Fifty Minute Classroom

Aug 17, 2022, 18:28

50-Minute Classroom: Interview Skills

28 February 2011

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

chef_march11What will a potential employer see if he or she looks up your student on Facebook? This and six other points will help you help your grads find meaningful employment.

With the end of the school year approaching, a number of your students will be out in the job market looking to turn all of their culinary skills (that you taught them) into gainful employment. Now for some painful reality: Unless you teach them how to get and keep a job, all of the technical skills that you have taught are in vain. You might feel that you don’t have time to teach these skills or that they aren’t part of your curriculum. Yet, you must remember that even if your student is potentially the next Bobby Flay, it is useless if he/she can’t get a job and keep that job.

This article will be about how to teach your students to get a job, and the next article will regard teaching how to keep the job.

1. Practice Interviews
Remember, it is likely that most of your students have NEVER had a job interview. Ask your friends in the field to come in and give mock interviews. Record them if possible and go over them in front of the class. The more times that a student practices interview skills the better. To break the ice, I volunteer to be the first person interviewed. In front of the whole class I give a “bad” interview and then a “good” one, so that students can see the difference. 

2. Write a Résumé
Your students might not have any work experience, but they have things to put on a résumé. Volunteering, classroom cooking competitions and skills that they have learned in your class (particularly preparation and cleaning) are all things for a résumé. Have them beef up their résumés by attaching photos of class work and letters of reference from you or another respected person. Prepare a résumé template, and then require students to complete a résumé as their homework assignment. Then, grade it! 

3. Encourage Volunteering
Have your students volunteer at the local food bank or soup kitchen. They can help out at the hospital or senior center. Even if they aren’t doing food work, this will lead to references and, more importantly, show an interviewer that the student already has a work ethic. 

4. Do an Electronic Audit
What will a potential employer see if he or she looks up the student on Facebook? Would it be a sloshed minor holding a red cup and extending a middle finger, or pictures of making food in your classroom? What about the student’s e-mail address? I have a relative whose e-mail is [email protected] and she can’t figure out why she doesn’t get interviews. 

5. Research
Make sure your student knows about the place where he/she is applying. Examining the potential employer’s Web site and reviews are a good start, but going to the location a few days before the interview is also a must. Not only will the student be more relaxed on the day of the interview after having scoped out driving times and parking, but the student can even phrase a question to show that he or she was there. (“I noticed that you are busy at dinner on Mondays. Are you that busy on other days?”) The fact that your student took the time to check out the establishment will greatly impress the interviewer. 

6. Interview Demeanor
There are a myriad of books and Web postings about how to be interviewed. The first that must be stressed to your students is NO CELL PHONES!!!! Leave them in the car. If they must carry one, turn it OFF—not just on silent. Tell your students not to use their cell phones as a clock. OFF, OFF, OFF—and completely out of sight. Second, odds are that the interviewer will be more conservative than the student. In other words, the interviewer doesn’t want to hear F- bombs or text phrases like OMG or LOL, nor does the interviewer want to see boxers, bra straps, piercings, purple hair, etc. All of this is obvious to you and me, but unless you repeatedly and blatantly tell this to your students, it won’t be obvious to them. 

7. Application Practice
Go to a local restaurant and get an application. Copy it and have your students practice on it, since most applications for entry level are basically the same. Employers notice how long it takes someone to complete an application. Have your students practice submitting online applications. Many are amazingly difficult. 

Can’t do all of the above? If you only have time for one, I recommend practice interviewing.

Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain and the Sequoia Adult School on the San Francisco Peninsula.