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.






Jul 112013

(Scams 3.0,)

Working with Linkedin to locate candidates who fit my clients’ needs, I instead continue to encounter an ever more irritating series of scams coupled with a dispiriting revelation of the general level of intelligence around the world. Potential fraud victims respond to even the most obvious scheme with the internet job search equivalent of “Me! Me! Choose Me!”.  (Please View My Profile), occasionally providing email addresses, phone numbers and other personal information. (More of which they will happily offer when the con artist contacts them.)

The most recent example:

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE Looking for the following posts

TitleAll Bar ManagementButlerChairman/CEOChef de PartieChefs & CooksChefs – CommisChefs – Executive/HeadChefs – PastryChefs – SousConciergeChief EngineerConference/BanquetingDevelopment ManagerEAMExecutive Assistant/PAF & B ManagementFinanceGraduateGuest Relations OfficerGeneral ManagerHotel ManagementHousekeepingHuman ResourcesIT ManagerLeisure ManagementLeisure StaffNight ManagerOperations Manager/DirectorPorterReception/ConciergeRestaurant ManagerRevenue .

Either the Same or a fellow Con Artist has added a similar ad for Cunard Lines in the comment section.

These are scams. Cunard, Hyatt, Luxury Resorts, the Yacht London, Holland America lines and any number of other attractive employers do not post jobs as comments or in job seeker forums. Previous posts explain  how these scams work and describe one of the many potential consequences.

Of course you want the jobs, but the people offering them on free job posting sites do not have them to offer, and there are easier and  less dangerous ways of applying for them: Every major player has a web site with career submission postings. Even if these calls for staff were real, you would do better approaching the corporations directly, as a candidate without a fee attached is better than one who costs a company money. (I say this as a pretty good recruiter..there are times when you will do better without us.

So, go to the sites. Here are a few. You can usually find a career or job opportunity page with most major organizations:

Holland America


Hyatt International


The Yacht London, a frequent flyer on the scam circuit, does not have a page but there are a number of yacht recruiters in Britain.

When not to go to the web site:  If a recruiter contacts you with a specific position, you should let them work with you rather than going to the group web site. (When we rarely encounter this issue, we inform the potential employer, who would not want to hire a candidate who does this).

 Jobs as CEO’s and upper management positions will rarely be publicized, as these are done by very serious executive Search Firms under the radar. If they want you, they will research you (possibly on LinkedIn) and reach out directly. These positions can rarely be approached directly.

 Anytime you see an ad of the sort above, don’t send your resume or provide your number. Go directly to the site (another way to spot these frauds, by the way, is the revelation of the client. Recruiters rarely do this.)

Summary: If you encounter a bulk job posting (listing many jobs at once) on a free job posting site (Especially LinkedIn) using the name of a well known luxury company , it is probably fraud.  You should not send them any information or comment but instead go directly to the employer’s website to apply directly through their career page.

Have a nice career.

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.

Feb 182011

(even if you aren’t – you  may get the hang of it.)

During a recent Advisory Board meeting for a local food and beverage program a number of  Human Resource executives all expressed the need for the school to teach the students the importance of maintaining a professional appearance and reputation even before they began their careers.

They were speaking, of course, about Facebook and Myspace pages and comments, but as the conversation continued it became obvious that younger job seekers are remarkably naïve regarding the necessity of a professional image.  They don’t yet understand the consequences of an unprofessional image on their chances of working with the best companies, which in turn influence their entire careers.

The initial focus of the conversation were sites like Facebook, Twitter,  YELP!, FourSquare, etc, where posters still believe that comments, pages liked, videos and pictures are private.

Unfortunately, opportunities to shoot your career in the foot do not stop at social networking. They abound.  Every way in which you present yourself tells potential employers what you are about. One agent related the story of a candidate who drove up with a bumper sticker saying, “One mean b**ch”.  The interview lasted five minutes, thank you very much for coming. “She may have been a perfectly nice person,” she stated, “but we couldn’t take the risk.”

