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.

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.






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

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.

Oct 262012

The agency is overwhelmed this week, but from what we are receiving in response to our outreach, it appears that the inhabitants of the culinary world absolutely need more clarification about how the job search process works, because it is fairly obvious nobody told them.

We have a nifty little piece about recruiters, which you may feel very comfortable calling “head hunters’, although that’s about as suave as calling San Francisco “Frisco”, but never mind. It bears reading.

It does not tell you how to deal with them. That covers a lot of area, so let’s just start with how to begin dealing with them.

Most recruiters are web based, so  you can look up their pages and read their requests for first contact, resume submission, etc. Since every recruiter has his or her own system or database, they may request your documents in Word or PDF or other format, or simply request that you add text to an email.  Most do not want pictures. If you are applying to an international firm, however, they require pictures. Not sticking to these requests/requirements prevent them from considering you. (Why should anyone consider a candidate for upper management who is unable to comply with simple requests?) so it is quite important to read the information on the web site and follow the instructions.

Most recruiters want a resume as the first contact. They appreciate a terse cover letter explaining your situation, but not an essay.  Some firms require cover letters, in which case the best advice I can give is to keep them to the point.

Overwhelming a recruiter with a dog and pony show does not endear you. Save your pictures, your self-praise, and, gasp, videos for later. Receiving fifteen pictures of your plating on my IPhone or IPad doesn’t impress me of your skills but rather of your lack of technical understanding, or worse, your lack of courtesy.  The web site question is still open, but if you have one you wish to share, you should not just a send a website and a note that you are a great chef, please look at my web site.

You  are not paying the recruiter and you are asking him  to help you. The exchange means that you provide your availability for free and they work for free, but do remember it is a free service and act accordingly.

Acting accordingly means:  It would be inexorably rude to send a recruiter a note asking if they know a great recruiter.  You should not make demands such as “Please call me ASAP” and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience, because my earliest convenience belongs to my customers in New York or in Russia right now, and until you meet my needs, you  simply have  no right to ask for it.

It also means showing the recruiter the respect you feel you deserve yourself. There is no rule against working with several firms, although that can create complications, but you should treat each person you speak to with respect. That means not sending an email blast to fifteen firms.

Remembering that recruiters see possibly hundreds of resumes on a bad day, you might want to cut anything remotely resembling a snow job. We have seen it all (and occasionally have a good laugh at the sender’s expense.) Present them with the facts, just as you would a very professional recruiter.

Understand that Recruiters work not for you but for your clients, with the caveat that none of us wish to do any harm to anyone, so we are concerned for both sides of the hiring equation, but we need to focus on our clients and those candidates who fit their needs. If your background does not, we probably won’t be able to talk to you. It’s not personal.

We will, however, contact you if you fit our desired candidate profile, and if we cannot use your information now, we will probably put you in your files so that we can reach you later.

Sometimes a recruiter will contact you.  Since I have hardly met a chef who did not understand how this works,  I see no need to discuss it.

Occasionally someone will refer you to us. If they do, it is because we  have a position we have discussed with them, and they think you might like it. It this  happens, do not hesitate to call the office, sooner rather than later (as the great jobs go quickly). It will be appreciated and can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  If you are referred by a friend of the recruiter, furthermore, go ahead and pick up the phone.  If we are busy, we can ask you to send a resume. If not, we will probably be happy to hear from  you.

We, recruiters, do need a resume. A Bio does not meet our needs. Nor will a string of magazine articles.Most of  us do not have time or patience for spin. Bio’s are for customers and media. Resumes are for job searches.

It is for us nothing more than a tool that jogs our memory, allows us to find that terrific looking chef who worked in Wilmington and gives us an outline to present and discuss with our clients.  We know you are more than a resume, but we can’t work without one. If we are any good at all and enter into your job search with you,  we will try to get to know you and where you have worked so we can help our clients decide if you are a good match for their needs (If you are not, nobody is served).  You can help us by sending timely and correct information.

As for the rest, the tips on this web site are very useful. Enjoy them. They, too, are free.

Aug 072012

A resume is an information tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Use it to inform.

When I am looking for a chef the first thing I need to know is what are his skills sets, what is his history, what kinds and volume  of culinary production, development and organization he has practiced, the scope of her culinary specialties and the level of quality, complexity and rigor in the kitchens where she has worked.

“Top kitchen serving exceptional food” doesn’t help. Whoever reads your introduction, also known as a resume, needs facts. Probably about 40% of the submissions we receive lack them.

Most list restaurants with geographic locations, the title at that location and the scope of the applicant’s duties, all of  which are very important. Some of them list what the candidate feels are his strong points, which is not important or even useful, unless one is looking for signs of puffery or delusion.

Some just list their responsibilities in introductory bullets, leaving the poor recipient to play a game of connect the dots with a short list of employment below (Where did she manage a staff of 70? When did he create the menu?), which most of us simply won’t bother to do, so the resume goes to a “whenever we get to it” pile, and we rarely get to it.

Most people who consider you for positions will probably have a pretty good idea of the nature of the food and the size of places only in their own immediate area or if the places you worked are famous. If you were at Coi in San Francisco or Gramercy Tavern in New York, they should have an idea of where you worked. The same holds true of a Fairmont resort, a Ritz or a TGIFridays – they are all common concepts.  But if your last position was sous chef of the Blue Moose in Minneapolis or Sean’s Seafood Heaven in North Carolina, a boutique hotel in Maine or a conference center in Boulder, an employer in Santa Barbara will recognize nothing, so she probably won’t be interested.  You need to help the people you want to work for to understand what you did at each specific location.

That means giving them information about all of the points mentioned above. After or before  you tell them your title, you need to tell them about the place: How many outlets did it have (only one is a given),  what kind of food was produced, how many seats? Was it casual or formal? Was it part of a group (as in chain) or free-standing. How many covers, if it was a single location. What was the banquet volume, if you were in a club or a hotel. Did it receive national or state recognition (media)?

A job listing could read something like:

Or perhaps

..and the reader will see that you have experience in multiple event locations, have done mainly Mediterranean or Lithuanian Fusion cuisine, that you know volume or the precision of a small highly staffed kitchen creating an exclusive product. Or that you know how to strategize a trendy menu for volume delivery with a limited labor pool.

The format is not binding, nor is the information chosen here. You should know what part of your experience will be useful to an employer. If you need to provide more, do so. Don’t get fancy. Don’t get wordy.  If you send out a resume to someone who (you are absolutely sure) knows your past locations, save space. It’s  your resume and your call, but you need to state the necessary facts if they are not obvious – and more often than not they aren’t.



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.