There is much to learn about potential hires during the interview process.
From an employer’s perspective, a job interview will give you insight into an applicant’s personality, competencies, capabilities and achievements. Due to the fast-paced environment and volume of work, a cook is one of the most important and demanding jobs in the club industry. Being a cook requires long hours and a great deal of mental and physical strength in order to succeed. So, when interviewing an applicant for a country club cook position, it is important for questions to be tailored with this in mind.
Some of the most important skills for a cook to have in the kitchen are culinary skills, leadership and communication skills, problem-solving skills, organization skills, and reliability. While it can be difficult to get a full understanding of these qualities from just an interview, there are questions that can help to give some insight into where an applicant stands.
1. Why have you chosen a career in the field of culinary arts, particularly as a cook?
This question serves at least two purposes. First, it sets the interviewee at ease, allowing you to connect with them so that they can open up. Second, it helps you determine if the applicant is interested in working in the culinary field or if they merely see the position as another gig. Being a line cook is not just a job, it is also an opportunity to learn and grow. For many, becoming a line cook is a dream and is the perfect stepping stone to becoming a sous chef and eventually an executive chef. An employee who loves this type of work will often be a better candidate for the position. With an interviewee’s response, there should be an excitement about the culinary arts field, the motivation to excel at their job, and what they see for their future in the food industry.
2. How have you or how would you respond to criticism from a member about their dish?
This question tests a cook’s interpersonal skills, particularly how the applicant may handle criticism from members. It is likely that a chef will face an unhappy member sometime in their career, and thanks to social media the situation can have a negative effect on a club if not handled properly. A cook should be able to courteously and cautiously respond to negative feedback from those they serve. When answering there should be a sense of humility in their response, the willingness to resolve the problem graciously, and a realistic view of the outcome.
3. What is the most stressful situation you have had while cooking professionally, and how did you handle it?
Cooking can be stressful at times, especially in a busy club environment. Filling orders and trying to get them out in a timely fashion can be demanding enough, but what happens when a piece of cooking equipment goes out at the same time? A good candidate will be able to demonstrate the ability to work under demanding circumstances. A cook should have a response that shows they have the ability to keep calm under stress, acknowledge that stressful times happen and that they have the willingness to ask for help when necessary.
4. As a cook, how do you stay energized and motivated to produce quality dishes throughout your shift?
Cooks are responsible for prepping and making a variety of dishes throughout their shift, which also means they have to stand for most of their shift. Cooks should be comfortable working in fast-paced environments in which quality work is of the utmost importance. Because of this fast-paced environment, a line cook should be strong enough physically as well as mentally to handle large amounts of stress. This question allows interviewers to gauge a candidate’s strategies to deal with a steady stream of orders during the lunch and dinner services while maintaining the same quality, energy, and enthusiasm as they did at the start of their shift.
5. As a cook, are you familiar with the health codes in our specific state or county?
Along with ever-increasing food safety precautions, health inspections are a regular reality in the food industry. While it is not expected for a candidate to recite every health code, they should understand that there are rules in the kitchen that are imposed by the state. This question should help to get a feel for their knowledge of safety, cleanliness, and willingness to adhere to proper conduct in this area.
Examples of other questions could include: What do you do to stay current on new trends? Why are you leaving your current position? Why are you interested in working at this club? What is your favorite cuisine to cook? Interview questions should focus on the applicant and their training, questions about food and cooking, questions about work style and any management experience, and even questions about the business aspects of the kitchen for more experienced cooks. While job-specific interview questions are important, asking more general questions about employment history, education, strengths, weaknesses, achievements, goals, and plans can give more insight as to how well an applicant might fit in with other employees and the club’s kitchen environment.