In a recent post I raised the question of whether Chefs Pay and Benefits are a Problem in Ireland? In the course of examining the thorny topic of chefs pay I found that before long I got to the subject of competing for chefs, competing for their services and how, it seems to me at least, despite everest sized pile of data that says a real competition is in play, most caterers, hoteliers, and restaurateurs etc have somehow managed to
convince themselves that they’re different and the need only list the qualities they’re looking for in a chef, post it on the internet, and wait for all the great applications to start flooding in.
Advertising for Chefs? Then you’re selling!
I hope anyone who persevered with my previous piece has, by now, dispensed with any notions they may have entertained that the employer is the only one setting the market price for chefs. If not, then they need to read it again. Now let’s leave price aside for the moment, price is seldom the only criteria that sparks a chef’s interest in a new position, other factors play an important role but first impressions count and if you’re advertising chef jobs your chef job ad is your candidates first impression of you. I’ll be the first to admit that churning out chef job ad copy can be laborious and, well, basically, work. I make a ton of mistakes on a regular basis but there’s one thing I keep in mind, at all times, “I’m selling.” No I don’t want piles of applications from chefs unqualified or unsuitable for any given position but guess what? I do want applications and getting them involves remembering that the best chefs want a reason, other than desperation and unemployment, to apply for your job. Some of them do appreciate a bit of wooing, what’s so bad about that? They’re good and they know it. So I try always to remember the WIIFM (aka “What’s In It For Me). Now take a look at the following screen grab I snatched from a catering recruitment webpage today in Ireland and ask yourself, what’s in it for any chef? Can you find anything?
Chef Job Advertising a Masterclass in how it’s not done.
So what’s wrong with the above? Oh let me count the ways. Actually no, let’s not, let’s content ourselves to counting just a handful, otherwise this post will never end. First things first, this ad is a long list of things a chef must be, must have and must be willing to do/endure. The word “require,” “required,” or “requirement” appears no less than seven times; hideously impressive in a one paragraph piece of job ad copy. How many times does the word “offer” offered,” or “offering” appear? Let me save you the trouble, zero times. This employer could be great, the work environment fantastic, and the pay handsome but you’d never know that from reading the advertisement; in fact there isn’t even a mention of pay or salary, nothing to indicate that a successful applicant will receive any compensation for his/her time, effort and skills. What type of chef would, in sincerity, take the time and trouble reply to such an ad? Probably none, assuming it were to elicit any responses the pool of applicants will be a lot shallower and, in general, lower quality than if the employer had made an effort to sell themselves and their business.
This isn’t just about chef job ads…
The deeper problem is cultural and based on the notion that chefs are commodities and not serious professionals whose skills are in demand, and essential to the success of your business. It’s a more profound issue than whether such ad copy can entice chefs, from the current pool of chefs, to apply for any given job. In the case of the ad above, and so many others I encounter every day, the answer is less important than what it tells us about the current shortage of chefs in Ireland, indeed in other locations, and how this shortage might be best remedied. It begins with respect.
The ad cited above is devoid of respect for its audience, chefs. It’s a surface level manifestation of an idea that attached itself to too many hospitality industry employers, and that idea is that chefs are a necessary evil, to be endured rather than cherished or celebrated. One of the first steps on the road to reducing the chef shortage effecting our industry is to make becoming a chef a more attractive proposition in the first place. The first step on that journey is make your jobs more attractive to those already in the industry. They’re the generation of chefs who will either entice towards, or warn the next generation away from a career in kitchens. And if it ends up the latter who’s going to pick up the tab?
We’re not picking on employers, honest
Perhaps there are employers out there who, reading this blog, think we’re a bit too biased towards chefs and less inclined to see things from their perspective. I’d counter that by saying we devote significant time and attention working with chefs on their own presentational, and yes, sales skills. Indeed no small part of this recruitment website is devoted to providing them with tips and resources on everything from sprucing up their CVs to making sure they don’t let themselves down come job interview time. We’ve even called chefs out for using a bit too much creative licence on their CV’s and pointed the finger at some for lack of resilience and job hopping hell, we’ve even taken a bat to, virtually, an entire generation of chefs. As matchmakers, in essence that’s a large part of the job, we’re perfectly positioned to have noticed that both parties, employers and chefs, have evolved fantastic strategies for putting each other off, well, each other. It’s just that getting on the case of chefs about their poorly formatted, or worded, or incomplete, CVs etc is a much easier game for recruitment agencies to play than it is to tell employers, i.e. potential customers, that they need to buck up their ideas about chef hiring and chef hires.
Photo by mikecogh