Jul 122013
 

I recently placed a short job alert on LinkedIn, ending in the following instructions:

“IMPORTANT; Only legal US residents can be considered. Applications must be made via the web site. (Consider it a test on intelligence and ability to follow instructions)”

The response consisted almost entirely of invitations to “please contact me”, “please send information about your firm” (This, of course, would be on the web site), and “please view my profile”. Only one person sent me a resume.

This is almost standard practice. Paid ads on Craigslist explicitly requiring resumes and elsewhere explicitly requesting resume submissions through our contact page receive responses such as “I am a widely respected Chef. Please view my web page” or get my resume on line, or call me ASAP.”

I am a recruiter. I recruit chefs for my supper, a process not much different from recruiting lace tatters or attorneys, I imagine – a client calls me with a profile, which I try to fill from my current stock of professional acquaintances, while I also do a bit of outreach. My job is then to amass a group of likely candidates matching the employer’s laundry lists of preferences and needs, screen them for any number of qualities from career path to star power to palate to  to common sense and then provide those who seem most likely to the employer to be discussed further. Among the qualities I seek are attitude, intelligence and ability and willingness to follow instructions.

If I provide instructions on applying for the job and you don’t follow them, you will not be my candidate, because 1) You did not take the time to read the entire alert, so you are not detail oriented, 2) You are arrogant enough to feel that you are not under the same constraints as others seeking the position, 3) You are simply not very sharp and did not understand the instructions, 4) You think I am stupid and won’t notice that you are playing me or 5) You,  yourself, are stupid. None of these are mutually exclusive, by the way. It is quite possible to encompass all of these qualities at once. So why ever would I want to send someone like this to my clients?

While I have been taking advantage of applicants’ failure to comply with my requests, I now learn that many HR departments are using instruction compliance in a far more sophisticated manner.

They actively create  instructions to weed out candidates. Candidates are provide with several directives: Please use the job description and number as your subject line. Please include a short paragraph on  the reason for your interest in this job and why you feel it is appropriate for you / you are appropriate for it. Keep your sentence under five lines.

Anyone not focused or intelligent enough to follow instructions is automatically excluded from the consideration. The wheat is immediately separated from the chaff.

Instruction based weeding can be more complicated: Once an application is accepted for consideration a questionnaire may be sent. Again, if the applicant does not fill out the questionnaire or send it back in time, they are excluded.

The first goal is to see if the candidate takes the time to think about the position offered. Neither a recruiter nor an HR department likes to waste time on candidates who expect positions to fall from trees – asking for candidate input in return for a responsible position makes great sense. An invested candidate is always a better candidate. What the reduced pool of candidates write is then a valuable tool for further consideration.

In some cases the instructions are negative: Please do not send pictures. Please send your application only as a Word document or a PDF.  That too, is a test, whether intended or not.

What this means to you: If  instructions are presented with a job description, you must follow them. Read them carefully, so that you know what is required, then do it exactly as requested.. If not you will probably not make it to the main selection process.

 Good luck with  your career.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 112013
 

After noticing plainly fraudulent postings for Chef / Cook / Food and Beverage positions placed as comments on LinkedIn last week I wrote a short piece on the best way to recognize fraudulent job offers and employment scams.

Judging from responses to the blog, international employment fraud is both more wide spread and more sophisticated than I had imagined. The alumni manager for one of this country’s major cooking schools reported scams reaching into the school’s graduate pool. One LinkedIn group member reported the following scam launched from a legitimate web site offering a position in a luxury hotel in Kuala Lumpur. While it is possible that someone within the hotel was able to perpetrate the fraud, it is more likely that highly skilled con artists were able to pose successfully as the hotel’s GM and Director of HR.

This report indicates the level of sophistication in some international employment scams aimed at high end applicants.  The harm to the candidate was considerable. He is considering action against the Hotel, for which he probably needs to await the findings of the local police.

In addition to the notes I added in italics to the reports, there are a few things candidates for overseas employment can and probably should do to protect themselves. For one thing initiate telephone contact with someone at the hotel to confirm the position before taking any drastic steps – that means calling the number on the hotel web site when the job offer is made and asking for confirmation of that offer.  Do not Skype or use a number or address offered by the person you are dealing with, and do not rely on that person to call you. Use only the Hotel main number and ask for the person in Human Resources.  Do not conduct your business over the contact’s mobile phone. (This is an old trick I use for checking references with occasionally surprising and amusing results.)

It is, furthermore, highly irregular for an employer to ask a candidate or employee to advance money. In fact, that is a fairly sure sign of fraud.  If an advance is requested, do as suggested above and call the employer (again – find the address on the Internet – do not use a number provided by the contact) and confirm the offer.

