Apr 292015

The world is changing and the preponderance of people who get where they are by blowing their own horn rather than by working in places which demand quality is changing the expectations of hiring authorities.
I see ever more chefs whose resumes were reworked by a well meaning family member or friend in marketing or tech HR to make their qualifications pop out. The resumes are brash, over worked and for most food businesses less effective. Here’s why:

People in the tech industries are cogs in huge, generally somewhat homogenous wheel sets which use algorithms to presort possible hires. Restaurants and even hotels are more manageable, and their needs are more specific and unique to each property. While everyone is looking for stars, restaurants, ad firms, construction companies, restaurants are also looking for human beings – team players, creative minds, organizational talents – each weighed differently for the individual restaurants.

In the Food and Beverage world, unlike in the tech or real estate or retail world – there is evidence of the quality and nature of what a candidate has done. You made food or controlled a dining room, and people saw it. A chef or sommelier leaves a trail an accountant cannot. Still Food and Beverage job seekers try to compete on the same level as the rest of the world – by telling the person receiving their resume how great they are, rather than letting their background speak for them.

One of my amusements is the highlights section of many resumes. It is an introduction and not a bad idea, if you don’t want to just put down a summary of what you do, but it is meant to be highlights. That would be a selection of what you have done, what is in your mind most important. Not an entire list.

This is what I mean:

too many highlights.

too many highlights.

This candidate happens to have a strong background and to have done everything on the list, but it won’t work for him. (If he were applying to IBM it might, as they use electric scanning, but for a restaurant such as he seeks it would not.)

A highlight list this long won’t work for the candidate because in addition to looking for people employers in this industry are people. Working under stress the have short attention spans (everyone has a short attention span these days), so they a) will not read a “highlight” list this long and b) will not retain it.

As usual less is more.

So what should Chef do here?

Chose the five most important things. No more.
Write a brief cover letter explaining that he carried out all of the front and back of house management and administration for a restaurant of whatever size or hotel, or whatever he worked at.

Make sure that the quality of his background shines in the description of each property where he worked. He will be fine.

Nov 082014

Ferran Adria and Tony Bourdaine each have a brand. So do you.

In case you haven’t heard yet, you have a brand. You began building it the first time you accepted a job in a kitchen and added to it every time you moved on.

Perhaps you accepted jobs in professional environments under demanding chefs who were not always kind but gave you a rigor which guarantees your next employers or investors the combination of focus and skill they need.

Or you began work in busy locations with high demands on organizational skills and strategies and continued to ascend the ladder of responsibility while you added management and crisis solutions to your tool chest.

Brands are individual. The more common word would be reputation, but you have a brand by the time you take your third or fourth job. If you are wise you have followed your best skill set to achieve and maintain your brand, most likely forgoing selling out early. Smart, I say, because you’re your brand is the cornerstone of your career, your satisfaction and your life including your success in the future.

Building and caring for your brand means giving thought to where you are going next before you have to go there and having the long view toward your final goal. It means making choices, sometimes difficult. At some time you will decide or it will be decided for you whether your brand is that of a detail oriented hotel chef or as a master of food for a small audience. If you are a grand manager and organizer but aspire to a cuisine that will put your name in lights, you need to realize that the two career directions are probably mutually exclusive. Choose one.

Some brands – bad boy chef or media monster – tend to come with karma or crafty planning, but there is always an element of fate in anyone’s career path. And, of course, there are undesirable brands such as the screamer or the coke head, but that’s  not really what we’re talking about here. We are talking about the reputation you want to project.

Most of the time your brand will not be a theme like Asian or Latino, but it can be, just as it can be comfort or modernist cuisine, although many people who begin in a tightly defined theme desire to expand at some time.

Maintaining your brand demands choices of location and title. If your goal is to be in fine dining and there are no chefs positions in the area where you want to be, then your concessions are going to have to include decisions to relocate to places where the positions you need for your profile are available, take a subordinate position where you want to be or lower your expectations.

I am opposed to the last option. I have seen too many chefs sacrifice their futures because they have a relationship requiring more free time, want to live where housing costs less, or value compensation and title over reputation. By the time we speak a few years later their chances of returning to the arena they originally chose are extremely limited. I find it a pity that some people give up something they have worked so long to develop. The industry is unforgiving.

In other words, keeping your profile and your future desirability not only requires choices but may require sacrifices. Life gets in the way of career, and I would be the last person to suggest that family – children, sick parents, just family in general – is less important than career. It’s not.

The good news, however, is that you only need about ten years to set your reputation in stone, then you can generally choose or open your own location. What you do during that period will, I promise pay off or exact payment. I am tempted to say It’s your choice, but the fact is that you have to make it your choice. Life is tough, but most of the time you can bend it to your desires.

