Jan 242012

Accessibility is the key to a good job search approach


When you are seeking a new position, you want to be as easy to reach as possible.  If the person you wish to hire you can’t gain easy access to you, you won’t have access to their job/s.

What you need to do to be accessible:

1)      Resume format. In order to know about you, people need to read your resume.  Avoid special resume programs and obscure word processors (Word Perfect is now an obscure word processor). The most universal format is “Rich Text Format” or .rtf. Any file can be saved as rtf by clicking on the “Save As” option when you save the file. After .rtf you can rely on Microsoft Word, although some recipients may not be able to open the latest version. Everyone can read Adobe .pdf files, but they are not optimal, as they cannot be annotated or saved unless the recipient has the software, and some database systems cannot store them.

2)      Make sure you include your phone number on your resume.  

3)      Make sure you include your email on your resume. We have said this often. The recipient may print your resume and discard the email, so put it up front. If you don’t want job search information in your usual mailbox (where it should not go if it is a company address) open a free GMAIL or Hotmail account for your job search only.  Most accounts can be forwarded to any other you have.

4)      Make yourself accessible by phone when you are available. This means:

1)      Do not use a home phone with an answering machine for your search, especially if it is shared with others.  You need a cell phone which makes it possible for you to receive and record calls.

2)      If you can’t speak to an unknown caller, let the message go to voicemail and call back when

it is convenient, rather than picking up in a meeting or during service.

3)      Answer all calls within a reasonable period of time, usually within 24  hours.

You want to make it as easy as possible for potential employers to reach and communicate with you.

Dec 262011

In any day’s supply of resumes there is one which attempts one way or another to manipulate the recruiter or hiring firm into direct contact.

They read something like, “I am a qualified professional with the best abilities for your position. Please contact me ASAP, or, “After twelve years in the industry I have experience you will not be able to appreciate until you speak directly with me. I can be reached at xxx xxx xxxx. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.”

The irony of these approaches is that rather than being contacted ASAP, the writers are unlikely to be contacted at all.  Of course you want the employer to contact you, as you have an edge, but strong arming is never a good approach. The employer or recruiter will always take some time to look at the facts presented in a resume and possibly in a cover letter, to research past employment locations and compare candidates before he picks  up the phone.  When they have their facts straight, they will call the suitable candidates, but not before.

There is really no reason to state that you want to speak to the recipient of your resume or application. You indicate that when you send it. If you must, however, there are more polite phrases.

“I would be delighted to discuss the details of the open position at your convenience.”

“I hope to have the opportunity to discuss your open position with you.”

Or better yet, just leave it out.

Dec 142011

At last count there were sixty two posts and a large number of  job search resources on this site, which means some of the important stuff is going to slip through the cracks.

Let us therefor reiterate a few absolutely essential details for your resume.

1) Your contact information. All of it.

  • Your address (nobody is going to use your resume to burglarize your home – you can truly state your address.)
  • The City, State and Zip code. People like me use this to track down candidates and find candidates who are appropriately located for jobs. If you are moving, put your new information.
  • Your telephone number. Don’t worry – putting your phone number on your resume will not bring in hundreds of calls. (Dream on), but of someone is interested, they will want to speak to you. You want that, don’t you? Isn’t that why you are sending your resume out?
  • Your email. People (like me) keep resumes for years and occasionally remember someone who might just love a current opening. Your phone number may change, but you can probably still be reached by email. Put it on your resume.

2) Actual information about where you worked and what you did. Not that you are award winning or wonderful.

3) Dates with months and years.

4) If you used a template (and why not?  There are some very nice ones on this site) give it a final run through to make sure that you have removed all instructions like “your address” or “describe experience here”.

And that’s it.

Nov 012011

When I took over the flagging family recruiting firm I have since  been running for some 25 years, I learned early that what seemed obvious to me as often or not had nothing to do with the truth. A candidate who avowed his passion really wanted to sell fish, or a chef who  had come to San Francisco to enter the big waters of the culinary world really wanted something out in Stockton or down in Cupertino.

More importantly, I learned that things which seemed obvious to me were only obvious to me and not to anyone else. Things I assumed to be general knowledge were completely foreign to my candidates and clients,  whether it was a restaurant or a technique or just some technical policy or the quality of a location “everyone” knows.

After one terrific shock and epiphany as to how much people in general  – even full professionals – don’t know, I taped a sign on the inside edge of my desk, where nobody but me could see it:

I am still learning to be sure my candidate or client is on the same page as I am, that they know what I mean when I reference a chef or resume, and I still catch situations where people I’d swear would know simply don’t. .