A candidate who reports in from a series of bars or a different bar every night opens questions of substance abuse.  Employees who gripe on line about their employers or staff dare new employers to wonder about their team abilities.

Stumbling on a video of a chef berating a female cook took him off my list of candidates.

Another HR Director noted that she is shocked, as I also wrote a while back, at how many applications she receives with suggestive or just plain offensive e-mail addresses.

I have dinged people for their comments on public forums – “Why do I know that it’s the best place in town? Because I’m the Chef!” thanking my stars that this ego maniac was kind enough to provide me with insights into her personality before I wasted time picking up the phone for an interview.

If someone is already on the phone and gets a voicemail message with a drunken scream or something equally disturbing, there is a good chance they will hang up.

By the time you reach sous chef status, your high school indiscretions are generally forgotten, but after that your record is your record and it is visible. Anyone hiring these days does a few quick key strokes to get an idea of you and the places you’ve worked  and in the process they will come across your comments and public presence. This is, by the way, not a privacy issue. The Internet is the most public of places.  Even those spaces with privacy filters may be seen and reported in casual conversation.

Despite the common belief to the contrary, the Food and Beverage Industry – restaurants, hotels, clubs et all- is an adult business which seeks professionals.  Where professional skills do not yet exist, employers look for professional attitudes.  For the best career, you need the best jobs early, and mindless public behavior or appearance rarely leads to them.

So what to do?  Erase the compromising pictures and the sophomoric posts. Google yourself and erase any damaging traces you can.  Change the voicemail message to a simple request, leave your T-Shirt stating that  cooks do it with whatever in the drawer in favor of a pressed shirt when you go on an interview, scratch the offensive bumper stickers off the back of your car and control your visible environment for  any and all inappropriate messages. The world does not need to know everything you do and everything you think. Keep anything you would not say in your boss’s office to yourself or share it face to face.  In other words, grow up or at least act in public (which is also the internet) as if you were.. In other words, be professional.

Jan 262011

I need to know the kind of chef I am working with in order to make a good job match.  So do you.

Your career is best served by job selectivity: You look for and choose jobs that suit you best.  In order for this to work, you need to know what you are looking for. If I work closely with a chef, I take some time to get to know who I am working with. It’s always surprising to me, how little those people have thought about themselves.  True, some people just follow their star and end up in a fabulous situation they never dreamed of, but most successful culinary professionals took time to figure how they worked and who they are and what they needed to get where they wanted to be. You  need to get to know yourself.

First you determine what these might be by defining your interests and motivation. Among others those might be:

  • Naked ambition – desire to be “big”
  • Acquisition of skill and knowledge (technique, product, volume management, communication).
  • Money
  • Life style
  • Security and stability
  • An exciting and interesting environment
  • Resume equity – names to pave your path.
  • Professionalism
  • Location
  • An opportunity to work with a specific style
  • Visibility
  • Title
  • Training and advancement.
  • Exciting cuisine
  • Structured, highly systematized environment / possibility of creative input or autonomy
  • A learning opportunity
  • Culinary values such as seasonal cuisine or integrity of style

There are many more. Some are contradictory. You cannot, for instance, decide as a starting cook you want money and resume equity. The highest pay goes to the jobs with the least visibility, and some limit other choices.  You need to be realistic.

You need to give yourself a review. You are, in the end, the boss of you, and this is the time to use your supervisory  power over yourself. What do you do well? What aptitudes do you lack?  What skills do you need to build? If you have had jobs you didn’t like or have not worked out in a job try to determine how you, your current skill set and your general nature contributed to the situation. Forget fault. Look for reasons.

Where do your natural aptitudes lie? Some people are naturally highly organized and analytical. Others are spontaneous and intuitive.  Some are detail oriented and thrive with small, individual projects, while others have inborn oversight of large spaces and the ability to create sense of chaos. Some  have golden palates, while others can keep a kitchen running like a clock. What are your strong and weak points? Beware of categorizing yourself as what you want to be instead of what you are.