One other thing you can do is check the contact’s email for the originating IP Address. You will find it in the header. In Outlook check on File and then Info then Properties. In the box which opens look for something like Received: from mail-blah blah blah.com [209.85.212.52]) . Take the number 209.85.212.52 and put it in the search bar of your browser. The search results will give you the location of the server from which the message originated . This is not a certain solution (the mail from which I copied was sent from Jordon using a Google server in California) but if you are applying for a position in Tokyo and the server proves to be in Istanbul or St Petersburg, you are warned.  As stated in the previous post, the mail should come from a hotel or property address – someone@swankysuites.com rather than swankysuites@yahoo.com . Luxury properties can afford their own URL’s and require that all correspondence use them.

Thank you for your reply! the scam unfolded in several steps

1. Ad on Hcareers.com to which I applied- mid August 2012 (Note: HCareers is not responsible for these events. The fact that the perpetrators used a highly respected location for the scam is an indication of the level of sophistication and possibly success in the operation.)

2. Application sent by HR Director of hotel saying I had been shortlisted along with a request for all certifications. (Note: I suspect this was someone posing as the HR Director, not the HR Director. )

3. Interview over telephone with HR and then with GM- lasted over 30 minutes (Again: My suspicion is that the call was initiated by someone posing as the HR Director and the GM.)

4. Three days later a letter of intent on [the hotel’s] letter head with the right phone numbers

5. Letter clearly stated position salary and benefits, the later asked for 50% payment for work permit, 50% for air ticket for self and spouse and 50% immigration documents All of which would be refunded by [the hotel] once I arrived and joined, the reason I was given that the hotel in the past had spent a lot money to get candidates who never showed up due to any number of reasons ie counter offer etc. Note: In reality this would never happen. The candidate is either sent a ticket or asked to buy his own ticket and will be reimbursed on arrival.

6. I was to pay the money in stages which I did

7. I even had my wife fly out to KL with the offer letter and see a local attorney, who said it all looked fine and was a good contract, my wife also found out through friends in KL that HR director mentioned on the offer was indeed the actual HR Director. (Note: Except this was probably not the person the candidate spoke with)

8. I made the final payment and received a work permit on official Malaysian Government Papers duly signed by the Labor Department (These, too, where certainly forgeries – taking the time to confirm the visa via a local consulate would be a good idea.)

9. At this stage I was still unaware that it was a fraud and a scam.

10. I received a Qantas Airlines electronic ticket, 4 days before I was to leave ( Nov 11th 2012) which when I called Qantas proved to be false, that is when I started to suspect that something was wrong

11. My wife was already in KL staying with friends waiting for me to join her

12. She drove over to the hotel and found to her shock that the HR director had left the job a a couple of weeks ago, on further questioning also revealed that they had an Executive Chef on board

13. I had already resigned and given two months’ notice .

I have all the documentation and email trail copies of which have been submitted to KL police

Police in Kl are still investigating, I have had precious little reaction from [the hotel] in KL or at the head office in the US

 See the previous post for more suggestions of keeping your job search safe. Be  careful. It’s  a scarier jungle than we thought out there.

 

 

 

Jun 032013
 

I recently posted a few positions on Linkedin.

In a few seconds a comment appeared claiming to be seeking all staff for the Luxury Cunard Cruise line group. Two group members immediately posted requests to be considered for the position.

His comment was not, however,  only inappropriate (piggy-backing your outreach on another user’s comments ) It was a scam.  The poster had nothing to do with Cunard and was certainly  not advertising under his own name. He was looking for patsies, and he had found two in seconds.

Once in contact with the “candidates” he will have them fill out a very simple form and then respond requesting the fees for visa processing as well as national identification  or passport numbers and the kind of personal information that would not only seem logical for work permit applications but also enables identity theft.

These scams, usually citing luxury properties of cruise liners, abound.  One featuring a photo of a “Director of a group of luxury London River Boats” seeking“Top Chefs”  was appended to every job listing I posted about a month ago. (Luxury river cruises on the Thames?) Despite warnings from group members who had already been stung, at least fifteen responses begged to be considered for the jobs. Desperation makes easy targets.

Another promised jobs at all levels in Canada.

The practice has reached some of the world’s  top hotels and resorts; London’s five star luxury Montcalm has resorted to posting a fraud alert on their career pages.

In addition to minor grifting and identity theft, fraudulent job lures may pose greater dangers ranging from leaving a candidate adrift in a foreign country with neither money nor resources to an increasing number reported enslavement cases.

I also get emails from an offshore group telling me that they can a)get me a glamorous job in the Middle East and B) in a separate email that they can get me cut price labor. The mails come from different companies, but the IP address is the same for both..which means that both messages are sent from the same computer.

There are of course international recruiters (we are that when called to be), but taking care anytime you are dealing with the unknown is just basic intelligence. Not paranoid – just cautious..   Use critical thinking in any job search – especially if that job would take you overseas.

Excitement and hope are the enemies of critical thinking and common sense. If an offer or a come-on seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.  No mater how much you want something to be true, you are your own best advocate only if you look for the flaws in the proposal.

Here are a few things you can consider when you are dealing with a recruitment firm or job offers (or hoaxes).

 

1)      Mileage is a good sign: If a recruiter has been around for a while, they haven’t dirtied many nests.

