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 272012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chefs Professional Agency: The philosophy behind a good resume:

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

More on resumes from this site:

 

Mar 132012
 

Imagine you are at a party—-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 212012
 

Following myu own advice, that the human attention span is short, I divided the collection of observations  acquired during over a quarter century of watching people shoot themselves in the foot into shorter lists . Here the second installment. They are in no  particular order.

1)   Keep your ego on a short leash, at least in an interview.  Be wary of compliments and suggestions that you are the only one who can fix a properties issues or bring back flagging numbers. That’s probably exactly what they told the last guy.

2)   New Job: Hold your own while showing respect for the existing culture. (Walk softly and carry a big stick). Get to know the culture before turning it on its head.

3)  Trust your instincts.  If you think someone is out to get you, they probably are. If you experience subversion causing staff unrest, consider the soothing effects of a public hanging.

4)   Follow policy. Really. If you can’t deal with the policy, don’t take the job. Management has a reason for policy, and they won’t let you be you, very possibly because that puts their own jobs in jeopardy.  Read the employee handbook and apply it. As you get to know the place better you may be able alter policies and write your own.  People who ignore policy get fired.

5)   Focus your career, and hold a logical career path. Find good places and stay there. Diversity and assortment are good on a buffet table. Less on a resume. Keep your career focused and follow something like a logical path.  Employers (should) always look for a history of  logical progression rather than two bursts of glory in jumble of jobs.

6) Don’t let staff issues slide. If someone is not performing now, they will not perform in five months. Document it and deal with it.

7) Document everything pertaining to running the kitchen and keep a copy for yourself. The chance that you may need it someday is too great for you not to.

8)   If you want a great career, choose opportunity and quality over geography, unless the geography leads to opportunities in quality restaurants.

9)   Marry someone who not only excites you but understands the demands of your career. Chefs are glamorous,  until partners find out that they can’t go out and celebrate with the crowd or babysit in the evening. People with nine to five jobs somehow think their partners can be celebrated chefs and be home for dinner at the same time. Even if they say they get it, they probably don’t.

10)   You can’t have it all. If you want to work five star,  you can’t have nights off.   Decide what’s important and realize that you will probably not be able to change your career trajectory once it is set. The best training spots often pay less for starting positions.

Unfortunately there are many more.  In the meantime, there isn’t a man/woman/person Jack among you, who doesn’t have his/her/their own observations. Please do share. The comment link is below.

 

Feb 102012
 

I have been doing what I do, Food and Beverage Recruiting, for over 25 years. The business has been around for over 50 – I ceased counting at the half century mark – so from my perspective in the nosebleed seats of the great chef/manager game, I’ve picked up a few tips. Some people have gone as far as to call them wisdom, but in fact, they are just road dirt, like the mud that sticks to your fenders when you do a lot of cross country driving.

I get a lot of resumes. Most of them aren’t good. Too many of them are simply bad. The tips and the outtakes on this site are inspired by the bad ones. A number of them are heart rendering – the European trained chef who worked in some of the finest restaurants and somehow got himself recruited to Buckbutt Arkansas or the chef who worked his way through culinary school with two jobs, worked his way up with focus, then took a dream job at a restaurant which closed three weeks after they hired him.

Reading  the stories of the heroes, the solid professionals, the creeps and the unfortunates  has given me a lot of rules. I’ve written them before, but perhaps it’s time to move them here, little by little. Here a few in no particular order:

1)      Always consider the demographics of an area before accepting a job in a new location.

2)      Never try to talk yourself into or out of a job. Look at any reasonable position and weigh the advantages, possibilities, challenges and negatives objectively before making a decision.

3)      It’s not about you. It’s never about you, and don’t let the people you are working with tell you otherwise. It’s about the food, the state of the walk-in, the staff and the property.  Your talent, character and knowledge may be the deciding factor, but keep your perspective.

4)      Be excited about food, technique, people in the industry  and the people who follow it. Inspire yourself with travel, dining and reading. Without excitement chefs turn into kitchen managers.

5)      Until you own the kitchen – literally or figuratively – it is not your food (“my cuisine”). It’s my cuisine, as I am paying for it, and it’s the owner’s cuisine.  Your dishes are another matter.

6)      The great chefs have asked themselves along their paths, “what did I do right? What did I do wrong? What could I do better.?” Honest self-assessment is the basis of a great career.

7)      People who shout get fired. Gordon Ramsay gets away with it because a) it’s part of his act, b) he used to be a soccer star and c) he is married to a Spice Girl and has oodles of money independently of the restaurant industry. Until you have that together, shouting will only cause you to lose face and make the staff think less of you. Actually it doesn’t make Ramsay look good either.

8)      Never drink at your own bar. Regardless of the truth you are handing some Machiavellian creep a silver bullet. Once the word gets out that the chef/manager gets drunk at the bar, it’s nearly impossible to refute it. Drink next door or down the street.

