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5 Qualities to Look For in Your Next Hire

Updated: 10/02/2018

People matter. At RCS, we believe they are your biggest asset.

No one knows this more intimately than managers in the hospitality industry. Everything we do is about people: people providing an experience to other people. People serving people. Our industry wouldn’t exist without our members to sustain it, and that’s usually what most club management revolves around—how to attract, retain, and delight your members.

What we're talking about today is the other side of the coin, the people “behind the curtain”. They are, of course, your employees. You can spend millions of dollars on course renovations and exquisite clubhouses, but all it takes is a few bad experiences (or maybe even one) with a poorly behaved employee to drive a member to complain--or worse, leave. Your employees are one of your most valuable resources - your "human" capital, if you will. The founder of Marriott, J. Willard Marriott, built a successful hotel company on the philosophy of “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of the guests.” Mr. Marriott also believed in hiring right and training managers to be good leaders. I was lucky enough to be taught this early on as a manager with Marriott, and it has become the foundation of everything we do at RCS.

You may have stepped directly into a role where all your employees were already in place. Chances are, however, that you will have to be involved in the hiring process at some point. So what should you look for? Consider these five key qualities:


Google, long recognized as a top employer, seeks out people with grit and you should too. Hospitality is not always glamorous. You need staff members who can handle occasionally unpleasant conditions like being on their feet for a double shift or serving members from the course beverage cart under a grueling summer sun or a chilly fall day. Business Insider, a respected website dedicated to business news across a variety of industries, says “As breakthrough research in education shows, grit — the ability to keep slogging through difficult work — is more important for success than raw IQ.”

Emotional Intelligence

A lot of managers list a “friendly, outgoing” personality as a requirement for front of house staff. A friendly outgoing personality is a necessity in hospitality. What’s equally important is emotional intelligence (EQ), the soft skills that help an employee immediately assess the situation and adapt accordingly. For example, a particularly shy, anxious, or distressed member might feel intimidated or overwhelmed by a server with a big personality. That server should have the EQ to recognize the situation and adjust her tone of voice, volume, speed of speech, and mannerisms to portray a quieter or calmer disposition.

Emergent Leadership

A key buzzword the past couple of years is "emergent leadership". It’s the notion that an individual can jump into the captain’s chair when there is a need, but even more importantly, step away when the need is resolved. We often refer to this as “critical thinking skills” when seeking leaders at the club. Essentially, critical thinking is having the ability to recognize opportunities and understand how and when to capitalize on them most efficiently.


Dependability is an absolutely crucial trait within teams, and nearly every department of your club revolves around teamwork. Teams will be at their most successful when they are a cohesive unit built on trust—the kind of trust that comes from knowing that your teammates will do what they’re responsible for, when they’re supposed to do it. Dependability and accomplishment also often leads to increased responsibility, which propels a leader forward.


Last but certainly not least, creativity - or innovative thinking - is a quality to be looking for in everyone from golf course maintenance and landscaping to executive positions. Creative thinking takes many forms. It may be the way a manager approaches a budgeting problem. It could be the way the executive chef, with input from his team or feedback from members, uses local and seasonal ingredients to shake up the menu. All of your employees should continually be looking for creative ways to delight members in thoughtful and exciting ways to create remarkable experiences. Former president of the Ritz Carlton, Simon Cooper, relates this story:

“…in Dubai a waiter overheard a gentleman musing with his wife, who was in a wheelchair, that it was a shame he couldn’t get her down to the beach. The waiter told maintenance, who passed word, and the next afternoon there was a wooden walkway down the beach to a tent that was set up for them to have dinner in.”

It can feel overwhelming when you are responsible for finding that perfect match for your club. Fortunately, the staff at RCS actually enjoys this seemingly endless task through our Executive Search Program! This placement service can help you forge enduring and productive partnerships with top-level managers through our time-tested approach. Sophisticated technology, custom candidate profiling, our international database of talent, and a thorough understanding of your club's culture and needs takes all the stress out of finding that perfect match. How may we serve you?

Learn more about our Executive Search Program here.


Whitney Reid Pennell, president of Reid Consulting Services, Inc. (RCS) is a celebrated management consultant, educator and speaker. Ms. Pennell is the creator of Food and Beverage Service Boot CampTM and two online RCS signature-training courses, Private Club 101 and ENCHANTED Service. RCS specializes in strategic planning, operations consulting, food and beverage management, and training programs.

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Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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