- September 19, 2014
Lino Maldonado, in his executive position at Wyndham Vacation Rentals, is always on the lookout for great front desk employees — the frontline stars who are the first people guests see.
The place he has had the most success in finding the best and the brightest? A fast-food drive-thru.
Maldonado is vice president of operations for Wyndham's Gulf Region, based in Destin, where he oversees a payroll of more than 1,100 people and a $500 million operating budget. He's also the 2016 chairman of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. He mentioned his drive-thru recruiting techniques during a recent speech at an FRLA event at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, before a room full of restaurant managers and industry leaders.
A good drive-thru person, someone who can smile and have a great attitude in what might be less than ideal circumstances, says Maldonado, can be a great hire. When Maldonado is on the road he even keeps a stash of business cards in his car, just in case he goes through a drive-thru and interacts with potential hire. “I can't tell you how many people I've found that way,” he says.
Beyond the drive-thru, Maldonado's search for great hires — happy, passionate people — comes from a core belief that having years of experience in hospitality, save for a hyper-specific role, is highly overrated. “This is one industry where you can excel without fancy degrees,” says Maldonado. “This is an industry that's not about you. It's about delivering a great experience for other people.”
From the drive-thru to the interview, Maldonado aims to find people who seek careers, not jobs, people who have a passion for the little details that make someone's meal or stay better. Not the people with a padded resume who say they are a “people person.”
Maldonado encouraged the hiring managers in the audience to then take the next step, after hiring great people: Do the things to help them stay there and grow with the business.
Maldonado, for example, treats the laundry staff to a barbecue lunch once a month. He speaks little Spanish, and the crew speaks little English, but he says it's a great time, and a competitive advantage toward employee retention. “If they don't do their job properly,” he says, “my whole system in the Panhandle crumbles.”