The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is in the middle of a recruitment drive, interviewing Caymanian applicants for a wide variety of positions, but with no timeline yet set for the reopening of the borders, the successful jobseekers won’t be hearing immediately when they can start.
General manager Marc Langevin, speaking on Saturday during the hotel’s second day of job interviews, said that while potential new hires were being identified, giving them a definite start date was not yet possible, until more information becomes available on when the islands would be open to tourists.
He said the hotel’s approach to its current ‘careers fair’ is different from those held in the past. Instead of inviting a large crowd of people to attend at one time, sign up for various positions, and then get called back later for interviews, candidates are being invited to apply online and then get contacted for interviews with specific managers.
“We are asking the candidates to look at the positions available and if they want to apply for it, to register for an interview, instead of having everybody coming and waiting in line, which I don’t think is respectful,” Langevin said.
Using this method of recruitment, the applicants “have a quality interview with a manager” that lasts from 30 minutes to an hour.
“During the interview, we want to know about the individual. It’s not just about the work experience, but it focusses more on character and quality and attitude. That’s what we want to understand about an individual, how they will react around customers,” he said.
One of the advantages of this approach, Langevin said, is that if a candidate for some reason is not suitable for the job they applied for, management can consider if there is another position within the company that may suit their skills or personality better.
Tourism businesses ‘working together’
And in his role as president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, he is also in a position to liaise with other businesses in the hospitality industry to determine if a candidate might be able to get a job in another company.
“If there is one thing we have learned over the past 15 months, it’s how to work together,” he said, adding that some candidates who do not find work at The Ritz-Carlton could, for example, be considered for a job at the Marriott or Westin, or in another hospitality field altogether.
Langevin added that, with no definite border reopening date in sight, it was going to be difficult to even begin training potential new hires at this stage.
“There is no sense in doing skills training right now. We did that last year, we did the Ready2Work training and spent a lot of energy on that, and people came, and it was a great training session. At the end, they asked ‘Do you have a job for me?’ We said, ‘No, come back later.’ And now it’s 15 months later.”
He added, “When am I supposed to do this training? In August for an opening in September? In September for an opening in October?”
At the interview fair on Tuesday, 1 June, Langevin said about 50 people met with managers about potential jobs, and a slightly smaller number were interviewed on Saturday, 5 June.
One of the aims of the recruitment drive is to gauge the level of interest among local jobseekers for working in the hospitality industry.
Langevin anticipates that between 400 and 500 positions will be available just at The Ritz-Carlton. Across the hospitality field though, he said there is literally not enough unemployed people in Cayman to fill all the positions that will need to be filled once the borders reopen.
Focus on Caymanians
“Our number one priority,” Langevin said, “is to figure out how many Caymanians we can attract. We will not find the number of employees we need for our business. That is a mathematical reality.”
But he and other tourism bosses are hoping to attract as many local employees as possible because of the difficulties that overseas workers are likely to face when moving to Cayman to fill the outstanding positions in hotels, restaurants or water-sports companies.
Langevin pointed out that remobilisation after a typical slow tourism season takes 60 days or more in normal times.
“Right now, it’s even more complicated,” he said, “because, whether our employees are coming from the European or Asian markets, for example, they might not have access to vaccinations, they might not be able to get through the process of a work permit as administration [offices] in their country could be closed because they have other priorities. Police departments may not be dealing with police clearances.
“In India or Europe, those outlets are probably closed. They may be trying to get health certificates at hospitals that are dealing with other more serious issues. Just getting a flight – what will be the new standard at London Heathrow if they have to transfer to get here?”
But when The Ritz-Carlton doors do reopen once more for tourists, Langevin wants to ensure that the same quality of service that it offered pre-COVID is available to them, and having adequate staffing levels is vital to that. Hence, the hotel will continue its recruitment drive over the coming weeks and months, Langevin said, adding, “It’s going to be an ongoing process.”