Job search advice from ‘Top Chef’

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By Robert Half International

The newest season of Bravo’s hit TV show “Top Chef” is well  under way. But fans of the show and aspiring cooks aren’t the only ones who may want to tune in: Job seekers might want to watch as well. The “Top Chef” contestants can teach professionals a lot about the job hunt.

Here are some things the most successful competitors rely on and how they can help you cook up success when searching for your next job:

A recipe
Some chefs rely on printed recipe cards; others keep the ingredients and instructions for creating a certain dish in their heads. Some follow the recipe exactly; others use it as a guide. But no matter their preference, almost every chef consults a recipe before starting to cook.

A recipe is nothing more than a plan of action, and that’s exactly what you need when setting out to find a new job. Before launching your job search, ask yourself:

  • What would my ideal job look like? Am I qualified for that role?
  • What are my long-term career goals?
  • What type of company would I like to work for?
  • How important are factors such as pay, benefits, professional development opportunities and work/life balance?

Let the answers marinate. They’ll help focus your efforts on positions that most closely align with your professional priorities and personal preferences.

Fresh ingredients
Nothing plays a bigger role in the success or failure of a dish than the quality of the ingredients used. As any chef will tell you, the fresher, the better.

The same is true during your job search. It’s hard to whet an employer’s appetite with a résumé and cover letter that are past their expiration date. Your roster of skills, experiences and accomplishments changes constantly, even if you do not currently have a job. Work you’ve performed for a nonprofit organization or during a temporary assignment, for example, could add nice garnish to your résumé.

Always evaluate your application materials before hitting the “send” button to make sure they truly capture your current qualifications.

A trusted sous chef
The sous chef is second in command in the kitchen, functioning more or less as the head chef’s main helper and assistant.

When on the hunt for a new position, having another person to rely on can be immensely helpful. Members of your professional network may be able to provide referrals or whisk promising opportunities your way. Friends and family members can help you trim the fat on your résumé and hone your technique before a big interview.

Also consider enlisting the help of an experienced recruiter. These professionals can effectively double your efforts. As you look for employment, they’ll do the same, identifying openings that match your qualifications, mentioning your name to hiring managers and submitting applications on your behalf.

Impeccable presentation skills
On “Top Chef,” the difference between a winning and losing dish often comes down to how the food looks on the plate.

Presentation matters in the job search, too. Make sure your application materials are spotless by reviewing them several times for typos and grammatical errors. Don’t rely solely on your computer’s spell-check tool, which can miss common mistakes. One good tip is to print out your document and read it backward — errors have a tendency to bubble up when using this seemingly strange approach.

Also, make sure you look good whenever you meet with a potential employer. Dress up not only for interviews but also for networking events and job fairs. Too many job candidates forget the importance of a professional appearance. You’ll automatically stand out with your polished, put-together look.

Openness to feedback
Perhaps the most important lesson “Top Chef” contestants learn is the importance of embracing feedback. Those who receive constructive criticism from the judges and fail to act on it find themselves packing their knives and heading home.

Although it can be tough to hear, ask members of your professional network for feedback on your résumé. Is it laid out clearly and concisely? Do they think it does an appropriate job of selling your strengths? Don’t stop asking until you consistently get four-star reviews. You can also ask them for insight whenever your mood is as low as a deflated soufflé.

In some cases, you might even request feedback from employers themselves. If you interviewed for a position and didn’t receive a job offer, consider asking what steps you can take to be a stronger candidate next time. Not everyone will provide feedback, but some might. And nothing’s more valuable than hearing from the customers you’re hoping to impress.

Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at or follow us on Twitter at

  1. This is a great article. We @TruYuu think that the most important ingredient is YOU! After all the ‘I’s’ are dotted and each item poured over, your resume must positively communicate your personality. Your potential employer is not simply looking to hire a bunch of skills and qualifications that match the job description. He or she is going to hire someone with a personality that complements existing employees and the company culture. The more you can insert your unique personality into your resume, the more you stand out.

  2. Hi, very useful post. I’ve just bumped into it and found it concrete and useful, very straight to the point. With your tips and some tricks I’ve heard during the webinars organized by I’m sure I’ll easily go through next job interview. Thanks once again!

  3. Hi, very useful post. I’ve just bumped into it and found it concrete and useful, very straight to the point. With your tips and some tricks I’ve heard during the webinars organized by I’m sure I’ll easily go through job search. Thanks once again!

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