Restaurant jobs come with many perks — the schedules are flexible, prior work experience is often not needed, it’s a fun environment, and some positions are paid in cash daily — so it’s no surprise that many people are looking for positions in food service. The restaurant industry is also known for its high turnover rate, meaning restaurants always need employees.
That said, the coronavirus pandemic has left millions of people unemployed, so the competition is going to be tough. To stand out, you need to be prepared. That means creating a stellar resume and acing the all-important restaurant job interview.
To ensure you have a competitive edge, we spoke to restaurateurs, general managers, and professional resume writers to get a comprehensive look at exactly what employers want to see from a restaurant job candidate and how to nail the interview.
Depending on the restaurant and the position you’re applying for, you may not need a resume. Many restaurant owners we spoke to said they don’t ever ask for one. Despite that, you still need to have a perfect resume. Why? Because you never know which potential employer will ask for it. Having a well-written resume ready to go when asked will win you brownie points. Remember, amat victoria curam — victory loves preparation (and so do employers!).
Here’s what you need to know to build a great resume that gets you the job.
Pay attention to the formatting
We heard from several employers that the first thing they notice about a resume is the formatting. Is it organized? Are the sections aligned correctly? These small details matter.
There are many free resume templates available online. When using a template, it’s sometimes tricky to maintain the pre-designed formatting. Keep this in mind and make sure the final version has clean lines and is easy to read.
Skip the “objective” section
The “objective” is traditionally the first section on a resume. If you’re using a template, there will most likely be a space for this. Instead of using it to announce the position, you’re looking for (this should already be apparent), use it as an opportunity to talk up your experience, skills, and accomplishments.
Professional resume writer Johnathan Nugent says, “The objective section went out of fashion about 10 years ago. The most critical section of the resume is the top third of the first page. Instead of using vague generic language found in 99% of objective statements, the space should be used to define your unique value proposition. What sets you apart from others? Basically, answer the question, ‘Why should I hire you?’”
Triple-check your spelling and grammar
There aren’t many instances in the restaurant industry where a server or cook will need to have great spelling or writing skills, but it’s still very important on a resume. If you make simple spelling or grammar mistakes, your potential employer will assume you lack attention to detail, and that is something you’ll need all day every day in a restaurant job.
Don’t copy and paste
There are tons of resume examples online for every imaginable restaurant position. It may be tempting to copy and paste from one of those, especially if writing isn’t your strong suit, but resist that urge. It’s easy for someone who reads a lot of resumes to pick up on this immediately, and it gives the impression that you prefer to take shortcuts instead of putting in the work yourself.
There’s an art to doing a great job interview. It should feel like a normal conversation, not an interrogation, and that comes from being prepared and speaking honestly. Review some of the common restaurant interview questions so you won’t be taken by surprise, but don’t get hung up on rehearsing your exact answers. They need to meet the real you so they have no doubt that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
Show your personality
The industry professionals we spoke to found it frustrating when candidates clearly rehearsed the “best” answers to standard interview questions. To get around this, many have started adding in questions that explore your personality and values.
Niquenya Danaye Collins, owner of Cocoa Chili Restaurant & Catering, says, “You can teach almost anyone the ‘how to’ of a job. The best questions address the culture you want to create in your restaurant.” A favorite culture question among the restaurant owners and managers we spoke to was, “What does hospitality mean to you?”
Be ready for situational questions
Restaurant jobs require constant prioritization of tasks and thinking on your feet. Before hiring you, employers want to see how you think, and one of the best ways to do this is to give you hypothetical scenarios to work through.
Jennifer Nielesky, former restaurant GM, says, “When I interviewed service people, I asked situational questions to see how their brains worked. Can they think of more than one thing at a time?
“This was one of my favorite questions to ask: You have a two-top, a four-top, and a six-top. The six-top and the two-top were just seated at the same time and the four-top’s food just landed on their table. What do you do first, second, etc. and why?”
When you’re ready to find the perfect restaurant job, we can help. Check out open positions here.