2)      Referrals will usually lead you to reliable recruiters or businesses: If someone you know has a recruiter s/he trusts, then you probably can as well.

3)      What is the firm’s web and brick and mortar  presenece?: A bona fide recruiter will have a web page and a professional email account. Like jobs@chefsprofessional.com (ours) or john@greatrestaurantgigs.com.  A person working in any company’s HR will use that company’s URL (suzieq@hyattsuites.com) . Legitimate HR departments never use email addresses like RitzCarlton@gmail.com . Corporate Human Resources representatives work out of corporate offices and will have a phone number which is not a cell phone.  If your contact does not supply  you with this information, just call the Human resources office and ask if he is in.

4)      Can be authenticated: Check the person’s identity on Linked in. My information is complete and completely visible. The Cunard poster could not be found.

5)      How are they seeking candidates?  Legitimate job postings do not appear in comments under other conversations. The larger corporations target  individuals directly through their research or have a professional outreach person who sends out group messages using paid Premium Accounts.  They also advertise some positions on larger job boardsl

Remember these companies sometimes have recruitment budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars. They don’t waste time with small  postings in groups on Linked or any other site.

6)       Beware of unsolicited email: I email people who have responded to previous ads, but I reference their response and tell them who I am. Emails promising your dream job are always scams. Anything promising the job of your dreams is suspect.

7)      Methods of response: All professional companies these days use contact forms on their web sites. You can see ours at http://www.chefsprofessional.com/contact.php .  Many will not take emailed resumes, but if they do, they will take them at an official HR department email address. Corporations like Hyatt may require you to sign up for an account or sign in with a Google or other account.

8)      You should never pay money for a job lead 0r a job referral. You should never give your social security or passport number to be considered for a position. (You may have to provide them when an offer is made.) You should never provide bank or financial information.  A few companies functioning as facilitators for visas like the US J Visa do  – that is a different issue.)

9)      Exceptions: Small restaurants, independent hotels, etc  often do have Gmail or Hotmail accounts to spare their main accounts from too much traffic or to hide the name of the restaurant for any number of reasons. There is nothing unethical about this.  They will always identify themselves a such in their job listings.

10) Research. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of an offer, research the company. Recruiters  may not be able to give you the company name at first, but they should after the job is filled (or if you are being considered). Every legitimate business is on line, and all companies have LinkedIn or other presence. Take a look at their profile –  who else has worked for them. Are they endorsed? (My fans keep endorsing me for cooking, for some reason. At least it is an endorsement.)  Most large luxury groups also post all of their lower level openings and some management jobs on their own web sites, which provides a further method of confirmation.  Cunard’s web site has no cook openings at this time, so the outreach for all positions was definitely a scam.

11) Be very wary of “attorneys” and facilitators who reach out on or via the internet promising job permits.  Most if not all frauds. If they can do something for you, then you can do it yourself for a small processing fee at the nearest consulate. If in doubt the consulate will be able to tell you if the program they propose is bonafide.

Note of caution: If you are dealing with email solicitation Google the page on the web rather than using the link provided. As is the case with less complicated phishing schemes, job hoaxes can have very realistic mock ups of company pages.

Final caution: The con artists who are surfacing in the job industry tend to cite either cruise liners or resorts.  The positions they offer are always irresistibly attractive and international (which allows them to solicit money for visas and identity sensitive information).    If the  presentation of a corporate position seems odd (For instance the recent cruise liner outreach) bypass the recruiter (DO NOT SEND A RESUME/CV) and go directly to the company’s web site to apply.

Be careful. It’s complicated new world, and there be monsters abroad.

May 212013
 

Or maybe social media and job search.

I have been on Linkedin for several years, and frankly, I haven’t found many people there, despite my largish stable of “friends”.  That seems more to do with the international nature of the venue, but it may be just me. Every time I reach out, no matter how specifically, I find a flood of messages in my inbox from India, Pakistan and other wildly exotic places with hoards of chefs and cooks wanting to get to the US, which messes up my work rhythm.

This is despite the clear statement: We are unable to consider candidates outside the United States and without working visas.

But this is about you, and not me, so let me get to the point: What I also see on Linkedin and on the other social media sites I frequent is  the following sentence: “Please see my profile”.  Nothing more. Just an order to look them up. ..just  take a moment out of your schedule to go get what I could have sent you myself, if I had bothered to read the entire job description and gone to your web site to send a resume and a note via your carefully constructed contact page.

They also place these on posts of people who ask questions like, “How do I find a job in Sweden”. “Please view my profile.”  There may even be an ap for this (considering the mindless uniformity of the response, there probably is). May I suggest that if so it does more harm than good?

What does this have to do with you? Well, if you do this no recruiter with a brain in his/her head is going to give you the time of day. Why? Because they are careless, inconsiderate and stupid.

You, on the other hand, are not. You have the intelligence and the presence of mind to read job offers or leads on social media to the end and follow the instructions to a “T”. If there are no instructions, you have the class and intelligence to message the person posting the job directly with a very short  note that says “I am interested in the job your posted on whatever.com.  How may I best contact you and where can I send a resume, if you desire one?” Now isn’t that charming? It’s also effective.  The employer or recruiter may  look at your profile anyway  (we do that), but you have at least offered to take the initiative.

