Interview Tips for the JobSeeker

Besides the obvious - silencing your cell phone, dressing appropriately, and not chewing gum - these ten points can help guide you gracefully through the interview process.

  1. Timing is Everything: If you’re cooking a sea bass filet, you know that the only difference between perfect and overcooked fish is mere moments. Interview timing is the same way: show up too early and you’ll appear like you have nothing better to do. Arrive late and you face instant rejection. Aim to arrive for an interview between 5 to 10 minutes early – you’ll appear prepared and confident.

  2. Be Polite: You know to treat a restaurant’s hostess politely if you hope to get a good table. An interview is no different. From the moment you walk in the door, the interview has begun, whether the interviewer is present or not. Consider each person you come into contact with as a potential interviewer and treat all staff members with courtesy and respect – you never know who may be standing behind the host’s stand: it could be the owner!

  3. Mis en Place: Interview “mis en place” includes more than just showing up with extra copies of your resume and a pen. If you arrive knowing the executive chef’s name, the restaurant’s signature dishes and ingredients, and a few key resume points that best describe you, you are reasonably well prepared. Preparation demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for a position, and your awareness will resonate with the interviewer.

  4. Confidence, not Arrogance: Don’t plan to rely solely on your resume to sell your skills and experience; the confidence that you exhibit with a firm handshake, eye contact, and a genuine, friendly demeanor forms a complete sales package that will capture an employer’s attention. Although self confidence is important, remember that many employers, especially chefs, are looking for talented staff members who are eager to learn from them.

  5. Check Negativity at the Door: Focus on the positive. Just as your resume doesn’t mention that you were once fired for breaking the robot coupe, in an interview you must not speak negatively about past employers or coworkers. No matter how justified you feel your comments may be, demonstrating such an obvious disrespect for your boss, even if he had you scrubbing the walk-in with a toothbrush, will only dissuade a prospective employer from hiring you. Try to focus the conversation on what you learned while at your last job, and how you accepted the challenges of your previous employer.

  6. Relax Already!: Repeating words such as “like,” “um,” and “you know” during an interview reveals more than just lack of vocabulary. Everyone is nervous during an interview – often even the interviewer – but there’s no need to let your anxiety get the best of you. If you’re well prepared for the interview, you should be equipped to survive a barrage of questions about your knife skills without awkward pauses. Remember to breathe and take a moment to gather your thoughts before answering the interviewer’s questions. To help make sure that you respond correctly to the question that is asked, try to include a few of the interviewer’s key words from each question in your reply.

  7. Sense of Style: How you communicate in an interview is just as important as what you say. If a potential employer is all business, your demeanor should also remain totally professional. If an interview is candid and conversational, your responses may be a bit more relaxed. Let an interviewer’s choice of words and tone of voice serve as verbal cues for your own behavior, which should always remain a bit more formal than your potential employer: remember, you are trying to impress them.

  8. Money is a Four-Letter Word: What if a swanky restaurant ran a credit report before pouring you a glass of champagne? Would you ever eat there again? Unless the interviewer mentions compensation, the subject of salary, including benefits, vacation, and perks, should never be raised by a candidate during an interview. It is a good idea to be prepared for a question about your salary requirements, but do try and delay a compensation discussion until you have an offer.

  9. Any Questions?: Towards the end of most job interviews, the interviewer will give you the chance to ask questions. It’s critical to ask at least one question; appearing to have no curiosity about the position signals to the interviewer that you have no real intention of taking the job. One great option is to ask about the typical day for an employee in the position; another is to inquire about the advancement opportunities within the company. Be sure not to ask questions concerning a topic that has already been thoroughly discussed in the interview. As you exit the interview, be sure to express your enthusiasm for the position and ask about the company’s next step in the hiring process.

  10. The Art of the Follow-Up: Make sure to get a business card from each person that interviews you; often chefs may not have their own cards, so be sure to write their name on the restaurant’s card. Once you have left the interview, take a moment to jot down some quick notes about who you met and any specific details you can recall. When you return home from the interview, type a short, sincere thank you letter to each interviewer and have it in the mail within 24 hours. Although this may seem a bit formal for the foodservice industry, it takes minimal time and effort, and will definitely set you apart as a candidate.