The rules of job-hunting and hiring have changed, but San Antonio CC’s Executive Chef offers insights to help clubs and chefs shift the approach.
With COVID restrictions going away and vaccinations on the rise, I have to believe people will become more comfortable looking for new jobs. This means—hopefully—we will see more applicants while at the same time receive notice from some of our employees.
This may also be the time for us, as chefs or sous chefs, to start looking for jobs, actively apply and be ready to react.
In my years as a club chef, I have seen the club business hiring season speed up in July and August, then also between January and March, that is when chefs move or managers do the hiring, Most clubs don’t want to hire mid-season.
After July 4th, it will be prime time. Will you be ready when you see the posting or get the call?
Before you do anything make sure you can clearly answer the most important question: What is it that is driving you to change jobs? It is important to know what you are looking for? Personally, I am driven by: quality of life, more seasonal jobs, larger operations, first chef positions, changes of pace, changes in the environment, and change of market. Having these answers will allow you to focus on the proper questions to ask your prospective employer.
Searching for a job is no easy task. You have to start by juggling who to tell and what and why. Do you want your GM to know if you are a chef, or your Chef to know if you are a sous chef? Who else on your team should you tell?
Letting your team know will help you juggle the interview process and set up expectations on how your departure will be if you get the position. Your manager can also help you prepare for the interview. Letting him or her know will also mean you will have his or her support as a reference. This is a strong card to have since your current boss can be your best cheerleader. It will also help with how to juggle the interview while at the same time managing your full-speed operation.
If you have reasons to believe your manager will not be keen on your intentions then keeping it private may be your option for now. Keep in mind, if you are interviewing across the country, things will get difficult. Flying out late Sunday, interviewing and cooking for 2 days, catching a red-eye back home, and showing up at work as if nothing happened is exhausting. Emphasize to your prospective employer that you are keeping your search confidential. This is a very small circle we move in.
Next, be sure to have the proper information ready to go. How is your portfolio looking? Can you share it on a snap? Do you have good photos of your food, a progression of a la carte or banquet menus? I don’t mean Instagram or Facebook. These are good avenues but you don’t want to mix your personal and professional accounts. Do you have or are you able to put together a personal website? Do you have a PDF that is shareable or a large zip file with a PowerPoint presentation that can be emailed or shared?
Think about the interview and the questions you will be asked. Are you able to decipher financial information? Do you know how to interpret information like, “The labor budget is $600K with two sous chef, a pastry chef, 6 cooks and 4 dishwashers?”
Finally, you need to do your research. Who is the manager? Where has he or she been before? Do you know anyone who has worked with this manager? Can you get a reference? Is this a solid operation? Are there governance issues? You will get many of these answers during the interview. Be careful, yet thoughtful during your meetings. You will be tired from traveling. Ask questions. Remember, you are being hired but you are hiring them, too.
For me, important questions to ask are always: How do you measure success or progress? What can I expect in the first 90 days? How does the club discipline employees and are there any untouchable employees I need to be aware of? What are the club and culinary cultures here? What do you expect from me as the leader of your culinary program? What would be my biggest challenge in the first six months?
Make sure you listen to these answers and dig deep. Get perspectives from the managers and employees as well as the board or hiring committee. Listen for alignment and contrasting themes. Everyone will be asking you questions. Make sure you reciprocate and ask open-ended questions. Ask why. Use “tell me more” frequently. It will give you insight and knowledge. You will have only a few hours to gather as much information as possible. Use them wisely.
Taking a new job is a bold step. It will mean changes to your hours, family and routine. It may even mean a different commute or relocating to a new city. Making the right choice, one that is aligned with your personal goals and principles will set you on a path of growth and advancement. Remember, if you are not fully convinced, or don’t feel good about the offer, say no. The job search is not a one-way road, and you have the final choice.
Just make sure you are respectful of others’ time and resources and don’t burn bridges.