Jun 182014

Less than a year after writing the report on the state of the restaurant job / labor pool balance I find that the trend in restaurant growth and labor pool decline continues. Fewer cooks and culinary professionals are being courted by more jobs. We have what in supply and demand terms would be termed a “sellers’ marker.”


1)      More restaurants  have opened in this year alone than opened during the recession,  and the trend continues. Not only are edgier restaurants opening in San Francisco but in the Midwest, the South and even in Florida. Washington DC has been celebrating it’s own culinary revolution.

2)      Hotels, which spent the recession and in some cases the previous years reducing their food service to a simple restaurant and catering are now adding fine dining restaurants in order to attract more guests, again diluting the labor pool while creating more culinary employment.

3)      Increases in chef owned restaurants continue. The recession motivated many young chefs on the way  up to stay in one place rather than move around, as was the trend prior to 2011. Job commitment always provides a more solid learning experience than frequent job change.  As they stayed in second positions fewer cooks moved up to the sous and chef de cuisine positions. The result: No additional chef jobs, dilution of the labor pool removal of some very talented support staff from existing restaurants.

5)       The cost of culinary school plus the spiraling cost of living in most of the culinary centers, especially San Francisco: Culinary school graduates from the last four years – those from 2011 would now be moving into junior sous chef positions – cannot afford to live on restaurant wages and seek employment elsewhere.

6)      More non production choices and media aspirations on the part of culinary schools. During a SF Chefs panel discussion last year four young women stated during the question session that they were about to graduate. Every chef on the panel requested to speak to them afterwards. When they spoke with the chefs, they all stated they were not interested in working in a kitchen. They wanted to be in the media, either as  food writers or on television.   The Art Institute is affiliated with the Food Channel, which attracts many of their students when they graduate. Other schools now teach media with their regular classes.

7)      Housing (primarily San Francisco). The once  steady stream of cooks and chefs from Chicago and New York is hardly a dribble, as the cost of  housing in the San Francisco area has skyrocketed.

8)      Silicon Valley: As more and more companies develop subsidized in house facilities for their employees, the number of qualified cooks and managers working in them increases. These positions, although they are generally not  high end learning experiences, can offer higher wages or salaries, better benefits and bankers’ hours with  holidays off. That giant sucking sound you  hear is probably Google or Apple, which have resources unavailable to independent restaurants and small groups.

9) Stricter INS immigration enforcement has removed undocumented talent from kitchens, and many documented personnel have chosen to cash in and return home. Fewer qualified and documented replacements are entering the country.

10) Gen Y appears to have a more demanding and less committed crop of ready restaurant staff. Like the little girl, when they are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad……


The results:

1)      Many restaurants continue to work understaffed.  Restaurants are raising the wages and salaries they pay, but flexibility limited by what they can reasonably charge for food as food prices rise,  wages for the back of the house usually lag behind earnings on the floor.

2)      There are more chef owned and managed restaurants, which do not offer chef jobs.  Some of these will expand in the next years, which will require more culinary management staff. Most of the very high end properties.

3)      Some restaurants are paying their cooks to convince their friends from other restaurants to come over and work.

4)      Salaries for chefs are on the one  hand raised by supply and demand, but the increases are sometimes limited by the increased wages of cooks. We have seen more generous six figure salaries in 2014.

What does this means to you:

1)      It is no longer perilous to change jobs.  New positions are risky, but if one does not work out, you will not  have to look months for another one. If you wish to relocate it is still wiser to inquire as to the local job market. Not all areas of the country have recovered to the same extent.

2)      You have the luxury of choice. If a job does not seem quite right, you can turn it down knowing that another will at some point come along. It is still, however, wise not to quit one position before obtaining another.

3)      The rules of engagement remain the same.  Calls in response to resumes sent should always be returned. Appointments must always be kept. Cards should always be played on the table Within the limits of discretion. If you have an offer from one restaurant and another asks you to try out, you should tell them.  The food and beverage industry remains small, and people talk.

4)      There is no more room for the testy chef. Cooking and qualified front staff are at a premium. If a chef alienates cooks,  s/he may find him/herself more expendable than the dishwashers.


Trends for the future:

We have had several consulting positions for very upscale and edgy quick serve recently, while restaurant trends report that the number of millennials eating out is declining. With the enormous number of new restaurants in the City, some booked for weeks but others struggling, there may be something like a restaurant correction  in the works accompanied by an increase in take out/ order in business models. (Which is an excellent reason to be courteous and responsive in interviews).
Proposed minimum wage hikes in many cities in California, where there is no tip credit, along with steeply rising food costs are going to force restaurateurs to tighten their belts and raise their prices. As there is a tipping point where higher prices cause guest loss, it seems highly probable that a number of both newer and older restaurants may not endure.

