Hire Friendly, Train Technical

January 27, 2014

Smiles with College StudentsI recently had the pleasure of speaking at the University of Delaware’s Hospitality School.  They were a smart bunch of students, but more importantly, all of them smiled. That’s the type of person we hire at Marriott. I always say it’s best to hire friendly and train technical. You can train an intelligent person but you can’t teach a person to be friendly and to smile. It’s got to be part of their inherent personality.

When I’m looking to hire, I want someone smarter than me.  I’m rarely looking for the person with the most experience. Many times, our best hires come from other fields. Prior to joining Marriott in 1996, Arne Sorenson was a lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions.

Arne and MeI remember being impressed with how he explained complex financial details in a simple way so even I could understand them. He accepted my job offer even though that wasn’t his original career path and he was off to the races – head of Europe, CFO and now leading Marriott as president & CEO.  And, yes, Arne has a great smile.

Another person I pursued is the head of our Global Communications and Public Affairs department, Kathleen
Matthews.  Kathleen came to Marriott from TV news.  She was a news anchor and award-winning journalist in Washington, DC.  I saw another side of her.  She’s passionate about public policy and international human rights.   Kathleen has not only positioned Marriott in new and exciting ways, but she was key in getting a deal signed in Haiti.  She has an unbelievable Rolodex (are they in use any more?) calling top elected officials and diplomats.  She even talked me into blogging.  And Kathleen smiles.

Kathleen Matthews

There’s no magic wand in selecting top talent, but I do notice how prospective hires treat others. Does a high-level executive have good manners and treat the busboy as he would want to be treated.  I don’t play golf, but I’ve heard the golf course is a good place to get to know someone.  A yelling, club-thrower wouldn’t make the cut at most firms. 

Developing a compatible leadership team is the most important job of the CEO.  You need the right personalities.  Our large hotels are mini-cities with lots of moving parts.  The General Manager sets the tone and most of our GM’s come up through the hourly worker ranks.  They understand how things get done and the important mesh of personalities required. 

“Hire friendly, train technical” is the most important mantra in our HR manual.  I want passionate associates who go the extra difference to help a guest.  I want associates whose enthusiasm for their hometown rubs off on guests. Guests know the difference between a forced smile and a genuine one.  

So, my message for college students looking for a career in hospitality: do you have what it takes to make it in this industry?  Do you have a smile?  Is it genuine?

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

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Thank you Bill, being a hospitality person myself, I have used my charmed smile to solve customer complaints. Smile dissolves the thaw in a guest mood thereby giving the guest the required assurance that yes their problem is finally being attended to and instills the confidence in guests that this personality will solve the problem. Just like magic.
I am practicing in Africa and would be glad if I get a chance to practice in Marriott

Fantastic blog again from Mr Marriott! just "SMILE" :) thats all you need and everyones need...

Thanks for sharing your story! Ever since I join in Marriott, I get to know that smile is the most important thing in hospitality industry. Smile makes other people's day, smile makes you forget how hard your problems are, and smile brings you healthy.

This was an excellent read for me! Coming from a background in retail at AT&T Mobility, customer service was an everyday business for me. From the 5 years I spent there the most important thing I learned when dealing with the public is that each transaction has a personality of its own. People can ALWAYS sense when your genuine and when you're just trying to push product. Being a cheerleader for 15 years I am just naturally always smiling and peppy! I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given at this hotel because I can actually go out of my way to make customers happy and be completely genuine about it without having to push lots of unnecessary product on them. I love my job and hope to spend many years here!

Great article! I agree having a smile especially when working with customers is very important!

That's the logic of a good job smiling and kindness and respect. very good speech justaria me be in your industry.

Friendly attitudes gets everyone way longer than giving poor attitude - this proves to be true in every field.

Well written - thanks.

Friendly attitudes gets everyone way longer than giving poor attitude - this proves to be true in every field.

Well written - thanks.

You are a blogger and now my inspiration. I just love the blog post. Its very informative, interactive and quality content. I wish you all good luck for your coming blogs and posts. Keep sharing!

I`m agree ,that we have to hire friedly people ,and train then technical .. smile !!!:)

When I first started working with Marriott I was a little rough around the edges. I started working late in life. Coming up in the times when the Hubby brought home the bacon and the wife stayed home. Well after 5 years of wedded bliss he passed away and left me with 2 kids to raise. After 10 years of trying to find my way from jobs with no benefits, depression & despair. I was hired by Marriott. I know for a fact that my personality is what got me hired. I did not have any experience but I was a willing learner ad I had a genuine smile. 10 years later I am still smiling, more positive and I am still going strong. Still learning, improving my attitude, and my outlook on life is brighter. I am trying to move a little higher. Come on full service give a me chance.:) Thank you Mr. Marriott for hiring my smile.

I am an IT Professional,and checking Mr Marriott's blog is my daily dose of inspiration. Thanks for the writings, the insights and inspiration.

I agree wholeheartedly. I use the similar principle of hiring based on attitude more so than skill.