Sure, your wit, tenacity, crazy skills, and stellar personality speak for themselves, but unless you’re dating or related to the hiring manager, your resume has to communicate how amazing you are, sight unseen. Get in the door by making that paper in their mitts the most compelling non-fiction they’ve read in an age.
A good resume gets you the interview
Even the best resume doesn’t get you the job; it gets you in the door. However, that humble piece of paper you hand over with your application is one of the most important tools in convincing your potential employer what it is that you bring to the table (pun alert) and baiting them into finding out more about you.
Pique interest by highlighting those skills or experience that make you a compelling candidate. Last job was at a well-regarded restaurant? Put your employment history first thing. Have some great knife skills, or past experience under a well-known chef? Stick that under “Skills and Qualifications” and put that section near the top.
Ah, yes – the good ol’ “Objective Statement”. How many different ways can you say “I’m looking for a good job at a great place, working with cool people”? And is it really necessary?
Think of it this way: that objective statement is a great way to tailor your resume to specific jobs. You can re-do that statement to include key words and phrases from the job listing: fast-paced, fine dining, casual, willing to learn, energetic, organized, etc.
Achievements mean more than job duties
“Duties were” or “Responsible for” are lovely and sound nice, but don’t really give a potential employer much to go on. Instead of listing duties that can probably be guessed at from the job title (you did list a specific job title for those past work experiences, right?), think in terms of accomplishments.
“Responsible for prepping the kitchen for evening service”
“Ensured accurate and organized kitchen prep for evening service that averaged 200 covers per night”
Which one sounds more dynamic to you?
Try thinking about how you would describe a past job to that hot guy/gal you met at the bar last night. Use your power words, people – you can make any mundane task sound like something special if you put your mind to impressing someone.
Are you experienced?
It’s a classic Catch-22: you can’t get hired without experience, but how can you get experience if you don’t get hired? Recent culinary grads or those switching careers can highlight on-site training experience or volunteer kitchen work. Put those things up front in your job history, or mention them prominently under “Skills and Qualifications”.
Sometimes that lack of experience can be a good thing. You’re new, so you don’t have the baggage of “but that’s how we did it at the last place I worked”. Make that lack of experience a plus with “willing to learn” or “open to new processes” (why, hello again, “Objective Statement”).
And don’t underestimate the value of proximity in your job hunt. Dependability and availability are desirable attributes, and the fact that you live 3 blocks away could be an asset.Get to know the restaurants in your neighborhood and see if any of them could use someone who lives within walking distance. And while you’re at it, see if you can work on a trial or volunteer basis, to at least get some of that precious experience under your belt.
Quantify that experience
It’s fabulous that you have years of line cook experience – but so do a lot of people.
Give that experience more oomph by telling how you streamlined a process to make the kitchen more efficient, or that your up-selling skills translated into 50% more desserts sold. Put numbers or dollar signs onto your achievements where possible.
Format that puppy
Don’t be afraid to use white space between sections, nor to judiciously apply bold or italics to set off work places or job titles. Adding some space between sections makes your resume easier to read and allows people to easily scan it to find the information they need.
Do pick one easy-to-read font and make the size at least 11 points. Yes, you’re trying to cram all that information onto as few pages as possible, but you don’t want to give the hiring manager an eye-strain-induced headache – opt for something clean and professional. Unless you know for sure that the chef is a huge Trekkie, that Klingon Dagger font might not be such a great idea.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Or better yet, have one or two friends take a look. Especially if one of those friends is an English major, or comments on blog posts to point out grammatical errors. You want to get some fresh eyes to review it to catch any mistakes you just can’t see after working on the darn thing for so long.
And no, you cannot just rely on spell-check. You’ll want them to know that you managed 14 people on your watch, not on your witch.
Make a good impression
If your email address is something like email@example.com or BuffyRules@slayer.net you might want to consider getting something a bit more professional – or at least more neutral. It’s free and easy to create an email account via Gmail or Hotmail, so why not set up an address that won’t garner a raised eyebrow.
Although we might give firstname.lastname@example.org a pass…
Negativity only works for political ads
No one wants to work with someone who seems unafraid of tossing others under the bus or seems glaringly cynical, so keep things positive. Yes, that last job may have been hell on wheels, but find something nice to say about it, or highlight all the good things you did there. No need to mention the added heroism of doing all that great work while under the watchful eye of a psychotic control freak.
Tell the Truth
Don’t make up experience, or list your title as Maitre d’ if you were simply one of many servers. Oh, sure, it may just be a “little white lie”, but is the stress of living with the chance of getting caught really worth it? Not to mention the stress of actually getting caught.
Besides, you want to be hired for the real you, not some person you created just to get the job. As in any relationship, it’s best when you are wanted for who you are, not who you pretend to be.