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.

Aug 012013
 

Stop me if you have read this before:  The first thing employers and recruiters look for in an applicant is quality. The second is stability. This is done with a quick scan of dates and locations. If the ratio of years  to jobs  is less than about 1.5 (That is, a new job every year or less) most of us will pass and go onto the next, even though that chef’s background is not nearly as exciting.

I just took a second look at a resume I passed over two months ago, knowing that  I could not present  his  background of short stints in great locations to any of my clients. Being a bit disappointed about it, I read further into the resume hoping for something that would make  him a viable candidate. This is what I read.

3/2010-3/2011   Sous Chef                         The Priory:
Award winning restaurant at the Winnepeg Resort and Spa. (and so on)
4/2011 – 3/2012 Chef de Cuisine            The Rectory:
Three meal restaurant at the Winnepeg Resort and Spa. (duties,etc)
4-/2012 – present Chef de Cuisine         Jacob’s Ladder
Michelin star dining room at the Winnepeg Resort and Spa. (and so on)

He has been in the same location for 3 ½ years – which I missed, as all I saw were about 11 jobs in the past decade.

I feel less bad about missing the details knowing that my clients would have missed it, too. I  have had to explain similar resumes to my clients too many times to believe they will be faster than I am on the pickup. In fact, I frequently make notes in their emails that kitchen a, b and c were either all on the coat tails of a mentor or all belonged to the same company, and I still have to explain it. That’ s my job, but my candidates would do themselves a great favor it they would stop expecting everyone to connect their resume dots;

The Point: If your background includes multiple properties under the same company, chef or group or within the same hotel or resort, make it very clear on your paper.

Here’s how:

3/2010 – Present Winnepeg Resort and Spa (Five Diamond Property)
Sous Chef : The Priory – Award winning restaurant.
Chef de Cuisine: The Rectory – Three Meal Restaurant
Chef de Cuisine: Jacob’s Ladder – Michelin star dining room

See? Same information, but presented so that the reader cannot possibly miss your remarkable tenure. With this three year stint, by the way, and your collection of ten top restaurants you become immediately irresistible to the job of your dreams. Really. You move from potentially explosive material (“gee..what’s wrong with this guy..he can’t stay anywhere more than a year”) to absolute catnip. Trust me. I know this stuff.

How easy was that?  This holds true whether you worked for five hotels in a management group,  half a dozen restaurants in a corporation or have moved around from unit to unit in a resort. A slight variation shows that you followed your mentor for five  years. (2009 – 2012  Worked under Chef Adam Fritzenphal at the following properties).  Add whatever details the next employer will want to know – who you worked under,  the nature of the product you served, your duties.

I have said before that it is in your best interest to consider everyone receiving  your resume either tired, stressed or even stupid and to kindly make your positive points crystal clear to them/us. Putting things clearly is your job. We don’t miss every beat, but you don’t want the beat we miss to be you.

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.

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:

 

Jun 182012
 

I store resumes in a database I created and refined  over the years.

The Readers’ Digest version of a database is an electronic filing cabinet containing folders with distinct bits of information about a thing or a person or a customer, which can be selected to call up a list of  things or people or customers meeting a select set of criteria. If, for instance, I need a chef with background in Indian Food who does volume banquets and lives near Dallas, I can enter these criteria into a form and pull up a list of such chefs.  This is not the whole process of finding a person, but it gives me a place to start.

My database, which has about 200 characteristics, contains two simple check boxes, “yes” and “no” in the search options, “yes” signalling someone of exceptional interest (most candidates have neither “field” checked)  in and “no” tagging a candidate as better avoided for any number of reasons.

Most of the “no”s are set before I ever speak to the candidate, usually on the first reading of the resume, although they can be triggered by red flags in a conversation or from research. They keep me from wasting time on that person. I have found it not in my own or my clients’ interest to waste energy on questionable applicants.