That means you are the kind of person I want in my employment..not someone who either does not read instructions or ignores them.

Another Linkedin anomaly: I notice that whenever I post a job other recruiters post something like, “Go to Dan’s Sleazy recruitment site to see the best jobs in the world.” Of course this is superfluous, since you are all smart cookies, but I would say that any recruiting firm who tailgates someone else’s work like that is hardly trustworthy and should be avoided at all costs.  (Perhaps I should offer something on bad recruiters, as I notice them on the rise, but time is precious at the moment.) At any rate, be warned.

As long as we are at this, let’s talk alumni sites. I occasionally mention something about jobs on school sites. I  just mentioned a great opportunity for cooks who want to move into Michelin rated kitchens on one, but as a recruiter I left no name. A student or alumni immediately challenged this, and I explained with a link to this site’s explanation about recruiters why that was the case. The young woman responded, “That is an awful site. It doesn’t do anything to attract candidates.” Now, actually from our statistics, it appears it does, but that’s not the point.

The point is that this  young woman is posting in a place where not only I but numerous employers make job offers. Her manners are wanting, to say the least, and everyone who looks there  has a a chance to see that.  Obviously something else you are too smart and classy to do, but I thought  I’d mention it.

I have been busy filling jobs (The Chefs’ Professional Site is listed on the side bar if you want to know what they are) and regret not to have provided more posts.  This one, however, seems important.

So let me repeat the moral, because it’s an easy one: When dealing with internet job opportunities, read posting carefully, follow the instructions and be respectful and polite. Good luck to all of you. The world needs people like you.

 

 

Jul 272012
 

When you are right you are right. Apparently I am that.  I recently stumbled onto the site of a group which makes software for recruiters, both corporate and independent. Reading down it I found just about everything I have been pounding on for  years, but their focus is different: As The Sovren Group points out, resumes are often read and selected by electronic systems, which read them. They are also entered into databases electronically, from which they can be mined. (We do this, but not electronically, so we can get a feel for our candidates.) My point, generally, has been that some things are simply unappealing or annoying. Theirs is that these same things will prevent your resume from being added to the searchable candidates and thus you from being considered.

Sovren provides  a long and detailed piece of extremely valuable information, which you should read in full and then bookmark. Here is a summary of some but not all of Sovren’s tips with a few comments about non automated systems. (I am a non automated system).

Note: Before running out to write a new resume, just check the one you have against this list and tweak it as necessary to create an electronic version. (or to make it easier for the rest of us to assist you in your job search.)

1)      Use ONLY Microsoft Word format. (I have suggested in the past that RTF is acceptable, but Word is definitely better. At all costs do NOT use PDF for your resume.

2)      “Don’t get fancy”, cute, or clever. You are sending professional information, not ptrticipating in a science fair fair. do not use all caps except in section heading (EXPERIENCE), do not separate letters with spaces to emphasize them (J O H N or J_O_H_N) , do not use small caps or fancy lettering, do not underline, use NO graphics (including cute bullets), do NOT use long bullet lists. I cannot stress enough how valuable this is for non automated systems as well (which we usually call “people”).

3)      NO PICTURES.  No photos of you or your food, no little chef hat bullets, no drawings, no logos, no lines or frames. NOTHING., NO GRAPHICS PERIOD! Graphics are for amateurs. (I delete them – an annoyance to be sure – but Sovren’s reasoning is that pictures cannot be databased – true story: a very fat chef from India broke database with a huge picture, causing me days of repair work, and I have detested the man ever since) – but Sovren speaks of electronic processes, not human sentiments. If you are submitting for a European job, then submit the pictures they require as separate documents. (look at the site to see what pictures look like to the robot.) Further argument: Many submission scripts limit the size of resumes sent and will exclude those with pictures.

4)      No Headers (they are an annoyance). No footers. Every thing goes in the main body of the resumeThis goes for all systems. Just put it in the body. If you are too lazy to type it in a few places, then how in earth would you expect to handle daily mise en place or produce accounting? Headers seem like a good idea. They aren’t.

5)      Put all of your contact information at the very top of the resume. That’s FIRST – the VERY first. Not in an artsy line at the bottom. As a person, I appreciate this, too.

My addition: Make sure it includes your city, your zip code, your phone (mobile preferred) and your email. If you want the job, PUT YOUR EMAIL IN YOUR RESUME.  

6)      Do not put your information in an attractive line across the top of the resume, but name above address above phone number above email. (More important for reading bots than people)

7)      Never use tables.  Never use columns.  I rarely mention this and don’t mind columns (tables can be a pain), as I feel that it is easier for candidates to work with, but the company is correct. They store and send badly, often placing employment dates first, followed by all employers and experience. See the piece for examples. (I am fine with columns for references, but apparently the reader bots are not.)

8)      Don’t write your resume in Excel. (see points 1 and 3). Excel does strange things to data.(This is my rule, not theirs, but just use Word.

