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Hospitality's Got Talent.

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There's a traditional way of headhunting in hospitality. You start by trawling LinkedIn, and sending out hosts of private messages. Or perhaps, you hire a head hunter to pin down a shortlist of candidates.

Alternatively, you could take a page out of Emaar Hospitality Group's book and turn the entire model on its head - by having the world's best talent come knocking on your door.

How? By holding a well-publicised talent hunt that sends out a call to all bright young twenty-something-year-olds around the world interested in working with a blue-chip company and accelerating to a senior-level position. That's exactly what Emaar is doing.

The company has kicked off "The World's Greatest Hospitality Talent" hunt, and has sent out an open invitation to anyone with a bachelor's degree under the age of 26 to participate. Think 'The Apprentice', but without the cameras or contrived reality TV set pieces.

Emaar Hospitality is calling it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jumpstart your hospitality career", and that's about right. The successful candidate will get to relocate to Dubai and study for an expenses-paid degree in Executive MBA from a Grade-A university in the city. That, and an intensive three-year programme, which will result in a senior-level job placement at an Emaar Hospitality Group property. General manager or corporate director before 30 has a nice ring to it.

Of course, the richer the spoils, the tougher the hunt. Emaar has put together a tiered selection process to get the decision right.

The first step is a video application due by end of May 2018. The competition will be fierce, so candidates can't send in just any moving mug shot. Ideally, the video will be a window into a candidate's true self and what makes them tick. Explaining what the video submission is meant to accomplish, Emaar Hospitality Group CEO Olivier Harnisch said: "We want to see the real person applying. We're looking to see their passion for hospitality, the way they articulate their thoughts and how they present themselves. We want to see creativity and someone who can stand out by what they say and how they say. We want to spot potential and give opportunity to someone who will welcome the steep learning curve they will go through starting September 2018." Candidates be warned - the video interview is being taken seriously. It's an invitation for young people to tell Emaar what they bring to the table, and what makes them a leader. As Harnisch puts it, "It's a perfectly standard question but we are looking for extraordinary answers". From the multitudes applying, eight candidates will be shortlisted on the strength of their video application. Come July 2018, they candidates will be flown to Dubai for what Emaar is calling a casting week.

The chosen few will be pushed through a series of tasks. Each day will bring something new, with business acumen, ability to play well with others, creativity, personality, resilience and capability to innovate all put under the spotlight.

Harnisch offers a preview to help candidates prepare: "The 'casting week' will be an exciting series of challenges that tests all the qualities we are looking for in our winning candidate in a trying environment full of unexpected additional problems. The objective is to see a leader emerge from amongst the eight. We will throw everything at them from testing their ability to collaborate, take decisions, innovate and be creative and all in the context of hospitality. A jury will be appointed and experts will be tasked with rating each candidates' performance."

At the end, there can be only one. And come September 2018, the winner of 'The World's Greatest Talent Hunt' will embark on a three-year fast-track programme in Dubai. The city has been chosen as the first destination because it delivers proximity to Emaar's senior teams and corporate office. It's also where the winner will study for their fully-funded Executive MBA. But once the three years are up, the world is their oyster. It is entirely possible to find a leadership role outside of Dubai, given Emaar expansion into Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and outside the UAE towards Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Maldives.

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The right candidate will obviously be well-presented. Ambition, keenness and the ability to put one's best foot forward even on an off day are a given. But Emaar is looking for a little more. The competition website specifically mentions "oodles of passion" as a prerequisite. And that means passion for hospitality first and foremost, and a burning desire to work in an exciting sector, and more specifically with Emaar Hospitality. But Harnisch believes there's more to it than that. "We want the hospitality passion to be there. But we'd also like to see the desire to be a global citizen, and the ability to potentially relocate their life to Dubai. We want to see a passion to be a key actor in an evolving story of ambition and success, and also a passion to learn and to contribute."

Emaar has been quite specific on its age limit of 26 or under. This is a deliberate ploy to encourage young people into the industry. There's an elephant in the room, and it's not a particularly small one either. Historically, the sector's career path has put off many ambitious young people. Fresh graduates with a gleam in their eye and a spring in their stem tend to opt for careers where scaling the corporate ladder is a faster affair. "We recognise that young people can take on immense responsibility, and we want to encourage bright talent to consider hospitality as an exciting career that can be fast-tracked," Harnisch added. So what prompted the hospitality group the desire to upend traditional recruitment? The answer lies partly in the brand's own credentials, and partly in a changing traveller profile. Let's start with the brand first, which has a history of laying down new markers for others to follow.

"I hope The World's Greatest Hospitality Talent hunt shows it says we are setting new benchmarks in attracting talent as we did with our service proposition. Emaar Hospitality Group and our parent company Emaar Properties have always been recognized as top employers. It's a tradition we want to continue. As we expand our business internationally, it is important to propel ourselves forward and embody the role of a great employer not just in the UAE but around the world," says Harnisch.

The traveller demographics are clearly changing. Millennials are charting routes around the world with a smartphone in one hand and yoga mats in the other. More seriously, there's a generational emphasis on acquiring experiences as opposed to possessions. And who better to serve a millennial than a millennial?

Weighing in on giving millennials a seat at the table, Harnisch said: "With the changing profile of the traveler, we need to include millennials into the decision-making process. Their insight and perspective is undeniably of great value. Our industry is fast-paced, offers incredible learning and travel opportunities, and taps into the more adventurous, fearless nature of this generation."

It seems like a win-win situation. The hospitality industry wants to learn new tricks on attracting young people with potential. A younger generation wants to know what they can achieve both at individual level and for their industry as a whole. Emaar Hospitality wants to become known as an employer of choice around the world. 'The World's Greatest Hospitality Talent' initiative might just knock down all three pins at once.

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Publication:Hotelier Middle East
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:May 16, 2018
Words:1267
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