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.You've got yourself an interview at the restaurant where you're dying to work? Bravo! We believe you have what it takes to earn that position. You just have to convince your prospective employer of that as well.

There are some fundamentals to making a good impression when interviewing for a job in any field. However, there are a few tips specific to restaurant work that can also be useful to know. In this article, we'll be going over both of these topics in hopes of helping you achieve the restaurant position you're aiming for.

General Interview Tips

Most employers are looking for the following qualities in their candidates:

  • well-groomed
  • polite
  • on time
  • concise
  • positive
  • honest
  • confident
  • interested in the job

If you've got these down, then you're off to a great start.

Qualities for Culinary Arts Interviews

Restaurants can be highly intense environments, and workers are often forced to rely heavily on each other. In a fast-paced kitchen, qualities such as reliability, composure and a strong work ethic can go a long way.

Before your interview, think about stressful situations you've been in where you were able to demonstrate traits like these. These stories might be perfect to highlight in your interview. Work, school and internship experiences are often particularly good examples, since they can also emphasize skills or knowledge you have learned that could be useful in this position.

Culinary Arts Candidates Should Expect These Questions

Food service interviewers often prioritize strong character traits, not just kitchen skills. Be ready 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.


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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