What you are not is even more important than what you are. The things you lack can either be learned (organization and communication are absolutely acquirable skill sets, and an analytic mind can create as impressive a menu as an inspired talent) or avoided.

Half of the art is to determine if and where your desires and your skills meet and to keep an open mind, so you can choose from as many appropriate paths as possible.  The other half is to figure out what will not work for you, so you don’t put your energy into a job that will give nothing in return.

When you are looking for career steps, look for something to provide a challenge you are sure you can meet, not what you want to be able to meet. At the same time seek out locations which will use and appreciate your combination of skills. A gifted saucier may be able to manage a sandwich arcade, but the title of Executive Manager will not keep him happy for long. A manager without strong financial skills may be able to coast along for a while as a GM for a location requiring them, but she would probably be happier and more successful in a position with growth and learning potential, where she does not have to reinvent the wheel and scramble to keep up .

An old bridge adage says, “Play from your longest and strongest suit”. It works in careers, but with a caveat. A position which does not add to what you know will not be satisfying for long. While you select restaurants for your probability of success, you want them to give you a future as well. Like a driver looking five cars ahead, your career choices should point to the job after next.  Always ask  yourself, “What do I get out of this besides rent and groceries?”

What does all this mean pratically for you?

  • You don’t broadcast your resume to anyone who is looking for someone. You are worth more than that.
  • You don’t interview as if you were in an oral exam. You take time to find how much of a match the spot is for you.
  • You research the operations you want to approach and take time to seek out businesses that can meet your specifications.
  • You work with  your recruiter to determine what is a good match, but always thinking critically.
  • You target your resume to the level of position and type of operation that will push you forward.
  • You put as much focus on your career as you do in buying  a new car.
  • You think beyond the paycheck and the title as you make decisions.
  • You analyze every job offer not only in respect to how much you want it but how well it fits  you.

A well built career is a work of Art. It takes thought and time and a stubborn streak. You have a right to one.


Jan 242011

Choosing the right job in the right kitchen:

Part One of Two

In your career, you are special. You have you’re a unique set of talents, aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses combined with a body of knowledge and set of skills formed during your working life. They may lean towards the systematic management of large numbers of people or towards the fine tuning of intricate flavor combinations.  There will be any number of people more or less similar to  you, but nobody exactly like you.

You are also special and unique in your goals and expectations. If you are young in the industry they  include developing your future and your skills. If you are seasoned, you want to put what you have learned to use. There are any number of people in some ways similar to you but nobody just like you in the labor market. You are one of a kind.

So are most jobs, from the job description itself to the nature of the clientele to location and demands of the physical space. Out of twenty jobs, there may be one for you, or none or three. If you are reading this, the short odds are that you are considering your career and a possible move. Another set of short odds says that in the process, you are not thinking about matching you to a kitchen or restaurant operation, but that you are sending out a dozen resumes to anything that looks like a possible match.

If you are already being selective, congratulations. You have figured out a lot more than most people.

Part of the motivation of changing jobs is always an improvement. Most people see this as increased compensation or title, but there should be more – companies where you can progress, managers from whom you can learn or challenges great enough to move you forward but not too great to put your success in question should be part of your career thinking.

Defining what you want and what will benefit you, not always the same thing,  is an important part of your job search.  You owe yourself the thought and time it takes.

As a special unique professional with specific goals you need to target your search and your choices, then to act on them. Stay tuned for more on you working in your own best interests.

 Stay tuned.

Jan 052011

Resumes follow a fairly set pattern, which makes them easy to write and easy to read.  Somewhere during the formalization of that pattern, however, a couple of unnecessary standardized items slipped in and became accepted as rules.   One is the thoroughly redundant ending,  “References Provided on Request” – of course you will provide references, but nobody reads that, so it really doesn’t matter.

The second usually equally redundant resume addition is the “objective statement”. If you send out a resume, your objective is probably pretty clear: You want a job or a different job or a better job. You want a recruiter to represent you or an employer to hire you. You want decent pay in a decent environment with decent people, and it should suit your background and give you a chance to succeed and build your career. None of this needs to be put in writing.

