Wanted – Top Chef

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So some restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana posted a Craigslist ad for a line cook. The ad got a lot of press. It’s longer than Raymond Carver’s story “The Little Things”, and has a less happy ending.

It includes 44 requirements. Some highlights:

“You admit when you are wrong, but never point out when others are wrong — especially the chef.”

“You are able to work double shifts for many days without days off.”

And my personal favorite:
“You always show up for work, even if sick as a dog. Let the chef see that you’re really sick and send you home.”
(I don’t know about you, but if a cook has Bird Flu, or the bubonic plague, or even chronic halitosis, I don’t want him anywhere near the kitchen that’s preparing my food).

The want ad has since been taken down, but you can read it here: http://www.happyplace.com/23551/ridiculously-detailed-craigslist-ad-for-restaurant-line-cook

As I read this ad, I could see its author, most likely the chef himself, at his tiny desk in the corner of his kitchen, furiously typing out all the things he didn’t like about the last six people he hired for this job (each of whom probably lasted no more than a week). And while we’ve all had our share of bad hires, a job posting like this one won’t help attract top candidates. It fails on many levels:

1) The employer is showing he’s a demanding control freak. No one wants to work for a jerk. The job of a line cook is hard work for little pay, gruelling even under the best employer.

2) If someone is stupid or insane or desperate enough to apply for the job, the employer has made it easy to ace the interview. Every expectation has been laid out ahead of time. Someone who is a crummy worker, or worse, a lousy cook, could walk in and say everything this employer wants to hear. Sure, the person wouldn’t last long, but in the meantime, the employer would have to deal with the mistake.

3) This employer wants someone who can walk in and do the job even before he’s figured out where his apron is hung. He is not going to take the time to lay out expectations, he’s not going to pair this person up with a peer to learn the ropes, he’s not going to train in any way. Most good candidates take a job for more than money. They want the opportunity to improve and develop. None of that with this job. Do it right, do it now, or you’re out.

4) All 44 items appear to be non-negotiable. Have 35 of the qualities? Not enough. 41? Still no good. It’s all or nothing. Rarely have I hired the perfect candidate. IF I can find someone with 70 percent of what I’m looking for and 20 percent that can be taught, I’ll live without the last 10 percent.

5) It’s obvious that this employer never had to write an ad in the pre-internet days when newspaper want ads were five sections long. Back then, we had to pay for ads by the line or by the word. The longer the ad, the higher the cost. Craigslist is free, so if someone wants to create an ad complete with chapter headings and footnotes, they can go ahead. Although they should be surprised if it’s dubbed TLTR (Too Long Too Read), and most of it gets ignored.

So, Mr. Chef, here is how I’d rewrite your ad:

Line Cook wanted to work in the culinary equivalent of Dante’s Inferno. Boss no other than Beelzebul himself. Must be able to walk on water, and even that won’t get you through the Pearly Gates.

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