Jun 292012

In a recent  online exchange a chef or someone who wants to be opined “If you have passion, that’s all you need.” [sic to be a qualified chef.] Obviously this is not correct – you need a heap of knowledge and experience and more, but the statement suggests  why so many job seekers insist on stating their passion in resumes and cover letters, where it rarely does much good.


1)      It is a cliché. Everyone uses the term, whether or not it applies to them, which means it will most likely not impress a reader or might even have a negative impact.

2)      Most employers are not looking for passion for most jobs. They are looking for dedication, hard work, skill, creativity, knowledge and an unfaltering palate.

3)      Passion in its actual meaning indicates lack of reasoning and unwillingness to compromise. The truly passionate person can be impulsive and disruptive. Employers seek reasonable staff with ability to compromise and communicate, a measured view of the entirety of their station or their kitchen and a great deal of peripheral vision (something which the narrow focus of passion negates).

4)      For professionals working in corporate environments or chains or places where creativity is not the first requirement of the position – a chain restaurant or assisted living facility for instance –  it simply rings silly.

5)      It  can exclude you from consideration for jobs which might be exceptionally suited to you, some of them requiring a high degree of creativity. The owner of a new restaurant really wants someone with a high common sense to emotion ratio. Passion suggests otherwise.

6)  It impresses the wrong people.

Not choosing “passion” to describe yourself does not mean you are not committed or even passionate, either with a large “P” or a small one (meaning enthusiastic). It simply means you are using the space available in your resume to get through to the person who reads it. 

So what if you are or believe yourself to be very passionate? How do you convey it.

If you really are passionate about your culinary career – you suffer fire in the belly, food is the sole focus of your existence and you would push your sister under a train is she stood between you and a box of organic pigs’ ears, then your background will show it. At that point, go ahead and say so if you must, but you really won’t have to.

Passion always shines through in interviews. The really, really passionate candidate usually shifts the conversation, given the chance, from himself to where he has worked, the food, the chefs. Joy is always visible and thrilling. It also comes through in reference checks.

 But what about the cover letter, the resume?

There are many good ways to describe what you feel about cooking and your love of your job, not the least of which is “I love my job.”   Roget’s Online Thesaurus offers a wealth of terrific phrase for “love” (and some really awful ones) .

adulation, affection, allegiance, amity, amorousness, amour, appreciation, ardency, ardor, attachment, case*, cherishing, crush, delight, devotedness, devotion, emotion, enchantment, enjoyment, fervor, fidelity, flame, fondness, friendship, hankering, idolatry, inclination, infatuation, involvement, like, lust, mad for, partiality, passion, piety, rapture, regard, relish, respect, sentiment, soft spot, taste, tenderness, weakness, worship, yearning, zeal

Try looking up “passion” for yourself.  (noting that some of the synonyms are  hardly how you would describe yourself) then click on any of the words you fancy. Eh Voila, more resume resources. (Added bonus – it will provide you with some good ammunition for interviews).  (For that matter try looking up “gourmet” or “food” –  it’s a great resource for any communication.

So try this thesaurus inspired replacement:” My devotion to food combines the highest regard for produce and products with an uncompromising dedication to  quality.”  A bit over the top, but at least it says something.  (There will be another piece on more creative resume writing later).

Even better, figure out what you really mean and say it.  Try to forget all the resumes you have read, because what you have seen often enough for it to stick in your head impresses less than what you write about you.  Try sitting down with a yellow pad or a recorder or talking to a friend and telling them what you actually feel about what you do, why you feel that and capture those thoughts. One of them is likely to be the key phrase of your presentation.  I am the luckiest guy alive, said one of my chefs once. I love to go to work and I hate to go home. Reformatted that might be a great beginning for an introduction. (I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a chef. I can’t wait to get to work and I enjoy every minute of it.)