interviewing

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by blue_wolf, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. blue_wolf

    blue_wolf

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    Just thought you guys and ladies might have some insite into this. I have to set up an interview for next week with a prospective line cook. This will be the first interview I've ever done, on a professional level (one might consider dating as an interview process). Just wondering if anyone has an pointers on the subject. What kind of questions to ask, body language to look for, and the not so good answeres that should be noted and all around out look of the individual being interviewed. Thanks ahead of time.

    David
     
  2. frizbee

    frizbee

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    Good questions....I will be checking to see what they say.
    Frizbee
     
  3. chef john

    chef john

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    Good question. Your success starts not with you, but with who works for you. Finding a good hire is, unfortunately, a minefield and sometimes a crap shoot. That beingx said, I have a few things I've looked at over the years that have been successful for me. I say this not knowing what kind of operation you have, but I assume a line cook for you must not be an entry level position, but a skilled leadership position.
    1) Hire for attitude, not menu knowedge. You can teach them your menu, you can't teach them to have a positive frame of mind. In this regard ask them about the worst night they've had on a cooking line ( and how they handle it) Ak about the worst chef's they have had ( and how they handled it) ask about the worst co-workers they have had ( and how they handled it). Ask about the wost servers they have worked with ( and how they dealt with them).
    In their responses did they quit their jobs because of these issues? Did they ask to be transferred to another area of responsibility? Or did they talk to their supervisors and let their issues be known? Did they stick it out and continue, while learning all they could to get skills that would enable then to apply for a better position elsewhere? (yours perhaps?). Look for quitters and avoid them ( they will quit on you) and notice who tried to rectify the situation by communicating. If their previous employer didn't apprerciate someone who would communicate issues and try to work through workplace stresses like a reasonable person (the emphasis on reasonable here), then the better for you. Understand the difference between a complainer and a communicator.
    2) Seriously, find out how they plan on getting to work. Sounds silly, but when I hear " I take a bus... ( I know they don't run on weekends, so how is he going to be consistently there on saturday night?) then when I ask them what happens when the bus doesn't run? I get " My friend will give me a ride, or I will take a bicycle, etc...." I know that his "friend" doesn't work for me so how can I hold his friend accountable for him not showing up to work on time? Unless the candidate can *****strate that he can handle the employees basic responsibility ( getting to work) I pass on the guy.
    3) Ask the candidate some serious, in-depth culinary questions. Once again, this sounds like a no-branier, but we don't really ask detailed cooking questions. I actually have a written test I give candidates. My company loves it, because then I'm unbiased and don't end up with a descrimination suit. I ask some basic ones like: Name me seven different types of salad dressings. Name me two basic emulsified sauces. What are the mother sauces? What is saute' mean? (Show the candidate a boning knife and a chef's knife) and ask what are these generally used for? What is a marinara sauce? A Demi-Glace? An Italian Buffet ( BBQ, French , Asian, Greek, etc.) might have what on it for appetizers? Soups? Entrees? Desserts? Sides? etc.
    These types of questions pertain to my operation, but I think you get the idea. Make it relevent to your op.
    Next, get serious. Ask him, okay, now you've told me that you know what a Marinara is ( Demi, Alfredo, Reduction, fish fumet, whatever) ask him to tell you EXACTLY how he has made it. You will find out quickly if he has made it himself, or "watched " someone else do it. If he implied that he knew, but can't come through on the EXACTLY question, then he is a liar. Or, at best overconfident, and hopes you're enough of a schmuck that he can snow you too. That being said, rule four:
    4) It is better to have a bad truth than a good lie. A candidate that is honest about their shortcomings is worthy of consideration (assuming the shortcomings are reasonable) more so than a candidate that is trying to pull one over on you. Why? Because, you will at least start your relationship based on him being honest with you. He will be more likely to tell you important information and not hide it from you ( I'd rather hear "Chef, I don't think this looks right." at the start of a shift,than hear " Oh, yeah, I was gonna tell you, I thought it looked kinda funny," at the end of the shift. He will have less tendency to respond to your direction with "attitude". And at least, if it doesn't pan out, you will have a more open relationship within which you can discuss your porblems with him.
    5) If you don't think the candidate is right for you, tell them. This is the hard part. Either send them a note in the mail, a phone call, at the end of the interview, whatever, but tell them. They need to know so they can continue to look for work elsewhere without hoping you will come through. It is the right thing to do.
    " I see that you have a good work history, but, I am sorry, I am not sure you have the kind of experience that would fit in my operation. " Or however you may phrase it.
    This is tough, but you must do it.
    6) I know that ther are many opinions across the board on this, but I notice if the candidate has job hopped a lot without a reasonable explanation. Reasonable is for you to define, my friend, but to me, I think that just based on statistics, they couldn't have had that many "bad gigs". Maybe THEY are in some way connected to the problems that led to them leaving their jobs. I dont' want someone with too much baggage. People don't really change in life, they don't, regardless of all the touchy-feely phsyco drivel that Dr. Phil oozes to Oprah's audience everyday. You character is what it is, forever. So, I look at unreasonable job hoping as a character issue. This is your call.
    I'm sorry if I've gone on long here, I apologize, but I get excited about some of these issues and I just wanted to expound on it a bit.
    Good luck. Let me know how it works out.
    Bye, for now.
     
