Jan 132011

Keeping your restaurant job search approach professional

An impressive HR director from a terrific company just sent me the following comment on a resume she had received: “Orgasm is a word that does not belong in a cover letter.”  She has a point.

The person who sent the resume suggesting those tasting her food experienced When Harry met Sally “Ill have what she’s having” reactions  was obviously trying to impress the employer with her bubbling personality, and impress them she did. She finished by stating coquettishly that she was not the right fit for just any organization, implying that the firm should be honored by her application.  The company agreed, deciding immediately that they were one of those organizations she would not fit, as most well run businesses would.

I would never hire this woman,  and I would never refer her. Her inappropriate and presumptuous attempts at jocular bonding raise flags.  How would she interact with her staff? What complaints and issues would arise for the employers if she waged a clever quip to a sensitive employee? Her tone, furthermore, shows disrespect for the people she intends to woo.

I recently ill-advisedly responded to one of the many “Dir Sir” applications I receive with a note that I was a dear madam rather than a sir.  The upper management applicant responded that he could hardly have known that, as there was no name on the web site.  “By the way,” he continued, “You have  a beautiful name.”    While the assumption that the manager of this firm would naturally be male should be a small red flag (how many of the important management positions in his last company went to women?  Would my clients be facing discrimination issues if he were hired?),  an attempt to gloss over the glitch  with superficial charm not only shows a surprising level of cluelessness, but insults the employer’s intelligence.  The application went straight to the electronic round file.

These two applicants attempted to bond through familiarity and what they believe to be their irresistible personalities,   a profoundly dumb strategy. It hardly ever works. For one thing, the person who reads your resume is not in familiar  mode when  reviewing candidates. It is a purely serious process, whose success impacts the future of the company and the lives of everyone who works there. Employers want information, not entertainment. For another, what sounds funny or clever or charming to you in your own mind has little chance of being received that way.   As you see from the two examples above, in fact, the achieved effect is generally one that will exclude you from the pool of candidates under consideration rather than put your papers on top.

When it comes to resumes, your favorite flavor should be vanilla. Show what you have done in the best light and make your strengths and experience clear. You don’t know what the person on the receiving end wants or appreciates, and this is no time to start guessing. “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes,” is a good policy to follow in job applications. If you feel that your personality will help you, you can gingerly test the waters in an interview, where you  can read the interviewers expression and decide how far you want to go. Even then, however,  smarmy charmy and smart-alec  are risky modes .

Until you know who you are dealing with, a respectful distance is always the best policy. Don’t try to bond over an electronically generated document. It just doesn’t work.