This  rule, “Make No Assumptions”,  is as important to you as a candidate as it is to me as a recruiter, or, for that matter, anyone who hires you. That level of assumption – giving your audience more credit for general knowledge and industry insight than  s/he deserves – is a career stumbling block.  You, too,  need to be able to communicate all important and pertinent information about your background clearly and completely to potential employers, whoever they are and however all knowing or not knowing they may be.

When you write a resume,  you are writing it to someone. Half the time you won’t know who that someone is – A savvy restaurant owner? A  secretary? An intern or temp? An administrative executive with good business sense but limited  culinary resources?  – so your best bet is to aim at the lowest common denominator and clearly state everything that is pertinent to your background.  Begin with the premise that your audience doesn’t know the obvious about the places you worked, what you did there, or now and then,  much about the industry and its values at all. The rule I tell candidates is that you have to account for the small but important possibility that your resume’s audience is:

  • Just  not all that bright
  • An intern or a temp with a laundry list of simplistic candidate requirements
  • An administrative assistant who knows little about the business
  • Any one of the restaurant staff: Tired, over worked and unfocused or just  ADD.
  • So stressed and hurried that they only read the captions.

They probably won’t be, but it happens often enough to justify the practice of not omitting information that they might be looking for. It’s not that nobody knows anything, but that a some  people don’t know everything and won’t take the time to educate themselves, so that becomes your job.

So: If you worked at Mo’s Tavern, Missouri, and Mo’s Tavern is a high end French restaurant serving 400 covers a night, and it just got nominated for the James Beard Award, that’s pertinent. Communicate that information. Potential employers and their minions are not going to go find it for themselves. If you were in charge of five outlets, communicate that. If you worked for the same group at five different restaurants, show it. Don’t expect a manager or an HR clerk to know that your restaurant part of a celebrity chef’s empire. Tell them.

If you as chef of La Rondelle did all the butchering or the pastry or oversaw a bakery, let them know. If they don’t, few will go out and do some research.  I do, and every now and then, but I am the exception. It is your duty to shine a clear light on your background, not mine or some restaurant owner’s to figure it out for ourselves.

It’s that simple. Tell people what they need to know in order to make a logical decision whether they should pursue you as their next great hire or not. It helps a lot. If they do know, then your explanation will not harm your chances, and if they don’t, it’s at the very least considerate of you to make the process easier for them.

Small side story: About fifteen years ago one of SF’s grande dame hotels called me to ask about one of the best sauciers in town. The young man had gone back and forth to France, mostly because he liked the girls, and had in the process worked  in some of the top Michelin starred restaurants. One of the great old French chefs sent him to me when he returned to the states, and, as he needed money and a friend with a chicken-in-a-basket kind of place needed help on the spot,  I sent him for an interim position, which he did beautifully while he looked for something more suitable.

His resume eventually landed in the in-basket of the hotel’s HR department, from which a young woman called me to verify and describe the fried chicken job. I did,  adding that he had worked at several restaurants with two and one with three Michelin stars.

The hotel staffer did not respond.  She continued to ask about the neighborhood joint, and I, perplexed, kept forcing the point that he had far more interesting background. Finally I asked, “Why do you want to  know about the pub, when he worked at MICHELIN starred restaurants??”, to which the HR employee responded – “What’s that? Is it important?”

That young woman is more likely than not going to be the one reading your  resume first and deciding if it goes to someone able to make the decision to interview you. Act accordingly. Make no assumptions.





Aug 122011

Chefs Career Tools: References

Available on Demand – The standard redundant ending of any resume. Why write it?  Every employer knows that he can have the references if he wants them. You won’t be hired without them.

A future employer will probably contact several references including a formal HR phone call to confirm your employment, people he may know personally and references you provide.

Who should you choose as references?

Your references should be people  you have worked with or for. Supervisors, employers and colleagues from the both sides of the house are your best choices. If you are a chef, your references might be the catering manager, the GM and perhaps the sous chef.  If you are a manager you might give the owner, the HR Director or accountant.

People who you know but have not worked with are not references. Even Al Capone  had friends, who would have sworn up and down he was as honest as the day is long and wouldn’t hurt a flea. Your priest, your banker or your old Boy Scout troop leader are not good choices.

Your previous working relationship with your references should be ongoing and daily. If you worked for someone or with someone at an event, they are not suitable.

Is this legal to require references?

Absolutely. People lie a lot on resumes, and it is not only a future employer’s right but his duty to his staff to confirm your claims and screen your suitability for his particular operation.

When will they call references:

Employers  usually call for references when they have a feeling that they are interested in you.  This will generally happen after your first phone contact or after one or two interviews.  Some may take these steps before calling you to see if the time for an interview is worth their while.

What about confidentiality?

If you have concerns about discretion – if your current employer could find out about your job search from someone else on the list, you should state that clearly in  your cover letter and on your resume. (To maintain confidentiality please do not contact references before speaking with me.) Employers rarely step over the line in questions of confidentiality, but a polite reminder is wise.

What kind of  information do employers look for?

While nobody expects any candidate to be perfect in all categories, employers generally realize that your performance in previous positions probably determines how you will work in the next.

As a matter of fact, hearing from a reference that an employee is not as strong in one area as in others makes a reference more credible.

1)      Confirmation of your statements: What you have told them about your employment is accurate and not invented. Dates, titles, duties.

2)     Your Rehire Status. This is occasionally useless, but it is a way to get a read from  an otherwise tight lipped corporate environment.  Actions such as not giving notice, repeated incidents of inappropriate behavior or unreliability will result in a negative rehire status, which can but doesn’t have to limit your future employment options.

2)      Are you competent or skilled or talented  – usually for a specific set of tasks or environment? (Volume, cake decorating, five star cuisine, costing, you name it.)

3)      You  play well with others. They seek information on  your relationships with your supervisors and subordinates. They hear this in the voice of the person who answers the phone and in random comments“We were really sorry to lose her.” “I wish we had a place for him.”

4)      Is  your attitude  toward your work and the people around you positive?

5)      You are clean, organized, punctual and reliable (work habits)

6)      You fit the profile of their property.

7)      You are honest and do not bring any issues with you which damage them, their staff or their business. (No drugs in the walk in, didn’t steal bunches of parsley or silverware, doesn’t grope passing servers).

References are not a report card. They provide some basic assurances about your professional persona.

Where and how should you state your references:

I think the most elegant way of handling references is a lost at the end of the resume or on a separate sheet, if you want to speak to the hiring agent before exposing the people you worked with to their questions. An extra sheet can be taken to an interview.

The entry should give the person’s name, telephone number, possibly an additional private number, the references current position plus his or her relationship with you when and where your worked together.

As an alternative you can name one or two references following each job descriptions on  your resume.


Large businesses and corporations discourage (and forbid) sharing information about past employees because they fear their deep pockets are tempting for potential litigants and they will face a case which will have to be settled or make them pay for attorneys for years. Reckless defamation suits rarely end up in front of a judge and are rarely won.

Some business will not give references. A few, the Cheesecake Factory for instance, require a future employer to pay a confirmation service for date and title confirmation with no statement of hiring status.  That seems to me plenty of reason not to work for those firms – you worked for them and the least they could do is acknowledge you – but if you are in that position, you need to arrange with colleagues to speak on your behalf. Managers and coworkers who have moved on to other positions are your best bet. This is, by the way, a very good reason to keep in contact with the people you have worked with.

Some jobs end on a sour note. That happens. If this is the case, you can communicate the issues civilly to the person who interviews you – don’t wait for them to ask – and explain that there are other references available.  You would also be surprised at how professional employers generally are when discussing past employees.

Line up your references:

As a courtesy to your references, give them a heads up and ask their permission. If they say no, then find someone else. If you can’t locate them, try Facebook or Linkedin. (It is always amusing to hear someone say, “He chose me as a reference??!!|)

The Un-Reference

Also known as the back door reference.  Supplying  your references to a potential employer  shows you to be confident in your past performance and willing to be looked at closely, but it doesn’t guarantee that the employer won’t talk to other people. Don’t count on stacking the reference deck.

Unless you are restaurant cannon fodder –   staff with little responsibility and easily replaceable – the employer will probably try to find out more.  The Food and Beverage industry is tight and incestuous. The probability that the server you once fired or the dishwasher you were kind to works for the new opportunity is fairly high. If they do, they will probably be asked about you.(Another reason to be nice to people).

Everyone knowing everyone in the chef and restaurant world, furthermore, the new employer probably has connections to any number of people who worked with you here or there, and they will call them and just drop your name, then listen for the joyous, “Oh, JOHN!! How is he?  He’s a great guy!” or “Ooof. John, eh. Did he lose another job?”   Again, be nice to people.

“But slander is illegal!??”

If it is true, it is not slander, and slander is not illegal. It is actionable (a civil matter rather than a criminal issue).  The First Amendment still counts, and you can’t sue someone for revealing documented facts about a past employee.  People don’t go to prison for revealing what is written in your file, as long as it is not private information, but they can if they state unfounded opinions or if they practice reckless defamation.  It just isn’t easy. A valid claim of reckless defamation requires three things.

1)      The person telling the lie did so knowingly.

2)      That person receives some form of benefit from telling it. This may be a promotion, it may be money. It could possibly be the satisfaction of revenge. (It’s called “reckless” for a reason.)  Ex employers are more liable for damages, if they tell a potential employer that you are a terrific hire in order to get you off their unemployment rolls.  Many years ago a company which spoke highly of an employee who later injured (or killed?) a winery worker had to pay the damaged parties half a million dollars.

