May 172012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 152011
 

The longer I recruit in restaurants, the clearer it gets that a large number of people seeking restaurant work do not understand the process well. We, the recruiters in the field, are perhaps the most mystifying part of the system.

The idea that recruiting is easy is only one of the abounding misconceptions regarding what a recruiter is and what a recruiter does. “How it works”, as the common terminology goes.

We, all of us, get ample proof in emails showing that the job seeking public misunderstands our position in the culinary galaxy. Here are a few points you should know.

1)      Recruiting has become a more or less legitimate field, notwithstanding a continuing number of rogue individuals practicing. On the whole you can expect professional behavior from recruiters.

2)      The Recruiter’s first loyalty is to his client, not the candidate. He is not your advocate or agent. The restaurant pays the fee and gets most of the recruiter’s time for that.

3)     The recruiter is a conduit for his or her client. He or she carries out their instructions and adhere to their laundry list of desires and requirements. He will almost never submit a candidate not matching them..

4)      Discretion is or should be a given for all parties. The recruiter does not reveal conversations with your employer to you or vice versa. He is a two way fire wall. Since, however, there are still a few rogues and scoundrels among us, it is always wise to state clearly  in your  submission that you except discretion and your search should confidential, with your permission to submit your data to any position.

5)      Recruiters prefer candidates from sources of trust. They know, however, who is where and what to expect from the places candidates show on their resumes. They will respond first to candidates who fit their current or frequent search profiles, and those who have background they feel will be in demand. Other candidates are generally kept on file and contacted as appropriate.

6)      Most have been around the block a few times.  They are not stupid.  They can tell bad excuses and don’t want to hear any excuses at all.  Even if you think you are sweet talking them, they are jotting down facts in the back of their heads. Recruiters are not obliged to keep abuse of their services confidential.

7)      Recruiters practice due diligence and get references using a variety of tools and their own connections. In signing with a recruiter you tacitly agree to this. (It is on our web site.)  References should follow candidate contact.

8) Once you work with a recruiter you represent them as well as yourself, and your behavior reflects on them. Since they may be in charge of the search for the next place you work, it  is unwise to behave badly.

9)      There is a difference  between Recruiters and Head Hunters. Head Hunters want to churn as many candidates as possible and are bottom line oriented. Recruiters value their long term reputations and subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath: Before all, do no harm. Calling a recruiter a “headhunter” is akin to calling your attorney a “scheister”. Some younger recruiters find the term very cool. It’s about as cool as the term “cool”.

10)      Unless you have specifically requested it, a recruiter should not broadcast your information or send it out without your knowledge and permission.(that’s what a headhunter does.) If you ever have any questions about this, make it clear to any recruiter that you must be informed before submission.

11)      Recruiters cannot always give you details about positions. If you believe you have been submitted previously to a job, you can point it out. Otherwise you should never discuss one recruiter with another.

13)    An ethical recruiter will not, on receiving your information, inform your employer that you are seeking a new position and ask to fill yours, but it has happened. It is also actionable (you have a fair chance of receiving damages through the courts if one does and you lose your job.)  A recruiter should  not discuss your search with any other candidate.

14)   You pay nothing to a recruiter. In the United States you do not pay to get a job. Some domestic and apparently some temporary firms charge a subscription fee, which they use to check your background. It should be less than $100.  If there is a cost, you will sign a numbered contract stating your rights. Offering you a job and asking for the fee is illegal and also cause for litigation, if it puts you between jobs. In this case you can simply refuse to pay or call your District Attorney’s office.

15) Recruiters usually require a certain amount of expertise and seasoning from their candidates.  If you  have not profiled yourself in the industry, you may do better without a recruiter. While you are still a line cook or a pastry assistant, for instance, you are most likely your own best advocate.

Look for more information on recruiters, what you can and should expect, what you should and should not do in future posts. A more complete discussion of the field and how it applies to you, the candidate can be found at the Chefs’ Professional Website.

Dec 152010
 

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

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

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

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