What to Include in a Cover Letter

What to Include in a Cover Letter

After spending so much time on your resume, it can feel frustrating to find out you also need to write a cover letter. But rather than thinking of this requirement as a burden, view the cover letter as a platform. This is your chance to explain why you’re the best fit for a job and prove it, all in one place. If you think an employer might have concerns about your work history, you can use a cover letter to ease their fears.

That’s a lot of information to pack into one letter. Fortunately, there’s a standard template you can follow.

1. Contact Information

Begin your letter with your own contact information. Include your name, address, phone number, and email address. You can even include your Sirvo URL. If you do, make sure you’ve chosen a custom Sirvo URL that uses your name or a professional phrase, not just random numbers.

If you’d like, you can use the same header as your resume. Your resume header should already have your name and contact information, and using it for your cover letter creates a consistent look across your application documents.

After your own information, list the company or hiring manager’s information. A name, job title, company name, and address is sufficient. Including the employer’s contact information is a traditional practice that’s expected in physical cover letters. However, it’s not always relevant today. For example, in emails or when filling out an online form, you can skip your employer’s contact information.

2. Greeting

A greeting is so simple that it doesn’t seem worth mentioning. But what’s important about the greeting is that you use a person’s name. “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” won’t leave your employer with a good impression. On the other hand, using a contact’s name is personable and demonstrates that you cared enough to do your research.

Finding a name isn’t always easy. The first place you should check is the source of the job opening. Some job ads include a contact’s name. If you learned about the job through your network, ask that person who will be reviewing applications for the job opening. But most of the time, you’ll need to do some internet sleuthing.

Begin at the company’s website and search for a hiring manager. If there’s no clear contact listed online or the company lists more than one hiring manager, your best shot is to just call the company. Don’t try to call the person you think will be doing the hiring. Instead, call the main line. Explain that you’re applying for this position and that you’d like to know the hiring manager’s name. They should be perfectly willing to help you out.

If none of that works you can always get creative and use something like, “Dear future superior,” or “Hello amazing hiring manager,”. That’ll get their attention!

3. Introduction

When you finally begin your letter, introduce yourself and state the position you’re applying for up front. Most people mention where they heard about the job, and this is especially important to do if you found out through a mutual contact. Being part of someone’s extended network automatically makes you more trustworthy than a general applicant.

Your first paragraph should also have a “hook,” that concept you learned about in elementary school English class. Capture the reader’s attention with information that leaves them wanting to read more. Examples are a time when you successfully did similar work, a skill that’s directly relevant to the job, or a connection to the company or its mission.

4. Body Paragraphs

After your introduction, include two to three body paragraphs dedicated to demonstrating your skills and knowledge of the company. First, paint yourself as a strong candidate for the job. Detail how your strengths would be an asset to the employer. Highlight past achievements by using concrete examples and numbers and feel free to organize this information into a list or bullet point to emphasize it.

The hiring manager might not know who/what ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is, or how that experience would be related to the position listed, so it’s your job to let them know what you learned and why it’s relevant.

Even if your past experience isn’t directly related to the position you’re applying for, you have transferable skills that apply to this job. The cover letter is your chance to explain how all your experience is relevant and makes you an excellent fit.

Either within your skills paragraphs or in the following paragraph, demonstrate your knowledge about the company and job opening. Connect your skills to what you know about the company and their pain points. For example, you might have noticed areas where they struggle and have ideas about how you can help them improve. Being well-informed about the company is an asset and places you ahead of the competition.

5. Conclusion

Before you close, briefly summarize why you’d be a great fit for this job, touching on your letter’s “greatest hits.” End the letter with a polite closing, and avoid saying anything that sounds too demanding or arrogant. Finally, use a formal closing such as “Sincerely” or “Best” when signing off. If you’re submitting a physical letter, leave space for your signature.

A cover letter doesn’t have to be a stressful task. Just follow the standard formula for a clear and professional letter.

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Problem Customers: How To Handle Them So That Your Boss Takes Notice

Problem Customers: How To Handle Them So That Your Boss Takes Notice

Customer service is a huge part of the restaurant business, and front-of-house restaurant employees need to keep their people skills sharp to stay ahead in this business. Particularly, you will want to practice dealing with problematic customers. Your shift manager will appreciate your ability to deal with these folks and diffuse tense situations because they can focus on other things. Here are a few tips for dealing with problem customers.

1. Graceful Conversation Enders

Some customers don’t mean to be in the way, but they are overly friendly. They think the waiter is a captive audience or that ‘waitress’ is another word for ‘date.’ Since you are actually working and can’t spend all day listening, you will have to come up with a polite sentence or two that lets you leave the chatterbox.

Some good ones: “That’s great, I’ll have to tell my co-workers. Excuse me.” And, “You know, that is fascinating, but I had better get you your drinks now.”