While this probably will not constitute a restaurant bubble, it could suggest a herd thinning.
The number of highest level and very expensive restaurants in San Francisco and elsewhere may have reached a limit. As the newly wealthy diners buy homes and have babies, the demographics for $200 plus tasting menus will decline.  As one chef said on taking a position in a new luxury Quick Serve Café roll out, “I have decided that dining is just another expensive habit.”
Labor – the ten cooks needed to prepare one dish in a tasting menu – is the new restaurant luxury. The expected rises in labor costs will test the sustainability of fine dining.

Fine dining vs casual: While I do not expect restaurants to return to the overplayed mac n’ cheese menus of the early millennium, I think it is a foregone conclusion that the majority of new restaurants will be looking at more approachable menus and pricing.

More and more restaurants are finding profit points in volume and will expect volume skills from any culinary management they hire.

With a lot of free cash flowing from  Silicon Valley there should be more chef owned restaurants opening (meaning again a tighter labor pool as those chefs are no longer available for employment and will further dilute the hourly staff available).

High end restaurants will continue to expand with more approachable concepts (again diluting the labor pool).

Disclaimer: I am not an economist. Your choices need to be  yours. The above insights derived from continuous observation and our own challenges is based mostly on San Francisco conditions, but supported by our interaction with chefs and owners around the country. It  is intended merely to provide some insights into factors that you can consider in your decision making.



Aug 012013

Stop me if you have read this before:  The first thing employers and recruiters look for in an applicant is quality. The second is stability. This is done with a quick scan of dates and locations. If the ratio of years  to jobs  is less than about 1.5 (That is, a new job every year or less) most of us will pass and go onto the next, even though that chef’s background is not nearly as exciting.

I just took a second look at a resume I passed over two months ago, knowing that  I could not present  his  background of short stints in great locations to any of my clients. Being a bit disappointed about it, I read further into the resume hoping for something that would make  him a viable candidate. This is what I read.

3/2010-3/2011   Sous Chef                         The Priory:
Award winning restaurant at the Winnepeg Resort and Spa. (and so on)
4/2011 – 3/2012 Chef de Cuisine            The Rectory:
Three meal restaurant at the Winnepeg Resort and Spa. (duties,etc)
4-/2012 – present Chef de Cuisine         Jacob’s Ladder
Michelin star dining room at the Winnepeg Resort and Spa. (and so on)

He has been in the same location for 3 ½ years – which I missed, as all I saw were about 11 jobs in the past decade.

I feel less bad about missing the details knowing that my clients would have missed it, too. I  have had to explain similar resumes to my clients too many times to believe they will be faster than I am on the pickup. In fact, I frequently make notes in their emails that kitchen a, b and c were either all on the coat tails of a mentor or all belonged to the same company, and I still have to explain it. That’ s my job, but my candidates would do themselves a great favor it they would stop expecting everyone to connect their resume dots;

The Point: If your background includes multiple properties under the same company, chef or group or within the same hotel or resort, make it very clear on your paper.

Here’s how:

3/2010 – Present Winnepeg Resort and Spa (Five Diamond Property)
Sous Chef : The Priory – Award winning restaurant.
Chef de Cuisine: The Rectory – Three Meal Restaurant
Chef de Cuisine: Jacob’s Ladder – Michelin star dining room

See? Same information, but presented so that the reader cannot possibly miss your remarkable tenure. With this three year stint, by the way, and your collection of ten top restaurants you become immediately irresistible to the job of your dreams. Really. You move from potentially explosive material (“gee..what’s wrong with this guy..he can’t stay anywhere more than a year”) to absolute catnip. Trust me. I know this stuff.

How easy was that?  This holds true whether you worked for five hotels in a management group,  half a dozen restaurants in a corporation or have moved around from unit to unit in a resort. A slight variation shows that you followed your mentor for five  years. (2009 – 2012  Worked under Chef Adam Fritzenphal at the following properties).  Add whatever details the next employer will want to know – who you worked under,  the nature of the product you served, your duties.

I have said before that it is in your best interest to consider everyone receiving  your resume either tired, stressed or even stupid and to kindly make your positive points crystal clear to them/us. Putting things clearly is your job. We don’t miss every beat, but you don’t want the beat we miss to be you.

Jul 122013

I recently placed a short job alert on LinkedIn, ending in the following instructions:

“IMPORTANT; Only legal US residents can be considered. Applications must be made via the web site. (Consider it a test on intelligence and ability to follow instructions)”

The response consisted almost entirely of invitations to “please contact me”, “please send information about your firm” (This, of course, would be on the web site), and “please view my profile”. Only one person sent me a resume.

This is almost standard practice. Paid ads on Craigslist explicitly requiring resumes and elsewhere explicitly requesting resume submissions through our contact page receive responses such as “I am a widely respected Chef. Please view my web page” or get my resume on line, or call me ASAP.”