  4. blue_wolf

    blue_wolf

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    Thank you for the info. The interview was set up yesterday for tomorow. The GM said he would sit in on it and help me out. Setting up for success as he would say. Works for me. Thanks again.
     
  5. chef john

    chef john

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    Sounds like a decent GM. Let us know how it goes.
    Bye.
     
  6. lukeygina

    lukeygina

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    What is the proper attire for an interview for a culinary position? Is a suit too much?
     
  7. blue_wolf

    blue_wolf

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    In my mind, yes. Nice pants and a button down shirt are more than enough. Over dressing could be a sign of someone trying too hard. But, that's my personal thoughts.
     
  8. greg

    greg

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    It depends on the position and the employer. For male interviewing for a line cook position, I'd say it wasn't necessary but wouldn't hurt. For a sous chef position, at the very least shirt and tie; for an exec position, a suit. I don't know what the female equivelant of these different levels woul be, though.

    How'd the interview go, blue_wolf? I remember being a little nervous before conducting my first one until I reminded myself that I wasn't the one applying for a job. It gets easier every time, though.
     
  9. bearboxer

    bearboxer

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    Well, John had a great response..but not the part about who works "for you"....more like who works "with you". I too give out a written culinary test to see how rounded the applicant is. It sure helps when you use French terms like mirepoix or chinois.

    Attitude is so important too. We often get that first impression and I often stick to that so called rule. How did you feel around this applicant? Where has he worked before? Is he over or under qualified for the position? Can he/she multi-task?

    Definitely call previous employers. They can't say too much nowadays, but they can say if he/she is available for rehire. If the applicant was good, the previous employer will give great kudos towards him/her.

    If the applicant is green, it might be a good thing. Old habits are hard to break. A green employee can be taught just what you want and also what you don't want. Try and make sure that the person fits the job description. This goes back to the under/over qualified notion. You don't want the person to be bored, yet you don't want them to get frustrated.

    It's a difficult task acquiring a new employee to fit your position exactly. Great Luck!

