Who better to share the insights of getting hired than a top human resources executive? Kempinski’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Melissa Salibi tells us what it takes to land the dream job, what employers are really looking for, and how to become the leader they’ve all been waiting for.
Competition: love it or loathe it, it’s a part of life. Whether we’re playing board games, running races or pitching presentations, all of us have had to go head-to-head at one point or another and the outcome is always the same – there can only be one winner. It’s not for the faint of heart. All we can do is put our best self forward.
Job hunting is no exception, just with one very crucial difference: you don’t have to do it alone. You can arm yourself. Think of higher education like strapping on an extra jet pack. Join a school, like any in the Swiss Education Group’s portfolio, and you’re not only sharpening your skills, but, suddenly, you’ve got a team of people behind you, all fighting to put you in prime position, to give you an edge. We’re not just talking about the faculty either – although our lecturers are world class – it’s about the industry connections that school has to offer and the opportunities it can send your way. Combine what you know with who you know, and you’re onto a winning formula.
While sadly there’s no exact science to securing a job, if there were, you can bet Kempinski’s Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Salibi would know about it. Consider her an authority on employability. Ms. Salibi’s passion is people. With a bachelor’s degree in Health and Social Services and an MSc in Organizational and Business Psychology, she has spent over 20 years of her career in Human Resources management. As she sits at the helm of HR at Kempinski, with whom Swiss Education Group maintains a global talent partnership, she’s a great supporter of our schools and a one-stop-shop for career advice.
"The experience I’d gained up until that point paved the way to a regional role as Director of Human Resources – Middle East, Africa, and India during the merger between Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel, which then became FRHI Hotels & Resorts. With 18 properties under my wing during this delicate transition period, I worked on strengthening and developing the human resources and training function in the region."
In October 2015, Ms. Salibi joined Kempinski’s Dubai regional office, overseeing more than 20 properties, before taking on her current role as Chief Human Resources Officer and a member of the management board in December 2019.
“Over the years, I have seized all the learning opportunities on my path: I have learnt from the leaders around me by simply observing them, I have learnt from my mentors who provided me with guidance but, mostly, I have learnt from actual hands-on experience, from my very own successes and setbacks,” she explains. “The lesson I learnt? How to be an authentic, energetic, and caring leader, relentlessly focused on people’s welfare, on delivering results and building high-performing teams.
“For as long as I can remember, I have never accepted the status quo and always looked at what needed to be done to create more opportunities for myself and those around me. I have always enjoyed helping others develop, and I take immense pleasure from seeing talent grow under my leadership. I believe that I also get to further develop along with them.”
Career progression can sometimes sound a bit cut-throat, but don’t panic – Ms. Salibi knows what it takes to stand out from the crowd at Kempinski – and beyond – and is more than willing to divulge some valuable insights on what she considers to be the key qualities and skills needed to succeed – and lead – at a luxury hotel.
It is not always about the qualifications, but it is about whether you enjoy working with people, whether you have the ability to be a great host, and whether you are hungry and passionate.
“At Kempinski, we have a very well-defined talent framework, and we strive to recruit only the finest individuals that consistently demonstrate the right qualities,” she says. “First and foremost, it’s the right attitude- that matters. It is not always about the qualifications, but it is about whether you enjoy working with people, whether you have the ability to be a great host, and whether you are hungry and passionate. This is truly essential.”
“In this industry, we need people who not only work effectively with others but who are able to supervise, lead and inspire them. Unlike other industries, supervisory levels can be reached quite early on, and this entails managing people, which, more often than not, can be challenging. This is what makes leadership so important to us and even though it improves with experience, leadership is also something innate that we have within us, regardless of age, level or job title.
“Leaders are needed to inspire teams, drive the business and build long-lasting relationships with owners and stakeholders.
“As a very dynamic and ever-changing industry, we want our leaders to be able to develop strategies that drive results and meet company goals, but also generate innovative ideas and solutions. Kempinski is a very special brand, denoting European luxury hospitality, attention to detail and timeless elegance. You have to be an ambassador, to be able to translate the brand’s overarching mission into day-to-day operations.”
What are your prospects looking like in a post-Covid hospitality industry?
“We are so grateful that we have entered the recovery phase,” says Ms. Salibi. “I must say that 2020 and the first half of 2021 were extremely challenging for our industry. But now, with business picking up, we’re noticing that the demand for employees is significantly outpacing the supply of qualified employees, a phenomenon that’s happening in almost every country we’re based in. While we are very open-minded and flexible when it comes to recruiting for entry-level positions, as we move up to the supervisory levels, we do need more qualified candidates.”
Prioritizing hospitality management education is certainly an advantage over your fellow candidates, contends Ms. Salibi.
Hospitality students have a much deeper understanding of the industry,” she says. “They learn from teachers who are, in many cases, industry experts, and are taught about management and leadership.
“Hospitality students have a much deeper understanding of the industry,” she says. “They learn from teachers who are, in many cases, industry experts, and are taught about management and leadership. Even though the actual practice, those years and years of hard-earned real-life experience, remains essential to growth, students already have the theoretical base to serve them well, to guide them. It makes sense to invest in high-quality, specialized study.”
At Swiss Education Group schools, we place a huge emphasis on practical education, business management, and leadership combined with real world professional experiences, so partnering up with brands such as Kempinski, who can deliver that practical perspective, is invaluable for anyone starting out in their career. Our mission is simple, to prepare students to succeed as professionals from their first day on the job.
“We do expect an increase in the internships available,” Ms. Salibi reveals. “And, like any other hospitality brands, we will continue to focus our selection process on students coming from renowned hotel schools.
“We are very proud of our partnership with Swiss Education Group,” she adds. “In the last few recruitment fairs that we’ve attended, we got to know some great students with massive potential, what we call ‘talent’. Young individuals with actual culinary and service skills, and a passion for the industry, are who we really target in our recruitment drives. We are very excited to attend Swiss Education Group’s next International Recruitment Forum in November.”
And if you miraculously manage to get snapped up by a brand like Kempinski, what next? How’s the future looking in these uncertain times, Ms. Salibi?
“Despite the setbacks of Covid-19, the trend will always be to travel,” she assures us. “The hospitality industry has a lot more life in it.”
Better get polishing up that CV, then…