I am a recruiter. I recruit chefs for my supper, a process not much different from recruiting lace tatters or attorneys, I imagine – a client calls me with a profile, which I try to fill from my current stock of professional acquaintances, while I also do a bit of outreach. My job is then to amass a group of likely candidates matching the employer’s laundry lists of preferences and needs, screen them for any number of qualities from career path to star power to palate to  to common sense and then provide those who seem most likely to the employer to be discussed further. Among the qualities I seek are attitude, intelligence and ability and willingness to follow instructions.

If I provide instructions on applying for the job and you don’t follow them, you will not be my candidate, because 1) You did not take the time to read the entire alert, so you are not detail oriented, 2) You are arrogant enough to feel that you are not under the same constraints as others seeking the position, 3) You are simply not very sharp and did not understand the instructions, 4) You think I am stupid and won’t notice that you are playing me or 5) You,  yourself, are stupid. None of these are mutually exclusive, by the way. It is quite possible to encompass all of these qualities at once. So why ever would I want to send someone like this to my clients?

While I have been taking advantage of applicants’ failure to comply with my requests, I now learn that many HR departments are using instruction compliance in a far more sophisticated manner.

They actively create  instructions to weed out candidates. Candidates are provide with several directives: Please use the job description and number as your subject line. Please include a short paragraph on  the reason for your interest in this job and why you feel it is appropriate for you / you are appropriate for it. Keep your sentence under five lines.

Anyone not focused or intelligent enough to follow instructions is automatically excluded from the consideration. The wheat is immediately separated from the chaff.

Instruction based weeding can be more complicated: Once an application is accepted for consideration a questionnaire may be sent. Again, if the applicant does not fill out the questionnaire or send it back in time, they are excluded.

The first goal is to see if the candidate takes the time to think about the position offered. Neither a recruiter nor an HR department likes to waste time on candidates who expect positions to fall from trees – asking for candidate input in return for a responsible position makes great sense. An invested candidate is always a better candidate. What the reduced pool of candidates write is then a valuable tool for further consideration.

In some cases the instructions are negative: Please do not send pictures. Please send your application only as a Word document or a PDF.  That too, is a test, whether intended or not.

What this means to you: If  instructions are presented with a job description, you must follow them. Read them carefully, so that you know what is required, then do it exactly as requested.. If not you will probably not make it to the main selection process.

 Good luck with  your career.






Jul 112013

(Scams 3.0,)

Working with Linkedin to locate candidates who fit my clients’ needs, I instead continue to encounter an ever more irritating series of scams coupled with a dispiriting revelation of the general level of intelligence around the world. Potential fraud victims respond to even the most obvious scheme with the internet job search equivalent of “Me! Me! Choose Me!”.  (Please View My Profile), occasionally providing email addresses, phone numbers and other personal information. (More of which they will happily offer when the con artist contacts them.)

The most recent example:

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE Looking for the following posts

TitleAll Bar ManagementButlerChairman/CEOChef de PartieChefs & CooksChefs – CommisChefs – Executive/HeadChefs – PastryChefs – SousConciergeChief EngineerConference/BanquetingDevelopment ManagerEAMExecutive Assistant/PAF & B ManagementFinanceGraduateGuest Relations OfficerGeneral ManagerHotel ManagementHousekeepingHuman ResourcesIT ManagerLeisure ManagementLeisure StaffNight ManagerOperations Manager/DirectorPorterReception/ConciergeRestaurant ManagerRevenue .

Either the Same or a fellow Con Artist has added a similar ad for Cunard Lines in the comment section.

These are scams. Cunard, Hyatt, Luxury Resorts, the Yacht London, Holland America lines and any number of other attractive employers do not post jobs as comments or in job seeker forums. Previous posts explain  how these scams work and describe one of the many potential consequences.

Of course you want the jobs, but the people offering them on free job posting sites do not have them to offer, and there are easier and  less dangerous ways of applying for them: Every major player has a web site with career submission postings. Even if these calls for staff were real, you would do better approaching the corporations directly, as a candidate without a fee attached is better than one who costs a company money. (I say this as a pretty good recruiter..there are times when you will do better without us.

So, go to the sites. Here are a few. You can usually find a career or job opportunity page with most major organizations:

Holland America


Hyatt International


The Yacht London, a frequent flyer on the scam circuit, does not have a page but there are a number of yacht recruiters in Britain.

When not to go to the web site:  If a recruiter contacts you with a specific position, you should let them work with you rather than going to the group web site. (When we rarely encounter this issue, we inform the potential employer, who would not want to hire a candidate who does this).

 Jobs as CEO’s and upper management positions will rarely be publicized, as these are done by very serious executive Search Firms under the radar. If they want you, they will research you (possibly on LinkedIn) and reach out directly. These positions can rarely be approached directly.

 Anytime you see an ad of the sort above, don’t send your resume or provide your number. Go directly to the site (another way to spot these frauds, by the way, is the revelation of the client. Recruiters rarely do this.)