9)      Don’t use templates, especially those provided by Microsoft Word or other office program.:  (Exemption: The templates on this site conform to these rules except for one using a table.) Templates contain “fields”, which will turn up as “Field”  or “Name” when your resume is electronically parsed rather than your name. (A note on templates – they are generally fine for anything not read by an automated system, but do be sure to fill in all the fields and delete phrases like “Put your name here”.)

10)   Don’t use fields: As the writer of the articles notes, if you don’t know what they are, they you don’t have to worry.  Resume  writers, however, often use them, so try the Test below to make sure the correct data shows for robots.

11)   Write your dates ad Jan ’01 –  present rather than 01/01 to present. I disagree here, since the latter is shorter. This has an impact on only non US hiring.

12)   Include your experience and skills used in your job description, under the listing of the employer. What have I been saying all along? Not in initial bullet list, not in separate paragraphs, but right under the job listing.

13)   Do not use blank lines in your job descriptions. Use them to separate the name of the place where you worked from the description and separate employment listings with blank lines.

14)   Use only one basic font:  really, that makes the resume easier to read. Times new Roman remains the most practical.

15)   Test your resume by saving it to .txt format and reducing all fonts to 8. (look up help if you don’t know how) and open it to see how well it scans and reads. If it is not what you want, then you can (my tip, not theirs) write it using Notepad or a text program, copy it to a Word document and format it then.  (note: Your font size should not be eight but rather about 11 for most submissions..this merely shows you if a bot will read it.

16)   Use standard capitalization. That means writing your name as John Jones, streets, etc. (see nr 2 as well)

17)   Be consistent: Use the same format for all categories (Education, Experience, Press..whatever you have on the resume.

18)   Justify left:  They missed this one, but you should not center your jobs and experience. Even if the reader robots get it, it’s hard for human eyes to follow.

The purpose of the Sovren FAQ was to assist  you in creating a resume that can be adequately parsed by an electronic data entry system.  I have noted the few cases where sending it to a person makes a difference. The Sovren Group, that is the producer of a resume parsing system, suggests that you keep two resumes, one for electronic situations. The problem is that you don’t necessarily know when that will be the case. (Sovren has a list of the job boards using their software on their site) If you send a resume to any group with then broadcasts it to all subscribers, they obviously you should follow Sovren’s suggestions to the letter.  This software is costly, so it is used mostly be groups which seek a numerous easily definable traits an a very large group of candidates – I would expect chain restaurants to use them as well.

It is interesting to note how much  of what is good for the reading robot is good for the flesh and blood reader.  While you need to be more careful of the visuals in the direct resume, readers will still appreciate the clarity required by automation. If you take the suggestions above and tweak the resume so that it can be read quickly and easily, it will work for both.

I suspect that some of the rules given by Sovran will fall away in future software generations, but as you are seeking a job now, they are worth considering.

The argument that your resume may  not stand out is simply wrong. Is I said above, you are communicating facts, dates, skills and your work history. It is not an art competition.

More good stuff to read on resumes: (At least I hope so)  I do urge you to read the Sovren site, which is more complete and explains the logic behind the suggestions as well as providing more tips.)

The Soveren Group: How to assure that automated recruiting software can read your resume:

Chefs Professional Agency: The philosophy behind a good resume:

Chefs Professional Agency: The Easy Peasy Resume guide with templates (acceptable to electronic resume readers)

More on resumes from this site:

 

May 172012
 

Sometimes my clients contact me with openings whose description is cut to one or two candidates as neatly as a Seville Row suit. These are usually candidates with narrow but very valuable skill sets, so ideal jobs for them are hard to come by, as are ideal candidates for those positions.  In nearly every case I have said to the candidate, “I don’t have anything suitable for you at the moment, but I will contact you the moment I do.” Because I consider their skills valuable, I only contact them with jobs that will not waste their or the employer’s time, which means not a barrage of weekly, “Please try it”, which would at least show clients I was looking.

Generally as soon as I have identified a match I reach out and wait for a return call. And wait. And wait. After about a week I will get a message and will try to call back. If I am foolish enough to hold traffic for the candidate, I will probably lose the job, so I move on. The next time she calls, I will simply tell her that I had something ideal but she didn’t have the courtesy to reach me (usually not in those words) so I may give her a call next time, but that depends.

I would feel bad about this, except it is what I hear from my clients constantly. “We keep calling people, and they don’t return our calls.” What’s going on? Should they start texting? Are job seekers really that lackadaisical about the opportunities out there. Or should I say full of themselves?

Apparently yes. And they are too stupid to breathe. I can’t get cell phone connection in the kitchen, says one chef. So? You can pick up your message, or no? I had another appointment, said a candidate I knew had not turned up for an arranged interview.  Neither of them is gen X or Y. What’s up?

I’d bring it down to priorities, and I’d like to say that their priorities are screwed up, so let me give you a few rules and facts:

1)      Anyone providing you a possible advance in your career, whether it pans out or not, is doing you a favor. The least you can do is acknowledge it promptly.