3)      It causes you substantial damage – you lose your job, you cannot get a job. You are offered less salary. Your reputation is ruined.

What employers cannot say is “I think he did drugs” or “I wouldn’t trust him,” opinions in other words. Anything that is documented, however, for instance an assault on another employee or a failure to appear to work is fact and can be shared. “We had to replace him while he was in prison for murder,” is perfectly legal. It’s a matter of public record. An employer can also say we were not satisfied with his speed or the level of  his food knowledge.

Your personnel file may also contain medical or personal information, which a previous employer is not free to share with anyone. He cannot discuss anything about health issues or your family issues impeding your performance.  If you don’t know what is in your personnel file, you have a right to see it, and you should have a look.

Usually, however, employers bend over to say nicer things about employees than they deserve. Truly negative statements are generally expressed in silence. A recent candidate we reviewed, for instance, had an impressive resume, but the most we could gather from employers was “Well, he worked here.”

Nobody is perfect.

Do not expect all  of the references your employer receives to be glowing. The employer doesn’t. Continual 5 star references are suspicious. What we all know if that people grow up, they make mistakes, chemistry happens and unhappens and someone who will be a great fit for one position may not have been for another.  Jesus Christ, when he returns to this earth, is not, trust me, going to look for a job in a kitchen.

What are some reference red lights: (Avoid them)

Sometimes I will discard a candidate after looking at the references and finding some of the following.

1)      No references for recent positions.

2)      No  phone numbers. Only email addresses such as joesdiner@yahoo.com I would expect Joe@joesdiner.com

3)      References all outside of the current and last positons: Purveyors, friends, etc.

4)      References who contact me. (this is just plain spooky.)

5)      Family. (I have on a couple of occasions found that the person giving the reference was a sibling or an in-law. We drop the candidate.)

6)      Prestigious names at restaurants where the candidate has not worked.

7)      Suggestions that a candidate was “Mentored” by a reference for  whom he did not work.

8)      A large number of written references but no contacts. Nobody does this any more in the United States. It is still, however, common in Europe. Paper can be easily forged. (We have seen some phony telephone references, too).  Written references can also include deceptively negative statements: “He did everything to the best of his ability,” etc.

A job search is not a popularity contest or a reality show. It is a process to find a place whose interests and opportunities coincide as well as possible with your own abilities and desires. The referencing process is part of this process. In the ideal situation you want the people who provide information about your to be frank and as objective as possible. It is disconcerting to know that someone is talking about you, but really, the truth is that most of them say things nicer than you would ever expect. (“SHE said that about me???? )

Your comments and experiences are appreciated. Please feel free to contribute.

Jul 252011

What to do it your resume is too long.

The adage that a resume should be one page is accepted as gospel and absolute horse feathers.  A resume should be as long as a resume needs to be to tell a potential employer what he has to know to decide to hire you. It you have two restaurant jobs, your resume can neatly fill the center of a single page and no more. If you have been at the game for twenty five  years, it’s going to be longer. In general I expect resumes to stop at about two pages, but there are exceptions. They should not be voluminous. I have received documents of twelve and more, and that’s just too much.

Remember that today’s business reader has an attention span of perhaps half a minute for incoming information, and if he picks up something he thinks will require fifteen, he’s likely to drop it in the “Sometime when I have a moment”, pile, which never gets read. You really have to get his/her attention by showing a selection of strong points in a brief span of time. So what can you do it you have an endless resume?

Lots. First, take the term “need to know”  and turn it around. Ask yourself what is not important, and cut it. For some help with this look again at what employers want and do not want to know.

Then start on some serious triage: The art of good writing is cutting everything that does not contribute. It’s also the art of good resumes.

Weed, Cut, Hack

Cut everything that doesn’t relate to your profession: high school (it’s generally assumed), all extraneous courses, cook offs attended, any of the “don’t want to know”  points.  Leave out the silly ‘references available on request” line. Any employer knows that he can request references.

Remove as much of your introduction or summary as possible. Aim for maximum three lines (you could do four or five, if your resume were not already way overweight, but you need to slenderize it.) Better yet, remove it all. Use your cover letter to address the most important points (awards, community participation, etc) Cut anything that pertains to your performance (as opposed to your duties).  “ I excelled in keeping food cost low” should land on the cutting room floor. “Responsible for costing and pricing”, on the other hand, can stay. Cut all sentences where  you say your are good at something (I am a terrific communicator), your beliefs and anything that is not simple fact. The facts should suffice to get you where you want to go.

Edit Style

Edit the remaining entries to telegraph style, changing all sentences with “I” or “my” to terse lists. Your goal is the verbless, pronounless resume. Responsibilities:  All kitchen administration functions, menu creation and delivery, costing, pricing and customer interface.  Choose the four to five most important points.

Detail Triage: Keep  only the important awards, media, events, etc.