Summary: If you encounter a bulk job posting (listing many jobs at once) on a free job posting site (Especially LinkedIn) using the name of a well known luxury company , it is probably fraud.  You should not send them any information or comment but instead go directly to the employer’s website to apply directly through their career page.

Have a nice career.

Jun 212013

It is hard to believe our last industry report  was in 2011, but with a continuing same old/same old depressing and depressed economy, there really didn’t seem to be much reason for it.

During the two years since the availability of space from failing restaurants and landlords willing to negotiate generous lease terms just to have some income has led to a lot of new restaurants, hotel occupancy has picked up, if not quite at the old height, and hotels have begun to open new restaurants with the aim of attracting food focused guests. This has brought a rising job market and a decreased labor pool. During the past two months the job market has turned upside down. Restaurants in New York, DC, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Chicago and San Diego are vying for qualified staff at all levels, with the most perceivable lack of staff at the lower positions.

The proof is a sudden demand for pastry chefs, the canaries in the coal mine, who were the first to be laid off in 2005 and are now in short supply for a rising demand. Employers who had to cut back (many hotels gave up pastry chefs altogether. Fewer employers allowed pastry assistants) once again see the value of pastry in a competitive environment for butts in seats. The assistants who would have grown into pastry chefs do not exist.

More new restaurants, existing restaurants hiring more staff, hotels shifting from survival mode to competition,  and a depleted pipeline due short staffed kitchens have  reversed the labor to job ratio.

The recent economy has, furthermore, shown smart cooks and chefs the value of stability and commitment as opposed to the risk of leaving safe jobs for new adventures. Fewer chefs are willing to move on.

The wealth created by the widening income gap has created more households of the size and income to require private chefs, removing considerable talent from the available professionals.

The rising cost of living in most culinary centers has created a disincentive for young chefs to circulate between them. Often the educational debt they carry from their training combined with the cost of changing location makes the migration of culinary talent impossible for many.

The result is a rising demand for skilled and experienced culinary talent. A request we sent out for a Michelin Star hotel on the San Francisco Peninsula willing to train any cooks to their standards found no takers in four weeks.

The greatest demand is for cooks and sous chefs, as is always the case. While the offered compensation is currently rising only slowly, we can expect to see considerably higher wages if job/labor pool imbalance continues.

Chefs are demanding and often receiving much higher compensation than that for which they would have settled two years ago. With multiple job offers for chefs on their way up (sous chefs and chefs de cuisine), young culinarians have bargaining power they did not enjoy just a short time ago.

Employers seem to be aware of the situation on the whole and ready to consider reasonable demands.

What does this mean for the job seeker?

–        Currently employed candidates are still more attractive than those between jobs.

–        The increased number of availabilities does not mean that every chef or sous chef will have multiple offers. Since each position requires a distinct skill set, the ideal combination may not appear for months or a year.

–        Changing positions is not as risky as it was a few months ago. If a new position does not work out, at least if you are in a culinary center, something else is more likely to come along in a reasonable period.

–        Increased need of talent means that career building culinary professionals have the luxury of choice. The next job that comes along will not be the last one.  The option of turning down jobs permits more conscientious and successful career building.

–        For those interested in raising the level of their positions to better kitchens, right now is the sweet spot. Many high end kitchens are prepared to take cooks with solid basic skills and attitudes and train them to their standards. The current job overflow offers a unique opportunity to “move up”. Cooks who are interested in a specific kitchen can often circumvent job posting sites and apply directly. The chances of finding an opportunity are as high as they have been for many years.

–      Employers are still extremely selective when choosing kitchen leadership.

–        Any aspiring chef who wants to try his or her hand in another city will find it much easier to make the move than it would have been only a short time ago.

For Employers the changed market means:

–        Anyone hiring candidates is in competition with other employers. Offering competitive compensation is advisable. Hiring a below the rising compensation standard puts the restaurant at risk of having employees “pirated” by others. There is a certain amount of this occurring on the East Coast at this time.

–        When a good candidate becomes available, employers are wise not to wait with a job offer.

–        This is a good time to review compensation and satisfaction levels of existing employees, who are becoming aware of the changing market.

Unchanged rules of engagement:

We assume that the country’s economic recovery will continue, but we are not sure. The last two decades have shown the volubility of the culinary job and labor markets. Whatever happens, the basic rules of engagement have not changed. Courtesy and respect is still necessary when dealing with employers.

Chefs report applicants not returning calls, failing to show for appointments and not showing for culinary try out without cancelling. The fact that you no longer need one job does not mean that you can be rude and unprofessional. We are in a tight community. Respecting everyone in it is highly advisable.

As possibility of multiple offers or multiple interview processes increases, it becomes more important to keep professional and considerate relationships with all parties including recruiting firms.  Offending one employer or chef may bleed over into another job process. While complete openness is rarely an option, revealing that you are close to a job offer with another party is only courteous, before you let the company fly you to Dubai.

