Cornell Quarterly Study Finds that Personality Weighs Heavily in Hospitality Hiring Decisions

Apr 18, 2011

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Cornell Quarterly Study Finds that Personality Weighs Heavily in Hospitality Hiring Decisions

Restaurant managers prefer to hire pleasant people
Ithaca, NY, April 18, 2011 – A study of 104 restaurant managers finds that personality attributes have a stronger influence in hiring decisions than do applicants' mental abilities—even though ability is the strongest predictor of employee performance. The study, "What Matters Most? The Perceived Importance of Ability and Personality for Hiring Decisions," is presented in the featured article in the May 2011 of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly (CQ), which is published by Sage Publishers in conjunction with the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research. By special arrangement with Sage the featured article is available for download at no charge at

The study was conducted by Michael Tews, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, Kathryn Stafford, an associate professor at Ohio State University, and Bruce Tracey, an associate professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Since this article's acceptance, Tracey has become editor of the CQ. Noting several studies that indicated that hospitality managers pay more attention to personality attributes than to mental ability, the authors presented the restaurant managers with hypothetical applicant profiles that offered different levels of personality attributes and mental ability. The managers were asked to rate which employees they would hire. All of the managers work for the same company, which operates 120 casual-theme restaurants in the United States.

Using a statistical technique called conjoint analysis, the authors found that the managers placed the greatest emphasis on agreeableness, followed by conscientiousness and emotional stability. General mental ability placed fourth on this list. The results echo those found in an earlier study of hotel managers, who also emphasized personality over mental ability in hiring.

The authors conclude, however, that the managers' failure to emphasize mental ability is not the most effective approach to making hiring decisions, because other studies have shown that mental ability is the key to high performing employees. Although personality attributes are integral to hospitality employees' success, they suggest that hospitality organizations train managers to place a greater weight on employees' mental abilities in the hiring decision.

About the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

The primary objective of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly is to publish articles that provide timely and actionable prescriptions for hospitality management practice. The articles we publish are based on important industry challenges that are examined using rigorous methods of inquiry. The content addresses a broad range of topics that are relevant to hospitality, travel, and tourism contexts.

About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 81 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit

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