2)      Despite the number of creeps out there in all areas of the hiring industry, employers, recruiters, wing nut entrepreneurs, there are a lot of decent people, who deserve the same respect they try to give you (in my case by not calling with inappropriate jobs).

3)      This is a small industry. If you burn one bridge, the chance of others going with it is great.

4)      Nobody is afraid to hear “no thank you.” If a call suggests a job you are not interested in, just say so. Don’t just pass the call. Life is not Twitter. All communication brings with it an obligation.  If you don’t need the job and just let the call slip, then you will have at least one less ally when  you do need one.

5)      If you have actively asked someone to keep you informed of upcoming jobs you need to be accessible. I have written about this many times. It means checking your cell phone, You don’t need to answer when a call comes in, but call back as soon as it convenient..or inconvenient for that matter.  Don’t let your possible job calls go to a home phone answered by teenagers..they get lost. Be prepared to step out and talk in the alley way, if you don’t have a place where you work. But DO call. If you can’t communicate, let the person know.

The market is looking up at the moment, but that is no license to get sloppy or cocky about opportunities, and, frankly, manners never harmed any relationship.

Apr 202011
 

And they are fun. They can be very useful in your job search process.

Photos are rarely the final reason that a chef is hired, although in truth, I hired at least one chef based on his pictures. It was when I was young and stupid, but it worked. He ran one of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco and eventually became the Executive Chef of the Palace Hotel.

I was fortunate with that placement,  since what he didn’t have in experience he possessed in intelligence and knowledge.  That approach to hiring rarely worked two decades ago, and it doesn’t work at all now.

You probably already have a collection. If you don’t, you probably should. You can take excellent pictures with any digital pocket camera  these days. You don’t need a food photographer, and you don’t need a $540 Nikon.  The question, however, is what do you do with them?

First, here’s what you don’t do: Send about three gigabytes of pictures with your resume. Have mercy. Everyone’s mailbox has some limits, as does everyone’s time. As a matter of fact, don’t send any pictures at all when you apply to a job.  An employer wants to see where you have been and what you did there before he dedicates time to photos.

So what then?

There are numerous possibilities. The most obvious is taking them with you on an interview and offering them if a moment arises. It probably will, and the person you are speaking with will probably be interested. (If not, it’s a good thing you didn’t send them in advance.)  In addition to the time honored scrap book approach, smart phones and Ipads provide easy transportation and viewing. Netbooks are less elegant due to the fuss of opening the program and pulling up the pictures.

You can carry your photos on a thumb drive, although if the interviewer is not sitting in front of a computer, you may  no’t be able to show them.  In fact, you should also carry a copy of your resume and anything else you think would be helpful on a keychain thumb drive when  you interview.

There is also “the cloud” – online storage space which can be accessed from any WiFi or hard wired Internet connection. At some point you will be using this daily, but for now connectivity fails often enough to make it a less attractive choice for interview show and tell.  It’s a good way, however, to make material available to interested employers during the course of a job discussion process after or before the interview.   A note on a cover letter that images of the food are available if the reader is interested is preferable to instructions to “see my pictures here”, by the way.

A few of cautions:

1)      Videos are iffy. They take more time to view. They carry subliminal message about the character of the person who films herself, which may not be appreciated.  They demand time from someone who may not have it.

2)      Your pictures should be good ones. I have received images of food I would not eat. They should also be of YOUR food.

3)      The art of presentation is in the selection. Fewer pictures is better.  Don’t overwhelm the interviewer. You want no more than fifteen or so.  Choose a good selection of the best.

4)      The pictures should  be pertinent to you and your skills and not your private life. Celebrity shots with Donald Trump or President Clinton don’t tell anyone anything about you except that you had a moment for a photo shot.

5)      Offer them, don’t force them on potential employers. “Would you like to see some of the food we served?” is nearly irresistible. Please look at my pictures” isn’t.

6)       Pictures in a scrap book should be protected and not dog eared and dirty.

Dec 152010
 

Business cards, you may have heard, are no longer kept in books albums with  unwieldy plastic pages or in dozens of boxes, nor are smart people spending their time typing them into their laptops. After various card scanners – Neat Receipts  and the less buggy and more efficient Cardscan among them – had moderate success in the card storage market,  new apps on smart phones are allowing people to store and access their contacts by category just about anywhere.

I can, for instance, give you a list of seven chocolate makers or dairymen  in two minutes or find half a dozen sommeliers in the Miami area on my Ipod. If you gave me your card, I can reach  you from the road or from Munich. If someone calls me and asks for the address of a restaurant supplier in Kansas, I can pull him out of a pile in seconds. You want that. (Well maybe not a call from me, but being available or having your information available is one of the key elements of being successful in this odd business.)

