If you're a recent culinary school graduate looking to land your first job in the industry, there are some common interview questions you should be prepared to answer. If you're particularly interested in front-of-house or managerial positions, definitely be ready to pony up the goods, because prospective employers want to know about your work history and your work philosophy as much as your culinary pedigree. The following are some of the most common interview questions and a few ideas on how to answer them in the hopes that you score your dream job:
Where Have You Worked?
When you're asked where you've worked, don't pad your resume. If you've never worked at The Fat Duck, it would be unwise to say you did. In the food service and hospitality industry, people know and talk to each other — even if they're in different countries. All it takes is one quick email to a former colleague or someone who knows someone to get the skinny on you.
Instead, honestly talk about milestones you've reached, any particular awards or kudos you've garnered, influential mentors you've had and how they made a difference. Also, try to answer with a positive bent; laying down a negative energy likely won't get you very far.
How Well Would You Fit In?
Prospective employers want to know how you'll fit into their corporate culture, no matter how small or independent the restaurant you're applying to work in is. This means you should do your homework. When the interviewer asks whether you've eaten at the restaurant before, you should answer "yes" and follow up with points that you liked. He or she may ask you what you'd improve upon, so give that some thought, too. Have at least one well-considered point that can actually help the restaurant improve its business. This will show your employer that you're an observant, intelligent candidate. Also, be ready to ask why you choose to apply to the particular restaurant and why you want to continue in or break into this particular industry.
How Do You Demonstrate Teamwork and Flexibility?
In the hospitality and food service industry, you must always think on your feet and change and respond to needs in a timely manner. To this end, an interviewer may ask you what you did to fill any downtime at a previous job. Your interviewer doesn't want to hear that you were perpetually going outside for a smoke. He or she wants to know that you're proactive, not reactive. Again, if this isn't you, don't fudge it just to get the job. Think of something else that's positive or forward-thinking, because if you get hired and don't live up to your billing, you likely won't last.
Also, be ready to describe a past managerial decision that was made that you didn't agree with. How did you handle it? Think carefully about what you want to say, because if your answer is laced with negative speech about a former boss, it's unlikely you'll be given a fair shot, no matter how capable you are.
Interview Best Practices
Future employers want to know that you're willing to go the extra mile in offering the very best customer service to patrons. If you hear questions such as "What motivates you?" or "How do you motivate others?" the interviewer wants a concrete example. For example, you might say, "I motivate others by leading by example. I've stayed past my shift to help clean the dining room because we got an eight-top close to closing but chose to serve our guests. To make things easier on my staff, I pitched in and helped clean up so we could all leave earlier."
Finally, think about how you will talk about your greatest accomplishments, something you wish you'd handled differently and, more generally, yourself. Take this opportunity to discuss your passions and why you got into the industry in the first place.
Though going in for any interview may seem daunting, preparing your answers to some of the most common interview questions can make you feel more at ease and impress your interviewer.
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