What are some of your best conversation enders? Let us know on twitter @gosirvo

2. Resolving Customer Complaints

I should clarify: a customer who brings a problem to your attention isn’t immediately problematic. It’s best to take the attitude that any complaint is genuine and serious. Always respond to a complaint with an apology and an offer of a solution to their complaint.

It’s best to give them the impression that you are taking it seriously. Ideally, you are taking it seriously, even if it seems trivial to you. Practice letting them finish their complaints and paraphrasing what you heard them say before giving your own reply. This ensures that you know the problem they want to fix, and it lets them know that you really understood their position. Sometimes just allowing someone to vent and feel heard can solve whatever their complaint was!

Practice looking attentive and not crossing your arms while you listen. Body language can speak volumes to an annoyed customer.

3. Practice Keeping Calm

Develop a mantra for when you are faced with an angry customer that reminds you that everyone sometimes has a bad day and that the complaint isn’t an attack on you. Practice keeping your voice low and calm while talking people through solutions. Your keeping your cool will keep things from escalating.

Additionally, people who are ornery by nature get off on seeing others flustered. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

4. Have A List Of Potential Solutions Handy

Customers who are having a bad time tend to collect complaints until their minor irritation snowballs into general hatred. To the extent that is possible, have a list of potential solutions to potential complaints in your apron pocket so that you can head off the snowball. Typically a free drink or discount coupon will suffice.

There will be times when you won’t be able to do something to head off a complaint. In those situations, it is helpful to have a script that you memorize to explain the situation. Practice calmly saying something such as, “I’m sorry, but we are out of…” and you will be able to clearly communicate your position. This can sometimes be enough to calm a customer.

5. Follow Up On Complaints

Customers want to be treated as individuals, and they want to feel like you personally care about whether they are having a good time. Take a few moments to check in on the especially grouchy to make sure that the solution you offered worked and that they are now in a happier frame of mind.

6. Know When To Call In The Big Guns

All these steps are ways to avoid having to pull in the manager to deal with a customer, but it is sometimes unavoidable. Your manager would rather step in before things get out of hand.

  • If you spilled something on a customer (we’ve all been there) and have potentially ruined not only their clothing but also their night… it’s best to call in a manager.
  • If a customer is insisting that you break a restaurant policy, get a manager. If he or she decides to bend the rules, you aren’t in trouble.
  • If a customer seems to be threatening or is clearly inebriated, the restaurant would prefer that you call for help in getting him or her out of there before the other customers get annoyed.

Knowing how to handle the particularly difficult FOH situations will help you stand out for your boss and further you in your restaurant career. Follow these tips to really impress with your people skills.


Avoiding Negative Chef Stereotypes

Avoiding Negative Chef Stereotypes

There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding the role of the chef–and all too many of them are negative. You, however, want to break out of those stereotypes and create a kitchen that’s fun to work in while still maintaining the expectations of the restaurant’s customers. By learning to recognize these familiar stereotypes, you can avoid the trap of becoming one of them.

Stereotype #1: The Angry Chef

You’re probably familiar with the angry chef from comics and television. This typically male character is often the one standing over a new employee, bellowing at them–or perhaps chasing a server who dared ask for a customer’s requested substitution on a meal. In your kitchen, this plays out as a chef who is quick-tempered, hard to please, and who can quickly bring down the mood of the entire evening.

Avoiding the Stereotype: If you don’t want to be the angry chef, there are several things to keep in mind. First and foremost, respond–don’t react! By controlling your responses to everyone else in the kitchen, you’ll quickly deescalate what could otherwise be a negative situation. You can also follow some of these tips:

  • Always take a minute to think before responding in anger. Is that response the one you really want to give the person in front of you?
  • Remember that some things aren’t within the control of your coworkers. Blasting a server for the customer’s order won’t help!
  • Take a break and calm down if you need to. Just make sure the kitchen is covered!

Stereotype #2: The Stressed-Out Chef

Being a chef is a difficult, demanding job. You’re constantly moving, constantly trying to get orders out, and the danger of making a mistake is high. Not only that, many kitchens are stiflingly hot or packed too full to be comfortable. As a result, this stereotypical chef is constantly running on high-stress levels, rarely able to calm down.

Avoiding the Stereotype: You know just how stressful a bad day at work can be. There are days when the crush of the kitchen can get to anyone! That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to live in that heightened state of stress. Instead, try this:

  • Arrange your kitchen so that things run smoothly most days. Know who to ask to take care of specific tasks, have adequate staff on hand to take care of the orders you know are coming in even on busy days, and do as much prep work as possible ahead of time.
  • Let go of the need for perfection. Take a deep breath and be willing to laugh at yourself when things go wrong.
  • Be a little silly, as long as it doesn’t compromise safety. Humor will always defuse tension!
  • Separate life stresses from work stress. Learn not to bring life stress to work, and don’t take work stress home with you.
  • Take adequate breaks throughout your shift so that you can calm down and regain perspective if needed.

