Part One: The Resume
Pittsburgh's restaurant scene is exploding, churning out new venues with breakneck speed. A city that used to be known primarily for its ingenuity in adding deep-fried carbs to a deli sandwich, now has chefs who are eagerly experimenting with flavors and techniques. An influx of establishments means there is a need to fill plenty of new service jobs. However, not all are created equal. With so many options, clientele can afford to be choosy, and there are plenty of fine restaurants that sit half-empty Sunday through Thursday, hoping that the weekend rush will keep them afloat.
Getting hired may be as easy as walking in the door, but constant competition for guests means its harder to find jobs that keep you glamorously flush in luxuries like rent, food, and deodorant. You don't want to waste eight hours standing in an empty restaurant, or subject yourself to a week of woefully underpaid training for the pleasure of working brunches again.
You deserve fair compensation for your time, and jobs that respect that are rare. Follow these steps to get noticed, get hired, and get the shifts you deserve.
Make Your Resume Industry Specific
Your first point of attack in obtaining lucrative employment is taking a hard look at that resume. Maybe you've been working at the same spot for awhile, or maybe you've simply been leveraging your friendships, advancing like the testament to cronyism you are, but a staffing shortage has restauranteurs bringing in outside management, and there's no guarantee that Pittsburgh's tight-knit community will afford you an in at your first choice.
Besides, being vouched for isn't going to get you a dope schedule.
You want your employer to be excited to bring you on, not reluctantly conceding to hire you based on the word of someone you drink with.
It's fine if your job in hospitality is meant to be a temporary paycheck, something to live off of until the band takes off. Your hiring manager expects it. They are familiar with why people get into working in the service industry. However, you wouldn't pass someone a note asking them out, get turned down, then hand that same note to someone else with the first recipient's name still on it.
Ask yourself if your resume is the professional equivalent of this situation.
A resume that lists all your journalism internships and has a line about your restaurant experience doesn't make anybody feel like the prettiest girl in the room, and diminishes the work service professionals have dedicated so much time to. Your hiring manager isn't interested in crushing your hopes (they leave that to the guests), but it's important your desire to work for them is clear. Non-relevant work experience should be kept to awards and interests, an entertaining talking point that makes you memorable, and gives you something engaging you can milk in the interview.
Nail the Objective
Your resume needs a clearly-stated objective. If you would like to use humor, this is the place to inject some, but rein it in. What gets yelled across the pass on a Saturday night hardly makes for an appropriate resume. State the job you are applying for. So many people fail to do so and resumes lacking context usually end up in the trash.
Your objective can be as simple as, "I am looking for a position as a server/bartender/host. I am hard-working, able to handle stressful situations without crying, rarely torture my coworkers."
You get the gist. That's all it has to be. If you have a specific interest in a certain wine region, especially if it's one said restaurant features, by all means, include it. Looking to grow with the company? Say so. Businesses like the idea of someone who is passionate about their product, and managers like the idea of someone who will want to stay on and grow, lessening the frequency with which they need to focus on hiring and training.
Your objective is to get hired, now say it in 200 words.
List Your Restaurant Experience
If you're new to the game, include anything relevant that you've done for at least three months. You can learn a lot by turning and burning tables of tourists during summer break. However, if you've been at this for a while, you want to mention three establishments, five at the absolute most. Sometimes people think that more conveys experience, when really it reads as though a candidate has trouble holding a job, is probably jaded, and will likely come in already "knowing" how to do everything.
Don't even bother with anywhere you spent less than 6 months at.
Managers understand the industry, and know that not everywhere is going to be a good fit. Outright lying will get you fired, but omitting a temporary job is acceptable.
Be sure to include the name of the restaurant you worked at, its address, phone number, and the years you worked there. These should be in bold. Managers are usually skimming through stacks of resumes and if yours is easy to read, you become easy to like. Underneath the restaurant entry, state the position(s) you held there. If you were a server, there is no need to list the minutiae of sidework that was required of you, it's expected. Instead use this as an opportunity to mention you are RAMP certified, skilled in working off-site events, an expert leader who was entrusted with training all incoming servers. Managers want to know you're a professional that won't need constant direction.
Personalize Your Approach
Call the restaurant. Ask who does the hiring and get their name (spelled correctly), their email, and the best time to drop by with a resume. Managers are fickle. Some might prefer perusing emails after service over a glass of wine, others might want to interview you on the spot. Hedge your bets. Send an email introducing yourself. Use their name. Nothing grabs someone's attention like their own name, and it shows you put in the work.
These easy moves will make you stand out as an enticing prospect.
Now to ace the interview...
Yvette Benhamou is a twenty year veteran of the New Orleans, New York, and Pittsburgh hospitality industries. She enjoys mezcal, sandwiches, and making misogynists uncomfortable. She is a contributing editor at twobytour.com and currently lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.