Select and cut lists of awards, participation, etc to show only the most meaningful:  Some awards received: “James Beard, 2001 / The Golden Fritter, 2001, 2002, 2003 / George’s received Michelin 3* 2001-2005.” If you have a couple of good ones, leave the also-rans for an off hand comment at the interview. (“Well, of course, there were others…”)

Do the same with press coverage: Press coverage includes Good Morning America, Gourmet Magazine, New York Eater. Copies available.

If your job duties are repetitive (for instance, if you worked at seven different Hyatt locations), you don’t need to describe everything you did in every job. The last five years should suffice.   Even better, if you were with one company, list it only once with  your current position and a note you were promoted from chef de partie or roundsman  “with all attendant duties” through the ranks to Executive chef.  You can work this with various locations, but do keep any statements about exceptionally rated properties or unique positions and responsibilities.

Format down:

Keep all fonts to 12pt or below, but not too small to read.

Restructure all bullet lists to short, run-on paragraphs, also in telegraph style. You need some white space (to make the resume readable) but use the Paragraph function of Word (Mac has a similar function) to alter the space between lines and paragraphs.

Change your header to put your name, phone number and email on the right side, your address on the left.

Pictures are never good. If you’ve got them in your resume, ditch them. (Side Note: they are required on CV’s, which have their own rules.)

Combine and condense.

Your most recent ten years should be clearly stated and described, but earlier employment, unless it is for some reason important, can be just the name and location of the property, your position and date of employment.  You can resort to a combined paragraphs for non-management postions, something like:

1991-2001 Worked all positions from dishwasher to lead line cook in Chez John (fine dining – Atlanta, GA), The Old Oak House (Steak Restaurant, Cleveland, OH), the Green Roofed Inn (Relais Chateaux, Burk Burnette, TX)……….  Slip in points like volume, ratings, or a well-known mentor as necessary. Try not to leave this out. (Read about the importance of provenance.)

Save even more space.

1991 – 2001 Employed at a number of restaurants from fast food to white table cloth in all non management positions.

Take stages out of your job history and add them to education.  A short paragraph is more effective than a long bullet list.  If you are more seasoned, they stages may be superfluous.

Don’t list consultancies, if they were simultaneous with full time employment. Save them for the interview or add just one line like: “Consultancies: During the past years I have consulted to both high end and QSR properties including the Black Cow, Moonraker’s Dream and Chez George.” Don’t include moonlighting or extraneous catering.

In principle, you should state all the jobs you have had. If you don’t ,  you can be sure someone will say, “She worked at Benoit. I am positive.  What? It’s not on her resume. There must be a reason?”  In practice, however, there is an understanding that stays under three months are pretty much trial events, so if they don’t leave you with a gaping hole (Which you should not fill by stretching other positions), just leave them out.

Use your head:

What you are doing in editing your resume to a manageable size is essentially allocating space to the most important data. We can compare this to cleaning your desk or your station. Only the necessary matter can be allowed to stay on top. You can assume that the person who reads it has some  knowledge of the industry, so you can determine what  you can keep on the surface, and what you can omit. The better known a property, for instance, the less resume real estate you need to spend on it. A Grand Hyatt, a Ritz Carlton, Morton’s or Gramercy Tavern, for example, should be well enough known to anyone reading your resume, that you can spare words, while you will want to give some details for a country Inn or one off mountain resort.

The Resume is an introduction, not a production. You do not have to be exhaustive or even complete. The interview serves that purpose.

The focus of your resume (and your interview) should be what is important to the employer. It is not about  you. It’s about her or him.

Much of what clutters a resume can be put in a cover letter. Remember, though, that these are not always read. Like  the resume, your cover letter should be short and reserved for a few important points.

Even the best resume cannot cover up for a sporadic, unfocused career with two jobs a year.

Jul 212011

This chef resume just came in. I altered it (of course.) . This is nearly the entire resume. Let’s try a game: You  look at it and decide why it isn’t effective. Then scroll down



2000  to Present                       Multi Outlet property – USVI                                                             Sous Chef

Worked in Fine Dining, Quick Service, High Volume and Buffet restaurants throughout the Southern Comfort resort.

Created workloads to keep with budgeted hours.

Managed food costs to maximize profits and add value to menus.

Planned, implemented and executed a process for washing dishes for two high volume restaurants at an offsite location while the onsite dish room was completely rehabbed.

Assisted guests with special diets and allergies, an average of twenty per day.

Mentored several chef assistants to get to the Sous Chef level.

Upheld daily HACCP and sanitation standards to serve the safest possible food.

Held employees responsible for job performance and quality standards on a daily basis.

Developed the skills of the culinary team.

Upheld high standards of quality of the product being served.

Helped in keeping the moral up in the restaurant amongst co-workers.

