Dec 252012
 

The ChefsProfessional site holds an extensive interviewing guide, which will be transferred to this blog at some future date. For an in depth discussion of interviewing you might visit it.   For  those with a shorter attention span, here are a few thoughts that should guide you through your interview.

1)      An interview is not an oral test, although you may be asked to show some knowledge. It is a meeting of two professionals to determine whether they will both benefit from their respective resources – knowledge and work for compensation and work environment.

2)      Regardless of the results of the interview, you will have the opportunity to meet another professional in the business and learn more. This pertains to both sides. The person sitting across you may be a future employer, or, if you do not work for her, a friend or colleague at a later time.

3)      The interviewer wants to assess your knowledge and level of professional conduct more than he wants to hear about your personal opinions  and feelings– unless these pertain to the business. Avoid the temptation to share too much.

4)      Be yourself.  If you can’t do something, say so.  You are free to respond more than yes or no to questions. A smart interviewer is watching for you to “break out” – to expound on the question. A good interview is actually a discussion.

5)      The interviewer wants to like you. Really. It’s not an ambush. If it is, you don’t want to work there.

6)      Tell the truth. Own to your shortcomings and mistakes (we all have them). Never profess confidence in something you are not confident about.  Nobody expects perfection, or, if they do, you probably won’t be happy working for them.  (See nr. 5)

7)      Don’t smack talk anyone. Nobody! Let go of your anger before you enter the interview room. Whatever happened at the last job, no matter how miserable, has ended or is about to end. If you worked for evil people, they are no longer your problem.  Period.

9)      When I get nervous I tend to prattle on. It’s not a winning strategy. If you hear yourself nattering stop for a moment, take a breath and ask the interviewer a question.  It will pull you out of the cycle.

10)   As mentioned before, an interview is an exchange. If you have a question or find something the interviewer says interesting, ask.  Nobody will hold it against  you. Don’t apologize for asking. It is expected.

11)   Leave money talk until last. Salary budgeting can change during the hiring process. The first thing you have to decide is whether you and the employer (or you and the employee) can make beautiful music together.  If you both think so, then you determine if you can afford each other. If you can’t, you can’t.

12)   Spend more time talking about what you do or have done than about  who you are. Do not try to sell yourself as if you were a used car. It is a turnoff.

13)   Do not hesitate to laugh and smile. Remember, you are two people spending an hour in a professional exchange. Humor is allowed. It’s OK to enjoy yourself.

14)   If you feel that something incorrect or uncomfortable is being said or requested, you can stand up and politely end the interview with a thank you.

15)   Always say “Thank you”. A note are short email never  hurts.

16)   The interviewer should always ask, “Is there something else you want me to know?” If s/he does not and you believe there is, just say so at the end  of the session.

17) Inform yourself about the employer before the interview.  It’s easier than it ever was to get menus, user reviews, magazine articles on line. If the restaurant is local, eating there is a good investment (and fully tax deductible as a job search expense, if you accept the position).

17)   Taking notes is always smart.

The following are “DUH” instructions, things that should be a given. You would be surprised how often they are not:

18)   When interviewing one should always show courtesy and consideration – this means not cancelling an interview at the last minute, arriving about a quarter of an hour early, dressing appropriately. Not showing up for an  interview is not only unthinkable rude, it is stupid. We all talk to each other, and that gets around.  Keep a good calendar (Outlook, Gmail, or a notepad) to make sure you don’t forget .

19)   Wear appropriate, clean and pressed clothing for the job you are interviewing for (that could be anything from jeans to a suit, depending on the position) be clean and don’t smell bad. If you smoke, wash  your hands. Perfume and aftershave are inappropriate for the food industry.  Take your hat off and do not chew gum. (The scent of kitchen prep is, on the other hand, absolutely acceptable)

20)   Be  dressed so that you could slip into a white coat and step straight into the job for which you are applying . That means no dangling jewelry for the kitchen (men and women), flat shoes and trimmed nails.  For FoH wear what you would expect to wear at work, as long as it’s not got a bunny tail.

21)   Brush. Floss. Rinse. Do not eat garlic before an interview.

22)   Sit upright, look the interviewer in the eye and try not to fidget. (This should also be more obvious than it is.) Turn your cell phone off before  you enter the interview.

And this:

Prepare for your interview. Jotting down a few questions, the things you really want to say and ask beforehand, will make it easier for you not to forget them in the heat of the moment. It is allowed to bring and to take notes. You should also bring a resume. They will probably have one, but take one anyway. You can bring a limited amount of show and tell with you – it can make an interview more interesting – pictures of your food, menus, documents. Consider putting them and your resume on a thumb drive or making them available on an Ipad if you have one.

 

 

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.”

Aug 162011
 

One of the most distressing events in my business world is the failure of what I am sure is a perfect chef/restaurant pairing because of a misunderstanding between the parties. In theory it is my duty to navigate the choppy waters between resume submission and hire, but as the saying goes, “There is no foolproof system, as fools are so ingenious.”

