Best Personality Types for the Hospitality Industry

What personality type is best for working in the hospitality industry? The field is so open and diverse that one “best type” is hard to pin down. For example, people often think that being an extrovert is essential because of the many jobs with direct customer contact. However, there are also plenty of positions with minimal guest contact that have high growth potential.

I reached out to Associate Professor at Johnson & Wales University Katie Davin to help answer this question. We are both hospitality educators and former hotel managers, and, between the two of us, we have taught and advised thousands of students with various personality types who have graduated and built rewarding hospitality careers.

To answer the “personality types” question, we reached out to several of our alumni who are working as hospitality leaders. Based on their answers, our experience, and our years of staying in contact with our former students, we compiled this list of personality types and traits that are helpful for a career in hospitality management.

Event manager speaking to employee

6 Top Personality Traits for Hospitality Professionals

Motivated

Hospitality executives have the drive to succeed and are willing to take risks, make mistakes and be accountable. They are persistent and willing to do tasks that will make them successful. The people we talked to told us that, early in their careers, they said “yes” to a lot of things and volunteered for tasks outside their job duties. In hospitality (and in almost any industry), that kind of energy and willingness to do what needs to be done is behavior that gets noticed and leads to advancement and interesting opportunities. Getting noticed by the boss is great, but good working relationships with coworkers is important, too. One hotel human resources director told us that her relationships with colleagues and staff have gotten her several career opportunities. Referrals and recommendations, including the honest, informal ones, can open doors for a person with a solid reputation at work.

Daniel Kuperschmid ’95, Area Vice President and General Manager of the Grand Hyatt San Diego, explained that a positive attitude and being driven made him successful. He also added that “knowing what I want and not being shy about telling my boss, not waiting to be trained, not afraid of hard work and giving my bosses a reason to promote me” were essential to his career growth.

Hotel manager with team holding clipboard

Organized

Hospitality is a dynamic industry, and managers have to handle several tasks at once. They must be able to prioritize their tasks, follow-through, delegate and meet deadlines. Good organization and good time management lead to less stress, not only for the person doing the tasks but also for that person’s staff and coworkers. Good time management has another benefit for hospitality managers: shorter hours. And shorter working hours mean there is time for outside interests, such as hobbies and volunteering, things that are fulfilling and help make life interesting.

Being organized also means being detail-oriented, thorough and accurate, which starts with recognizing that details are important to our customers. This is essential in all areas of hospitality but most noticeable in event management. If the person planning an important conference says he wants one wastebasket and a dozen blue permanent markers at his registration table, those items had better be there before the conference starts. If the bride and groom tell us that they want the cake table in the northeast corner of the ballroom and five feet from the head table, we must listen and recognize that they are giving us that detail because it is important to them on their special day.

Female event planner at outdoor event

Flexible

Hospitality operations are busy, energetic environments, and conditions that affect the operations can change quickly. Extreme weather, traffic, canceled events and other surprises affect guests and their needs, and a successful leader is ready for frequent changes and can adapt quickly. We certainly observed this during the global pandemic. Hospitality operations that remained open asked much of their employees and managers who stayed on. Those who were willing to step in and do different jobs learned new skills and made an impression on their leaders.

Constantly changing and improving technology also requires flexibility. Managers or employees cannot become so attached to existing systems that they are afraid to learn. Innovative hospitality leaders proactively learn about new technology to improve service and operations.

Female hotel employee on phone

Empathetic

People who work in hospitality are interested in helping other people. They want to make a person’s special day even better or to turn a person’s bad day into a good one. Those with a hospitality mindset who stay in the industry for years are those who appreciate such rewarding experiences. More importantly, they are able and willing to see a situation from the customer’s point of view.

Most hospitality guests and customers are a pleasure to deal with. There are plenty of demanding or unpleasant guests too, and successful hospitality employees do not take the bad behavior as a personal insult. Consider a guest who enters a restaurant alone with a scowl on his face, who barely acknowledges the host’s friendly welcome as he is being seated. Rather than thinking, “Oh no, this one is going to be trouble,” a hospitable employee thinks, “This person looks like he’s having a rough day, and he is probably tired and hungry. I’m going to make sure that he leaves here smiling.”

Male event planner at event

Creative problem-solvers

Successful hospitality leaders enjoy the challenge of thinking creatively to solve problems. They deal with guests who are visiting or traveling for a variety of purposes, and every guest experience is unique. Nathan Goff ’02, Chef Concierge at Boston Harbor Hotel and President of Les Clefs d'Or USA, said, “You have so many visitors coming in for so many different reasons. Some to experience a walk into history by following The Freedom Trail, some for weddings, celebrations or visit with family, some just to get out of their homes for a staycation, and some for tougher situations like medical treatments or celebrations of life.” Every guest’s question or situation is different, and the employee must be able to think quickly to have solutions to help each guest.

Global and culturally aware

The words “global” and “culture” came up again and again in our conversations with long-term hospitality employees. Global views and cultural understanding help a manager communicate with a diverse staff and with guests from all over the world. Pam Kern ’93, who worked in the cruise industry for 25 years and is now a psychotherapist specializing in maritime mental health, said, “Global and cultural awareness can guide and support hospitality employees to meet guests ‘where they are at.’ Understanding cultural-based perceptions and the expectations is a differential advantage when serving and solving guest problems.” An open and curious mind about culture is a competitive edge for the ambitious hospitality leader. It can lead to a deeper understanding of guests, colleagues and staff.

Smiling male manager

What is success in hospitality?

One of the ways that we define success is happiness in a career. We asked our interviewees what they love about working in the industry. A word we heard several times is “exciting” — most hospitality people are not confined to an office and every day is different. Another common answer was “opportunities”: for growth, learning, travel and to meet many fascinating people.

We also spoke to several executives who have stayed with the same hospitality company since they graduated from college. Mr. Kuperschmid, who has worked for Hyatt for over 25 years, gave us this enthusiastic quote: “Leadership and development of people — I love it! ... It’s inspiring to be in a position to care for your colleagues.” Company loyalty may seem unusual in today’s world, but if you find a home with a company that is a good fit, you can grow with that company — trying out new jobs, learning new skills, and seeing the world.

At Johnson & Wales, you'll be educated by the best instructors and, whether you pursue your degree in Providence or Charlotte, you'll receive an education that has a global reputation for excellence. Find a hospitality degree program that matches your career goals, and start building on your hospitality personality traits today!

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