Mar 312011

And don’t kid a kidder. Also: Stop kidding yourself.

Did I already say that? It bears repeating.

Like so many people in recruiting, both free lance like me or in restaurant groups, I’ve been around for a few years.  In that time I have learned what happens in various venues – clubs, hotels, tiny restaurants and hot spots – and I have a pretty good idea of and respect for what the people who have developed their careers have in their tool boxes – and a fair amount of disdain for those who convince me they have something else.

Applicants continue to surprise me by presenting me with statements of their qualifications which experience – it’s all in the mileage, son – shows cannot possibly be true, thus sending their resumes straight to the “We’ll call you when Hell freezes over” file.

What, for instance: A chef, really a kitchen manager, from a series of corporately held and managed family style restaurants or steakhouses like Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, TGI Friday’s maintains that he is an award winning culinarian known for his creativity. Let us be clear that any chef who has learned in these environments has positive talents, but they don’t rate awards and they are by definition not creative. The chef might want to be, but claiming the attribute is just plain silly.

A banquet chef of a Marriott conference center writes that he is specialized in Asian, New American and Haute French cuisine. Excuse me while I try to clamber up on the turnip truck I just fell from, but we who suffer chefs, even the fools, gladly, know the value of a banquet chef , but also know that his identity is not the newest trendy cuisine but strategic planning, development and oversight of items that have holding power and can be delivered in an organized manner and a profound sense of timing, plus some more neat stuff.

A manager from a chain claims to have a strong sense of fine dining. You get the blunt point.

The finer point is that this is a small community, and the people who hire for restaurant A probably know about the kitchens of restaurants B, C and W and fifty places and they read the papers and industry news, so misstating your qualities, whether through self delusion or in an attempt to get what you think you want will more often than not have an adverse effect.

Having aspirations and wanting to do something beyond the limitations of your current situation is a great idea. If you work at Morton’s steakhouse and are interested in a restaurant with a New World menu, you can state that you have had a deep interest in the cuisines of the Southern Hemisphere or that you are seeking a position offering you more opportunities to be creative, and someone may listen and give you the opportunity based on what they know about  your ability to follow structural guidelines (not a small thing) and organizational discipline. If you tell them you are an expert in the field, they will deep six your paper or put it in the ’86 file, as I do.

Saying you are coming from a strength which has not even got a toe hold in your visible employment history allows two possible interpretations, neither of which work well for you: 1) You are trying to have them on and do not respect their intelligence and 2) you are mildly clueless and don’t have a sense of what your own strengths and weaknesses are. Why would they pick up the phone and call?