Apr 292015
 

The world is changing and the preponderance of people who get where they are by blowing their own horn rather than by working in places which demand quality is changing the expectations of hiring authorities.
I see ever more chefs whose resumes were reworked by a well meaning family member or friend in marketing or tech HR to make their qualifications pop out. The resumes are brash, over worked and for most food businesses less effective. Here’s why:

People in the tech industries are cogs in huge, generally somewhat homogenous wheel sets which use algorithms to presort possible hires. Restaurants and even hotels are more manageable, and their needs are more specific and unique to each property. While everyone is looking for stars, restaurants, ad firms, construction companies, restaurants are also looking for human beings – team players, creative minds, organizational talents – each weighed differently for the individual restaurants.

In the Food and Beverage world, unlike in the tech or real estate or retail world – there is evidence of the quality and nature of what a candidate has done. You made food or controlled a dining room, and people saw it. A chef or sommelier leaves a trail an accountant cannot. Still Food and Beverage job seekers try to compete on the same level as the rest of the world – by telling the person receiving their resume how great they are, rather than letting their background speak for them.

One of my amusements is the highlights section of many resumes. It is an introduction and not a bad idea, if you don’t want to just put down a summary of what you do, but it is meant to be highlights. That would be a selection of what you have done, what is in your mind most important. Not an entire list.

This is what I mean:

too many highlights.

too many highlights.

This candidate happens to have a strong background and to have done everything on the list, but it won’t work for him. (If he were applying to IBM it might, as they use electric scanning, but for a restaurant such as he seeks it would not.)

A highlight list this long won’t work for the candidate because in addition to looking for people employers in this industry are people. Working under stress the have short attention spans (everyone has a short attention span these days), so they a) will not read a “highlight” list this long and b) will not retain it.

As usual less is more.

So what should Chef do here?

Chose the five most important things. No more.
Write a brief cover letter explaining that he carried out all of the front and back of house management and administration for a restaurant of whatever size or hotel, or whatever he worked at.

Make sure that the quality of his background shines in the description of each property where he worked. He will be fine.

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

Cunard

Hyatt International

Marriott

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 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.

 

 

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 312012
 

I just received a resume from an old friend in the industry. He is interested in one of my positions. I haven’t got a clue if I can hook him up or not for a very simple reason:

Like so many experienced chefs, that is, chefs with over twenty years under their belts, he has chosen to place what he feels is the most impressive information at the beginning of the resume and sort his previous positions accordingly.

This leaves me as an employer or recruiter with the job of figuring out the puzzle..in which direction has he guided his career, what is his current track record, etc.

None of us in the people industry really like playing connect the dots.

Therefor let’s do a snappy summary of the best practices for presenting your job history on paper.

1)      State your most recent job on top. List previous positions historically going back in time.

2)      If you are currently in your position and have been there  for at least three years, you  have no need to give the months, although I still prefer them. Shorter positions, however, should be presented with the months of employment. (10/04 – 9/06 for instance)  This will usually work in your favor.  Your job history is a history.

3)      Positions going back more than seven years or so do not need months, with the exception of positions in prestigious or celebrity restaurants. These should always show exactly how long you worked there.

4)      If you worked at different branches of the same company, you should list the entire time you worked for the company with the separate locations indented with months and years below.

5)    You can (and should) also use this trick if you followed one chef mentor or restaurant owner through more than one property. The point you want to make is stability or commitment.

6)      Simultaneous positions can be listed in succession with a mention that they were both at the same time.

7)      If you interrupted an ongoing position to take a stage elsewhere or attend formal culinary training, there is no reason not to list the entire period of your employment there with a note that there was a six month interruption for whatever reason.

To summarize, my clients and I, or anyone who is hiring, is more interested in your current career trajectory than  your illustrious distant past.

The best you can hope for if you try to put shine on your career by placing the cherries on top is mild exasperation. It is more likely that  you will disqualify yourself for trying to get something past them. In other words, we don’t appreciate being messed with.

To quote a very smart client regarding this situation,  “I don’t care where he was..I want to know what he did with it, what he is doing with it, and where he’s going now.”  Let that guide you.

 

Jo Lynne Lockley

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.

 

 

Dec 122012
 

Just when I think I have wagged every finger about every bad decision and misconception someone comes along to remind me that there are more out there.

An acquaintance assures me that if I just meet his friend, who has been the manager of a café with lackluster reviews for the past five years, that I will see her potential and find her the back door to a better job and a better future.

I assure him that I cannot. I am in fact nothing but the extension of my clients’ desires and needs, and the fact is that my clients do not want someone with potential rather than  a proven history of activity in their segment of the industry – whether that is fine dining or high volume chain operation or bakery quality control. In other words, they don’t want someone who thinks or knows they can do it. They want someone who has done it.

My friend’s friend would, I believe, be very  happy to “take a step back” and use her skills in a better environment but at a lower position. Again, this is something I cannot do. My clients, on the whole, want someone who is working their way up not in quality but in title, not someone who has reached a higher goal in some other branch of the industry.

There are some rules to getting to where you are going. I have written them in different form before, but let’s make them clear.

1)      You have more options early in your career than you do once you have set a path.

2)      You choose the kind of place you want to work in at the start or, let me say it again, early. If you want to be in high end dining or high paying volume quality restaurants, that’s where you need to take your first jobs. You need to stay in that environment.

3)      You can’t throw in  your lot with a corner café and expect to be taken on, even as a server, in a Michelin restaurant. It doesn’t work that way.

4)      If you are trying to ratchet up your career,  few recruiters will be interested in you, as they will have to make a “sale” to a client of a product (that commodity would be you) they cannot really trust, since you have no history in the area to which  you aspire. ). I have learned the hard way that this brings grief to me and generally to both employer and employee. I suspect that most recruiters will agree.

5)      Exception: If you are very young and want to work your way up from a pretty subordinate job, you have a fair chance. Recruiters don’t figure into the algorithm, but they don’t need to.  Everyone loves puppies and is willing to train them more than they love and are willing to train unknown older dogs. There may be some begging involved, but it has been done.

6)      Employers generally want someone “on the way up”, not someone who has been up and is trying the catch him or herself on the way down then turn around.

7)      Where you start your career geographically is also important.

8)      Leaving a more desirable segment of the industry often means you will not be able to return.

To you this means? Obviously early choices are very important. That the biblical concept of “straight and narrow” also counts in restaurants. Why?

The pervasive rigor necessary in all high end properties can’t just be picked up – it has to be in muscle memory.  Employers suspect, generally correctly, that someone in a more casual or smaller environment than theirs will not have developed the habits and  “moves  required to fit in with the flow or their kitchen or dining room.

The good news is, as usual, that the culinary industry is a field where rules and generalizations apply, but only mostly. There are not a lot of exceptions but enough of them to make it worthwhile trying to get into a better niche. (Assuming that you think it is better. There are a lot of high end chefs and managers who back out to  open that neighborhood cafe and live happily ever after.)

People do transcend barriers between job types from time to time, so there’s no reason not to put a little effort into it.  I’ve even done it successfully a couple of times (but more times extremely unsuccessfully).  Those with a gift, a great temperament can and do manage to change their trajectory, but the effort will be yours. Go Craigslist, Monster, back door hopping. You can’t expect a recruiter to work for you (Remember – we work for the client) Nobody else can retool your career. It’s not their job. You are the beneficiary, so you need to do the work.

Given that, the obvious best strategy is starting out in the industry neighborhood where you want to end up.

Good Luck to you.