9)      Distance is golden. You subordinates are not your friends, unless they were our friends before they were your subordinates. At least not at first. Give everyone you work with a great deal of respect and affection, if necessary, but keep some distance. The most common mistake made by first time chefs is not understanding that they were no longer playing with the other kids in the sandbox. Your primary loyalty shifts from your colleagues to your employer the moment you take a promotion.

10)   Changing things too fast in a new job is risky. Even when the management wants a drastic change, it’s a good idea to give it a couple of weeks while you assess the dining room traffic and the staff skills.

That’s just 10..stay tuned for more.   Please feel free to add your own road dirt to the collection. Our current security question is an arithmetic problem.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Oct 072011
 

Depending on the job coming up, you will be asked to do a tasting.  The tasting may be Market Basket, a creative tasting which you can partially prepare, or simply a run through of some of the property’s signature dishes.

Generally tastings show a few but not all important aspects of a chef’s abilities: Sense of flavor, work habits, quality of food and timing, and to some extent how the candidate deals with people. As snapshots rather than extensive exposes of a chef’s talent, they are limited.

We have seen a lot of candidates who are very well suited for positions fail to get them on the basis of the tasting. The following rules should help you to do well in yours:

1)      Determine what the employer is looking for. This is the most important rule.  Be sure you know what the company wants and expects. Listen very carefully. If they stress local ingredients, or French style or comfort food, they mean it.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Take notes. If you have a question before the tasting, write an email.

2)      You should never miss a tasting. Rescheduling is permitted only in the case of death or influenza. Plan an entire day for local tastings. If you need to travel to it, expect to get there the night before. Never stand a business up for a tasting, especially if they have already secured ingredients. There are too few bridges in the restaurant community to burn them with extreme rudeness. (Not showing up for a tasting is unforgivable.)

3)      Know the parameters of the exercise: Are you to create the menu, will it be their menu, what should you prepare or bring? For how many will you be preparing? How many items do they want? What is the timing?

4)      Stay within your comfort zone. Prepare items you know.  A tasting is no time to challenge yourself.  Choose items you can create easily and have often prepared.  Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, never do anything new in a tasting. Avoid last minute changes.

5)      Be painfully aware not only of taste but of presentation.

6)      If possible, do a run through of the tasting at home.

7)      It is policy to take your own coat and knives.  Avoid items which require special utensils or hard to find ingredients. Be sure that the kitchen has those basic utensils you will need.

8)      Be respectful to everyone in the kitchen. You are being watched. It is not unusual for employers to ask employees what they thought of a try out chef. You are a guest in their kitchen.

9)      Stay calm and stay neat.  Work cleanly and professionally. Do not expect anyone to follow you with a rag.

10)   If possible, check out the space in advance. Arrive early to set up correctly.

11)   Relax.

12)   Go into the dining room when the tasting is finished, unless they come to you or you are asked not to.  Treat the employers as guests. Ask what they thought of the meal. If there were any issues, tell them.  Explain and discuss the dishes you created and prepared.

13)   Clean up after yourself. Thank the staff you worked with. Thank the potential employers. Even if you think things went poorly, smile. Shake hands if hands are offered.

14)   If you are offered an alcoholic drink at any time during the process, decline it politely. Do not have a drink at the bar afterwards.

15)   It never hurts to send a  “Thank you” email.

Oct 012011
 

I just got off the phone with a potential client, who provided an extremely insightful  view of the value of background checks. That is, the on-line or professional services which provide information on DUI’s, criminal records, credit checks and the like.

“The background check,” she stated, “is essentially an integrity check. If someone has a single DUI or has defaulted on a loan, which can happen in these times and this industry, and he tells me, I can be fairly comfortable with him as a candidate. If he hides it, that’s a different matter.”

In other words, it is more important to this company that their employees be honest than that they be perfect.

Honesty is a highly effective job search strategy.

Job seekers with flies in their professional ointment generally try to cover them up, leading interview conversation away from unfortunate incidents and stretching dates to cover periods of unemployment, or inventing stories and excuses.

This is a mistake because:

  • Most people who hire often can recognize cover ups
  • Incidents covered up in the interview process which surface later can be grounds for immediate termination.
  • Not all employers see incidents as an impediment to hiring.

In my opinion and experience the best way to deal with the flies in job history ointment is to bring them up as early in the process as possible, so that the positives which follow receive more attention and remain in the memory of the interviewers. People tend to weigh what they hear at the end of an interview more heavily than what they hear at the beginning.

At the very least, it is wise to be open if you are asked at the end of an interview if there is anything else you need to share.  You want employers to hear these things from you rather than from anyone else.

Avoid excuses.  You can explain facts surrounding employment impediments, but you should never try to blame  someone else for your situation.

The same logic applies to your professional weaknesses. Nobody can do everything perfectly. The last candidate I would want to hire is someone who thinks he can. Good self assessment is high on my list of interview positives.  It allows me as a recruiter to direct candidates towards positions where they have a high probability of success, and it allows employers to know what to expect in a new hire and to determine what additional training or support to offer.

Employers, once they have identified a candidate with a work history they like, are quite likely to forgive weaknesses, or even welcome them. To quote one, “Great, then she hasn’t learned any bad habits. We can teach her our way.”

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.