The hospitality industry, and life in general, can be a tricky space to negotiate, but Stephen Hickmore, who has worked in the industry for far too many years, is here to help. Got a question for Stephen? Send them to and we’ll seek the sage, unbiased advice of our Agony Uncle. Questions and answers to appear on Hospitality Marketplace, but we’ll keep it all anonymous. We promise.

Each day I get asked many questions. Maybe it’s the white hair and longevity that makes people believe that I can be trusted with their concerns and dilemmas. Over the years I think I have heard it all, but no, I am surprised with new questions often. Part of the reason why I love this job. So, ask away, we will keep it confidential. Here are three of the questions I’ve been asked in the past:

Dear Stephen,

I just want to ask why a recruitment agency would not reply back after receiving one’s application. What would be the reason for this? I have made dozens of applications to different agencies in South Africa, especially for Middle East jobs. They all show a great interest in my experience, especially my international experience. They further show greater interest in the fact that I have 27 years of management experience in the hospitality industry. Why would they not come back to me to tell me that I was not successful in my application? I am really puzzled by this, especially because I always make it a point to write a follow up email to thank them, hoping to solicit some response, but dololo response.

– Where’s the communication?

I hope you don’t mind if I reminisce about the old days of recruiting? Before the advent of the email and the internet, agents like myself had little choice but to communicate face to face, or on the telephone. This way our services were very personal. These days, we are inundated with emails from candidates looking for positions. So, every day consultants wade through masses of CVs in the hope of finding the perfect candidate, often overlooking people with excellent experience. However, there is no excuse for poor manners and even shoddier communications with candidates. It’s true that many recruiters have forgotten about old school courtesy.   May I suggest that instead of sending out your CV to many agents, build up a relationship with 2 or 3 that you know have your best interests at heart. Make an appointment, old school style, and meet them, then keep in touch by phone rather than email or text. I find that this is the best strategy to keep recruiters interested. Not all recruitment companies are born equal, so it is important to find a few that will promote your career aspirations and assist you with your plans.


Dear Stephen,

Is it OK to ‘streamline’ my CV? There are a few places that I have worked that were mistakes, and I would rather leave them off my CV. What is your advice?

– Streamlining CV

I guess it boils down to the old adage of ‘honesty is the best policy’ – information on your CV must be full and accurate. We get some CVs where candidates have ‘streamlined’ them by extending the duration of their employment with an employer to cover up a three or four-month gap. This is a bad idea, and with thorough reference checks you will be found out. Regardless of how talented you are, you will be considered deceptive and will not be employed. What have you got to lose by being honest. We all make mistakes. In fact, admitting a mistake, will make you a more credible candidate as long as you can illustrate that you have learned and grown.


Dear Stephen,

Just over 10 years back, when I was young and stupid, I was arrested for shoplifting. It was a prank gone wrong and I now have a criminal record. During a recent interview, I was asked if I had a criminal record and if I would be prepared to do a fingerprint police clearance. I have put the conviction behind me but am scared that the record will show up on the check. What should I do?

– Once young and stupid

May I suggest that you be proactive here. Find a company that can do a fingerprint check for you. You may get the results as quickly as two days. This will tell you if the record still stands. If it does, then you should apply to the SAP for expungement. If your conviction is over ten years old and was a minor crime then it is possible to have the record removed. Now this is important, if your record has not been expunged, you must tell your employer if they ask. Anything else is fraud. The good news is some employers will still employ you with a police record, so don’t quickly assume that lying about it is the only way to get employment.

  • Stephen Hickmore
    Stephen Hickmore

    Stephen is a headhunter for the hospitality industry, and Co-founder of The Hospitality Solutions Company H.S.C. as well as Hickmore Recruitment. Stephen has a world of experience in hotels. He trained with Trusthouse Forte Hotels in the UK before moving to South Africa in the 80’s. After a 3 year period with Southern Sun Hotels, Stephen became a recruiter for the hospitality industry. Stephen presents and MC’s at many events and competitions. He has an insider view of the crazy world of hotels, and writes about anything from mad chefs to giving up the booze. His observations are at times educational, and at other times oblique.

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