“But everyone has an objective statement,” I can hear you saying.  You’re right. As a matter of fact, nearly everyone has the same objective statement. The fact that someone started doing it and everyone thought they had to do it too, especially since nearly every resume template on the Internet including ours has one, doesn’t make it obligatory or even advisable.

Here’s the dirty truth. As a recruiter what you want is secondary to me. My primary concern is what my clients want. An employer doesn’t care what you want, either. As a matter of fact, an objective statement is more likely to get your removed from the possible candidate pool than not.

If you do decide to include a a statement in your resume, it should contain distinct and clear objectives:  “An Executive Sous Chef or Executive Chef position in the Tri City Area.”  Or: “A position which will permit me to expand my  knowledge of multi-unit management.”   If you are applying for a specific job or a specific company, that position is your objective: “I am applying for the position of sous chef in the new O’Conner’s Pub as advertised on Joe’s Job List,” “A senior management position with Tri State Grills,” etc. That is absolutely enough.

Most objective statements, however, say absolutely  nothing in too many words:

“I am seeking a challenging position in a quality restaurant and professional environment where I can  apply my talents,”  for instance.Who isn’t?  Can you imagine this, “Objective: A boring, poorly paid job slogging around a train wreck of a kitchen among dilettantes and fools”? No employer is going to read that and think, “Oh, gee. Too bad. We are a second rate hash house, so let’s not call this guy,” as every employer thinks his property is a professional, quality environment. Nor will they say, “Gee, this guy wants a professional environment and we are a professional environment. Hey, it’s a perfect match.   He’s hired.”

Here’s a variation that arrived today: “To utilize my experience, integrity, professionalism and skills, in a challenging position providing a high standard of service.” Now it’s your turn. What would the alternative be?

Some, such as, “I am an aspiring food diva,”  or, “I am looking for an Executive Chef  job in the best kitchen in the Boston area so I can improve their food, “are very funny.

Thumper said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say nuttin at all.” In a resume or in any professional correspondence you can expand that to, “If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say nuttin at all. “

I guarantee you, nobody is going to notice that you don’t have an objective.  Less in resume presentation is usually more.  Facts, furthermore, are far more valuable than declarations. Where you worked, how long, and what you did there – your actual job responsibilities – how big it was, and the nature of the business  will impress an employer, not a silly statement of the obvious or the absurd. Save your space for the important information.

Jan 042011

When you are communicating with someone you don’t know,   you lack the advantage of face to face understsanding. You’ve probably seen what happens on a discussion board or online forum, when someone responds innocently enough to a question, but the inferred tone relays hostility or rudeness. (Or Heavens forbid, it’s ALL CAPS AND YOU THINK HE”S SCREAMING AT YOU.)

That can happen in any short correspondence.  You think you are saying one thing and the guy at the other end of the postal route / electronic path gets a completely different impression. This happens a lot when applicants write something they’ve seen a lot and think sounds impressive, without stopping to think about it. Cliches are things that are said so often they  lose some meaning, or at least to some people. They are about as impressive as parsley and red cabbage garnish.  Worse than the garnish, some of them are actually rude or annoying to people who receive them.

Since it’s  your job to avoid this, not theirs to figure out what you really meant, you might want to stop and think about what you write really means or might mean to someone else. At least it is in your interest.

Let’s look at a couple of favorites:

You say: Please contact me at your earliest convenience. You mean: I’d really like an opportunity to speak with you. He thinks:” Who the Hell does this jerk think he is? He says jump, and I say, How High?”  You  just unsuccessfully ordered someone to call you at once.

You say: “I consider myself to be exceptional well qualified to perform effectively and efficiently”. You mean: I have a strong track record and have the self confidence that comes from years of success in the industry. “ He understands, “I have a possibly over inflated opinion of myself.”