During a week of card database restoration after my 2500 item card list was taken out by a rogue hard drive I have developed a sharp sense of the essence of good and bad business cards and what makes them effective. Let me share:

  • If you are between jobs and looking, you should have a card. If you have a card from  your employer,  you should also have a personal card with your permanent contact information. If you have a second business you should have a card for that. It’s how people find you.  Your card is your best advertising. People store them and pass them along.
  • Have your card printed professionally. Nothing speaks dilettante louder than a hand knit card on fold and tear stock.
  • Have it designed by someone who has a sense of look and proportion. Having seen the effects a company  like Noise 13 can achieve with  an image, we are believers. Our favorite printer, Red Dog Graphics,  and many other printers also offer design services.
  • Your printer will charge you a set up fee for putting your card on a plate. Make sure you get a copy of the set up and keep it in a safe place. I have one on a keychain thumb drive, in case I need cards away from home.
  • Use dark print on light background or vice versa – similar tones like dark grey on black or cream on white can’t be read by scanners. Your print should also contrast with your logo.  While scanners easily read really tiny print, some people can’t. You need to keep your print  small but not microscopic.
  • Fold over cards and dual sided cards are a great way to get more information into the small space allowed, but put all of the important contact information on one side.
  • Repeat: Everything that you need someone to know about you – Company name, Title, phone, email etc – belongs on one side of the card.
  • Use standard card size. Over-sized cards tend to get put aside and lost. Small ones can’t be found. Card shapes, on the other hand, are expensive but eye catching. A rough edge can make it interesting.
  • Don’t confuse cute with effective. A card printed on a beer coaster or a Chinese puzzle box won’t make it to or through the scanner. A fortune cookie is a great gimmick, but not a card (you can, of course, do both.)
  • Don’t go too wild with fonts. Fonts that look like trees or swishes, medieval scripts and crayons in the form of letters are not recognized electronically, nor are wild scripts or funny fonts. If you do have an exquisite, artistic and illegible card face consider double sided printing with the same information in a simple font on the back.
  • The fewer colors used in printing a card, the less it costs. New methods may change that.
  • You are working on small space, so your graphics should be simple and leave space for information.
  • You don’t absolutely need graphic, or at least not pictures. If you are an individual without a graphic, there’s nothing wrong with putting your photo on the card. It helps people remember you and find the card, if they are looking for you.
  • Add a Skype number if you deal outside the country. Consider adding a Google Voice number (this is a permanent number which relays to multiple phones.)
  • Explain what you do or are. If your company is “The Blue Bloom” something like “Purveyors of Fine Wine” or “Ambiance Consultant” belongs below it.
  • Be generous with your cards. I hear back from people who got mine ten years ago.
Oct 222010
 

Details that make you look unprofessional.

The job search process seems at times to cloud people’s minds.  Otherwise they would never  send me or an HR Director a resume, possibly showing a fabulous background, with an email like screamingchef@yahoo, ladiesdream@googleSexypastrygirl@hotmail, or BezirkerCanibal@msn.   The first thing we see in the presentation, before we see the resume or have a chance to become interested in their background, is an address which indicates that the person’s self image is that of a vamp, a sexual predator, or someone who could easily wield a meat cleaver for something less suitable than a pork chop. This, I am sorry to say, is very likely to prejudice us against you from the start. We might get past that, but it won’t make things any easier for you.

Not knowing very much about you, the HR director and I are bound to scrutinize every tiny clue you inadvertently provide us. We’re looking for signs of character, contradictions, indications of your level of detail and sense of order, all of which can often be deduced from details of   your submission – such as the way you choose to present yourself to us with your email nickname.   This means that if you want to be  hired in a professional restaurant,  you should approach them in a professional manner.

“How,” you may well query, “do that? Being professional, I mean.”

Well, stonedgeorge@aol.com, you should begin by not being frivolous.  Get yourself a professional or at least a fairly vanilla, grown up email address, such as  ChefGeorge@google or BrooklynchefJohn@yahoo – preferably something with your name to make it easier for the employer to find that wonderful resume in his in box.

If you really want to make an impression, you can purchase a dedicated email address with your own domain from services like Sherwood or Godaddy or Hostgator, so your address can be chefjohn@chefjohn.com, if you like. The domain registration is about $10 a year and your address is either free or low cost. Godaddy gives you a several free email addresses with a domain, but their spam policies in the past have tended to filter out important mail.

You can forward the mail  to your regular address, so you see when someone sends you interesting when  you are no longer checking mail.   Remember to reply, though, from your dedicated professional account.

Here are a few more arguments for a dedicated, professional address:

  • It will make your life easier at some point.
  • Your current employer’s address will not be in your book, so you won’t accidentally send him something you don’t want him to have, and he probably won’t receive a viral email with the addresses of all the job sites you have applied to and fifteen craigslist addresses, as is happening to many job seekers at the moment with a rampant virus.
  • You can send yourself copies of all the documents you need for your job search and store them or in the case of  Windows Live (Hotmail) or Google, you can access your documents from anywhere  and even edit them with full word processing software in separate online folders.
  • You will have a history  of your complete job search history in one place. Of course you delete nothing.  When you receive a response to an application and think you have heard the name somewhere, a quick search of your mail can show you that this was the HR director you hit it off with so well in an interview with another company three years ago.
  • Nobody in the family or elsewhere will be able to go in and mess something up while looking for Aunt Ruth’s Christmas letter.
  • You will not have to worry about spam if you use Hotmail, Yahoo or Google. They have wonderful filters.

