Oct 292012
 

Every so often a resume claiming the distinction of “Master Chef” flops up on the screen.

Most of them are  full of baloney.

“Master Chef” is one of those titles that sounds impressive and in all but a few cases means nothing. PBS started this when Julia Childs, who was not in truth even a chef  launched her show of American Master Chefs.

Julia Childs was a visionary culinarian and possibly the best cook and one of the finest instructors ever to stand in front of a camera, and since she taught us all, she was ironically a “master” and definitely masterful, but not really a chef, because she did not manage a kitchen full of cooks.  (Chef essentially means “boss”)  Of course sine she was Julia as far as I am  concerned she could have called herself Queen, and that would be all right.  Most of the chefs she dealt with, however, were not Master Chefs, but the press picked the term up and has been abusing it like a terrier shaking a dead rat ever since.

The problem is that nobody knows what a Master Chef is, assuming it to be just another American hyperbole (exaggeration) in the style of “Top Chef” or “Culinary Passion”. It’s not.

“Master Chef” is a certified career station which comes from the European guild system and still exists there. The certification process lasts two years if done concurrently with work or four months in a full time course, and it requires at least five or six years of experience as a “journeyman” cook and sous chef or chef de cuisine – possibly more. “Master” (Maitre, Meister) means “teacher”. It does not address flavor or creativity but the ability and right to teach.

The purpose of the Master Chef certification is to certify apprentice masters, who thus can train aspiring cooks. Chef owners reap great benefit from the process, as they can keep and develop low wage and increasingly skilled  staff for two to three years. Hotel Executive Chefs and chefs with training responsibilities also profit from the title.

The certification guarantees that the Master Chef knows everything about products, production, technique, food safety, numbers, science, and all of the vast knowledge you would want your teacher to have. It does not guarantee fabulous food or talent or culinary brilliance.

Several years ago Ferdinand Metz and the Culinary Institute of America joined forces to create a Master Chef certification in the United States. This differs somewhat from the European model, as it does not require as much hands on experience prior to certification. I  have seen it more as an MA degree in food, and from those candidates I have worked with, a career choice which frequently takes the bearer out of the kitchen into the more intellectual areas of the industry.

The American as well as the European Master Chef / Meisterchef processes are demanding, and the certified chefs are recognized as experts. Those chefs celebrated for five star cuisine – those running the most  highly acknowledged kitchens – are  most likely not certified.

Real Master Chefs list the certification with date note that it is certified. The rest of the “Master Chefs” are pretenders or poor souls naïve enough to believe the blather bandied about by an increasingly ill informed media.  In other words, “Master Chef” is in most cases simply tacky resume bling. Not to be impressed.

Jul 272012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chefs Professional Agency: The philosophy behind a good resume:

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

More on resumes from this site:

 

Mar 132012
 

Imagine you are at a party—-

Or at a bar and trying to make time with the person next to you. Or, for that matter one the beach. It doesn’t matter, but you are communicating and trying to impress him/her/them with your personality, your savoir affair, your knowledge and just your great you-ness.  Or better  yet, imagine them trying to impress you. Here’s what they say:

“Hello. My focus is and inspiring people to become better.”

“Hi, there. Employing a  Transformational Leadership  approach by enhancing motivation, morale and performance is my method.”

“Hi. My name is Jake. I provide the framework for unparalleled service. Instilling this kind of dedication in others is my expertise.”

How likely are you to take this dude home, to invite this woman out to dinner, to want to wake up next to this full of him/herself , messianic, inflated  popinjay?

I don’t know about you, but if we were at the beach, I’d probably whack him upside the head with my sand bucket and run like crazy. These are NOT great pickup lines. And yet, people try to engage me with these and similar jewels of maladroit self-promotion all the time.

It’s a pretty stupid way to try to start a relationship. Perhaps if we back up a bit and view the potential employment introduction process from another angle, namely that mentioned above – a first approach to an interesting person you are attempting to impress, we can make more sense of a good way to get there.

First, then, the people who read our resume are  just that – people – the kind who sit on beaches and go to parties and talk to people at bars or PTA meetings – and they have the same kind of reactions to what others say  in their work as they would in real life – in the above situation their reaction would be a wincing gag reflex with a thought bubble saying, “Gee, what a pompous, bs’ing jackass.”  Fortunately for them/me, in the hiring process there is no need for a pail of sand upside the head. “Click, Delete” is quick and effective.

