The Do’s and Don’ts of travel industry recruitment

Lee is a travel recruitment expert with a vast knowledge of both the business and leisure travel industries, dealing daily with clients and candidates. Roles she recruits for are often highly specific regarding skills and experience, and the need to match the right candidate to the right role is a top priority. Here’s her advice on the Do’s and Don’ts of travel industry recruitment in order to get the best candidates.

DO plan ahead in travel industry recruitment

A common problem is that companies bring their recruitment needs to agencies when they need staff urgently. But many candidates need between 1 and 3 months’ notice, particularly those in senior positions.

Maternity cover, too, can be planned for. A lot of companies tell me only a month before the person is going that they need maternity cover. They should ask 2 or 3 months earlier as some candidates may be finishing contracts and still have 2 or 3 months to go. It gives more time to find the most suitable candidates too.

I also find seasonal cover, eg for the busy booking period between December and March, is left too late to source in the best way possible. Companies start looking for seasonal travel industry recruitment in October or November and may have a long recruitment process with 2 or 3 interviews before offering candidates a position. Ideally, they should contact recruiters at least 3-6 months before they need someone, as many seasonal candidates plan in advance for these contracts rather than accepting them as a last resort.

DO think outside the box when hiring

Many (though not all) travel companies will only accept candidates who already work in the travel industry. I think this can greatly limit travel industry recruitment options. They could be missing good candidates who have excellent sales skills and first-hand travel knowledge but aren’t yet in the travel industry. Someone who can sell and has experienced a destination will talk about it more passionately than someone who just sells it from a list of key points that someone else wrote, particularly in leisure travel.

Business Travel companies often only want candidates that have worked in Business Travel, but I believe someone who wants to transfer from a leisure agent may fit their profiles better. They can tailor-make travel needs to suit clients and have worked in hard sales environments so their skills transfer well to Business Travel.

There are also people who come from Customer Service backgrounds who make excellent travel consultants if companies are willing to bring them on as trainees. They will also stay longer and are less likely to job hop because they are learning and developing within a company. It’s also good to look at a candidate’s whole history to see how they have developed from role to role and take into account other skills they may have learnt in previous roles.

DON’T forget to ask why someone is leaving their current job

It is important to find out if someone is moving for a career development motive or are moving on from a personality clash because we need to know how to fit them in the right company and environment for a long-term career opportunity. It’s much easier for a travel recruitment agency to find this out before any interviews have taken place. We need to know if the role we find is going to offer growth opportunities or if they potentially will be working with large or small team. Any new job needs to fit a candidate’s personality. Or if a sales applicant hasn’t been making sales targets under pressure then we can assist them and look at other options within the travel industry that may suit their personality more.

DO offer incentives to attract premium candidates

Incentives are important as everyone likes to be recognised for their achievements. In leisure travel this is often in the form of Fam trips, which gives the consultants something to work towards. In Business Travel a lot of companies are starting to explore a monetary reward system. I always found when managing a team my consultants were motivated by the recognition of a job well done. They would enjoy shopping vouchers or maybe an afternoon off. Travel and money are the biggest motivators in travel industry recruitment.

DO look at the job from the candidate’s eyes

I’m always very empathetic and look at roles from a candidate’s position. People tell me about their personal situation, for example if a long commute is frustrating them or they have small children and the hours are difficult in their current role. So, when looking at the roles I will explore the hours, or the commute or the long-term career advantages and focus on the good things that they are most likely to find enticing. They need to know the move is going to be a positive step forward and make their current situation and work-life balance more enjoyable.

DON’T hire someone you’re not sure of

If you are unsure from the start of the travel industry recruitment process, you may be setting the business up for an unnecessary expense as they are likely to get rid of the candidate sooner than expected or the candidate is likely to leave. In my experience whenever hiring someone I wasn’t 100% sure of they always left within 6 months. They are unlikely to do the job properly that you are recruiting them for. The right person will stay longer and be a great return on investment.

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If you’re looking for great travel talent, take a minute to read Progressive Travel Recruitment’s director James Roberts’ blog on finding the best travel talent, too.