    John Kowalski
     
  10. blue_wolf

    blue_wolf

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    Update on the interview situation. First guy took another job with one of our sister restaurants (ironically, it was the one I was suppose to go to originally, before I took this position). But, he did have a friend who wanted another job (his friend worked for another of our sister restaurants). Long story short, he never showed for his interview. But, that day I had a walk in. His resume is impressive (several soux chef positions at some nice upscale restaurants around town). The only caution I was given by my GM was to make sure he understands we don't do the "frilly foo-foo stuff" when it comes to plate presentations... Keep it simple. Plus, I have another application that came through the internet that I have to set up an interview with. Plus, I have a dishwasher who wants to learn to cook. The only issue with the dishwasher is language (my spanish is very sketchy and his english is about par with that). I know we have two spots I would like to fill, and possibly a third, depending on reaction when I officially take the title of executive chef. Fun, fun, fun. I'm lovin it!!! :D

    We now return you to your regularly schedualed programing...
     
  11. blue_wolf

    blue_wolf

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    To finish up, this is where things are. I hired a kid that came in and applied. He has previous experience (his family owned a restaurant) and just wants to get back into the business. I beleive he'll work out nicely. Then, I'm going to be hiring (unless something horrible happens) another cook. He has a whole lot of experience (more than me, to be honest) and just wants to cook. Plus, he is intrested in baking, so I will be starting to bake breads and desserts in house, something I was hoping to get off the ground further down the line in the future. All in all, things went very well. I took the title last night and the one cook who is staying (not being let go) may have issues with it. If he does, I have another resume waiting on my desk. If not, that is good to. Either way, life and the kitchen will go on. Thanks to everyone for your advice and help.
     
  12. frizbee

    frizbee

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    It depends on the position and the employer. For male interviewing for a line cook position, I'd say it wasn't necessary but wouldn't hurt. For a sous chef position, at the very least shirt and tie; for an exec position, a suit. I don't know what the female equivelant of these different levels woul be, though.

    I am glad to have checked in with this tread. I just interviewed for a sous chef spot and felt a new, clean chef jacket (which I bought for interviewing), my best (read "least trashed") kitchen pants and clean shoes would be enough. I will definitely alter my interview wardrobe for future resume submissions.
    BTW...the equal for a woman's attire of a man's shirt and tie would be an upscale pant/skirt and top. I guess you could call it casual professional attire?
    Anyway thanks….I’m glad to have the information.
     
  13. harpua

    harpua

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    Hi. On a related note, I am going in for an interview and a "practical demnstration" with a pastry chef in a couple of days. Now, I couldn't be more nervous. I have experience, but not much professional other than bread.

    I can make cookies, cakes, buns, etc.. but I have never made a danish or a croissant. I have been told this is an entry level position and I really want to be trained so badly (have not been trained in the past, just told to "show up"). I learn easily and am very good with dough. I am very passionate about this side of the cooking spectrum and I hope it shines through to him.

    I am not nervous so much about the dialogue part, but about what he wants me to show him. Anyone have any pointers or ideas that can help me? Thanks a lot.
     
  14. logghib

    logghib

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    Most chefs (particularly hardcore old-school pastry chefs) will hire on someone of marginal experience if you go in with the right attitude. Be assertive, speak clearly and simply, and let the guy know that you will be religiously punctual, get things done in a timely manner, take your own time to memorize techniques properly, and most importantly do things exactly how he wants them to be done every time.

    I personally don't really care whether a line cook knows french cooking terminology or what tobico caviar tastes like. I want a line cook who works (despite injury, sleep deprivation, hangover, etc.) efficiently and reliably and is genuinely interested in both learning new techniques and not deviating from the techniques that I teach him. I don't want to have to go over how to plate a rabbit loin entree six times a night.

    Every job I've gotten under a chef has been nailed with this line: "I will be on time every day, work my *** off, do what I'm told and not complain about it."

    As for interviewing, figure out what you want for that position and gear your interview for it. Cooks are typically pretty thick-skinned and easy to chat with. If they try to get all food-pretentious, dump them. I like to ask about their opinions on how a restaurant should be run, food they like/dislike to make, and basic work-ethic stuff. People who seem to be of solid character will then be taken in for a practical, just so I know they won't cut off all their fingers and can tell the difference between mass produced olive oil and that $150 bottle of white truffle oil tucked away in dry storage.