International imbalance: Developing countries like India, Malaysia and the Philippines have been minting qualified staff for a number of years now. Many of these cooks and kitchen employees are very eager to leave those countries, but are not permitted to work   in the US, Europe, Some Asian Countries  or Canada, unless special visas can be obtained. This is often an arduous process, which few employers are willing to follow. This has given rise to a number of scams, targeting employees globally.

American geographic differences: Even though the major culinary cities are lacking staff, there are plenty of areas where the restaurant market has not picked up and may not for a year. The obvious conclusion is that anyone in a cook, sous or server position can pick up and move to a place where there are more jobs. This is surely true for cook positions, especially for those building their careers in restaurant style environments. There does not, however, seem to be wide reception for seasoned professionals who have settled into food service positions. Any food professional considering moving needs to take the difference in cost of living into consideration before picking up and driving to a more promising location.  This particular and possibly momentary staff shortage does provide rare opportunities for those whose initial desire was simply a trade to enter the A list restaurants in the A List restaurant locations.


Jun 112013

After noticing plainly fraudulent postings for Chef / Cook / Food and Beverage positions placed as comments on LinkedIn last week I wrote a short piece on the best way to recognize fraudulent job offers and employment scams.

Judging from responses to the blog, international employment fraud is both more wide spread and more sophisticated than I had imagined. The alumni manager for one of this country’s major cooking schools reported scams reaching into the school’s graduate pool. One LinkedIn group member reported the following scam launched from a legitimate web site offering a position in a luxury hotel in Kuala Lumpur. While it is possible that someone within the hotel was able to perpetrate the fraud, it is more likely that highly skilled con artists were able to pose successfully as the hotel’s GM and Director of HR.

This report indicates the level of sophistication in some international employment scams aimed at high end applicants.  The harm to the candidate was considerable. He is considering action against the Hotel, for which he probably needs to await the findings of the local police.

In addition to the notes I added in italics to the reports, there are a few things candidates for overseas employment can and probably should do to protect themselves. For one thing initiate telephone contact with someone at the hotel to confirm the position before taking any drastic steps – that means calling the number on the hotel web site when the job offer is made and asking for confirmation of that offer.  Do not Skype or use a number or address offered by the person you are dealing with, and do not rely on that person to call you. Use only the Hotel main number and ask for the person in Human Resources.  Do not conduct your business over the contact’s mobile phone. (This is an old trick I use for checking references with occasionally surprising and amusing results.)

It is, furthermore, highly irregular for an employer to ask a candidate or employee to advance money. In fact, that is a fairly sure sign of fraud.  If an advance is requested, do as suggested above and call the employer (again – find the address on the Internet – do not use a number provided by the contact) and confirm the offer.

One other thing you can do is check the contact’s email for the originating IP Address. You will find it in the header. In Outlook check on File and then Info then Properties. In the box which opens look for something like Received: from mail-blah blah []) . Take the number and put it in the search bar of your browser. The search results will give you the location of the server from which the message originated . This is not a certain solution (the mail from which I copied was sent from Jordon using a Google server in California) but if you are applying for a position in Tokyo and the server proves to be in Istanbul or St Petersburg, you are warned.  As stated in the previous post, the mail should come from a hotel or property address – rather than . Luxury properties can afford their own URL’s and require that all correspondence use them.

Thank you for your reply! the scam unfolded in several steps

1. Ad on to which I applied- mid August 2012 (Note: HCareers is not responsible for these events. The fact that the perpetrators used a highly respected location for the scam is an indication of the level of sophistication and possibly success in the operation.)

2. Application sent by HR Director of hotel saying I had been shortlisted along with a request for all certifications. (Note: I suspect this was someone posing as the HR Director, not the HR Director. )

3. Interview over telephone with HR and then with GM- lasted over 30 minutes (Again: My suspicion is that the call was initiated by someone posing as the HR Director and the GM.)

4. Three days later a letter of intent on [the hotel’s] letter head with the right phone numbers

5. Letter clearly stated position salary and benefits, the later asked for 50% payment for work permit, 50% for air ticket for self and spouse and 50% immigration documents All of which would be refunded by [the hotel] once I arrived and joined, the reason I was given that the hotel in the past had spent a lot money to get candidates who never showed up due to any number of reasons ie counter offer etc. Note: In reality this would never happen. The candidate is either sent a ticket or asked to buy his own ticket and will be reimbursed on arrival.

6. I was to pay the money in stages which I did

7. I even had my wife fly out to KL with the offer letter and see a local attorney, who said it all looked fine and was a good contract, my wife also found out through friends in KL that HR director mentioned on the offer was indeed the actual HR Director. (Note: Except this was probably not the person the candidate spoke with)

8. I made the final payment and received a work permit on official Malaysian Government Papers duly signed by the Labor Department (These, too, where certainly forgeries – taking the time to confirm the visa via a local consulate would be a good idea.)

