The Interview Process
Once you have submitted your well written CV following reading our advice page, the next step is the interview process. It is really important to prepare well for this.
It important to double check the location and time of the interview. Ensure you have enough time to travel to and from the location taking in to account potential traffic and delays. Make sure you know what time the meeting is, who you will be meeting and what their position in the business is. If you are being interviewed by a Development Chef this will be a different style of interview with different questions than if you were being interviewed by a Site General Manager or Managing Director. It is important to know this information so you can prepare accordingly.
Find out the type of person the hiring manager is looking for so you can answer questions accordingly and think about the information you didn’t have opportunity to get over in your CV and how you could possibly include that in your interview. Ask your Recruitment Consultant about the people you will be seeing as hopefully they will have met them.
Researching the business is vital. Read through every page of their website, look up recent media stories and read any relevant internet articles. You may also want to do the same with the main customers the business supplies. For example if the company manufactures pizza for Marks & Spencer and the supermarket is making promises to remove hydrogenated fats from all its products then this will have an impact on your potential new employer. Having awareness of what is happening in the industry will impress any interviewer.
As a chef the interview is really going to focus on your food knowledge. Find out what products the business manufactures and go and buy and taste them. It is also important to eat competitor products and be prepared to comment on what you have tasted. You must be able to demonstrate your ability to identify flavours and suggest improvements whilst remaining constructive with your comments.
It is vital to look smart for your interview. More and more businesses are adopting a casual dress code but overall formal business wear is expected for interview and it is always advised to err on the side of caution. Tidy hair, clean shoes and coming prepared with a pen and notepad are the absolute basics which you must get right.
Interviews can be a nerve-racking experience and some jitters are a good thing. Practice keeping them under control though by offering a firm handshake and smiling at everyone you meet. Taking deep breaths and sitting upright in your chair with your shoulders down will help you look and feel more confident. Try to make eye contact with everyone is interviewing you so they feel included in what you have to say rather than just focusing on the person asking the questions.
For Development Chef roles the first interview is generally just to get to know you better. You will be asked why you want to work for the business and what your motivations are for moving in to product development. Generally interviewers will go through your CV and will ask in detail about your previous jobs – but please don’t go into huge detail on the early roles as there just isn’t time. It is important to be able to describe your recent roles in detail and any major achievements. For Development Chef roles, interviewers will really focus on your foodiness and culinary skill. They will want to know the cuisines you are an expert in, menus you have developed, what styles of food you like, examples of your signature dishes, your knowledge of local, national and international food trends, which chefs inspire you and your personal food passions.
Secondly they will focus on your communication skills and how they feel you would adapt to a professional environment. The interviewers will want to see that you engage positively with others at an appropriate level and in all forms and that you will fit in with the team and wider business.
It is important to convey how much preparation you have done for the interview, mention any products you have tasted and research you have done. Feel free to bring along anything else that is appropriate to the role that may impress an interviewer. A successful interview is all about standing out from the other candidates in the process for positive reasons.
Finally, after taking all of the above into account it is important to structure your answers so you don’t ramble on and the interviewer can clearly get the answer to the question they have asked. When asked a question it is important to describe the situation, state what the task was, describe what action you took, (not what anyone else did or the wider team) and describe the result that was achieved. Keep it interesting, stay enthusiastic and always think about the potential new job when answering questions. You should be aiming to speak for about 70% of the interview and letting the interviewer have the remaining 30%. There will be opportunity at the end of the interview to ask any questions you have; make sure you have prepared for this in advance or made a mental note of any that have come up in the course of the interview. Do ask something! It shows you are interested and want to know more.
Everything we have talked about for the first interview applies for the second stage interview but you will also need to complete a product development presentation for any Development Chef job.
You will generally be asked to research a product category and develop a new product that fits within the current range. You will have to demonstrate your research, reasons for choosing the product, history of the dish, recipe and ingredient knowledge, cooking techniques, a product costing and recommended selling price. See an example presentation brief here.
It is essential you visit as many food outlets and food retailers that sell the products you have been asked to research. Look at the types of products, flavours, ingredients used, packaging formats and selling prices. Can you identify any trends, gaps in the markets, product quality issues or any other points of interest? Make a note of these.
You then need to use the research you have done, as well as your own knowledge of trends and ideas to come up with a new product idea. Make sure you push boundaries whilst at the same time thinking about what would sell and how you will demonstrate your culinary ability. Have sound reasoning for making the choices you have which takes into account your market research. Know your recipe, have a completed product costing and be able to suggest a selling price which will fit in with the current market.
You may well be asked to put together a presentation showing the work you have done. Don’t use long paragraphs of writing but bullet points and include appealing pictures of food which will help demonstrate your creativity and make the document visually appealing. It is essential that all spelling is correct.
You must practice your dish before hand and get others to eat it. Everyone and anyone can be classed as a consumer so take into account their comments. Your family and friends will have eaten your dish many times!
Once you have finalised your dish or dishes and run through your presentation you need to check you have everything organised for the day. Do you have all your ingredients? Have you kept all your receipts in a safe place so you can be reimbursed? Have you decided which elements of your dish you are gong to prepare at home beforehand and what can be done fresh on the day? Have you practised your presentation and what you would like to say? Do you have sound reasoning for choosing your dishes?
Once you have completed all your preparation, have confidence in your ability and try and enjoy the interview. If you have put sufficient preparation in to your interviews you should be successful but if not any interview experience is good and an opportunity to learn.
The team at Focus Chefs are always here to help and we can support and advise across the whole interview process, as well as offer tips of how to improve if the interview doesn’t go to plan. Feel free to call and talk to us at any time. See an example presentation brief here.
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