Feb 072013
 

I just got off the phone with the third order for a San Francisco Chef this month. “There are a lot of strange people out there,” I ventured. Good chefs are in short supply right now. I knew my new client would agree, as that is why she called.

“We’ve seen a lot of them these past few weeks,” she replied. I added, “..and I’ve experienced quite a few who don’t turn up for their interviews.”

So has she. We pondered the possibility of a web site listing no-shows, so other restaurants would not waste their time, but we rejected the idea as attorney fodder. It’s not necessary, anyway. The word gets out. We (the people who hire people and those who deal with them) are a very small and tight community, and there is no law on earth which prevents us from sharing no shows. You wouldn’t know we did, anyway.

Interview stand-ups show us all a lack of respect which engenders not a little anger. Imagine the owner waiting for you, when he would rather be picking up the replacement fuse for the hood or slipping in a meeting with his accountant. Imagine her seething because this was her only half day off this week, and she spent waiting on a troglodyte sous chef with the manners of a wart hog.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am trying to tell you something here. It’s short, sweet and easy to  understand:

IF YOU MAKE AN INTERVIEW, KEEP IT.

How easy is that, I ask you?

Realized with horror it was already Wednesday, and you thought it was Tuesday all day? Call and apologize, They might not want to hire you anyway if you can’t keep your dates straight, but they won’t be talking about  you at the next gathering of the tribes.

Let me make this clear: We talk. People call me and ask (which they should not, but they do), Do you know anything about this guy Bob Jones?  Generally I can’t tell them, but if he missed an interview I set up, I will. I won’t say “don’t hire him”. It probably goes something like, I was dealing with him and he gave all the right answers and looked good on the phone, but he was a no show. “ It may not stop them from hiring him, but it won’t help.

So what’s a guy/woman to do, if you have two things going on at once and one seems more important?

Well, first have the decency and courage to tell the second interview that you have a commitment, but would love to talk to them. If they want someone who doesn’t keep his commitments, then they really aren’t people you should be working for. Really? Yes, Really. Decency is something you look for in management staff, and not showing up for an engagement is indecent. People who expect you to be indecent to someone else will in all probability be indecent to you.  Fact.

“It’s not important because a recruiter arranged it, and I don’t feel responsible to them.” But you expect them to work for you for free, so you just hang them out. You have just insulted two people, not one, and we will talk about it loudly, preferably at the next restaurant owners’ gathering. You are not to be saved. Go jump off something high.

What about getting called to work or waking up with a hangover or the husband/wife can’t take the tot to pre school? Easy: Get a number where you can reach them is something really,  really unexpected happens  and call as far in advance as you can and leave a message. Don’t wait until you are over the flu, because that is a clear message that you will not be showing up for work without an alert. (We assume no shows have no compunctions to fulfill their commitments once they are hired. Not a great leap of logic, that).

You decided you really shouldn’t have made to appointment, because you didn’t want the job in the first place? Have mercy, what kind of self serving, beer brained, fool savage are you?  You have two options: 1) Call ahead and explain that you have changed your mind or lie about something.  It’s an exercise in social courage. It will do you good. Or: 2) Go anyway, hear what they have to say, then decline politely. The advantage of plan B is that you meet someone you may  want to work with in the future (It happens a lot) and you may just find out that there are truly exciting aspects to the job.

And what about forgetting the appointment all together? What are you , a space cadet? Have you not heard of online calendars? Ones you can put on your cell phone and your computer? The year is 2013 and we  have ways to deal with things like that. We also have Post-it  notes you can put on  your refrigerator, in case you lose your phone (how often  have I heard that one.)

And really, if you do space the meeting,  you will do a lot better to call and apologize.

There is no excuse – Really ZERO – for skipping an interview or missing one and not apologizing. It wastes people’s time, it makes you look like the jerk you probably really are, and it gets the word out to other people.

In the triage of your busy life appointments for interviews should be at the top, prioritized right after rushing to the hospital for the birth of the baby but before your salmon order. You are a grown up now. Act like one.

Dec 252012
 

The ChefsProfessional site holds an extensive interviewing guide, which will be transferred to this blog at some future date. For an in depth discussion of interviewing you might visit it.   For  those with a shorter attention span, here are a few thoughts that should guide you through your interview.

