Finding online opportunities in the midst of a pandemic

Finding internships during a pandemic was a challenge for many – but our alumna Marielle McElrath was among those who didn’t let the restrictions restrain her academic and career journey. An online application led to a virtual interview, where she had to record herself answering preselected questions in a short amount of time – with no retakes. From there, she found herself thrown into the deep end as she was accepted to an online Voyage Management Training Program in Rooms Operations with Marriott Hotels.

She shares her unusual experience of being recruited and assessed online: 

What was the process like from application to confirmation?

After applying to the program on Marriott career’s website, the next step was a virtual interview. I had to record myself answering questions about my experience, and to see how well I would fit the company. 

Then I took a written assessment that was mainly about how I would react in certain situations that one often faces in the hospitality industry, and there were questions about my personality, too.

The next step was the Online Discovery Assessment Day. It is usually held in person, but because of travel restrictions and guidelines this year, I attended it online. This event was essentially a number of group discussions and teamwork activities. There were 20 candidates present at this online event, and the other participants were made up of the assessors, presenters, and observers from the company. There were people from all over the world, some with very little industry experience and others with a few years of experience behind them, many with a master’s degree already in hand. Some candidates were already in management positions and were hoping to build on their knowledge through the program.

“We were all at the beginning of our career and still in our 20s and 30s, and all of us had a heart for hospitality.”

The one thing we all had in common was that we were all at the beginning of our career and still in our 20s and 30s, and all of us had a heart for hospitality.

Following the Discovery Day, I had an interview with W Hote Abu Dhabil, Yas Island, the hosting property I was pre-selected to work in. This was the final step, to discuss the specifics of the program in that particular location. It was also an opportunity for me to learn more about the property. 

How did you prepare for each step of the process?

Every step was a discovery. I didn’t know of anyone else who’d been through a process quite like this, and for each step I received very little information as to what was coming so it was a surprise. Of course, I did a lot of research about the company, but other than that, in terms of what to prepare, I had very little to go on.

What type of exercises did you have to do during the Discovery Day?

The day was broken into 3 parts, all of them involving teamwork. We had an activity during which we would have to showcase our negotiation skills, for example. The idea here was to communicate and find a compromise with the rival team to match an end goal.

Some other activities were a bit more creative like creating a marketing campaign for a summer project happening at the hotel and come up with ideas for the launch.

All activities were timed and evaluated by assessors who were constantly paying attention and evaluating our presence, listening skills, initiatives, and how well we were able to communicate with our team.

Which courses or activities from HIM were the most helpful to you during the exercises?

HIM group projects gave me confidence and allowed me to develop my teamwork skills. As we engage with people from different backgrounds and cultures, we build a certain understanding and humility which is essential in the hospitality industry.

To be more specific, I would say that the menu and banquet project helped me a lot in building my teamwork skills.

Any challenging situations that you were faced with?

When I logged into the Online Discovery Day, I didn’t know what to expect as I had never attended such a big online recruitment event before. At first, it was hard to differentiate between candidates and recruiters. As time went by and we started to engage with each other, I began to feel more comfortable.

Do you have any advice for students heading out on their internships?

Looking for an internship can be really stressful. If you start to feel discouraged or overwhelmed, rest assured that now or later some great opportunity will come your way, it’s just a matter of time.

“Remember to be yourself! Always be genuine and authentic.”

I would also recommend that you take lots of notes during your internship, before, and after – write down names, engage with people you encounter, invite them on LinkedIn. Don’t hesitate to send emails demonstrating your high interest in becoming a voyager.

Finally, and this is going to sound like a cliché, but for a good reason… remember to be yourself! Always be genuine and authentic.

Return To:  E-newsletter Oct 2021: