Job hunting is like going to the dentist.  Nobody really likes it, but if you avoid it long enough eating becomes difficult.  Filling out a pile of applications asking the same questions in hopes that one of them will land you a job can be a real pain in the neck.  Unfortunately, this is still the way most restaurant jobs are landed.  With the economy still lagging, it is more important than ever to show you are serious about landing the job with how you approach the interview.

Today I was closing the lunch shift in our lounge and watched six or seven applicants come in to fill out applications.  One really stood out.  She first sat herself at a patio table and called over the server outside to bring her an ashtray.  Then she came inside and sat at my table to wait for her interview.  I went by to offer her a drink and she shooed me away somewhat rudely.  She sat there for about 30 minutes as the manager looked for her application.  Not only did she not have an interview scheduled, she had never even filled out an application.  Her demeanor and posture showed annoyance from across the room.  After an hour or so she grabbed a server and asked, “How much longer am I going to wait for an interview?”  Needless to say, her chances of getting a job are as likely as me getting asked out on a date by my celebrity crush Rachel Maddow.

So in honor of the person you should most hope you are competing with for a job, here are some helpful job hunting tips.  This list is by no means complete and will be updated as time goes by.

DO Smile and be Friendly: This means from the time you get out of your car until you are safely out of sight.  Everyone you come in contact with while at the restaurant already knows the person you are trying to impress.  Don’t let them report back anything negative about you.

DO NOT Smoke Before the Interview: The host stand probably has a good sightline out the front door.  Do not let the first impression you make be putting out a cigarette.

DO Bring a Resume: Some job seekers view this as overkill.  I would argue that is why they are still job seekers.  A resume is the most appropriate way to stand out from the competition.  If you have a number of restaurant jobs, include another page titled “related experience” to list them all.

DO NOT Exaggerate: It is tempting to make your experience sound more impressive than it actually is to land the job.  It will be far more embarrassing to explain that you lost the job because even though you said you were a wine steward at your last job, you cannot open a bottle.

DO Bring a Pen: Self-explanatory, but also an incredibly common mistake.

DO NOT Complain: Anything you say about a former employer will be seen by a manager as a preview of what you say about them.  Less is more.

DO Have an Answer: Nearly every application will ask why you left your last three jobs.  Have something positive to fill in for each of these.

DO NOT Look Like a Slob: Filling out the applications or showing up for an interview looking like you are heading to a Phish concert will not land you the job.   As a rule of thumb, always dress on level nicer than the uniform for the job you want.

DO Practice Your Answers: Be ready to answer questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and why you left your last job.  Practice an interview with a friend and rehearse your answers in the car on your way to the interview.

DO NOT Forget You are Asking: Whether you get the job or not, you are walking in the door and asking a manager to take time out of their day to do an interview to consider giving you the job.  Be polite, patient, and grateful.

You must go into an interview presenting a snapshot of what you will be as an employee.  Managers will expect you to be on your best behavior, so any slip-ups will be magnified.  There is more competition for fewer jobs than I have seen in my time in the industry.  You must impress your potential employers from the moment you walk in the door.  Following this list will greatly increase your likelihood of landing the job and keeping your foot in the door.

Sorry for the late update.  Had a tremendous time at the Michael Franti and Spearhead show last night.  If you ever get a chance to see them live, I highly recommend taking it.  Ran into my favorite crafty blogger and loyal reader last night with another cool follower.  She wrote a great review if you want to read it here.

I am currently working on a concept for a regular feature to the blog.  I am looking to assemble a panel for input.  If you are interested in joining such a panel, shoot me an email at .  All credit or anonymity requests will be honored and you can share your ideas with the world.  Well at least the hundred or so people a day that stop by to read this blog.

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