The top 10 interview questions for a GM about the hotel’s finances and the best answers

questions-financeInterviews are tricky, for both the candidate and the interviewer. A GM’s job interview is a challenge for the incumbent because they need to be ready for just about anything. This is especially true as it relates to the financial picture of the business as seen through the interviewer’s eyes.

The opposite is also true as many times the person doing the grilling does not have a broad base of experience relating to the daily inner workings and nuances of the hotel world. Here is a list of common questions and good answers you can ask the person doing your audition.

1. What makes you qualified to be the person in charge of the financial direction and health of my hotel?

This is a wide open and leading question. Wide open because the health of the hotel is like your body and every inch counts and needs to be properly looked after because it all adds up. Leading because it’s designed to catch up the fair weather GM’s that think the finances are the Controllers baby. The best answer here is: as the GM, my job is to lead all aspects of the hotel. The finances are what I consider to be one of the three pillars of our business. The guests, the colleagues, and the money are all that I come to work to manage every day.

2. Who in your opinion is ultimately responsible for the finances in this hotel?

Again, this is a leading question. The inexperienced answer is: the Controller or Director of Finance is responsible for the numbers since they run the accounting department and produce the financials. The correct answer is: as the General Manager I am ultimately responsible for all aspects of the business and in this case “especially the numbers.”

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3. As the GM what is the most important thing you will do to ensure the hotel is a financial success?

This is a pinpointed question and there are several good answers. The one that I like the best is: as the GM, my job is ultimately to ensure each department in the hotel has their financial plan. I am also responsible to ensure the plan is executed on a consistent basis with a high level of success.

4. What exactly does each hotel department head need to do to be successful with their financial plan and how will you ensure this happens during your tenure?

This is a vision and planning question. You already laid out the vision for the departmental finances in your answer to question 3, and the best plan is to ensure each manager is trained to F TAR W on a consistent monthly basis. That is – Forecast, Track, Adjust, Review and Write. For my complete F TAR W recipe read my article at

5. Under your tenure as the GM, what are each manager’s financial responsibilities?

This is a wide-open question that cries out for a crackerjack answer. Exactly what is it you will be asking each leader to accomplish with their financials? The best answer is: there are sometimes three things, but always at least two for which each manager is accountable to me. These are departmental revenues in some cases, but always their payroll and expenses. The answer is simple, but most people miss this because they don’t see the effective strategy of having each person on the team charged with their own piece. Many fumble this one with mumbo-jumbo about the Controller and director/divisional organization; the simple and effective method and the response is if someone does the schedule or orders the supplies for their area, they are the ones with whom we will organize and create agreements on the necessary financial responsibilities.

6. What will you do when you have a bad month and miss the forecast?

This is a great question and one that you should expect. We will all have months when we miss the forecast; that’s just part of the game. But what will you do when you screw up is a tough question to answer. The most effective response is: learn from what didn’t work, analyze the areas where we missed, examine why and determine what we can do going forward so as not to repeat the same mistakes. There will always be challenges to overcome and learning from our mistakes is the best answer. Skip the Trumpesque answer that we never miss a month or get captured (sorry I could not resist).

7. What are your thoughts on managing and measuring flow thru?

This is a very technical question, but it’s easily handled if you understand and utilize the concept. A super answer is: it’s always our focus to maximize profits when revenues are higher in the current period compared to the last and focus on retention when revenues are lower. Each area should have a detailed plan for their payroll and expenses as well as utilize a monthly flow-thru analysis to determine exactly where costs are higher. With this information, we can take the appropriate actions going forward to ensure we don’t repeat the same missteps. The answer shows you know how to analyze the variances with the flow-thru concept and most importantly how to manage into the next month to continually get better.

8. Can you tell me your specific ideas on controlling payroll in the hotel?

These guys are tough and it sounds like they are really trying to nail you down, but again if you know your stuff the answer is right in front of you. Each department must have an approved staffing guide and formula in my hotel. An approved list of fixed positions by department and a formula for determining variable payroll should be provided based on rooms occupied or cover counts in rooms and F&B. From this, a weekly schedule is produced that revolves around measuring productivity with the goal of always making or beating the monthly productivity targets. Wow – I think you just got the job!

9. How do you go about writing an effective monthly commentary that the owners will find useful?

This question is calling out your understanding of the “full disclosure principle” as well as your broader leadership philosophy. The seasoned answer falls off the W (Write) in #4. The commentary serves three main purposes to help your hotel move forward:

  • To tell the stakeholders what you see coming in their business that the financial statements cannot reveal like: competition, impending regulations, capital issues, human resource challenges, etc.
  • It’s an incredibly effective way to let your stakeholders know you’re on top of the many challenges you collectively face, and you use these current variances to plan and manage future activities to mitigate negative impact and capitalize on the positive.
  • By having your management team participate in the creation of the commentary you ensure that the future direction and challenges of the business are being met in all areas by your team.

10. As the GM what would be your personal leadership style?

This is a wide-open question that gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how you see your role and what you will bring to the table during your tenure, should you get the job. I think a great answer goes something like this and it’s two-fold. One, my belief as the GM of the hotel is that leadership is about developing my team and communicating the wants and needs of all stakeholders. This is done while continually moving the business forward. Secondly, leadership in a hotel is about knowing that all three pillars of the business are equal. We all come to work every day with a high level of enthusiasm and energy all the while knowing that the job is never done, and things will never be perfect! Sounds great right?

Contact David at (415) 696-9593.

Tags: Hospitality financial leadership, hotel financial coach


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