The main reason for “No” is resume content which does not correspond with my understanding of the world in which we function – for instance a claim to have been mentored by a great chef who was never in this country or two simultaneous jobs in distant locations.  There was the San Francisco chef who claimed to have the first four Michelin stars in the United States. An Indian chef claimed to have been the chef of the Georges Cinque over a decade ago. If it doesn’t wash it doesn’t wash. (An inquiry showed him to have been the violin player.  Who knew they had one.)

I take most training claims at face value, checking them only if the candidate moves into a final round, but there are enough fishy claims in the background portion of resumes to put a lot of them in what is essentially my electronic round file.  As a rule, the more “impressive” the claim or usually claims, the more questionable they appear.

One of these just arrived. A woman outside of the independent restaurant area seeking a logical job on the East Coast. The resume looks fine, and had I not given training a quick look, I might have called her at some point for a suitable position.

But then:

Under training this person lists two things. 1) A degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. 2) An apprenticeship at not one but TWO of the most prestigious restaurants in Paris, albeit no formal or completed training in Paris, or for that matter, in the US. (In France apprenticeships are accompanied by a two year course in a trade school).

She might, of course, be mistaking a paid stage (which I suspect the “apprenticeships actually were) for an apprenticeship, which ends in France in CAP certification, which she does not claim, but then… With a platinum BA she should and probably does know as much, so she is ..how you say in English??..ah, yes, lying. Or mildly obfuscating.

She also lists among her accomplishments a French literary prize (“French Book Prize”), a fact unknown to the great Google, although an author with the same name, now long dead, did receive one.

So what? Everyone does it.

Actually they don’t. Smart employers in the area these people work know the facts and the turf they occupy and will see the ruse. They will either be amused or annoyed – after all, it is slightly insulting – but they won’t bother with the candidate. Nor will I.

The woman has a decent if not stellar history – a fact which further puts her training claims in question – and would be a possible candidate for a job, but her attempt to pass for something more than she surely is raises a lot of questions, one of the most interesting being whether she actually deserved any of the positions she lists, or whether she obtained those  on the basis of false assertions and was able to muddle through by manipulation of people there who were well acquainted with the needs of the job.

Equally important is what the claim indicates about attitude. Those who con their way through their careers invariably believe they are more clever than the people reviewing their history. Some may be (although not realizing that employers use Google wouldn’t support that theory very well), but really, would you want that arrogant mindset in your kitchen? I doubt my clients would.

A little spice, as a good chef knows, goes a long way. Too many claims of prestige, unless they correspond to the rest of a candidate’s career, raise suspicion.

If one has had the wonderful  experience of spending a week at a restaurant like Noma or Le Notre, then stating that one did so is sufficient. It shows determination and dedication, and I, at least, would probably want to speak with you and ask what it was like.  Inflate it beyond its context, however, and you are more than likely going to trigger a few red flags and end in the undesirable pile.

Actually, there’s a certain amount of Darwinism there. It’s a beautiful thing.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 302011
 

Why your zip code is important.

This will be short and sweet. We have been receiving an increasing number of resumes without an address or just without a zip code. This cannot be a coincidence. Some web resume guru is telling people that if you don’t tell people where you are, you will be offered a wider variety of positions.

Some  web resume guru is smoking the good stuff. If people seeking a chef don’t find you in the right area, they will not call you. If you manage to fool them into thinking you are in their search area and they find out you are not and thus will require relocation or make them fly you out, you will annoy them, so they won’t hire you. That should be clear enough.

People like me, talent collectors, if you will, keep records of all of our current and our past candidates, in case something comes up that is cut precisely to their cloth. The variables we record for our searches include the candidates geographical locations.

While we could once also determine where a candidate is located by area codes, cell phones have made that nearly impossible.

If I search for a great chef in the greater Chicago area, I will enter three or four items into my preliminary data collection: The type of location of current employment (hotel, restaurant, space huttle, etc), the kind of cuisine my client requires, the person’s location and possibly the level of training. Five or six more searches refine this equation, but you don’t need to know this.

