Four Seasons is now sifting through the data to identify those who are a 'perfect fit' for its culture. It has identified 4,000 potential employees WHEN THE FOUR Seasons Hong Kong decided to run a three-day recruitment fair last month to fill 975 positions, it was confident of getting a good response from both first-time and experienced job seekers. What it had not expected was that, over the course of the event, more than 7,600 people would turn up and that, including e-mail, fax and postal applications, they would be faced with the task of assessing close to 11,600 candidates. William Mackay, vice-president and general manager of the new luxury hotel, which is scheduled to open in Central in September, admitted to being 'absolutely delighted' with the response. He cautioned, though, against reading too much into the figures in terms of the overall availability of staff in Hong Kong's hospitality sector. 'We feel there was a particularly good response because of the established international reputation Four Seasons enjoys and the fact that we're widely recognised as an employer of choice,' he said. 'This helped to attract a broad mix of people with very different backgrounds and experience for the variety of jobs on offer.' About 10 per cent of applicants were fresh graduates, but there were also a substantial number of middle-aged candidates who had been laid off or taken early retirement in recent years. Overall, 60 per cent of those applying had some form of relevant professional experience. To cope with the unexpectedly high numbers, a contingency plan was put into effect. Managers from group hotels in Shanghai, Tokyo and Sydney were on standby and flew in at short notice to help out on the second and third days. Despite the workload involved, no thought was given to shortening the screening interviews or altering any criteria in the selection process. 'In fairness to the candidates and to our own goals, there was no compromise on the quality of the interviews,' Mr Mackay said. 'In fact, we were very pleasantly surprised that there was such a strong number of eminently employable people.' From the overall total, about 4,000 were classified as 'potentially hirable'. The most suitable were then invited for further rounds of tests and interviews. About 160 positions have already been confirmed, while offer letters for many more have been sent out. The priority was to sift through all the available data to identify people who are a 'perfect fit' for the hotel's culture. This remains the standard, the only variable being the amount of training individuals may require after joining. 'There was no area with an absolute dearth of applicants but some, like the spa, are more challenging than others,' Mr Mackay added. 'You have to be particularly careful with such specialist areas and, if it turns out we don't have exactly what is needed for certain positions, we may then do extra targeted recruitment.' Depending on previous experience and departmental requirements, recruits will report for duty on the first day of June, July or August. This will allow adequate time for training in generic and specific skills and for familiarisation with the hotel's practices and environment. Reflecting on the results of the recruitment event, Mr Mackay feels it accomplished all the goals that were set. 'Of course, in throwing the job fair open to the world, you will clearly get some candidates who are not viable, but that's a given,' he said. 'What we tried to do, though, was to give those people a few words of general career advice or suggestions about how to present themselves.'