marriott hq intern
Kelly Loss Photography

Do you have an upcoming interview with a Marriott recruiter? We get it, you’re excited, the stakes are high, and you’re confident you’re a good fit for the job. But how to let the interviewer know that, too? Don’t panic. We asked two Marriott HR experts who have each conducted hundreds of interviews for the company, the different ways in which a potential candidate can make a lasting impression and show they are the best person for the role.

“We look for individuals that can empathize and are naturally caring individuals,” says Alyssa Palaganas, Area Director of Human Resources for Marriott Select Brand Eastern Region. “If they have that – everything else falls into place.”

“I can teach you how to do the job, but I can’t teach you to care and have passion for what you do,” points out Renee Petitjean, University Recruiting Manager for the Midwest.

→ Learn About the Different Career Paths at Marriott

Having the right experience for the position is great, but it can be overshadowed by subtle or not so subtle details like nonprofessional communication over email ahead of the interview, avoiding eye contact with the interviewer, and so many details you might never have considered.

Relax, get a pen and paper and take notes. Here, you’ll be able to learn some easy-to-follow tips to let your experience shine and demonstrate you have the best attitude and qualities, not only to fill that position, but to thrive in the company. Good luck!

1. Show you care.

What are the three top qualities you look for in a candidate?

Alyssa: Number one, empathy. We are in the people business. Hotels are buildings but what makes a customer experience is the team that makes it memorable. We look for individuals that can empathize and are naturally caring individuals. If they have that – everything else falls into place. If they care about others, then they will do their best to resolve an issue and are aware that the quality of their work will impact the guest and fellow co-workers. Number two, being a team worker. We look for candidates who can collaborate and have positive relationships with their co-workers. Do they enjoy working in a team? We avoid a “it’s not my job” attitude. Everyone pitches in to help each other and makes for a positive work environment for all. Third, being a problem solver. Do they take ownership of a problem and look for solutions? Do they look for ways to constantly improve a process? Do they follow through to make sure it does get resolved? Problem solvers have a deep satisfaction in making things better.

two marriott associates at the front desk

Kelly Loss Photography

Renee: Great attitude and a passion to serve are always two of my top attributes! I always say I can teach you how to do the job, but I can’t teach you to care and have passion for what you do. I also greatly value any previous customer-facing or high-volume experience, as it shows me you know how to remain cool and calm under pressure and can think quickly on your feet.

2. Pay attention to your body language and how you communicate.

What is an attitude, verbal or non-verbal, that lets you know someone is not a good fit for Marriott?

Alyssa: We say that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. That is why our structured interview process is based on asking specific incidents or examples that candidates can share. If they demonstrate through these situational questions that they didn’t solve a problem and resorted to blaming others, or complaining about other team members, that is a red flag for us. Also, if the candidate is not professional in every step of the process – i.e. phone screening, asking for the hiring manager at the front desk, punctuality for the interview, those are all important impressions that are considered in the process. Grooming is also important.

a marriott interview being conducted

Kelly Loss Photography

Body language and facial expression do count in relation to the role they are applying for. For example, if they are stoic and never smile during an interview for a Front Desk role; that will give me pause on whether they are a good fit for the job. If they don’t have a warm and positive disposition during an interview, then they can behave the same way at the Front Desk. Candidates have one chance to give us a great first impression. The same way goes for interviewers. We also need to give a great impression as candidates have a choice of what company to choose.

Renee: Body language is everything in this business! If a candidate does not seem warm or welcoming during an interview — folded arms, lack of eye contact, no smile —, then I know they will give off the same energy to our guests. With body language being a majority of how we communicate, this is crucial!

Grammar and spelling are also huge indicators of someone’s attention to detail. I can’t tell you how many people have spelled my name “Rene” vs “Renee” when emailing me (and my email has the correct spelling of my name, it’s like a built-in cheat code). I get the misspelling of my last name because it’s wild, but those small attention to details plus respecting someone’s name. For example, not calling them a nickname without their permission shows respect for their identity, which is a very valued skill in this business.

3. Show how you understand Marriott values.

What are some ways in which a candidate can show you they understand Marriott’s culture?

Alyssa: If they are curious about it. If they have no experience yet with the company, they can ask about the culture from the interviewer’s perspective. What do they like about working at Marriott? What are the company values that personally resonate with them? And then the candidate can add how in the past they have demonstrated those values. Also, if they can demonstrate an understanding of how important great customer service is. This is a primary goal in any hospitality company.

Renee: Most of this becomes evident during the interview. Their answers often include examples of selflessness, stepping in to help others when things were busy, and generally being a great leader by being a team player.

group of marriott interns

Kelly Loss Photography

4. Stand out by being specific.

What are some ways in which a candidate can show you they have done their research ahead of the interview?

Alyssa: They can share what they know of Marriott and why they are applying to that specific brand and location.

Renee: They reference some of our various initiatives, our vision, our purpose. Many candidates will repeat this information verbatim, but not necessarily tie it into why it is important to them. I think that connection piece is valuable in showing true interest.

5. Make them remember you by being authentic.

In your experience interviewing hundreds of candidates is there anyone that you particularly remember? Why?

Alyssa: I do recall a Voyager that I interviewed last year. She asked about my own career journey with the company and then later communicated her own career goals by joining Marriott. I admire candidates that demonstrate not just an interest in the role they applied to but also to grow with the company.

Renee: Any candidate that shares a moment where they went above and beyond to create a customer “wow” moment or creative thinking to problem solving. There have been many great examples through the years, but one that sticks out was a gentleman who was staying at the candidate’s hotel, and he was sad because he was missing Raksha Bandhan, a Hindu holiday that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters.

conducting a marriott interview

Kelly Loss Photography

The man told this candidate that during the holiday, there was an exchange of bracelets and you had to wear them until they broke or fell off. The candidate didn’t have access to a bracelet, but did have access to some string, so she quickly wove together a bracelet and presented it to the guest. The candidate told the guest she was sorry he couldn’t be with his sisters, but she would be his temporary sister while he was enjoying his home away from home. The guest was obviously moved by this small and simple gesture, and it just made such a massive impact for truly minimal effort.

These are the incredible stories you get when working at a hotel. You get to learn about other cultures and traditions and can make someone’s day brighter, which is so fulfilling!

6. Be ready to challenge yourself.

As an HR expert, do you have a golden rule or motto you live by?

Alyssa: Experience is the teacher of all things. The salary, the title or position will come in time, but if there is an opportunity to expand your experience, take it. You will learn through that experience which will further your career and expand your network. Also, these experiences will shape you both personally and professionally.

I’ve worked with the company for 24 years and now I am in an above property regional HR role with Marriott Select Brands. All the different experiences [I’ve had] and taking different challenges shaped me and helped me build lifelong friends and professional relationships.

Renee: Just be yourself! Ultimately, we want our associates to be authentically them. If you’re not happy in the role you fill, it radiates from you and guests pick up on that. By being your authentic self, you’ll find the right brand, department, and property that you fit best with.

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