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How Did You Hire Your Last Agent?

April 9, 2007 By: Mark Rogers, Jennifer Merritt, David Eisen, Camie Foster Travel Agent

Agency managers discuss criteria for hiring new agents

What makes a great travel agent, and where do you find one? Travel Agent asked managers how they found their most recent hires.  Anna Loustaunau and Chris DeRose (right)

Chris DeRose

First Travel

Chris DeRose, owner of First Travel of California in Villa Park, CA
was having a hard time finding an acceptable hire. The resumes coming into the
office were from agents who seemed to bounce from one agency to the next every
six months. One applicant sent over by a placement service arrived in tights
and an oversized T-shirt.

"That kind of unprofessional attitude wasn't going to
work for us," says DeRose. Then she got a call from a young woman, Anna
Loustaunau, inquiring how a person became a travel agent. DeRose began telling
Loustaunau that agents first went to school and then she stopped herself.
"There was such enthusiasm in Anna's voice that I decided I would take a
chance on training Anna myself." DeRose asked when she could start and Loustaunau
replied, "Give me twenty minutes to change my clothes." Loustaunau
showed up dressed professionally and ready to work.

In the first two weeks on the job, DeRose has Loustaunau
finding her way around the client base, learning Sabre and taking CLIA Cruise Academy courses.

Heinke McDade

McDade Travel

It's been three years since Heinke McDade, president of
McDade Travel, hired an employee. Prior to that, 12 years had passed since the
Roanoke, VA-based agency welcomed its last agent. Over the last 23 years, the
company has employed no more than 10 agents, McDade points out. The reason, she
says, is that it's becoming harder to find tremendous employees willing to work
day in and day out.

"I don't know if people visualize how tedious being an
agent can be," McDade says. In fact, on the day she spoke with Travel
Agent, McDade was fielding frequent phone calls from a long-time customer
stranded by an airline, serendipitously illustrating her point. "It's fun,
and customers empower us with a lot of decisions, but you have to have that
experience level to know what to book." The ideal person, she says, will
possess both practical and cerebral skills. "I'm looking for someone who
can pay attention to detail, be savvy with a computer and listen and write
well, in addition to being well-traveled, speak different languages and have a
really good bedside manner," McDade says.

Ken Ikeda of Panda Travel

Ken Ikeda

Panda Travel

A recent candidate's strong resume and references caught the
attention of Honolulu-based Panda Travel staff. In fact, they encouraged the
branch office at which the candidate applied to forward her application to the
company's corporate department, says Ken Ikeda, director of operations at Panda

"Most important were her job resume and
references," says Ikeda. "She had travel agent/consultant experience,
she is familiar with Sabre and she had previously worked on corporate accounts.
What sealed the deal were her outgoing personality and positive attitude."

Ikeda notes that her confidence in her skills and abilities
and in how she would be able to contribute to the company also counted in her
favor. Today, this agent handles corporate travel accounts for Panda.

Joan McCarty

Specialty Travel Inc.

"My last hire, Wendy Brzozowski, worked for a large
national chain that used to handle our airline ticketing," says Joan
McCarty, owner of Specialty Travel Inc., in St. Petersburg, FL. "We loved working
with her and she felt the same way about us. One day, I happened to ask if she
knew of someone that might be looking for a position in travel. She responded
that she was about to have a baby and wanted to work in a part-time capacity so
she could have the best of both worlds.

"We had to wait several months for her to become
available, but she has now been with Specialty for seven years and our clients
love her as much as we do. When I make a hire, I look for someone honest,
hardworking and able to build relationships with clients—simply the best."

— With reporting by David Eisen, Camie Foster, Jennifer Merritt and
Mark Rogers

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