Kathy Broughton had worked in customer service most of her life, but never as a hotel front desk clerk. She had experience as a barkeep, server and retail sales clerk, but no specific training in an industry that interested her. When the opportunity arose to apply for a job at a local hotel chain, she was concerned her lack of specific experience would hinder her chances of landing this hospitality job.
After taking some industry-related courses, she faxed her resume in response to a newspaper ad, then was called for an interview and was working three days later.
Her secret? "I stressed my customer service on my resume, and they took my experience as a plus. I knew I had the personality and qualifications to do the job."
Being new to the hospitality industry isn't an automatic "don't call us, we'll call you." There are ways of tailoring your resume to get that all important interview, even if you're new to the business.
Your objective needs to be really clear, advises chef-consultant Gary E. Miller. "If you don't have the resume to back it up, you must say up front you really love the restaurant industry, you have spent some time in the business, you have the interest and a willingness to learn."
Quite often, he adds, applicants don't have relevant experience, especially if they're applying for a starter job in the restaurant industry. But he doesn't see this as an impediment to advancement.
"I'm a huge believer in attitude over aptitude. Tremendous attitude has it over the person with a world of experience who thinks he can change the world. I want someone who does what I ask and can do it well."
Everyone, says recruiter Peter Shrive, a partner with Cambridge Management Planning, has work experience. Summer jobs, assignments, coop placements, part-time jobs, internships all count.
"Almost anyone has skills that can be marketable," he says.
He offers the example of a student who might have run an ice cream stand. How would that person describe her job experience on a resume? "What you did was purchase raw materials, planned inventories, dealt with 31,000 customers, grew sales by X%, generated Y% in profits, managed banking, handled cash transactions, honed customer service skills, arranged for repairs, located and hired staff, worked with the owners." Suddenly, that summer job sounds very relevant to a position in the hospitality industry.
Shrive also advises job seekers to quantify previous experience on their resumes. You weren't just a server working in a particular restaurant. Include on your resume how many customers you served in a day, how many bills you managed daily, how many receipts you gave without mistakes.
"Servers have to remember all the specials, have to be able to tally the bill properly, have to be able to carry all those plates. These are marketable skills," he says.
Gaps in your resume can be inevitable if you're switching careers or have taken time away because of maternity leave, illness, travelling, or periods of unemployment. To a prospective employer, though, gaps can become red flags, so they should be handled carefully. If the gap was legitimate, be honest. If you were unemployed, explain what you did with your time and what types of jobs you applied for. Backpacking in Europe, however, suggests irresponsibility. In this case, Shrive advises you talk about the opportunities you took to study hospitality trends, comparing restaurants or studying customer service in different countries.
If your number one skill is people handling, then look back at your career and find the top examples of customer service experiences.