Trained and educated students in the culinary field.

Regularly exceeded guests’ expectations.

Assisted with menu development and enhancement.

Had to make fast decisions in order to keep production moving smoothly.

Featured Big City Food and Wine Festival’s VIP reception 5 Years.

Featured “Master Chef” at the Food and Wine Festival  and performed cooking demonstrations for the guests

Taught the art of wine tasting to attendees at the “Physicians Congress” conference.

1995 to 2000                             National Chain / Family style                                                 Sous chef

Assisted executive chef with everyday operations.

Ordered seafood and produce.

Worked with employees’ schedules.

Developed culinary skills with new employees.

Helped in the opening of new stores in the area.

Kept food cost and labor down.

Kept kitchen operations flowing.

Covered for call-ins and no-shows.

Dealt with guest special requests, while dining at the restaurant.



Before you read the answer, what do you think about it? If you don’t see anything wrong, then you should read the rest carefully.

Answer: After forcing myself to read and pay attention to a massive lists of achievements, I still know very little about this candidate.

I already have a pretty good idea what a sous chef does in a multi outlet resort (think something like Sandals or a very large Club Med.) It helps to have five or even six points where he was most active, but even with that, I know absolutely nothing about this sous chef after I read the resume.

Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before. It bears repeating. I can’t know anything about a candidate until I know more about the places s/he has worked and what s/he did at each of them.  I constantly seek career trajectories – how someone developed themselves on their chef track, as does every employer worth his or her salt. This candidate isn’t sharing this, and most employers aren’t going to be interested enough to ask. It appears, in fact, that he has simply  pasted his job description into the resume. This is not going to work well for him.

Here’s what I would need to know: If  he helped develop the menu, did he do it for one unit serving hamburgers and fries or for three or four units or for a fine dining outlet?  He says he worked at fine dining, QSR and volume outlets but what were they? What kind of food did they serve? How long did he work in the various outlets..six months in qsr and three years in fine dining, or the other way around?  Did he help develop the menus in the QSR outlet or fine dining or both? It makes a difference.

About half of what is printed here is fluff..understandable, because he wants to fill out the page. He doesn’t need to. He has had a notably stable career for the past ten plus years. Listing the units where he has worked, furthermore, would give  him enough material, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with stating what you did in less than a page. Terseness (saying more with fewer words) is generally welcome.

I frankly would prefer a couple of short paragraphs, since the sheer mass of statements pushes my off button almost immediately. While my own off button is not important, that of my clientele is, and looking at a half page list of duties and qualities is pretty likely to put them into a coma as well. Remember,  you are writing to people who have become  used to Facebook and Twitter. They prefer their information in digestible amounts.

I don’t know how long he was sous chef here, and I don’t know what kind of sous chef he was. There are many.  Did he spend nine of the ten plus years  as pantry cook? Was he sous chef all the time. Was he as sous chef in full charge of a unit (chef de cusine) or was he constantly the second man in the hierarchy? Sometimes a sous chef is really a chef. Sometimes a sous chef is really a cook. I  have no idea what this title means on this resume.

Did he do banquets? (He doesn’t say so, but I wonder if being a sous chef at a resort for that long your could not do banquets?)

What about provenance? How did  he get to be a sous chef? Did he go through the training program at the chain or did he work elsewhere before he was hired there?

I don’t have anything for him right now, but he looks like a decent sort, and if a suitable position comes up, there’s a chance I will contact him. With more information I might be inclined to contact him sooner.

There are some good points  here, by the way, like the fact that  he is apparently either HAACP certified or knowledgeable, and he understands food sensitivities,  but they are buried in the mass of job description. He could either list these skills in a summary or at the end of the resume.

There are other, minor nit picks here – “Dealt with guest special requests, while dining at the restaurant” ..confuses a bit, but we are not looking for English teachers or journalists. Anyway, of course, he dealt with special requests. Everyone does.

Your resume is not evaluated on the list of things you did or want me to think you did. It is evaluated on the actual information it includes. This one includes too little.

Jul 152011

As opposed to trusting a resume writer or your English major roommate  to promote you.

When I get the worst resumes, I often ask the sender who wrote it. The answer is generally “My friend in PR”, or an expensive resume writer.

By the worst resumes I do not mean those with spelling errors or bad format.  Those are surmountable.  The worst resumes are those which don’t communicate what an employer needs to know in order to hire you. They are generally filled with fluff and hyperbole.  As Tom Lehr once said of Gilbert and Sullivan, “Lots of words and music signifying absolutely nothing”. The fact that they were not written by someone in the Food and Beverage Industry shows.

Employers in different industries expect different things from the application process. I would not hire a public relations director who sent a resume written with the rules of restaurant applications, for instance. A PR resume would probably require a fair amount of spin and word play, which is counter productive for a chef.  Attorneys and building contractors all have distinct manners of presenting themselves to employers. Only someone in the legal field or the culinary field really knows what counts on the respective job application.

