Jun 182012

I store resumes in a database I created and refined  over the years.

The Readers’ Digest version of a database is an electronic filing cabinet containing folders with distinct bits of information about a thing or a person or a customer, which can be selected to call up a list of  things or people or customers meeting a select set of criteria. If, for instance, I need a chef with background in Indian Food who does volume banquets and lives near Dallas, I can enter these criteria into a form and pull up a list of such chefs.  This is not the whole process of finding a person, but it gives me a place to start.

My database, which has about 200 characteristics, contains two simple check boxes, “yes” and “no” in the search options, “yes” signalling someone of exceptional interest (most candidates have neither “field” checked)  in and “no” tagging a candidate as better avoided for any number of reasons.

Most of the “no”s are set before I ever speak to the candidate, usually on the first reading of the resume, although they can be triggered by red flags in a conversation or from research. They keep me from wasting time on that person. I have found it not in my own or my clients’ interest to waste energy on questionable applicants.

The main reason for “No” is resume content which does not correspond with my understanding of the world in which we function – for instance a claim to have been mentored by a great chef who was never in this country or two simultaneous jobs in distant locations.  There was the San Francisco chef who claimed to have the first four Michelin stars in the United States. An Indian chef claimed to have been the chef of the Georges Cinque over a decade ago. If it doesn’t wash it doesn’t wash. (An inquiry showed him to have been the violin player.  Who knew they had one.)

I take most training claims at face value, checking them only if the candidate moves into a final round, but there are enough fishy claims in the background portion of resumes to put a lot of them in what is essentially my electronic round file.  As a rule, the more “impressive” the claim or usually claims, the more questionable they appear.

One of these just arrived. A woman outside of the independent restaurant area seeking a logical job on the East Coast. The resume looks fine, and had I not given training a quick look, I might have called her at some point for a suitable position.

But then:

Under training this person lists two things. 1) A degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. 2) An apprenticeship at not one but TWO of the most prestigious restaurants in Paris, albeit no formal or completed training in Paris, or for that matter, in the US. (In France apprenticeships are accompanied by a two year course in a trade school).

She might, of course, be mistaking a paid stage (which I suspect the “apprenticeships actually were) for an apprenticeship, which ends in France in CAP certification, which she does not claim, but then… With a platinum BA she should and probably does know as much, so she is ..how you say in English??..ah, yes, lying. Or mildly obfuscating.

She also lists among her accomplishments a French literary prize (“French Book Prize”), a fact unknown to the great Google, although an author with the same name, now long dead, did receive one.

So what? Everyone does it.

Actually they don’t. Smart employers in the area these people work know the facts and the turf they occupy and will see the ruse. They will either be amused or annoyed – after all, it is slightly insulting – but they won’t bother with the candidate. Nor will I.

The woman has a decent if not stellar history – a fact which further puts her training claims in question – and would be a possible candidate for a job, but her attempt to pass for something more than she surely is raises a lot of questions, one of the most interesting being whether she actually deserved any of the positions she lists, or whether she obtained those  on the basis of false assertions and was able to muddle through by manipulation of people there who were well acquainted with the needs of the job.

Equally important is what the claim indicates about attitude. Those who con their way through their careers invariably believe they are more clever than the people reviewing their history. Some may be (although not realizing that employers use Google wouldn’t support that theory very well), but really, would you want that arrogant mindset in your kitchen? I doubt my clients would.

A little spice, as a good chef knows, goes a long way. Too many claims of prestige, unless they correspond to the rest of a candidate’s career, raise suspicion.

If one has had the wonderful  experience of spending a week at a restaurant like Noma or Le Notre, then stating that one did so is sufficient. It shows determination and dedication, and I, at least, would probably want to speak with you and ask what it was like.  Inflate it beyond its context, however, and you are more than likely going to trigger a few red flags and end in the undesirable pile.

Actually, there’s a certain amount of Darwinism there. It’s a beautiful thing.

  2 Responses to “Resume Puffery Isn’t as Easy as it Used to be.”

Comments (2)
  1. I love that you like it. Thank you.

  2. Jo Lynne – I enjoyed reading your article, especially the Darwinism comment! P.S. I finally got that job on the moon! Sean