Oct 262012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 112011

Why recruiters turn down candidates:

Recruiters know which candidates they can work with and which they cannot.  Some will tell you directly, “We do not believe we can work with you,” while others will silently put your resume aside. If you submit your resume to a recruiter and do not hear back, it does not necessarily mean that they don’t like your background. You will only hear from most recruiters if they are truly interested in your profile for a current or potential position. A few will also have the courtesy to inform you that they will not be able to work with your profile.

You need to  understand a few things about what recruiters do:  Their time is limited, so they need to budget it and work towards the most likely positive outcomes. They are not advocates for candidates,  unless they firmly believe that the candidate is in their client’s best interest, and most have extensive experience in dealing with a myriad of backgrounds, so they know what won’t work for them. They are success oriented (the thrill of finding making the right match outweighs financial considerations for many), and they are risk averse.

A good recruiter knows that if he presents or insists on a “hard to sell” candidate, the chances of success are highly reduced, and he may find his reputation damaged or be put in a situation requiring him to drop everything to replace a poor  hire. He will not go out on a limb for candidates he does not know, if he feels their background is not optimal for his clients.

That a recruiter rejects you does not mean you will not find a position. Either you are not suited for their niche, or you are not a good candidate for a recruiter.

So what do you do, if you are turned down?

1) Go solo.

Any new hire for a business is a risk. If your background contains several risk factors such as a longer period out of the industry, a number of recent short period jobs, or more than two or three years of ownership,  an employer probably will not want to pay a fee for you.  The candidate they are willing to pay a fee for must be risk free. They may, however, be willing to take a risk without the fee. A recruiter may, thus, be as bad a choice for you, as you may be a poor choice for him.

2) Go local.

As national and international recruiters, we seek fairly sure bets in our candidates. If  we know someone personally and know his or her reputation, risk factors are easier to assess – you are not a pig in a poke. Local recruiters will who know your market will have an easier time figuring out where they can direct your information and where they should not. If the candidate is in another location, however,  and has a spotty background in unfamiliar locations,  then we haven’t got the time and resources to go on an advocacy campaign.  A more local recruiter will know the properties, possibly the back stories of your failures and successes. His risk is thus lower, and he is more likely to welcome  you in his stable of talent.

3) Pull in your chits.

If you are approaching recruiters, you should have been in the industry for at least five years.  Whether you have had your own property, been involved in failing restaurants or have other issues which show on your background, you should have made friends and contacts.  That includes your old purveyors, your sous chefs, management you have worked with and colleagues from other properties.  Now is the time to pull in your chits and reach out for favors.  Search on Linked in or Facebook if you can’t find them. You can of course email, but you should really pick up the phone.

4) Slip into the compound.

If you have been out of the industry or owned a consultancy firm, you need to find a crack in the wall to get back in.  Career availability is much greater from inside the industry than from outside.  Even in a subordinate position you hear the inside news and speak with people who visit several kitchens a day.

Try to meet people face to face. It is much more effective.

While you are looking go temp. Let past colleagues know that you are available for job shifts of someone does not show up or they have a sudden emergency. This, too, will get you inside the compound.

5) Stabilize your career before relocating.

This is no time to pack up and move house on good hopes alone. There are no rules in the culinary career world, but one of the non-existent rules is that it is better to stabilize a career locally then use that stability to move relocate with caution and rational decisions.

Apr 152011

The longer I recruit in restaurants, the clearer it gets that a large number of people seeking restaurant work do not understand the process well. We, the recruiters in the field, are perhaps the most mystifying part of the system.

The idea that recruiting is easy is only one of the abounding misconceptions regarding what a recruiter is and what a recruiter does. “How it works”, as the common terminology goes.

We, all of us, get ample proof in emails showing that the job seeking public misunderstands our position in the culinary galaxy. Here are a few points you should know.

1)      Recruiting has become a more or less legitimate field, notwithstanding a continuing number of rogue individuals practicing. On the whole you can expect professional behavior from recruiters.

2)      The Recruiter’s first loyalty is to his client, not the candidate. He is not your advocate or agent. The restaurant pays the fee and gets most of the recruiter’s time for that.

3)     The recruiter is a conduit for his or her client. He or she carries out their instructions and adhere to their laundry list of desires and requirements. He will almost never submit a candidate not matching them..

4)      Discretion is or should be a given for all parties. The recruiter does not reveal conversations with your employer to you or vice versa. He is a two way fire wall. Since, however, there are still a few rogues and scoundrels among us, it is always wise to state clearly  in your  submission that you except discretion and your search should confidential, with your permission to submit your data to any position.

5)      Recruiters prefer candidates from sources of trust. They know, however, who is where and what to expect from the places candidates show on their resumes. They will respond first to candidates who fit their current or frequent search profiles, and those who have background they feel will be in demand. Other candidates are generally kept on file and contacted as appropriate.

6)      Most have been around the block a few times.  They are not stupid.  They can tell bad excuses and don’t want to hear any excuses at all.  Even if you think you are sweet talking them, they are jotting down facts in the back of their heads. Recruiters are not obliged to keep abuse of their services confidential.

7)      Recruiters practice due diligence and get references using a variety of tools and their own connections. In signing with a recruiter you tacitly agree to this. (It is on our web site.)  References should follow candidate contact.

8) Once you work with a recruiter you represent them as well as yourself, and your behavior reflects on them. Since they may be in charge of the search for the next place you work, it  is unwise to behave badly.

9)      There is a difference  between Recruiters and Head Hunters. Head Hunters want to churn as many candidates as possible and are bottom line oriented. Recruiters value their long term reputations and subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath: Before all, do no harm. Calling a recruiter a “headhunter” is akin to calling your attorney a “scheister”. Some younger recruiters find the term very cool. It’s about as cool as the term “cool”.

10)      Unless you have specifically requested it, a recruiter should not broadcast your information or send it out without your knowledge and permission.(that’s what a headhunter does.) If you ever have any questions about this, make it clear to any recruiter that you must be informed before submission.

11)      Recruiters cannot always give you details about positions. If you believe you have been submitted previously to a job, you can point it out. Otherwise you should never discuss one recruiter with another.

13)    An ethical recruiter will not, on receiving your information, inform your employer that you are seeking a new position and ask to fill yours, but it has happened. It is also actionable (you have a fair chance of receiving damages through the courts if one does and you lose your job.)  A recruiter should  not discuss your search with any other candidate.

14)   You pay nothing to a recruiter. In the United States you do not pay to get a job. Some domestic and apparently some temporary firms charge a subscription fee, which they use to check your background. It should be less than $100.  If there is a cost, you will sign a numbered contract stating your rights. Offering you a job and asking for the fee is illegal and also cause for litigation, if it puts you between jobs. In this case you can simply refuse to pay or call your District Attorney’s office.

15) Recruiters usually require a certain amount of expertise and seasoning from their candidates.  If you  have not profiled yourself in the industry, you may do better without a recruiter. While you are still a line cook or a pastry assistant, for instance, you are most likely your own best advocate.

Look for more information on recruiters, what you can and should expect, what you should and should not do in future posts. A more complete discussion of the field and how it applies to you, the candidate can be found at the Chefs’ Professional Website.