Starting a Career within a Private Household
Silver Swan Recruitment recruits for a number of private households and estates worldwide. The private household industry can offer a very rewarding and lucrative career and can provide the opportunity to travel the world. Unbeknown to most, this private hospitality industry is huge with a surprising number of homes and estates in the UK as well as overseas who employ staff. It is not unusual for these families to have multiple homes, all fully staffed.
Working in a private household can often be challenging as no 2 days are ever the same, however this variety helps to make roles really enjoyable. You become an integral part of the family and are relied on heavily to keep the household running smoothly. Each family will be different and you must therefore adapt your working style to suit each individual household. Some families will want to interact with you and will want you to feel that you are part of the family, other more formal households will not want this personal interaction. They will want you to be seen but not heard and will expect you to do your role with very little conversation with family members. It is vital that you take your time when applying and interviewing for positions as finding the right family to suit your personality and working style will have a direct impact on your level of enjoyment and success in the position. The perfect match between yourself and a family can result in a career for life within their home.
Job Opportunities within Private Households
The type of roles can vary depending on what the requirements of the household or estate, however they will typically include:
- Estate/House Manager
- Domestic Couple
All roles are as important as each other, each member of the team plays a vital role in the successful running of the house.
The first thing required to start a career working on in a private home or on a private estate is to gain some good 5* service/housekeeping experience. Ideally this is within another private environment such as a chalet or villa if not then a small boutique hotel would also be a good place to start. Depending on the desired role will determine the kind of relevant experience for you to gain in advance.
There are various training courses which are worth looking at if you do lack the hospitality experience required. There are numerous Private Household Training Academies who offer training for Butlers, Housekeepers, Couples and more. You can expect to be trained on the following:
- Service & Silver Service
- Wine Knowledge and Food Pairing
- Russian Service
Recruitment agencies are a great starting point when the time comes to start your job hunt. Very few NHW households will advertise their roles directly and manage the recruitment process themselves, the only time they will recruit a new member of staff themselves would be if someone is recommended to them by someone they trust. Majority of recruitment would go through a bespoke recruitment agency. Families will often use the same agency every time and so will have a good relationship with their consultant who will have a good understanding of the family, the household and the role. The consultant will therefore know the kind of person who will fit well with the family and who will succeed in the role. They will spend time matching candidates to positions to ensure the fit is perfect each time.
When it comes to applying for Private Household positions, the following factors are vitally important:
First Impressions – you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a first impression!
- Make sure your CV is well written, well formatted, easy to read with zero spelling or grammatical mistakes. Cover letters are useful to outline your skill set and match your qualities to that required of the role. It is also useful to include a photo on your CV.
- Be sure you are well presented and smartly dressed for all interviews.
- Longevity on a CV is important. It will show your loyalty and commitment to your previous positions and will assure prospective employers of your ability to stay in a role long term. If you do have a number of short term positions on your CV, be sure to provide explanations of why you left each role. Working in each role 2-3 years as a minimum should be your aim.
- The referencing process is taken very seriously. Both the recruitment agency and the Principle themselves will want to speak to your previous employers. It is useful to have written references ready to present at interview stage along with contact details to enable them to be verified. Expect your previous 3 employers to be contacted. References must be solid for your application to proceed.
Interview with a House Manager
Russell Orford works as a House Manager for a UHNW client based in London. He oversees the running of their 5 homes worldwide – 2 based in London, 3 oversees.
How did your career working in Private Households begin?
I spent 12 years in the Army in the Scots Guards, wearing the red tunic and Bearskin Cap. This gave me a large amount of skills which were incredibly useful and transferable to the world of Private Households. When I left, I helped a friend of a friend with their maternity cover managing a house for a Titled Couple in Chelsea. I loved the variety of the work, and coming from the Army, I thrived on doing a good job and making things perfect.
I had a brief dabble in ex-military recruitment which really helped me understand where my skillset was, but most importantly how the job market works. The benefit of a good, tailored CV, and understanding what good recruiters can offer you, both as a client and a candidate.
I then landed the job which started everything for me, managing a very large house, for an UHNW businessman with bordering OCD tendencies. The standards were incredibly high and he was extremely demanding – not unreasonable, but everything was either perfect, or it was wrong.
In your experience, can the role of House Manager differ between households?
I think the role of House Manager covers such a wide range of responsibilities that it can only ever be different due to different requirements. Some require cooking, some a little housekeeping, others need a real hands on approach, while others want a more set back managerial style.
What is your typical day?
There is no such thing! I have my standard things which I would do on a daily basis, checking the whole house, fixing the dressing room (resetting all the hangers, to be equally spaced etc). I would also make time to speak to all the staff every day, to ensure they were happy, knew what they were doing, and also felt connected and supported.
When it comes to my workload, I would class it as a good day if I got to complete 50% of the work I planned to do that day. There are always changes, always problems to fix and last minute immediate tasks given by the Principal.
What challenges do you face on a day to day basis?
The biggest challenge I find is staff disagreements. As in every workplace, there can be disagreements between staff members, and this will always come down to you as a HM to fix.
Just yesterday I had 2 housekeepers in two different properties have a row, and both handed in their notice before 0900. Not my favourite morning, but after some listening and talking they are now both staying!
What do you find most enjoyable in your role?
I love doing a good job, and fixing problems, whether it’s staffing, technical, logistical or sourcing hard to find items.
I don’t look for praise, but am very pleased when there is no criticism – if there is nothing wrong, then everything is right! (I have been pulled up for the length of the wicks on candles which have already been burning for an hour!).
What do you think makes a good House Manager?
The ability to adapt to anything, listen to everybody but make your own decisions, hear everything and say nothing. You must be there first, but put yourself last, behind not only your Principal, but also every other member of your staff.
It is an amazing privilege to be in the position to work in the incredible houses we are allowed to serve in, and to manage a team of people whose sole aim is to make someone’s life better.
It’s not always easy, but when you get it right, it’s perfect.
If you have some good hospitality experience and feel you have the right personality traits to suit working in a private home or estate then please get in touch and we will help you either find a new opportunity or secure your first role within a private estate.