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How To Find (And Get) Your First Restaurant Job

As college students, it is very common to seek out a part-time minimum wage job, and it is even more common to work in the service industry. Personally, I really enjoy working in restaurants as a part-time job as it can have varying hours, steady pay and can even become a good place for socializing or making friends. However, i don’t want to glamorize the industry either because there are definitely a lot of drawbacks towards working in restaurants. Either ways, if you’re looking for a job and don’t know where to start, here are some tips for finding and applying to your first restaurant job.

 

  1. Where do I start?

Indeed is a good website to look for catering or company service industry jobs. Make sure to look up the company/business that posted the job on google and see what their work reviews are like. If they have less than a 3.5 star review on Glassdoor or Linkedin I’d be careful!

Another great way to find a job is to walk in and ask about “Now Hiring” signs. If you’re looking to work in a family-owned or local business, this will be a lot more useful in finding a job that’s a good fit for you.

The slower but also useful way to find a restaurant job is  to walk around with your resume in the area you want to work in, and ask locales if they are hiring. Bring your computer as well if you can, because sometimes these places will ask for an online application and it’ll look good if you are prepared and can fill out the app on the spot.

 

2) Ok, now I have several callbacks. Where should I choose to interview?

    If you have ever been desperate for a job, it’s easy to mass-send out applications without really reading a job description. This is the point where you should narrow down your search. Look up what your daily commute would look like, both from school to work and home to work. Jobs at airports will often pay you more, but see if the commute is going to be worth it for you.

Make sure this job is going to pay you enough. If you’re living in Chicago, do NOT settle for a job that’s less than $9 an hour + tips. Ideally, jobs that are $12.50 flat (minimum wage with no tips) have worked best because a lot of the time tip outs aren’t accurate, or can change depending on the season.

Don’t compromise your school schedule for this job. Know how many hours/days you are looking to work a week, and stick to it. Always say a bit less than your max hours, because many restaurants will end up scheduling you more hours than your max. There are many restaurant jobs out there, and you will get callbacks even if it takes a couple days. I took a job where I had to uber every week from school because my shift started half an hour after I got out of class. I was constantly stressed about making it on time and also an hour of my daily wage was going to transporting myself there. Working is stressful enough- don’t do this to yourself!

Also, most places are looking for people who are willing to work weekends. My recommendation is to say you can work weekends, but not Fridays unless someone calls in sick because you’ll end up missing out on a lot of college things if you work every weekend. Say that you need a day to do homework, and they’ll be understanding. Businesses really need someone who can work Saturday nights and Sunday brunch shifts, Friday’s aren’t as important as those shifts and you can give yourself a day to go out with your friends.

Aesthetics. Do you want a place where you can dye your hair blue and still work comfortably? Do you want the option of getting lime-green fake nails? What about tattoos? Remember to check these things out when you go in and see how important these are towards your self expression.

 

3) I’m nervous- how do I prepare for the interview?

Found a place that’s ideal? Awesome! Now, the “getting hired” part. Printing out and bringing your resume always looks professional and managers are juggling a bunch of things so they tend to ask to see it because they haven’t printed it out themselves. Knowing at least one dish on their menu, the name of the chef, their opening hours and some other fun fact will do you good.

Dressing for the part is also important; I like to wear business casual even if i’m not interviewing at a super fancy restaurant.

If you don’t have experience, hype up your skills! For any position that is front of house (FOH), communication and teamwork skills, staying calm under pressure, punctuality and patience will be things your managers are looking for.

If you do have experience, this is your time to shine. As long as you have a good employment record, you’re probably already hired. The interview will be the time for you to sell yourself and also demand fair pay. You should ask for more than whatever the listing said by at least a dollar. If you already know how to work point of sales (POS) systems, OpenTable (or similar) and can handle yourself well during service you should be getting paid more than someone who is just starting. Do not be afraid to ask for more pay, it won’t deter them from hiring you and at worst, they’ll say they are looking to pay you a bit less which will help you make a judgement call when it’s time to choose where you want to work.

 

4) What should I ask during the interview?

Treat this as a two-way interview. It’s always better to find a place where you can stay long-term rather than jumping from one job to another, so you want to make sure this is a good fit. Here are some things to ask:

  • How long will my shifts be?

  • How will I get tipped out?

    • Ask if this is via check, cash or direct deposit.

    • If they do a pooled tip, how do they decide how much percentage you get and where can you check this?

  • Is this a job where there is an opportunity for raises?

 

5) Getting the job: Staging

Allright, they called you back for the stage (a working interview that can last up to 6 hours). Managers and coworkers will be watching you to see how you do in service. Don’t stress about taking charge, just remember to be a good shadow and help out others. If you find yourself standing around, ask bussers or servers if they need hands. Make friends quickly! And of course, be polite to customers.

My main suggestion would be to ask coworkers during the stage what it’s like working there. You can do this in a casual way, and they will tell you honestly how they feel working there because you’re not even hired and it won’t get them in trouble. This is a really good way to gauge whether this will be a good workplace or not.

 

If you have any questions about restaurant jobs, or would like to suggest future topics you’d like me to write about regarding my time in the service industry, feel free to contact me at saic@hercampus.com

 

Writer, student of Visual and Critical Studies, artist in various mediums. Representing (and missing) Ecuador from Chicago. Believes in feminism, social activism and taking care of our planet.
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