Land and Ace a Restaurant Job Interview

Land and Ace a Restaurant Job Interview

By 2016, there will be an additional 1.9 million restaurant jobs in the United States, according to the National Restaurant Association. Knowing what skills are in demand, as well as how to cook up a succinct, attractive resume and what to expect during the interview process, will help you stand out. Heed these tips:

Keep Your Resume Succinct

Think of your resume as an appetizer before an entree: If it's too big, there won't be room for the main course -- meaning you won't get to the interview. To that end, review your resume for accuracy and length.

"Avoid the fluff," advises Mark Wright, assistant professor of the Hospitality Management Department at Erie Community College and northeastern regional vice president of the American Culinary Federation. "Your resume should be simple and no more than one page. A lot of chefs, for instance, do a lot of extracurricular things (that shouldn't be on a job resume). References are also important."

Be Honest

Wright says the best references are previous employers. He also cautions against embellishing during a job interview: "Tell the truth. Don't say you worked with Wolfgang Puck if you didn't. Word gets around."

Showcase Your Skills

Your resume should not only detail who you've worked with but also your job-specific talents. Be ready to back up your claims. If you're applying for a cooking position, for instance, expect to prepare food during the interview rather than just field questions across a conference table.

Job seekers interested in New York restaurants or country clubs, such as Crag Burn Golf Club in Buffalo, get a basket of food and prepare a menu on the spot, Wright says. Asking chefs to show their talents rather than explain them is also an interview tactic used by The Broker Restaurant in Denver.

Visit the Restaurant Off-Peak

Kris Lebsock, manager of The Broker, suggests visiting before the lunch or dinner rush to increase the chance you'll get time with the hiring manager -- even if you don't have a lot of experience.

"If I see someone who comes in and looks sharp and has a decent resume, I might ask them to sit down and interview on the spot," Lebsock says. "I have no problem hiring someone who is green, as long as they are sharp and articulate."

Sweat the Details

"The nicer the restaurant is, the more detailed the service will be," says Roderick Gentilello, maitre d' at Aurora in Dallas. In addition to service protocol, Aurora's waiters are expected to know key food-preparation methods and terms. New employees even carry a pocket-sized Food and Wine Lover's Companion to help decode the French-influenced new-American menu.

Consider Learning Spanish

Beyond knowing descriptive details about how food is prepared so you can talk to guests and put together a menu, Wright recommends all restaurant job seekers take a culinary course in Spanish, especially if you're looking in large cities where non-English-speaking employees are prevalent.

Lebsock agrees: "Some Spanish helps the front-of-the-house staff communicate with the kitchen."

Learn more about food service careers.