Oct 142010

Every now and then someone sends me a Bio. Sometimes they send me a Bio and Resume combined, which is redundant. Now and then I get a CV. I find this strange, if it’s not from somewhere outside the country.

In the United States we use resumes to tell future employers what dandy specimens we are and why we should be allowed to play in their kitchens and dining rooms for money.  Resumes are supposed to provide as much information about your working career in as little space as possible. Resume is an English word with French roots, which means essentially summary or synopsis.

The British, being older as a civilization and probably classier than we are, use  the CV, or Curriculum Vitae.  It’s a Latin term which means a summary of your life, so a sort of pre-death, fill in the blanks  obituary. You might notice already a difference between the two: Your resume is about your trade and career only. In the CV you provide photo,  your birth date, your age, your marital status, your health, nationality, whether you own a boat or not and other information which, when  you consider it, has nothing to do with your ability to keep fifteen cooks in line and flip an egg.

In the US we not only don’t care about all that stuff, we aren’t allowed to ask.  Egg flipping and staff herding experience trump the color of your eyes in the US.(“colour”, if you are British.) . Of course Italy, France, Germany and a lot of other nice places use them, but they don’t have our laws. Be glad we don’t have theirs.

Some people like to call their resume their CV, because they think it sounds more sophisticated, but unless  you put on “wellies” when it’s raining, wear your “vest” under your shirt and see a “Mac” as an outer garment rather than a semi synthetic meat patty with lots of sweet stuff *,  you’re better to stick with “resume”. “CV” has an irritating and pretentious ring in America, and you’re probably not that kind of person.

What puzzles me is the use of a  Bio instead of a resume. Bio is short for biography. It’s an English word, thus not linguistically pretentious, taken from Greek (Picture of your life), and it’s a sort of (supposedly)  third party essay about what a whiz you are and how you got your passion from your Granny’s kitchen and how many people thought you were a phenom when you cooked for the King of Abzkadzia at the age of twelve.  Theoretically they are written by someone else – a marketing person who knows how to pile up adjectives like a $25 banana split. They are generally a bit gushing and little specific (Good resumes are specific).

Intended for marketing and media use, they are expected to be over the top and possibly just a smidgen beyond the boundaries of truth. They are not intended for job search use.

Of course bio’s are also the tool of preference when gathering investors for a restaurant. They want the story more than the facts, and if you’re hustling a service with a web site, you had better have a credible bio available.

Once in a while I am asked to write my bio. I stink at it , so they are rarely publicized. Knowing my own value, I am not driven to prove anything to anyone, and I am distrustful of anyone who can stand up and say with a straight face, “I am the best, I rock, My Food has been praised by sultans and pashas.”  I couldn’t write that stupid paragraph about how great I was going to be under my picture in the yearbook, and I’m glad I don’t have to read that today, so I just don’t have the skills or lack of modesty it takes to put a whopper out there.

Other people’s Bio’s for a job search make me queasy.  Self  promotion generally does. Of course, if you restaurant uses one to promote you, that’s different – let them.   The general public loves them. Actually if you’re good enough to for someone to pay for your bio, you probably don’t need one, anyway.  The best way to do it, by the way, is to just tell a good writer about yourself and let them put it together.

You’ll also want a bio  on hand if you have frequent congress with the press. A one paragraph bio should probably be in your box of tools.

Another issue with bio’s is that of property rights. If a restaurant pays someone to write your Bio, it’s not yours. It belongs to them, and using it for a job leaving the restaurant isn’t quite kosher. Of coursethey are not  going to use it after you leave, but then by the time  you leave a place it’s going to be old news, anyway.  The next one, if you need one, will be better.

Perhaps there’s a moral in here. Maybe there isn’t.

Small linguistic bonus: How to frazzle a Brit.

* If you really want to get a Brit’s attention, wait until he has had two drinks at the bar and look  for any woman in colored slacks, preferably pretty, although not an absolute requirement, behind him, then say, “Hey, look at that girl in the bright blue/pale pink/flashy yellow pants!” Five’ll get you ten that he falls off the bar stool as he whips around.  The British seem highly confused as to which garments go outside and which underneath.