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Resumes - are frequent FOH/BOH short-term jobs normal?


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#1 mskerr

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:44 PM

Once again, I am going to reveal my extreme naivete...

I have quite a varied resume, with work in some very very different areas and no immediately apparent logic, aside from me liking to do different things. In the food industry, I've worked fast food (first job), made coffees, washed dishes, line cooked, served, worked in a deli... but no single job for longer than six months.

While apparently, it's extremely common for servers and cooks to only spend a few months at one food business before moving onto greener pastures (higher tips/pay/ better working conditions/ higher quality food etc), my question is: how is this viewed when applying for a job? (I'm not talking about high-end restaurants here, but sort of lower-mid to mid-range - in the U.S. specifically.) Will a hiring manager see a couple three month stints here and the odd six month stint there and think "Too flaky" or will they not bat an eye and just accept it as normal for the industry? (I'm sure this will be debated, but I'm thinking more of FOH here, as I would think it'd take a bit longer to train a cook in just the way the chef likes each item cooked, vs. explaining preferences for service to FOH.) I mean, I know that many servers (again, not talking very high end like French Laundry, or somewhere with a loyal staff like Lola, or anything) are doing it for quick money/while waiting for their big break/as a second job/while in school/etc etc, but is a hiring manager at, say, your average decent-but-not-great American casual restaurant looking for someone who is going to stay around for a while, or do they just expect high turnover?

As a secondary question - at what point is a brief stint too brief to mention on a resume? Like, I will leave off the cafe job for one month that I decided wasn't worth the low pay and where I would prefer the boss not be contacted because he's crazy. But if I work somewhere for, say, three months to save up some money before a move or something, and the boss would attest that I was a solid worker, is that legit?

(I suppose this bleeds into the other thing I was wondering about: what do people look for when hiring waitstaff? - but that probably deserves its own thread.)

By the way - this is all a bit strange to me, as I consider myself more at home as BOH... as my other recent posts showing my cluelessness about FOH would attest to!

Thanks in advance for any advice, as I am well and truly puzzled.

Edited for clarity.

Edited by mskerr, 10 February 2013 - 10:45 PM.


#2 pastrygirl

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:17 AM

Normal, unfortunately frequent. Desirable, no.

Speaking from the BOH, I avoid resumes with multiple less than a year stints. Sure, everyone has had one job that didn't work out after a short term, and no, the three weeks I worked at a big hotel in town is not on my resume. You have to balance showing a solid work history and proving your employability with not looking too flaky. Unfortunately, it sounds like you may actually be kind of flaky :shock:

Nobody wants high turnover, it is expensive and bad for morale.

#3 mskerr

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:04 AM

Normal, unfortunately frequent. Desirable, no.

Speaking from the BOH, I avoid resumes with multiple less than a year stints. Sure, everyone has had one job that didn't work out after a short term, and no, the three weeks I worked at a big hotel in town is not on my resume. You have to balance showing a solid work history and proving your employability with not looking too flaky. Unfortunately, it sounds like you may actually be kind of flaky :shock:

Nobody wants high turnover, it is expensive and bad for morale.


What if someone has six-month cooking stints (thus not meeting your one-year criteria) because the restaurants are in a resort town and are only open 6 months of the year?

While I might SOUND flaky, it's not the case, as anyone who knows me well would attest. I don't aspire to have heaps of 2 or 3 months gigs. At this point, I have a couple 6-month gigs, because as noted above, the restaurants were only open for six months a year, plus two weeks at a job before I realized I didn't want to get yelled at in Turkish incessantly for the next six months (also, the visa limited work to six months), and one month at a job before I decided, despite my best efforts, that I could not work for such a crazy boss. Those last two I consider extended job trials, and will take the skills I picked up from them and happily leave them off my resume. Now I am at a job which I expect to only last a few months before I can move to somewhere with lots of restaurant jobs and ideally find a cooking gig to stay at for a while, as I would love to have a cooking mentor and learn as much as possible.

SO my question isn't "hey, man, will I be sweet with like lots of 2 month jobs cuz like everyone does it?" but rather, will ONE or at the most, two, 3-month stints on a resume necessarily be strikes against me, or is it pretty normal (though as you point out, not necessarily desirable) in the restaurant business? My natural impulse as a non-flake is to leave jobs off of the resume that aren't for, say, half a year or so, but after reading several threads on here, including the recent "rethinking tipping culture" one where many people talk about how FOH & BOH will often jump ship in a second for greener pastures at the slightest sign of more money, I got to wondering how many resumes must have heaps of short term gigs and, perhaps, in comparison mine is no big deal.

I would think there are lots of good reasons for a short-term job: in college here in the US, we were usually assigned work-study jobs every term. Terms only run 10-15 weeks. Then there's summer break which is like 4 months. Then, being a seasonal town, there's lots of jobs that only run for 6 months. Then there's jobs while backpacking, which are assumed to be short term. Or if you have a family emergency and have to go home for a few months, and need to make money while you're there. Etc etc.

Also, I would note that one person may learn more in 6 months at a job than others would in 2 years.

On a random note, in an ideal world, perhaps there would be some sort of +/- rating, gauging how you compare to the average employee at a particular restaurant. While I only worked 6 months at a previous job, that was approximately 5.5 months longer than the average employee, and at my current work, if I stayed 3 months, there'd be a good chance I was the senior employee by the time I left. The two weeks at the Turkish restaurant is probably about average, and the one month at the other cafe is certainly pretty normal as well.

Edited to add: To help clarify more - in the title to the my post "Are frequent FOH/BOH jobs normal?" - I wasn't referring to myself. I don't have may different FOH/BOH jobs at all. I was asking, since I am naive as stated above about the restaurant business, is this what hiring managers often encounter? What is the norm in the business? What does the competition look like?

