Wendy Schmitt, Vice President, has over 20 years of human resources experience in the hospitality industry. During her time as an HR Director and then Director of Global Recruitment for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, she gained experience in talent acquisition, organizational development, compensation planning, and succession planning. As the lead recruiter for Four Seasons, Wendy created a pipeline of executive talent to serve the company worldwide. She previously served as President of Atlanta’s local Hospitality Human Resources Association, and led Four Seasons’ effort in college recruiting for over 5 years.

We spoke to Wendy about her role as a recruiter, the qualities she looks for in a candidate, and more.

How has the restaurant/hospitality world evolved since you started working in the industry?
Technology has got to be the most significant way the industry has changed. As businesses have automated, we as customers deal with apps and kiosks more frequently than people, and the amount of data that goes into operating a business today is impressive. Still, since it is the service industry, the companies that know how to balance the data with the personal touch and build a strong employee culture are the most successful.

As Director of Global Recruitment for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, you were recruiting for one specific company. What is the main difference between that experience and recruiting here at Elliot where you are constantly changing gears recruiting for a variety of companies? 
The question states it – constantly changing gears. While I loved my time at Four Seasons, I should have tried something new even sooner. I am grateful to be in a profession now that challenges me to learn about different businesses regularly. What’s more fascinating, is that I was familiar with so many of our clients as a customer already, so getting to know how they operate on the inside brings a dynamic element to what we do in representing them and helping them enhance their human capital.

In your opinion, what is one quality that makes a successful C-Suite candidate? 
Approachability. The C-Suite executive must be able to connect with people at all levels to include board members, shareholders, investors, customers and employees. Successful executives are good listeners who shift as needed based on their audience. There are many other qualities to look for, but as a long time HR person, this one stands out to me.

What is one quality you look for in every candidate? 
Emotional intelligence. I am a big believer that the best leaders are self-aware and have social skills to allow them to relate well to others.

You have experience placing executive talent internationally. How do you compare American hospitality and restaurant operations/service to that provided in other countries? 
From a recruitment perspective, in other countries, I witnessed more young people start out with the intention of building their career in hospitality, whereas in the U.S., I have encountered many executives who started out working in a restaurant or hotel while in school and then “fell” into hospitality as a career. In the past 15 years, I have seen U.S. Universities grow their hospitality management programs, which is important since they expose students to what it takes to be an effective leader, an investor, a real estate expert and the importance of managing the P&L: the real business side of the running a restaurant.

There is so much to consider when working in other countries that there is not a simple comparison. I have not seen a concept that is “plug and play”. Nuances of the menu, staffing, pricing and more all need to be adjusted when going in to new countries. For the ex-patriot leaders, they must have a respect for their host country and the traditions in order to be successful.

Why Elliot? 
The Elliot Group offers the closeness of a small company with the exposure to big business. After years in the corporate world, I grew to appreciate it, but always enjoyed a smaller environment. As one of our newer associates on the team, it’s also been great to have the Elliot brand behind me, so that if someone may not know my name when I reach out, they’ll recognize our company and know that I may be presenting an amazing opportunity for their career.

Successful executives are good listeners who shift as needed based on their audience.
Wendy Schmitt, Vice President