What You Need to Know to Excel at Restaurant Interviews

by Olivia Tacelli
CulinaryEd Columnist
February 23, 2011

Culinary school can help land you a restaurant job.Bravo! You've got yourself an interview at the restaurant where you're dying to work. There are some fundamentals to making a great impression when interviewing for a job in any field, and then there are a few tips specific to restaurant work that can help you be the cream that rises to the top.

Qualities That Appeal to Culinary Arts Interviewers

Most employers are looking for the following qualities in any candidate:

  • well-groomed
  • polite
  • on time
  • concise
  • positive
  • honest

If you've got these down, then you've paved the way for a great interview.

Restaurants can be highly intense environments where workers heavily rely on each other. Everyone in a fast-paced kitchen appreciates team members that have a strong work ethic and are dependable and resistant to stress. Any work, school, or internship experiences that demonstrate these attributes should be highlighted in your interview.

Culinary Arts Candidates Should Expect These Questions

Food service interviewers tend to prioritize strong character traits, not just kitchen skills. Be prepared to answer questions that illustrate who you are, your strengths and weaknesses and your ability to handle conflict and critique. You may also be asked questions like:

  • What do you know about our business?
  • What motivates you/why are you a chef?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What are your qualifications for this job?
  • What are you goals?
  • Why did you leave your last job?

Be thorough but brief with your answers and remember to thank the interviewer.

Why Restaurant Interviewers Like Culinary School Graduates

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers see applicants who have completed culinary school as more serious, focused and able to follow through on long term commitments. Therefore, graduating from a culinary degree program can improve your job potential, especially when it comes to higher level chef positions.

Remember-even world-famous chefs had to sweat interviews back in the beginning when they had everything to prove. You've got to start somewhere, so give it your best shot.

About the Author

Olivia Tacelli is a freelance writer specializing in all things culinary. She has been a chef and caterer for 18 years, and has run her own whole foods cooking business, The Olive Tree, for 8 years.

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