My Way: Andrew Swindells, general manager of Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
'It's important to have a smart manner'
Thursday 08 April 2010
Andrew Swindells is general manager of Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London, the new £350m hotel which opened in March.
What did you want to be as a child?
What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?
I thought I could be a lawyer until I did my O-levels and then it dawned on me that perhaps I wasn't as academically inclined as I needed to be.
You did an HND in hotel and catering management. Was it worth it?
Undoubtedly; no two days were the same and it combined college work with industrial experience.
What was your first job?
Assistant services manager at Ring and Brymer, catering for racecourses. It was a huge challenge having to move everything from one place to another. I was at a racecourse one day and a polo tournament with Prince Charles the next.
Then what happened?
I ran a country pub for a year and joined the Hilton Group as food and beverage controller. I became deputy-manager of the Birmingham Hilton Metropole, worked at Hilton Heathrow, and at the Brighton Metropole. We hosted the Labour party conference just after 9/11 and I had to motivate and calm the anxious team.
How did you work your way up?
If I was ever bored in a job, I asked for more responsibility. I proved I could do it, and then asked for a pay rise. I'm also pretty numerate and that helps because hoteliers are more like businessmen now, and I think I've become calmer as I've got older. The operational team needs to present a friendly air; they don't need a banshee of a manager yelling at them.
Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes but it's like being a football manager, you're only as good as your last result.
What are your interview tips?
Do your research, know who you'll be working with, even if you're a waiter. I always ask interviewees what they know about us and, if they don't know much, I question their commitment. It's also important to have a smart manner; you only have 15 seconds to make a good impression. It was drilled into me at school; look smart and work smart –even if you're a pot washer.
And your CV tips?
I don't like lengthy documents; one or two pages are enough. It must be relevant to the position and, if there are gaps, fill them in and be truthful.
How do I get to be where you are?
A big brown envelope stuffed with cash to the chief executive would sort it out!
Do hoteliers need a degree?
You do need a qualification, but not necessarily a degree. You also need social skills and experience at the grass roots. Make beds and wash pots, so you understand what your team does. Then work hard.
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