Resume writers, who generally charge several hundred to a thousand dollars for a couple of hours of work, write resumes for all fields.  They see themselves ad advertisers or marketers, who use hyperbole to make the candidate sparkle, but they do not know the industry. One once told me, “We get our clients jobs they would never see without our polish.” I was dealing with a client at the time who had lost one of those jobs, because the promise outstripped the truth, and had asked him to have the resume corrected, as he had paid $500.  To my question, “But how many of those clients keep the jobs?” she replied, “I have no idea. That’s not my business.”  She also demanded another $200 to redo the botched job she had created.

Resume writers don’t necessarily mean ill, nor does your cousin Maybel or your neighbor with a nifty resume program. They feel they are making you look as good as possible – even beyond possible. It rarely works, though. They  just don’t know any better.  You, on the other hand, know what is important and what a person seeing you needs to know. You are in fact better than the pros at this. The subject of the resume is your career and your skills, and who knows that better than you do?

Fortunately, the Food and Beverage industry is, at least in this one aspect, a facts first business, which makes resume writing easy. The problem for many job seekers is that they have seen so many wordy, convoluted and just plain bad resumes, they think theirs have to be equally wordy, and they fear they don’t have the verbal competence.

Au contraire, mon Cher. It’s easy, as you see if you click on our own Easy Peasy resume guide.  All you  need in a resume is your contact information and this:  Where you worked from when to when, your title, what the restaurant was about  and what you did. Basta. (How’s that for pretentious..two foreign language clichés in one paragraph? I bet it didn’t impress you any more than a bunch of fancy talk on a resume.

If you suffer “Threshold Anxiety” – the reluctance to start anything that daunts you a bit, go ahead and do the Easy Peasy variety, just replacing the data in a template resume with your own. You will find it exceptionally easy and actually may enjoy it. It you neighbor still wants to help, let her do some formatting magic, but make sure she doesn’t add anything.  Then take her to dinner with the $500 you saved by writing it yourself.

Jul 082011

“I opened the restaurant”  Avoiding the I/me/myself resume.

Most chefs will, at some point in their career, have the opportunity of working in a new property. It’s exciting, educational and exhausting. From that point forward their resume will read something like: “I opened this prestigious 230 seat bistro.”

The same chef is likely to make statements such as:
“I lowered food cost/increased business by 50%.”
“I was awarded “Best Restaurant” recognition by the Miami Times.”

By now you should be noticing a pattern. What’s wrong with this picture?

For one thing the chef did not open the restaurant all by himself.   He was the executive chef or  sous chef or pastry chef prior to, during and following the opening, responsible for staffing, product sourcing, menu creation, costing and pricing and kitchen and systems set up, or whatever he was responsible for.  (“charged with” or “responsible for” plus details provides more valuable information than “opened restaurant”.)

Second, although you as chef are certainly the driving force behind lowering of food cost, you cannot do it alone, and you certainly cannot increase business without the work and cooperation of everyone in your kitchen and the dining room.

This is, admittedly, semantics. You’ve seen this on a hundred of resumes and see no reason yours should not be the 101st to take full credit for the team effort. I do.

Your resume not only provides dates and facts. It sends subtle signals, which every reader knows how to interpret. The Me Resume (I did, I achieved, I was awarded) raises the suspicion that the candidate is not a team player. We have all worked with the manager who asks us to meet a deadline or solve a problem, and then took credit for the entire process, and we don’t like her.  We would rather hire someone who shares the credit.  If I want a positive work environment in my kitchen, I look for someone who works with others. The Me resume doesn’t promise that.

Of course you need credit for what you have achieved, but here’s a tip. Share it.
“During the period I was employed  Josh’s Crab House was awarded the desirable three claw award.”
“Between 2006 and 2008 we were able to lower the food cost from 42% to 28%.”
“During this period successful cooperation of the dining room and kitchen staff effected a sales increase of 35%.”
“As sous chef pre opening and during the first three months was involved in all aspects the entire start up process and in bringing the restaurant to its current level of smooth operation.”
“Le Preserve was awarded “Best Pastry” recognition in 2001, 2002 and 2003.”

Statements like these not only tell people much more about what went on in the opening or improvement,  they show that you are a productive leader (your team while you were there was successful in resolving a problem or creating benefit for the restaurant), and that you are not going to fit the stereotype of ego chef so many owners and managers have come to dread. They indicate that you identify with the restaurant, and that reflects well on you. Anyone smart enough for you to want as an employer will know that the restaurant would not have received the award, improved profitability, been well reviewed or become more popular without truly competent, talented and dedicated people in both front and back management. No matter how you present it, you will be credited with the success.