1)      An interview is not an oral test, although you may be asked to show some knowledge. It is a meeting of two professionals to determine whether they will both benefit from their respective resources – knowledge and work for compensation and work environment.

2)      Regardless of the results of the interview, you will have the opportunity to meet another professional in the business and learn more. This pertains to both sides. The person sitting across you may be a future employer, or, if you do not work for her, a friend or colleague at a later time.

3)      The interviewer wants to assess your knowledge and level of professional conduct more than he wants to hear about your personal opinions  and feelings– unless these pertain to the business. Avoid the temptation to share too much.

4)      Be yourself.  If you can’t do something, say so.  You are free to respond more than yes or no to questions. A smart interviewer is watching for you to “break out” – to expound on the question. A good interview is actually a discussion.

5)      The interviewer wants to like you. Really. It’s not an ambush. If it is, you don’t want to work there.

6)      Tell the truth. Own to your shortcomings and mistakes (we all have them). Never profess confidence in something you are not confident about.  Nobody expects perfection, or, if they do, you probably won’t be happy working for them.  (See nr. 5)

7)      Don’t smack talk anyone. Nobody! Let go of your anger before you enter the interview room. Whatever happened at the last job, no matter how miserable, has ended or is about to end. If you worked for evil people, they are no longer your problem.  Period.

9)      When I get nervous I tend to prattle on. It’s not a winning strategy. If you hear yourself nattering stop for a moment, take a breath and ask the interviewer a question.  It will pull you out of the cycle.

10)   As mentioned before, an interview is an exchange. If you have a question or find something the interviewer says interesting, ask.  Nobody will hold it against  you. Don’t apologize for asking. It is expected.

11)   Leave money talk until last. Salary budgeting can change during the hiring process. The first thing you have to decide is whether you and the employer (or you and the employee) can make beautiful music together.  If you both think so, then you determine if you can afford each other. If you can’t, you can’t.

12)   Spend more time talking about what you do or have done than about  who you are. Do not try to sell yourself as if you were a used car. It is a turnoff.

13)   Do not hesitate to laugh and smile. Remember, you are two people spending an hour in a professional exchange. Humor is allowed. It’s OK to enjoy yourself.

14)   If you feel that something incorrect or uncomfortable is being said or requested, you can stand up and politely end the interview with a thank you.

15)   Always say “Thank you”. A note are short email never  hurts.

16)   The interviewer should always ask, “Is there something else you want me to know?” If s/he does not and you believe there is, just say so at the end  of the session.

17) Inform yourself about the employer before the interview.  It’s easier than it ever was to get menus, user reviews, magazine articles on line. If the restaurant is local, eating there is a good investment (and fully tax deductible as a job search expense, if you accept the position).

17)   Taking notes is always smart.

The following are “DUH” instructions, things that should be a given. You would be surprised how often they are not:

18)   When interviewing one should always show courtesy and consideration – this means not cancelling an interview at the last minute, arriving about a quarter of an hour early, dressing appropriately. Not showing up for an  interview is not only unthinkable rude, it is stupid. We all talk to each other, and that gets around.  Keep a good calendar (Outlook, Gmail, or a notepad) to make sure you don’t forget .

19)   Wear appropriate, clean and pressed clothing for the job you are interviewing for (that could be anything from jeans to a suit, depending on the position) be clean and don’t smell bad. If you smoke, wash  your hands. Perfume and aftershave are inappropriate for the food industry.  Take your hat off and do not chew gum. (The scent of kitchen prep is, on the other hand, absolutely acceptable)

20)   Be  dressed so that you could slip into a white coat and step straight into the job for which you are applying . That means no dangling jewelry for the kitchen (men and women), flat shoes and trimmed nails.  For FoH wear what you would expect to wear at work, as long as it’s not got a bunny tail.

21)   Brush. Floss. Rinse. Do not eat garlic before an interview.

22)   Sit upright, look the interviewer in the eye and try not to fidget. (This should also be more obvious than it is.) Turn your cell phone off before  you enter the interview.

And this:

Prepare for your interview. Jotting down a few questions, the things you really want to say and ask beforehand, will make it easier for you not to forget them in the heat of the moment. It is allowed to bring and to take notes. You should also bring a resume. They will probably have one, but take one anyway. You can bring a limited amount of show and tell with you – it can make an interview more interesting – pictures of your food, menus, documents. Consider putting them and your resume on a thumb drive or making them available on an Ipad if you have one.