From appetizer to dessert: How to create a tastier, menu-like resume

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Have you ever noticed that the best menus tell a story and draw you in until you must taste that dish? What if there was a secret formula to help imbue your resume with some tantalizing copy to make potential recruiters salivate?

While there isn’t an exact science to crafting a tastier resume, there are some notable tactics used in the restaurant industry to keep people reading and ordering and coming back for more.

Show them what you want them to see

Some of us update our resumes without ever taking time to see it with fresh eyes. One of the more intriguing concepts food professionals shared was the idea of “menu engineering.” It’s a fancy way of saying that you study both out of pocket and hoped for returns on investment and then present the dishes in a way that highly encourages diners to buy what you tell them to, albeit in a more subtle way.

A menu, like a resume, is a sales document. It’s okay to realize that for all intents and purposes your resume is almost a mini catalog of your best work.

Pick a theme

Much like a highly targeted resume, “a menu has to be reflective of the business theme” according to Chanel Hayes, Executive Chef at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. In her opinion the biggest mistake you can make? “way too many options to choose from.” Try to fine-tune your resume to highlight the parts of previous jobs that will lead you to the career you want next, even if it means paring down what you ultimately mention.

Make it visually appealing

According to an article in The Atlantic a few years back, before IHOP debuted a new menu back in 2012 they did a lot of consumer research and testing. They also ended up launching 3 basic prototypes that all shared a similar trait. As reported in the article, the menu relied heavily on “color-coding—a feature meant, in part, to draw the eye toward certain food offerings and categories.”

If there’s something on your resume you want people to read, consider adding a playful use of color to highlight your career highpoint. Another visual trick used in the IHOP menu was a grouping system by category. If you’re not sure that you want to list your career in chronological order since it might show your age, consider grouping by similar industries or job titles.

Share your provenance

Like a fine wine or olive oil, your professional terroir tells people how you came up in the business world. In discussing what appeals to modern consumers, Pat Cobe, Senior Editor, Restaurant Business explained that “customers today like descriptions, which can include the source of the ingredients (farm, orchard, ranch, etc), the method of preparation.”

While you never want to embellish any of your history or skills, you can show off a little if you became fluent in Cantonese after living in Hong Kong for a year.

Use limited creative license

One of the biggest no-no’s in resume writing is adding experience you don’t actually have. Cobe said that many restaurants use “adjectives that imply indulgence even if it’s a healthy dish. This adds to menu transparency, a major demand among consumers.”

Even if you can’t lie about your experience, you can season it with words that show off what you do know how to do and why it’s an appealing trait.

Write to sell, manage clutter

“Know your target demographic and make sure your cuisine is something that will sell in the area” shares Anne Lanute, Senior Lead Instructor, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. But she warns not to onto “signature items simply because you love them. If it ain’t selling, get it off the menu!”

Taking the menu metaphor a step further, Lanute says that “a successful menu is clear of clutter and drives business in your intended direction.” Same with a successful resume, keep it clutter-free and structure your words with intention.

Keep it short and sweet

Resumes are usually limited to a single page for a reason. On menus, Cobe says “descriptions should not be too lengthy or flowery; concise and informative with some tempting language works best. Present your facts but embellish them very slightly and only as needed.

Size matters

If the linear style of resumes no longer works for you, mix it up. “Most menus start with an appetizer section and move to dessert, but more modern menus may list dishes according to size, starting with small plates, large plates, and shareables. That’s a more modern approach. And since plant-forward eating is such a hot trend, a separate vegetable section also implies that a restaurant is on-trend.” To modernize your own resume, list your strongest skills first, then add the jobs or talents that make for good keywords. If you have a very specific talent, consider creating a special section for it.

Don’t let it go stale

Believe it or not, some words lose their potency. When creating menus “Delicious is a word to avoid. It’s lost its meaning and is very subjective,” Cobe said. Does it drive you to distraction when someone refers to themselves as a thought leader? Yeah. It probably bugs the recruiters too.