If my client doesn’t care if the candidate is local, I also include people who have a desire to live in the location of the job (which is why you need to state that in your cover letter…) This is the exception these days.  Stay tuned and I will explain it at a later date.

If your Chicago zip code is not available for my search, you will simply not be in the pile of people to be considered. I don’t really deal with coyness all that well. In fact, I will probably just delete your submission. I am not going to take the time to find you if you don’t, unless you are really spectacular, and none of my colleagues and clients are generally inclined to play hide and seek with you.

In truth,  your resume should show state, city and address, especially if you are sending the resume to a national corporation or a recruiter. You may wish to exclude the address for a blind Craigslist ad, and it is not a bad idea to leave it off if you are foolish enough to post your resume on line. (This can be explained later, too.)

If your Chicago zip code is not available for my search, you will simply not be in the pile of people to be considered. I don’t really deal with coyness all that well. In fact, I will probably just delete your submission. I am not going to take the time to find you if you don’t, unless you are really spectacular, and none of my colleagues and clients are generally inclined to play hide and seek with you.

You can figure out  how you want to handle this, but I think  you might wish to provide full contact information.

Apr 202011
 

And they are fun. They can be very useful in your job search process.

Photos are rarely the final reason that a chef is hired, although in truth, I hired at least one chef based on his pictures. It was when I was young and stupid, but it worked. He ran one of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco and eventually became the Executive Chef of the Palace Hotel.

I was fortunate with that placement,  since what he didn’t have in experience he possessed in intelligence and knowledge.  That approach to hiring rarely worked two decades ago, and it doesn’t work at all now.

You probably already have a collection. If you don’t, you probably should. You can take excellent pictures with any digital pocket camera  these days. You don’t need a food photographer, and you don’t need a $540 Nikon.  The question, however, is what do you do with them?

First, here’s what you don’t do: Send about three gigabytes of pictures with your resume. Have mercy. Everyone’s mailbox has some limits, as does everyone’s time. As a matter of fact, don’t send any pictures at all when you apply to a job.  An employer wants to see where you have been and what you did there before he dedicates time to photos.

So what then?

There are numerous possibilities. The most obvious is taking them with you on an interview and offering them if a moment arises. It probably will, and the person you are speaking with will probably be interested. (If not, it’s a good thing you didn’t send them in advance.)  In addition to the time honored scrap book approach, smart phones and Ipads provide easy transportation and viewing. Netbooks are less elegant due to the fuss of opening the program and pulling up the pictures.

You can carry your photos on a thumb drive, although if the interviewer is not sitting in front of a computer, you may  no’t be able to show them.  In fact, you should also carry a copy of your resume and anything else you think would be helpful on a keychain thumb drive when  you interview.

There is also “the cloud” – online storage space which can be accessed from any WiFi or hard wired Internet connection. At some point you will be using this daily, but for now connectivity fails often enough to make it a less attractive choice for interview show and tell.  It’s a good way, however, to make material available to interested employers during the course of a job discussion process after or before the interview.   A note on a cover letter that images of the food are available if the reader is interested is preferable to instructions to “see my pictures here”, by the way.

A few of cautions:

1)      Videos are iffy. They take more time to view. They carry subliminal message about the character of the person who films herself, which may not be appreciated.  They demand time from someone who may not have it.

2)      Your pictures should be good ones. I have received images of food I would not eat. They should also be of YOUR food.

3)      The art of presentation is in the selection. Fewer pictures is better.  Don’t overwhelm the interviewer. You want no more than fifteen or so.  Choose a good selection of the best.

4)      The pictures should  be pertinent to you and your skills and not your private life. Celebrity shots with Donald Trump or President Clinton don’t tell anyone anything about you except that you had a moment for a photo shot.

5)      Offer them, don’t force them on potential employers. “Would you like to see some of the food we served?” is nearly irresistible. Please look at my pictures” isn’t.

6)       Pictures in a scrap book should be protected and not dog eared and dirty.

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.