9. At this stage I was still unaware that it was a fraud and a scam.

10. I received a Qantas Airlines electronic ticket, 4 days before I was to leave ( Nov 11th 2012) which when I called Qantas proved to be false, that is when I started to suspect that something was wrong

11. My wife was already in KL staying with friends waiting for me to join her

12. She drove over to the hotel and found to her shock that the HR director had left the job a a couple of weeks ago, on further questioning also revealed that they had an Executive Chef on board

13. I had already resigned and given two months’ notice .

I have all the documentation and email trail copies of which have been submitted to KL police

Police in Kl are still investigating, I have had precious little reaction from [the hotel] in KL or at the head office in the US

 See the previous post for more suggestions of keeping your job search safe. Be  careful. It’s  a scarier jungle than we thought out there.




Jun 032013

I recently posted a few positions on Linkedin.

In a few seconds a comment appeared claiming to be seeking all staff for the Luxury Cunard Cruise line group. Two group members immediately posted requests to be considered for the position.

His comment was not, however,  only inappropriate (piggy-backing your outreach on another user’s comments ) It was a scam.  The poster had nothing to do with Cunard and was certainly  not advertising under his own name. He was looking for patsies, and he had found two in seconds.

Once in contact with the “candidates” he will have them fill out a very simple form and then respond requesting the fees for visa processing as well as national identification  or passport numbers and the kind of personal information that would not only seem logical for work permit applications but also enables identity theft.

These scams, usually citing luxury properties of cruise liners, abound.  One featuring a photo of a “Director of a group of luxury London River Boats” seeking“Top Chefs”  was appended to every job listing I posted about a month ago. (Luxury river cruises on the Thames?) Despite warnings from group members who had already been stung, at least fifteen responses begged to be considered for the jobs. Desperation makes easy targets.

Another promised jobs at all levels in Canada.

The practice has reached some of the world’s  top hotels and resorts; London’s five star luxury Montcalm has resorted to posting a fraud alert on their career pages.

In addition to minor grifting and identity theft, fraudulent job lures may pose greater dangers ranging from leaving a candidate adrift in a foreign country with neither money nor resources to an increasing number reported enslavement cases.

I also get emails from an offshore group telling me that they can a)get me a glamorous job in the Middle East and B) in a separate email that they can get me cut price labor. The mails come from different companies, but the IP address is the same for both..which means that both messages are sent from the same computer.

There are of course international recruiters (we are that when called to be), but taking care anytime you are dealing with the unknown is just basic intelligence. Not paranoid – just cautious..   Use critical thinking in any job search – especially if that job would take you overseas.

Excitement and hope are the enemies of critical thinking and common sense. If an offer or a come-on seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.  No mater how much you want something to be true, you are your own best advocate only if you look for the flaws in the proposal.

Here are a few things you can consider when you are dealing with a recruitment firm or job offers (or hoaxes).


1)      Mileage is a good sign: If a recruiter has been around for a while, they haven’t dirtied many nests.

2)      Referrals will usually lead you to reliable recruiters or businesses: If someone you know has a recruiter s/he trusts, then you probably can as well.

3)      What is the firm’s web and brick and mortar  presenece?: A bona fide recruiter will have a web page and a professional email account. Like (ours) or  A person working in any company’s HR will use that company’s URL ( . Legitimate HR departments never use email addresses like . Corporate Human Resources representatives work out of corporate offices and will have a phone number which is not a cell phone.  If your contact does not supply  you with this information, just call the Human resources office and ask if he is in.

4)      Can be authenticated: Check the person’s identity on Linked in. My information is complete and completely visible. The Cunard poster could not be found.

5)      How are they seeking candidates?  Legitimate job postings do not appear in comments under other conversations. The larger corporations target  individuals directly through their research or have a professional outreach person who sends out group messages using paid Premium Accounts.  They also advertise some positions on larger job boardsl

Remember these companies sometimes have recruitment budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars. They don’t waste time with small  postings in groups on Linked or any other site.

6)       Beware of unsolicited email: I email people who have responded to previous ads, but I reference their response and tell them who I am. Emails promising your dream job are always scams. Anything promising the job of your dreams is suspect.

7)      Methods of response: All professional companies these days use contact forms on their web sites. You can see ours at .  Many will not take emailed resumes, but if they do, they will take them at an official HR department email address. Corporations like Hyatt may require you to sign up for an account or sign in with a Google or other account.

8)      You should never pay money for a job lead 0r a job referral. You should never give your social security or passport number to be considered for a position. (You may have to provide them when an offer is made.) You should never provide bank or financial information.  A few companies functioning as facilitators for visas like the US J Visa do  – that is a different issue.)

