"It can open up your horizons. You can learn so much every day in a very dynamic environment," says Prudence Ho, a management trainee for almost a year now.
She spent six weeks at the front desk, where trainees have to measure up to the group's stringent requirements. She also spent time in the business centre, reservations, the telephone operator's office, and at the concierge. "This is normal in our programme. Since I joined, I have learned so much more," says Ho, an English major who worked for a year as a teaching assistant.
Sino Group of Hotels' popular programme, which started 10 years ago, received over 500 applications this year. It usually takes in 10 candidates, often with a first degree in hospitality management.
The group director of human resources (HR), Simon Sung, says that applicants should have a cheerful personality, excellent communication skills and be easily approachable.
"If our management enjoys talking to you, we can imagine that the guests will enjoy talking to you, too. This is important because you will be the hotel's ambassador," Sung says, adding that passion is also very important, as well as proficiency in English, Cantonese and Putonghua.
There were over 200 participants at the initial interview. "We organised it at the Hong Kong Gold Coast Hotel to see if they had the commitment and the flexibility, as they would have to work in all the hotels," Sung says.
The applicants first had to take an English and Chinese written test for one hour, which required good time management. That was followed by a reasoning-ability examination.
About 50 candidates were shortlisted for the second round, which included a group interview, discussions and activities.
The general managers and HR heads of four hotels participated. "We checked their leadership skills, how proactive they were, how they communicated, whether they had a positive attitude and could think out of the box," says Sung.
They also noted if candidates had all the needed documents and if they studied the group's website.
With a mentor's close supervision, the 18-month programme leads each trainee through 10 departments in 12 months. For the next six months, they are placed in the division of their speciality, which depends on the hotel's needs and the trainees' interest. There is also a monthly sharing session where trainees can meet the company's executives.
"They are not just here to learn. They also need to contribute. There are high expectations on the trainees and they need to take charge of their own career," Sung says.