How to Hire Right

Businessmen Shaking Hands
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In this issue of Luxury Travel Advisor, Kristin Karst, EVP of AmaWaterways, talks about what her company looks for when hiring someone: “Important for us is attitude. It’s the way they present themselves, it’s the way we see that they care, it’s the way they have big smiles, it’s the way they think outside of the box, it’s the way they want to make it happen. It’s how they say, ‘yes,’ and it’s the way they think. And then you can basically teach them everything.”

Ruthanne Terrero, Vice President—Content/Editorial Director

This is important for an organization that provides services to guests, but it’s vital for internal operations as well, particularly when it comes to running a travel agency. Advisors often work under some stressful situations. It could be that phone call you get on that peaceful afternoon with a client screaming they’ve been booted from an airplane or perhaps it’s that sickening feeling you get when you realize the storm the weatherman has been talking about all week is going to completely throw your client’s Caribbean vacation off kilter. For that reason alone, it’s important you surround yourself with people who will want to pitch in to assist or pick up tasks they don’t usually handle.

The New York Times’ “Corner Office” section recently ran an interview with Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of Samasource, an anti-poverty nonprofit, and LXMI, a skin care line. She spoke about the challenges that leadership brings. When it comes to hiring, she said she looks for those with a sense of ownership. “Are they going to sweat all of the details as much as I do? Are they going to put in the crazy outside effort to make something work, which means doing the work of three or four people in the early stages?” She, like Karst of AmaWaterways, is content to teach the details of the business if the employee has the innate desire to make good things happen.

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To truly vet a candidate’s potential, Janah asks them to come up with a business plan for the department they’d work in, which makes them thoroughly think the position through. It also shows her if that person is the type to take charge or if they’ll wait idly by for direction.

I think that business owners sometimes fall down on hiring correctly if they deem a position isn’t all that important. But it’s sometimes those folks that end up being client-facing. It’s the receptionist who provides the first impression of your company, or that person who handles small tasks around the office who might pick up the phone at an odd moment. These encounters can make or break a client relationship if they’re particularly off message and don’t reflect the luxury tone of your agency. I’ve learned that it’s important to surround yourself with people you can promote. Having a depth of talent around you that you can nurture is a good thing and certainly helps in a pinch if you need to call on someone for help.

Other tips? You need to like the people you hire. In another “Corner Office” profile in The New York Times, David Cancel, CEO of Drift, a sales communication platform, says he trusts his reaction when a job candidate e-mails him the next day to follow up. Does he read that e-mail right away? Or does he put it off until later? That’s your gut telling you something your mind hasn’t quite figured out yet.

I think the greatest tip Cancel provided was to make sure that you can learn something from the people you hire, whether they’re an intern or an executive.

If you’re running your own travel agency, you’re an entrepreneur at heart, so be sure you’re surrounding yourself with those who can fuel that dynamic spirit that brought you in to the business in the first place. And be sure they’re someone you’d want to turn to when you get those frantic phone calls or e-mails from clients.

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