9)      Exceptions: Small restaurants, independent hotels, etc  often do have Gmail or Hotmail accounts to spare their main accounts from too much traffic or to hide the name of the restaurant for any number of reasons. There is nothing unethical about this.  They will always identify themselves a such in their job listings.

10) Research. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of an offer, research the company. Recruiters  may not be able to give you the company name at first, but they should after the job is filled (or if you are being considered). Every legitimate business is on line, and all companies have LinkedIn or other presence. Take a look at their profile –  who else has worked for them. Are they endorsed? (My fans keep endorsing me for cooking, for some reason. At least it is an endorsement.)  Most large luxury groups also post all of their lower level openings and some management jobs on their own web sites, which provides a further method of confirmation.  Cunard’s web site has no cook openings at this time, so the outreach for all positions was definitely a scam.

11) Be very wary of “attorneys” and facilitators who reach out on or via the internet promising job permits.  Most if not all frauds. If they can do something for you, then you can do it yourself for a small processing fee at the nearest consulate. If in doubt the consulate will be able to tell you if the program they propose is bonafide.

Note of caution: If you are dealing with email solicitation Google the page on the web rather than using the link provided. As is the case with less complicated phishing schemes, job hoaxes can have very realistic mock ups of company pages.

Final caution: The con artists who are surfacing in the job industry tend to cite either cruise liners or resorts.  The positions they offer are always irresistibly attractive and international (which allows them to solicit money for visas and identity sensitive information).    If the  presentation of a corporate position seems odd (For instance the recent cruise liner outreach) bypass the recruiter (DO NOT SEND A RESUME/CV) and go directly to the company’s web site to apply.

Be careful. It’s complicated new world, and there be monsters abroad.

May 212013

Or maybe social media and job search.

I have been on Linkedin for several years, and frankly, I haven’t found many people there, despite my largish stable of “friends”.  That seems more to do with the international nature of the venue, but it may be just me. Every time I reach out, no matter how specifically, I find a flood of messages in my inbox from India, Pakistan and other wildly exotic places with hoards of chefs and cooks wanting to get to the US, which messes up my work rhythm.

This is despite the clear statement: We are unable to consider candidates outside the United States and without working visas.

But this is about you, and not me, so let me get to the point: What I also see on Linkedin and on the other social media sites I frequent is  the following sentence: “Please see my profile”.  Nothing more. Just an order to look them up. ..just  take a moment out of your schedule to go get what I could have sent you myself, if I had bothered to read the entire job description and gone to your web site to send a resume and a note via your carefully constructed contact page.

They also place these on posts of people who ask questions like, “How do I find a job in Sweden”. “Please view my profile.”  There may even be an ap for this (considering the mindless uniformity of the response, there probably is). May I suggest that if so it does more harm than good?

What does this have to do with you? Well, if you do this no recruiter with a brain in his/her head is going to give you the time of day. Why? Because they are careless, inconsiderate and stupid.

You, on the other hand, are not. You have the intelligence and the presence of mind to read job offers or leads on social media to the end and follow the instructions to a “T”. If there are no instructions, you have the class and intelligence to message the person posting the job directly with a very short  note that says “I am interested in the job your posted on  How may I best contact you and where can I send a resume, if you desire one?” Now isn’t that charming? It’s also effective.  The employer or recruiter may  look at your profile anyway  (we do that), but you have at least offered to take the initiative.

That means you are the kind of person I want in my employment..not someone who either does not read instructions or ignores them.

Another Linkedin anomaly: I notice that whenever I post a job other recruiters post something like, “Go to Dan’s Sleazy recruitment site to see the best jobs in the world.” Of course this is superfluous, since you are all smart cookies, but I would say that any recruiting firm who tailgates someone else’s work like that is hardly trustworthy and should be avoided at all costs.  (Perhaps I should offer something on bad recruiters, as I notice them on the rise, but time is precious at the moment.) At any rate, be warned.

As long as we are at this, let’s talk alumni sites. I occasionally mention something about jobs on school sites. I  just mentioned a great opportunity for cooks who want to move into Michelin rated kitchens on one, but as a recruiter I left no name. A student or alumni immediately challenged this, and I explained with a link to this site’s explanation about recruiters why that was the case. The young woman responded, “That is an awful site. It doesn’t do anything to attract candidates.” Now, actually from our statistics, it appears it does, but that’s not the point.

The point is that this  young woman is posting in a place where not only I but numerous employers make job offers. Her manners are wanting, to say the least, and everyone who looks there  has a a chance to see that.  Obviously something else you are too smart and classy to do, but I thought  I’d mention it.

I have been busy filling jobs (The Chefs’ Professional Site is listed on the side bar if you want to know what they are) and regret not to have provided more posts.  This one, however, seems important.

So let me repeat the moral, because it’s an easy one: When dealing with internet job opportunities, read posting carefully, follow the instructions and be respectful and polite. Good luck to all of you. The world needs people like you.