You say, “I am a five star chef.” You mean, “The restaurant was awarded five stars, while I was working there,” Reader may think, “Red light! Red light! Ego on the move. Do I want to put up with it?”

You say, “I am a well known chef. Please Google me / you can view my resume here.” You  mean: I am a well known chef and I expect you to take the effort to find out everything for yourself. She thinks, “Oy, Veh! What an ass!” She’s probably right.

You say: “ Objective: A management position in a highly  professional company where I can put my talents to full use.”   thinks, “Who isn’t?”  if he reads it at all. Most people don’t. What you might have done: Objective” After researching Lem’s Crab Palace, I am very interested  in learning more about the opportunity of chef”, Or “Your application on John’s Job Board dot Com is very interesting. I would like to apply for it.” You can do better, but you get the idea.

You say: “I am passionate about food,”. You mean either you are passionate about food or you love doing what you do or you are very ambitious and want to get ahead as fast as possible. She thinks, “Everyone says that. So what?”

It’s easy enough to do better: Look for the cliches (“as soon as possible”, “I consider myself”, “five star chef”) and think what you really mean, then say it. People who don’t do a lot of business correspondence, think pat phrases sound good. People who do a lot don’ think so.

I don’t remember the poet/professor who advised his students something to the effect of:  “If it feels comfortable as if you’d read it before, discard it.” That’s pretty good advice to anyone reaching out to a stranger looking for a job, or, for that matter, anything else. If it sounds really cool and professional, mistrust it.

You don’t think you can do it?  Try this: Get a tape recorder or record into your computer. Tell it what you want. Who you are and what you did at your jobs before you write anything. Imagine you are talking to your mother or your boyfriend or whoever you speak to casually. Then write it down and shorten it as much as you can.

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 192010



Provenance is the term used to describe the origin of any work of art or artifact and its history of ownership, repair, changes and path to its current location. Its complete history, if you will. The provenance of an item has considerable impact on its value. Lack of provenance makes the authenticity and legitimacy of the piece questionable and reduces its value.

You, too, have provenance. It’s your history, your entire professional path to where you are now beginning with  an after school job busing plates, or or washing dishes at your uncle Joe’s Diner before you started culinary school. It explains the length of your experience, your commitment, who mentored you. If shows your foundations. Your provenance enhances the value of your career, which, after all, is a work of art. Employers love provenance.

A lot of chefs and managers are reluctant to share their early experience for fear that it will detract from their later achievements, but they are wrong. Employers look for candidates who learned their craft in the trenches rather than moving directly to management straight out of a culinary program. They want to see that you chopped onions at the Crab Shack. It’s far more satisfying than reading “Twenty Years of Experience in Top Restaurants.”

In a recent symposium during the SF Chefs event, restaurateurs Umberto Gibin (Perbacco), Craig Stoll (Delfina) and Giancarlo Paterlini (Acquerello) agreed unanimously that they sought staff whose grounding began at the bottom, regardless of the prestige of the operation or lack of it. They speak for most hiring authorities.

Why? Among the many reasons are the rhythm and muscle memory developed in lower positions,  understanding of the business from the ground up and somewhat of a guarantee that the employee, having experience the bottom rungs is not going to be a prima donna. Provenance is the advantage held by the great European chefs, who began sweeping out kitchens at the age of fourteen or fifteen. It stands to reason that if you have worked in a dishwashing station, chopped garlic and bussed tables, you are going to manage people who do it under you better.

Employers who have worked with vertical takeoff artists – those who shoot to the top within a year of culinary school – tend to agree that they lack the professionalism of chefs with provenance.  Provenance is important.

If you have it, then, show it. If you have to leave something out, drop a few honors or accolades. They’re better kept for interviews, anyway. Don’t start your resume with a management job. Working your way up from a greasy spoon to a fine dining restaurant is an achievement a good employer will recognize. Show your provenance.. It does you honor.

What if you haven’t?   You may be the single genius in the mass who doesn’t need it, but if  you are on your first chef job out of culinary school, perhaps you want to rethink you plan of attack.