You've been throwing your resume out there and you finally got a call back. This is exciting, but a chef interview can be intimidating. An interview requires communication skills and technical expertise, and chefs today are expected to be as much of a performer as a CEO at a successful company. Whether you're trying to get your foot in the door or you already have an interview, here are seven things to avoid doing—and things you can do instead to get the job:
Don't Submit a Resume without a Cover Letter
A resume is like a picture, and yours should shine and catch the eye of anyone who looks at it. Chefs often try to fit too much on their resume, which can be overwhelming. Keep your resume to one page, highlight the most important facts, and then use your cover letter to really stand out from the competition.
Don't Worry about Your Competition
A lot of chef interviewees ask about other people applying for the position, which isn't a smart move. If you're the best person for the job, you will get hired on those merits alone. Avoid asking about where you fall compared to your competition, and don't talk about how you are the "best" in the area. Instead, be humble, and if you see others interviewing, wish them luck.
First of all, never show up to an interview smelly and dirty from your previous job. This might be hard with a demanding schedule, but figure out a way to make it happen. Second, chef uniforms are for cooking in, not wearing around town. They represent cleanliness and should only be worn in the kitchen. If you're called in for a bench or working interview, then you should wear your uniform, but otherwise, dress up. It's better to be overdressed than not, so consider wearing a suit. You may be the type to wear flip-flops and a tank top, but save them for after the interview.
Don't Say Anything Negative about Your Past Employers
When asked about your past jobs, focus on the positive aspects regardless of how terrible the experience might have been. There is always a positive. If you talk negatively about a past employer, your prospective employer will assume you'll talk negatively about them, too.
Don't Show up Unprepared
Being prepared falls into two categories: things to bring and knowledge. First, always keep a chef coat, your knives, your recipe book, and pictures in your car or in a bag. You may also want to consider bringing any specialty spices or tools you love—just in case. If the interview goes well, you may be asked to show off your skills in the kitchen. The second way to prepare for your interview is to conduct research. Don't show up to a restaurant without learning everything you can about it and the owners or management. Look online for what people say about the restaurant, what's on the menu, and who the past chefs were. This will not only help you be prepared for the interview, but you'll also know more about whether the restaurant would be a good fit for you.
Don't Be Late (or Early)
Try to arrive 10 minutes early to your interview. If you show up earlier than that, go for a walk or wait in your car, but don't head into the restaurant. This puts pressure on the person conducting the interview to rush or move things around in their schedule. More importantly, never show up late or skip an interview without notice. Word gets around, and you definitely don't want to be known as being unreliable in the chef world.
Don't Talk about How You're Going to Fix Things
Unless specifically asked—and even then, be careful—don't talk about the challenges you see and how you plan to fix them. Take notes, and if there's a second opportunity to talk about details, that might be a better time to mention your ideas. If you're asked which changes you would make as the chef, ask the interviewer about some areas they are frustrated with and then make a recommendation. This demonstrates that you are there to serve their vision, not your own.
A chef interview can be difficult to master. Be honest about your strengths and recognize your weaknesses. Remember that the interview is as much for you as it is for them. There's a perfect position for you out there, and if you bring your true authentic self to every interview, the match will present itself.