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Mar 2, 2015

How to Stand Out: Interviewing for a Culinary Position

Interviewing for a job in the culinary field is a bit different than interviewing for a job at, say, a bank or corporate office. Although some of the same rules apply, there are key differences to consider if you’re going to ace your next interview. Keep reading to see our top interview tips for culinary professionals who are on the hunt for their next job.

Tip 1: Act and dress professionally
Culinary interviews tend to be more casual in environment and nature, but it’s no excuse to treat them that way. Even though you’re not going to be interviewing in a business office around a bunch of people wearing suits, you should still dress the part. Wear nice clothes – slacks with a button-up shirt and blazer, or even a suit, is acceptable attire for men. A nice dress with a blazer, or a dress shirt paired with a blazer and skirt just above the knees, can work well for women. Whatever you wear, make sure you’re still comfortable enough to demonstrate a few of your skills if asked.

You should also be prepared to answer stock interview questions about your past work experience, strengths and weaknesses, and why you’re interested in the company and position.

Tip 2: Be likable
Admittedly, this is easier for some than it is for others. Some people are naturally more capable of relating to others or being outwardly friendly. Others find it more difficult – you know who you are. Just remember, employers are ultimately looking for someone who has the skills they need and also fits in with the rest of their team. They need to be comfortable with the prospect of you working in their kitchen hour after hour, day after day.

The same goes for you, too. If you can tell it’s going to be difficult for you to mesh with your boss or coworkers, it’s something to consider. You’ll be spending a lot of time with these people – most of it in a fast-paced kitchen setting.

Tip 3: Do your research
Never go into an interview without knowing at least some basic information about the restaurant or kitchen you’ve applied to. Visit their website, if they have one, and take note of useful information. Talk to current or former employees (who left on good terms) if you know of any. Vendors who work with the company on a daily basis can also be a good resource.

You want to have a decent picture of the company and what they’re about before you walk through their doors.

Tip 4: If they offer you a drink or something to eat, accept it
Huh? Is that real advice? Yes. Yes, it is. It may seem like a small thing, but accepting an employer’s offer of hospitality can be a big opportunity, especially if they’re partaking as well. It immediately gives you something to share in, and helps make both parties more comfortable. The more comfortable you both are, the more likely you are to hit it off and have a more natural conversation. If the offering is something they make in-house, it also gives you an opportunity to sample (and compliment) their work.

Tip 5: Money talks
If it’s your first interview, we recommend not bringing up the money issue. However, if they mention it, be prepared to talk. Before your interview, you should have a bottom line in mind. If they’ve already given you a ballpark figure, make sure you’re comfortable with it before you agree to the interview in the first place.

You should also have an idea of other benefits you’re looking for, including paid days off, health insurance and employee profit sharing if they offer it.

Tip 6: The end of the interview
Before you leave, make sure to set expectations for what happens next – do you call them, do they call you? When will you hear from them next? When do they expect to make their decision? These are all good things to know before you walk out the door.