You are not, of course, going to delete your regular address. Keep it and enjoy it. When people at work know you and love you, it doesn’t matter where they write you. It’s just the first impression that counts.

Oct 182010
 

Electronic Toys for Chefs.

Although the last Luddite on earth has yet to read “Computers for Dummies”, most chefs by now are pretty technically savvy.  You order online, write spreadsheets, do projections and rely on Open Table for guest information. Courses in restaurant technology are even offered by the University of California at Berkeley in the extension program.

Beyond this battery of the standard technical arsenal, a growing selection of technological products and applications not only offer advantages in the job search and hiring process, but are very  useful in day to day operations. Some of them are pretty nifty.

Iphone or Ipod/ Windows Mobile Phones. These are useful for a lot more than tweeting, Four Square and music storage. Unfortunately the programs created for the kitchen for the first generations of PDA’s  (scheduling, ordering, inventory) seem to have all but disappeared, but online ordering systems, document storage and editing software like Documents to Go or just the Windows Mobile System) and handheld database apps like HandBase make it possible to read and create documents,   (aka schedules and ordering lists), menus, to do lists etc in your pocket or access them online. Scanner Aps such as Turboscan with OCR (optical character recognition) turn the camera of IPhone into a mobile scanner, which can translate menus, receipts, lists into text documents (consider, for instance, the amount of literature offered at a wine tasting or a restaurant show.) Shared shopping applications for private use are equally useful for purchasing plans for single restaurants.

Netbooks. You may already have one. Small laptops with net storage and up to about 200GB drives, which you can dump in any briefcase or shoulder bag for work and home. They’re much handier than fifteen inch screen laptops for travel, taking to events and meetings and just about anywhere you need connectivity.   Some  come with several gigabytes of online storage, and all take storage cards and usb storage devices. A caution: If you look at one, find one with a right shift button you won’t confuse with the up arrow. A laptop mouse makes them easier to use.

IPad: Pricier than netbooks, it offers a wide number of programs include full office suites, and can be synced with other programs. Competing and competitively priced touchpad computers are expected on the market soon.

Business Card Readerss.  If you use more than a few cards a month, you you also collect them. You’ve probably got a box or a drawer full of them, which you rarely look through. If you are organized you carefully enter them into an Excel spreadsheet. What a waste. Card scan and other card readers let you feed business cards into a palm sized scanner  and builds a searchable database from them with a picture of the card attached to the contact information. It will synchronize your address list with your Ipod,  ACT, Outlook and any number of programs.  You can organize your contact in categories. Shape (poor reviews) and Abby offer card readers for the Iphone for   $3 and $9 respectively (Desktop OCR programs can cost up to $200).  Some lite versions are free. Neat receipts scans not only business cards but scans and organizes hard copy receipts and integrates them into an accounting program. It is reported to be harder to set up than Cardscan.

Compact Cameras tend to take better pictures than most smart phones. If you are serious about documenting your work, but don’t want to carry around a five pound camera, you will live them. Canon is considered the gold standard, but all of the new models are better than the best four years ago. Or take pictures of the bad shipment you received to send to the broker.  Desktop reader programs like One Note and Top OCR can turn your camera into a mobile scanner.

The Cloud: SkyDrive and Google Docs: Free, secure online storage space combined with online productivity software. Let’s you produce Word documents, graphics, spread sheets from a netbook, smart phone, Ipad or any computer anywhere. Work on menus, wine lists or business plans with your sous chef or partner using these or “WIKI” services like OneBox.com. Access your job search or candidate folders from any cafe.

Thumb drives: Keep any docs or spreadsheets you need on your key chain. The main advantage of a thumb drive is its small size.

E-Readers: To be more precise, the Sony E Reader, which permits you to store and carry most document formats in your pocket or backpack.  Store magazines, cookbooks your personal documents, plating diagrams, itineraries and more.  Thousands of out of copyright books including many old cookery volumes are available on line. Books from the E Reader Store cost less than hard copy, but Amazon’s books on Kindl are more reasonable, and the Kindl has both free connectivity (you can buy on a whim) and lower book prices, but only stores PDF and the Kindl proprietary book format.  The Ipad offers much more, but also costs more. A Kindl Reader is available for the Ipod, Iphone and probably the Ipad and probably other smart phones. Of course, they’re good for books as well.

What does this have to do with job search and hiring? A lot. Organizing data and having it accessible is essential to seeking successfully. These toy-tools also allow you to access or pull up information, pictures and more during an interview, beam or send your resume or references from any coffee shop, organize your candidates with pictures in a database or keep information on line in a cloud for your decision making staff to review and comment together, or scan hard copies of information brought to interviews on your netpad.  Keep pictures of candidates.  As a bonus you can continue to use all of these tools and toys when there is no position to be found or filled.