Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: You Need Both in Hospitality
Deb Ward / DECEMBER 14 2020

You may have noticed recently when applying for jobs, that there is an emphasis on “soft skills” in many hospitality positions. Obviously, hotels, resorts, and restaurants are in the people business and have always sought out candidates who have strong social skills, but how do you highlight the ones that are most important to make the best impression in your job search?

Hard Skills in hospitality

By definition, “hard skills” are those you can learn and be taught…and are more easily proven with certifications and diplomas. “Soft skills” are a mix of social, emotional, and communications skills that are not as easily measured and are often acquired through experience. More and more, employers are focused on those people skills that enhance the customer experience.

Hard skills are more dependent on the specific job you are applying for. If you are applying for a job like front desk agent, or sales representative, there will likely be computer programs or systems you will need to learn and understand. If you are applying for a housekeeping or maintenance position, you will need to be knowledgeable about cleaning products and procedures or how to fix electrical problems or plumbing problems. You can find the hard skills you need in the job descriptions and match up which skills you have and which you need to find your fit.

Soft skills in hospitality

Of course, you have to have the technical skills needed for the job, but you must also demonstrate your ability to remain calm in a crisis, be a good problem solver, and an excellent communicator that makes you a great employee. Showing you are able to work well in a team, manage your time efficiently, and take a leadership role when needed are highly valued attributes. Highlighting these skills on your resume shows you understand the importance of balancing both types of skills.

In particular, leadership and teamwork are two of the most important soft skills… and they can be learned. Utilizing coaching and mentoring, experienced colleagues can share what they’ve learned and bring new employees along with more quickly. With hospitality and tourism known for above-average staff turnover, equipping new staff with all the right skills and retaining those employees is vital.

Other soft skills that are worth cultivating include maintaining a positive attitude, having a strong work ethic, being dependable, and developing emotional intelligence (EI). EI relates to recognizing and managing your emotions: being able to accurately assess your own emotions, having the ability to control them, and being able to show empathy to your guests and team members. In hospitality, most positions interact with guests regularly, and your ability to maintain a positive attitude or remain calm can make the difference between solving a guest’s concern quickly or receiving a bad review online.

The best soft skills for hospitality managers

Hotel management schools can assist in “teaching” soft skills by emphasizing group work and internships, where students have plenty of opportunities to sharpen their interpersonal skills. Here are some essential “soft skills” for a hospitality and tourism manager to master:

  • Customer Service Skills: It’s all about understanding the customer’s needs and being able to deliver a positive experience to the guest. Hospitality is largely based on being able to provide the best experience for guests at every step of their stay. It starts with. front desk professionals making guests feel welcome and taken care of, to housekeepers keeping the rooms clean and comfortable, and all staff answering any questions or concerns guests may have.
  • Networking Skills: Not in terms of networking for jobs….but in networking with guests to gain repeat business. Being able to cultivate positive relationships with guests leads to loyal customers. If a guest has a positive experience at a property, they will likely sign up for the loyalty program for the hotel, recommend them to their friends and family and keep coming back themselves.
  • Flexibility: Hospitality jobs often require varied shifts and odd hours, as well as the ability to switch from one task to another quickly. 
  • Commitment and a “Can-Do” Attitude: Hospitality can be a demanding business – you have to commit to the end goal of keeping your clients happy, no matter the cost. Being able to resolve difficult situations may be one of the most important skills in this industry.
  • Cultural Awareness: The ability to get past your own cultural norms is crucial to a successful hospitality career. Customers with different belief systems and backgrounds need to feel comfortable, represented, and welcome in your restaurant or hotel. 

Skill creation and attitude-building are fundamental to your success. You need technical training and competency (“hard skills”) as well as the personal attributes and willingness to provide outstanding customer service (“soft skills”). Hospitality is a dynamic industry with so much potential for advancement and growth. Having a mix of both types of skills is the best way to ensure you’re on the right path.