Dougie just called and sent an email about the great candidate I had proudly sent his way. “He’s really angry,” says Dougie. “Who else do you know.”  The young  chef is cut to order for the restaurant: On the cusp of success as a chef, seven years as sous chef in some very fine properties where he was highly regarded, followed by a couple of years in two appropriate locations, where he got his “chops”.  Talented, knowledgeable and hardworking but still flexible. And mad as Hell. Unfortunately he seems to have taken it out on Dougie. No match.  DRAT!!

YoungChef has a right to be angry. His last position essentially abused him through lack of honesty (that never happens in this industry, does it?) and lack of professionalism, and his current location promising to be the next French Laundry decided it wanted to be a cafeteria within a month of hiring him. You can’t blame the guy, but he’s doing himself no favors.

So what’s the problem?  “Mad as Hell” comes through in an interview.

 I understand resentment, I really do, being a minor principessa of the  Kingdom of Grudge at times. Nothing is as hard to deal with as betrayal, and if you are cursed with the heart-on-your-sleeve gene,  keeping it to yourself is a daunting challenge, but it’s also a necessary skill. Being furious – justifiably or not – can deep six a job and a career.  An interview is a professional exchange in which emotions can be extremely damaging. You need to deal with your emotions before you go into a phone conversation with your next possible employer. How?

 You can tackle your resentment by  gaining some perspective on what you have experienced.

No matter how evil or sleazy or just unpleasant your past employers have been,  and how exasperating failure to achieve the success your expected in a job setting, there are always ways to see it in a mature and rational light, and you need to find them. A couple of suggestions:

1)      Realize that there is a difference between guilt and cause. Sometimes things don’t work out, and even if it feels better to blame personalities, it’s counterproductive.  Look for reasons instead.

2)      Understand that you may have contributed to the lack of success. There are lots of ways – expectations too high, not listening clearly to what the employer said in the interview, a little arrogance, etc etc etc. Taking responsibility for these things is not the same as blaming yourself.

3)      Accept the unfortunate truth that there is as much sleaze factor in this and in any other industry and console yourself with the fact that you can leave the bad actors (if that is the case),  they are not family or in-laws, and you don’t have to see them every Thanksgiving.

4)      Consider the possibility, if you feel your employer lied to you, that he or she probably believed every word said – the best restaurant, absolute support from the staff, etc – and is as horrified as you are that their own dream is foundering.

5)      Be a realist. The recent recession has torpedoed many  high aspirations.  A lot of well meaning attempts had to be rerouted for some businesses to be able to survive at all.

6)      Get over yourself. Look forward, not backward. You are getting out of the bad situation. Don’t project your frustration on the stranger interviewing you.

7)      You learned a lot working in a negative environment – you now know better questions to ask about your next job.   You have had the opportunity to compare methods and discard those you found impossible. That’s called growth.

8)      Remember that for all the anger and pain a poor job relationship or even deceit may have caused, the job paid your rent and groceries for a time. You had an exchange – labor and knowledge for money.  It worked. It was, in the end, just a job and not a good one, but you had a roof over your head and a kitchen or dining room to play in.  You don’t always hit the sweet spot, but you had a job.

 The other component of getting your anger out of your job search is working on your  presentation.  You need to speak to the person you want to work for calmly and positively, to avoid any manner of projecting your pain and your anger on someone who will otherwise not employ you.

 Preparing what you will say helps. I am not a fan of rehearsed interviews, but where emotion is part of the mix, it is important t work out a “schpiel” and get it down pat. Run it by your roommate or your cockatoo a few times to be sure you don’t falter or turn red and purple with rage as you do.

If you are asked why you left your last jobs, don’t vent.  Most of the time something like “It simply did not work out,” or, “It was a poor fit,” is enough. If  pressed for details, revert to the cause- before-blame strategy  and provide the reduced version, as in:

“In the end we discovered that our philosophies are fairly incompatible,”  covers a lot of ground. If asked, go into dry detail: The restaurant was financially challenged from the beginning and I was extremely uncomfortable in compromising the quality of the food we served past a certain point. He simply needed a chef with a different attitude.

“There was an issue with the existing staff, which I was unable to resolve, as I was given no authority to discipline them.”

 And take a piece of the old southern “bless her heart” trick.  “Georgia is a slattern, slime sucking bottom dweller of a man eater and family breaker with the soul of a Tasmanian devil and the mind of a newt, bless her heart,” seems to pass for polite conversation and sincere concern in some parts of the country.  “ They were unable to finance the level of competent staff for their aspirations. It’s such a pity with a restaurant of such great potential,” (= “bless her heart”)  should function  on about the same level. “Too bad. They have a terrific idea,” should do equally well.  “They mean so well,”…is often enough.

This is not hypocrisy; it’s maturity.  The truth doesn’t require complete revelation, but providing appropriate information rationally and honestly.  There are some things your future employer doesn’t need to know. An interview or pre-interview is not anger therapy. Keep your ire to yourself, smile to make your voice sound friendly, and remember that “Discretion is the better part of Valor.”

Your comments, criticism, tips and shared experiences as well as your tips are welcomed.

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.