Of course we know why you are doing this: 1) You are trying to impress us, and 2) you are in your deepest essence  a pompous bs’ing jackass. (In real life we use a slightly different term.)

The latter quality is something you might want to suppress,  but how would you do that?

For one thing stop telling people you are God. No matter how secure you are in the knowledge. It creeps them out. For another, don’t talk about you-the-oh-too-fabulous-person, talk about the thing you did or the place you did it. Where you worked, the people you worked with.

Back to the beach: How would, “Wow! That water is so warm and calm. Don’t you just love it here?  Oh, by the way, I am Jake/Sally (extend hand). The Bar:  Did you just hear that thunder? Or was that a garbage truck tipping over?”  Point: It’s not about you.

The same applies to the initial written contact with people you want to work for. You are courting them, not selling them a used Edsel. You are angling for a first date, AKA interview, and possibly a walk down the aisle, or at least an extended fling. A basic rule of the approach either professionally or personally is: Don’t be repulsive. The “I am the best person I know” type of introduction generally repels. Let’s try a slightly formalized wording on the cover letter.

“I’ve been fortunate in spending seven years at various restaurants of the Food Ville Corporation in which I have learned their policies of responsibility sharing and staff respect. Food Ville’s operations are highly staff and guest centered with a focus on guest satisfaction and smooth front / back functioning which permits frictionless operations in high quality locations of up to 400 seats. I am seeking an opportunity to move forward with the skills and philosophies learned in their employ.”

See? Not about you. I’d read that one without wincing. That’s progress.

Do, however, remember, that the job of a cover letter is to explain things the reader NEEDS TO KNOW, and that more is always less in writing them.

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 152010
 

You do have a kit, don’t you? I do.

What’s a kit?

Your kit is a digital folder of documents, media and information you keep on a computer with a second copy on line in a service like Google Docs, which offers 1 GB of free disk space. Documents and files you might need quickly in case Job search, connection, media. It contains the things you might want handy if or His Highness the Duke of Windsor calls to see if you’d like to open a restaurant for him, or the Cuisine Channel calls and asks you to be their next star.

What’s in it?

  • Your resume, which you update every time you change jobs or mobile phone numbers.
  • Two bios. One should be short – highlights of your education, history, awards, etc. The other can be a bit more extravagant, but should be a short page.  If you are called for a media quote, if you are interviewed for anything other than a job, you may be asked for it.
  • PDF copies of any certification and degrees you have earned. If you don’t have a scanner to convert them, ask a friend or try a service like Kinkos.
  • Copies of menus from various places you have worked. Seasonal menus, banquet menus, etc.  These, too, can be scanned, if you don’t have them on disk.
  • Favorite recipes with photos of the dish. Not too many, but if you are called and asked for one, it’s nice to have them ready.
  • Head shots in  your whites or whatever uniform you wear.
  • A few pictures of you in action. (Note: If you  have huge digital files, you should reduce them out of courtesy to anyone who receives them and to save a little disk space, although 1GB should be plenty.)
  • Copies of any press, awards, media about your restaurants, you, anything that relates to you.  (Before you leave a job you can copy the web site as a picture by opening it on your computer and pressing alt + PrtScrn. Open Paint or any  graphics program and paste the image into a  new file, then save it as a jpg. )
  • A list of references
  • It’s not a bad idea to keep a short list of people to call for references, etc.
  • Anything else you could need to produce quickly at some time.

Why?

You never know when an opportunity might come your way, whether it’s a new job offer, a request for a media interview, or a nomination for something or other. Opportunity unfortunately has  a nasty habit of knocking when you have no time for it. If you have a job and media kit, you can just pull out your Iphone or netbook or sit down at your computer and send information about you quickly, appearing to be much more organized and on top of things than most people actually are.

Windows Skydrive (Hotmail) also offers online storage with free online Word and other Microsoft Office programs.  For either you create an account with a dedicated email address, which you use for career only. You’ll want to forward email from that account to your main address, so you know when you get mail.   For either one you will need to sign up for a free account.