By the way, if you were hired with the goal of effecting improvements, you should state that, too, followed by the statement of what was achieved.

Even if the managers reading your resume don’t notice the phrasing, they will not be put off by the constant use of “I”, which can raise a red flags.

On the other hand, if you were nominated for or named rising star chef , you and you alone get the title. You will probably get the best results by listing your personal awards and honors separately, especially if you have several.

Of course, your potential employers know that you and fifty other people all opened the restaurant, not just you, but it doesn’t hurt to show them that you know it, too.

Jun 302011

There are a number of pieces on what you need to put on  your resume on this site, like this one telling you not to indulge in bulleted self praise at the expense of substance.

Substance is the secret of a good career presentation (also called a resume, or CV in Europe). Experienced hiring authorities go straight for the marrow of the resume and overlook everything else, unless there is no marrow, which tends to irk or amuse them, depending on how silly it is.

When you write about each job, you need three main components: The name and location of the business, your title when you worked there, and the dates with months when you were employed. If  your locations are well known, these three statements might be enough. Usually, however, you will do well to use this space to inform the reader about the location and your role in its success. Notice I did not say what you achieved there or how well you did it.

Here is the rest of what interests recruiters and hiring authorities:

1)      A description of the property  like “300 seat casual dining location with high volume banquet business.” “Twelve seat restaurant”, “three meal restaurant in convention center”,  Private Club for Gated Community with fine dining restaurant, three meal restaurant and two other outlets. “ etc.  Is the restaurant a chain location or part of a larger corporate network, a high volume operation or intimate white table cloth  bistro? This means something to the person hiring.

2)      The nature of the food your produced. You can tack it on to the business description, if you want. Was it French, casual West Coast, Latvian Korean fusion or market driven sustainable with focus on ingredients and simple presentation? If you don’t know what you were cooking (and that is a problem) look at a review of the place. Someone does.

3)      Did you create, execute or manage (were you a kitchen manager or a creative chef.)

4)      Other descriptions of the meal or service. Is this mainly a prix fixe menu, or did you serve to go or have a to go counter, did you have a bar menu or a casual deck menu in summers.

5)      What you did (not what you achieved). Your responsibilities. Opening? Staffing? Expediting? Sourcing? Make a list before you write your resume. You can simply write these in a run on sentence (resume grammar is different from English 101) Responsible for: Staffing, menus, etc…

6)      Who you answered to or how many people you managed. Numerical details of the property: Answered directly to the Director of Food and beverage. In charge of staff of 40 / Worked in a team with the Dining room manager. Two cooks in kitchen. Oversaw several departments.

7)      Property ratings and achievements. Property awarded Michelin rating 2009, 2010 and 2011, voted best restaurant in Charleston by the Taddler, etc.

8)      Positive changes you AND your team members or staff achieved.  This is in the last place for a reason, and we will get to that someday.

9)      Other pertinent information: Were you responsible for more than one operation, or did you assist in the opening of one or more units while there. Did you also work as pastry chef for a period of time. Were you involved in a new project when you left?  Were you on the opening team of this property (I opened the property sounds a bit grandiose, don’t you think?). Did you restructure the staff or kitchen or were you  recruited to set up a new sourcing system (can go in your responsibilities), or did you participate in the redesign the kitchen. Have people you mentored there gone on to great positions?

Your final job description might look something like

St George Hotel, St George Carolina                                                                           4/00 – 5/03

Executive Chef

300 Room Luxury Resort with two fine dining restaurants, one Southern contemporary and one seafood and steak, banquets to five hundred and outdoor events to 1000. Included room service and three further outlets.Annual volume $14 million.

Responsible for opening and staffing hotel, final cost controls, all accounting for kitchen resources including energy, product and space. Directly responsible for Southern Fine Dining menu and for approval and adjust ment of seafood menu. Oversaw management staff of 12 and kitchen staff of 70 including pastry and bakery departments, banquet, outlets and coffee shop.

The St George Hotel was awarded the Culinary Review’s “best of the South” nomination every year of my tenure. Two of our sous chefs were nominated Rising Star chef and our pastry chef was proclaimed best in South Carolina by Good Morning USA.

This substantial approach to job description will gain  you a lot more traction than comments like “I was able to lower the food cost by 40%, increase business by 200% and achieve a stable staff where none existed. Again, later for the logic, but right now, tell people where you were and what you did.

Here is the point: You are not describing you. You are describing your career history.

Obviously you don’t put all of this in every job.  Later positions, for one thing, require less detail. Equally important is what you do not put in: How good you were,  how well you did your job, what praise you received. When you write a resume, it is not about you. (surprised?) It is really about the places you have worked, people you have worked with and who you will work for. If your substance is not sufficient, they won’t give you a chance to tell them about you. Keep that in mind when you write.