Make sense?

Edited by mskerr, 11 February 2013 - 11:09 AM.


#4 pastrygirl

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:42 AM

You're right, plenty of legitimate reasons to have shorter term jobs, whether seasonal, school breaks, visas. I think the key is somehow making those clear on your resume. If you are sending a resume to people not familiar with the places or situations you have worked, you want to make sure they don't read it as 6 months here 6 months there, super flaky, but rather worked hard the entire season that the establishment was open, went back to school, worked part time during school or while traveling, etc. And if you move around a lot, it may help to give a little description of the type of cuisine, average # of covers, etc. so potential employers get the bigger picture.

#5 mskerr

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:21 PM

You're right, plenty of legitimate reasons to have shorter term jobs, whether seasonal, school breaks, visas. I think the key is somehow making those clear on your resume. If you are sending a resume to people not familiar with the places or situations you have worked, you want to make sure they don't read it as 6 months here 6 months there, super flaky, but rather worked hard the entire season that the establishment was open, went back to school, worked part time during school or while traveling, etc. And if you move around a lot, it may help to give a little description of the type of cuisine, average # of covers, etc. so potential employers get the bigger picture.


Nice. Yes, for a while I wasn't sure at all how to present my work history in a flattering light, since as you say, it can sound flaky - or it can sound like a well-rounded person who has experience in many different areas, is adaptable, and is as comfortable, say flipping hash as helping teach college courses, and who not only serves wine at work but has worked on a vineyard, and so on. (I suppose it also does show a wee bit of intelligence if a person can spell out what they learned from different experiences, and how they all contribute so some sort of trajectory, rather than just saying "this is what I've done dude," and presenting a resume that looks like a bunch of random stuff thrown together on a page.) So, yes, like you say, I emphasize that I worked a position for the whole season, rather than just putting down 6 months; or that I worked all sorts of different short-term jobs while traveling; or different assigned positions while in college. I also write about how every job, no matter how seemingly unrelated, has taught me different skills that I can bring to my current job, and similarly, having worked different jobs in the food industry ultimately helps me be a better, say, server. (I understand what's going on in BOH, and don't think food magically appears on the pass - this is not how I word it on a cover letter, by the way.) I also am glad that my references would happily say that I came into different jobs with no previous experience but learned quicker than most/all of the other people with no experience... and the chef on my references would probably say I was the most helpful server he worked with, as I would happily & voluntarily do anything I could to help him when he was in the weeds, including washing dishes for him, plating, etc. Of course, if people understand his accent over his babies screaming in the background is another matter :smile:

SO I guess back to my main question: what sort of resumes do hiring managers encounter? (Again, not for the French Laundry...)

I take it from what you're saying, pastrygirl, that a couple of short-term stints need not be held against me, so long as I make the legit reasons behind them obvious - whereas a resume that was a laundry-list of very short stints, where the only reason is "better money" or "the boss sucked" or the like, would not look very flash to any but the most desperate hiring managers.

In general, I suppose the benefit of cover letters and resumes is that, to an extent, you can interpret your working history and make it work for you, as opposed to the generic application form where the manager is just going to see 3 months here and 6 months there and assume you're not a very serious employee.

#6 Dexter

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:19 PM

I would suggest building a resume that focuses not on your time spent at those establishments, but rather on what you did at those jobs. Skills-centered, not chronology based. Importantly, offer work references (old bosses, etc).

Your cover letter and brief interview are going to clear up the nature of the 6-month gigs very quickly. You just want to give them a reason to invite you for that interview.

#7 tsp.

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:28 PM

It's almost ironic that you didn't make the perfectly understandable reason you have a few six month stints clear in the OP and got a somewhat negative response from someone who presumable hires. Just somehow make it clear that you were working in a resort town, or had visa issues. Should be seen as no different to, say, someone filling a maternity leave spot, or a short term contract over a busy period. Well, that's how I would see it...

#8 mskerr

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 07:54 AM

It's almost ironic that you didn't make the perfectly understandable reason you have a few six month stints clear in the OP and got a somewhat negative response from someone who presumable hires. Just somehow make it clear that you were working in a resort town, or had visa issues. Should be seen as no different to, say, someone filling a maternity leave spot, or a short term contract over a busy period. Well, that's how I would see it...


Luckily, I spend wayyy longer on cover letters and resumes than OPs! Though they often both take me a ridiculous amount of time.

#9 Matthew Kirshner

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 07:43 AM

Personally when I read a new resume from a potential hire's I look at a couple things:
One, how accurate were their positions at these employments. Two: locations of
the employments. And Three: for the job they are applying for have they done
anything relevant for the position.

 

I only mention these three areas of questions because I have had a few applicants
in the past who have mention on the resume as titled "Pastry Cook"
but has also mention in the description they do "Menu Planning and Cost analysis"
which to me is not accurate because the job should be up the Pastry Chef or
even the Pastry Sous Chef. The Second thing is the locations because if they
jump city to city, you have to ask yourself how long this individual will stay
until they move once more. The last one is only if the job is for a production
stand-point, if you the employer have items on your menu that they have
produced in the past so there is little to no training involved. As example: if
you need someone to make croissants, your first thought would not be go with
the chocolate-tier.

 

These are just examples of what i look out for on a resume. The length of employment
at previous places does not weight a huge factor in my books. When you’re young
in your career, it is typical to jump job to job only because you want to learn
as much as possible before you make a decision on what area of the pastry world
you want to stay with; breads, hotels, chocolates, bakeries, etc... This is
just my two cents, every employer is different