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Good Resume Karma for Hospitality Workers

Aug 17, 2007
So, you've done your turn in the trenches. You've been a busperson, head waiter, bartender, host, and what-not. After ten to twenty years, many hospitality workers, feeling burned-out at the late shifts and long hours, yearn to break into the ranks of higher management. Yet they find themselves in a kind of 'glass ceiling' situation. They can't get a recruiter to look twice at their resume, even when the qualifications are more than a match for the job.

The place where hospitality is at a disadvantage is the job titles. The hospitality industry being as pinched for profits as it is, someone hired as a waiter or bartender will find themselves performing management functions: balancing books, being in charge of the staff, purchasing, ordering, overseeing the operation of the establishment, and on and on. All of these skills are transferable to higher-salary jobs, but because they were done under the job title of "hostess" or some such, they mean zip as far as an interviewer is concerned.

This is a shame, as the person who knows the business the best is the one who worked their way up through the ranks. The computer age has also sealed the fate of many poorly-considered resumes, as human resource departments search resumes in electronic form, including and excluding keywords and only pulling up those resumes that meet the search criteria.

The recruiter's ultimate responsibility is to the restaurants, hotels, casinos, and clubs which they are hired to represent. This is not to say that they don't also have your best interests at heart; it just means that recruiters have to comply with the job description and qualifications set forth by their clients. So they are unable to present candidates that do not match those requirements - no matter how much a candidate calls back.

So this should tell you something: there are good and bad keywords and phrases. Words like "restaurant, hotel, hostess, waitress, bartender, cook, chef" tend to get you stuck in a rotating cycle of those positions forever. What they fail to address is that you have done work far outside the scope of your job title, and are ready for a meatier career. A broad majority of hospitality job seekers have job titles unrelated to their current career goals.

You are much better off using skill headings rather than job titles, if your goal is to land higher salaries and increase your interview rates. For example, if you were quite practiced in enhanced selling at your business, a handy leading line might be: "A versatile and skilled sales and marketing professional with excellent hands-on experience in developing and improving sales for wholesale and retail operations in the hospitality industry." You did it, why not flaunt it?

Or if you were eventually saddled with overseeing the restaurant staff when all you started out as is a line cook, it's high time you boasted: "An assertive manager with outstanding interpersonal people management skills, experienced in communications, negotiations, operations, and scheduling." Again, your title may not have been manager, but that's still the job you did, and the one you're seeking now!

Bartenders are another catch-all position. The head office sees a bartender as somebody who washes glasses and pours. But the best of all outcomes is when your bar business expands so that now you're booking entertainers, arranging bachelor parties, expanding to include a kitchen, purchasing and warehousing the stock, hiring and firing help, placing advertisements, and generally overseeing the day-to-day operations. You've been promoted in everything but title!

How better to highlight some bullet points:

- Recruited and trained X-number servers and kitchen employees in full service dining.
- Assisted in the X-number% reduction of labor costs through better selection of staff.
- Reduced labor and cost of goods sold by X-number%.
- Carried out a demographic study that pin-pointed the establishment's market.
- Developed and oversaw the new catering program.
- Analyzed and upgraded kitchen equipment to achieve greater efficiency.
- Improved cost control by eliminating waste.
- Consistently ran low-overhead costs throughout seasonal highs and lows.
- Prepared the annual budget for the branch location.
- Directed the development of a new line of appetizers.

To your ears, this may sound like "laying it on thick", and you may be right, but you have to understand that head-hunters think this way. To them, there is no "we switched to a cheaper brand of vodka in our martinis". There is only "efficiently oversaw a new product strategy that reduced price of goods sold".

Chefs are another career category with a few roadblocks in advancement. The publicity of the Celebrity Chefs of the Food Network has helped the chef career gain new stamina in recent years, but maybe that casino manager with the hospitality manager position doesn't watch the Food Network. Many people think 'chef' and are unable to picture anything but a line cook in front of a grill, flipping steaks.

If you engaged in anything involving creativity, such as pastry, planning a menu, designing a new side dish, experimenting with a new recipe, or coming up with a new line of beverages, there's room in marketing and design arts for you. After all, if your endeavors were successful, then that shows that you know your target market and what they like. If your restaurant started hosting banquets and providing catering services, then your responsibilities grew with the business.

Whatever the situation, it's hard not to find examples where you expanded your job experience to fulfill higher duties. The trick, then, is to focus on your newly gained skills, which, after all, you undertook in the first place hoping for advancement, did you not? By phrasing things in a more general way, it makes it evident that your skills are easy to transfer to a new job category.
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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