time at the hotel.

Outsourcing

Occasionally a hotel, especially large ones, decide to outsource some of their jobs, for example housekeeping. You can follow the usual route of approaching a hotel, and they will let you know who they have outsourced the job to and provide assistance with applying for a job there.

Time off

Expect to work odd hours. Typical work cycles are:

  • 3 weeks on and 1 week off

  • 24 days on and 8 days offs

Once you've started

Show that you're a person with the highest integrity, avoid the inevitables drams that play themselves out between staff, lead from the front when there are tense situations, be willing to help others when they're overwhelmed, become the best in your position, move around both in different positions within the hotel, as well as across hotels (but not more than once a year).

Perks

Whilst most hotels don't allow their staff to stay at the hotel; if they're part of a chain they may provide a discounted rate to stay at sister hotels. Having said that that's the general situation, some hotels do allow a limited number of free nights a year that you can stay at the hotel. The discount and free nights may also apply for immediate family. Since they're the most client-facing, there may be special rules for the front desk staff, that they can't stay at their home hotel. There may also be special rules allowing management to stay for free, but not other staff. If there are complaints then you will not be allowed to make further use of the free nights / discounted rates, and if it's about something serious then you may be fired. Some hotels only offer free nights after a certain number of years of service (at Marriott this is 25 years of service, after which you can enjoy free weekends). Often the free nights and discounted rates may not be on dates when the hotel is nearly or is fully booked. Some hotels allow staff to stay over in cases where they wouldn't make it to work on time because of, e.g., weather; or if they were working a double-shift and wouldn't get sufficient sleep otherwise. Smaller hotels may not allow their employees any free nights or discounted rates, or sometimes even to stay at the hotel if they're paying.

Depending on company policy, some meals may be provided for free.

There may be free transport for light night shifts.

Don't base your job solely on your take-home pay, also check whether the company offers a retirement fund and free healthcare. Attempt to obtain your cost to company.

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