Stereotype #3: The Perfectionist

This stereotypical chef is an artist. Everything must be exactly so: the recipe followed perfectly, the plates arranged exactly the same way before they leave the kitchen, and everything moving at exactly the pace he’s set. If things don’t go his way, he’s right there in the middle, micromanaging the little details and insisting that perfectly adequate work be redone until it’s up to his standard of perfection.

Avoiding the Stereotype: Ouch! Did The Perfectionist sound just a bit too familiar? Fortunately, you can learn to let go and avoid micromanaging every aspect of your employees’ performance. Try this:

  • Delegate, then let people do the jobs they’ve been assigned. Don’t hover over them every moment.
  • Don’t insist on perfection. Keep in mind that most people won’t notice many of the differences you’re stressing over.
  • Give your staff freedom. Trust that they know what they’re doing and will come to you if there’s a problem–most of the time, they will!

You don’t want to be a stereotypical chef. You want to be a great, memorable chef with a staff who enjoys working for you. By avoiding these key stereotypes, you can shift the way you respond to your kitchen staff and your customers, making yourself more than a stereotype ever could be.

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How to Succeed as a Restaurant Manager and Still Have a Life

How to Succeed as a Restaurant Manager and Still Have a Life

From restaurant owners who are trying to kick a great new restaurant off the ground to chefs who are trying to make a name for themselves, everyone needs work/life balance. For restaurant managers, who are required to be at the restaurant during peak hours, including holidays and weekends, it can be even more challenging! If you’re struggling to find the critical balance between succeeding at work and still enjoying the rest of your life, these tips will help!

1. Give Work Your Best

When you come into work every day, give it the best you’ve got. Work hard. When you’re on the clock, be on the clock: not hanging out in the office with your favorite employees or texting, not giving your least favorite tasks to the employees you enjoy working with the least, but genuinely giving the best you’ve got to your restaurant while you’re there.

You know that’s great for your work life, but have you considered the benefits it offers to you in the rest of your life? When you work hard while you’re at work, your employers are willing to go the extra mile for you. This might include things like extra paid time off, being able to take off the hours you really need, and even scheduling flexibility when big life choices come your way. When you fail to give your best to your employer, on the other hand, you’ll find that they’re much less willing to give you those extra advantages.

2. Don’t Always Eat At Work

You get a great discount on work food, and it’s faster to just grab something off the menu than it is to, for example, pack a lunch for yourself. Unfortunately, restaurants are rarely geared toward the healthiest offerings–not to mention the fact that they often use very large portions that aren’t in keeping with what you should actually be eating. Instead, take the time to pack a lunch for yourself. If you must eat at work, know the healthier options on the menu or how to reduce the calorie count of your order. It will help keep you healthier, increase your energy, and make it easier for you to take on the challenges of balancing both your work responsibilities and your life.

3. Prioritize You

When was the last time you got in a great workout or went to a concert? Are you overdue for a haircut? When you prioritize self-care, you’ll discover that you’re in a much better position to give your all both to work and to your personal life. Take the time to get in a workout–every day, if you can. This will increase your overall energy and make you feel better equipped for everything else you have to do in the day. Make sure you have time to shower, to decompress, and to do the other things involved taking care of you. If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to be able to take care of everything else?

4. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are an important element of maintaining that critical work/life balance. Just like your kids or your spouse know not to call you at work unless it’s an emergency, work shouldn’t call you out of your home life for anything less. Be clear about the hours you’re able to work, including what you’re able to offer in the event of an emergency situation. If you need specific hours off–for example, you don’t have childcare on a certain day or you’re attending classes–don’t feel as though you need to compromise those activities in order to make the restaurant owner happy. It’s okay to say no and to stick by those boundaries!

5. Get Adequate Sleep

Working at a restaurant, your hours are often long. This is particularly true if you close late. You may struggle to find a schedule that allows you to sleep adequately–but it’s critical to your health that you do! Work with the owner and your coworkers to create a schedule that allows you time to sleep before you have to return for your next shift so you’re not sacrificing your health and alertness for the sake of your job.

Creating that balance between work and life can feel challenging at first. Over time, however, you’ll discover that you can have it all! By creating boundaries and prioritizing healthy self-care, you’ll quickly find that you can succeed as a restaurant manager while still having a life outside of work.

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The Life of a Line Cook: Traits for Success

The Life of a Line Cook: Traits for Success

For many people, becoming a Line Cook is a dream. The idea of being able to practice cooking in an environment where they can get paid is very appealing to many people. However, this career path is often demanding, requiring long hours and a great deal of mental and physical fortitude. But for those who are determined to try to make it through to becoming a line cook, a little introspection is warranted: thinking about your own traits can help you to figure out if you have all of the necessary characteristics to succeed. Here are some commonly important traits for success in the life of a line cook.

Showing Up

This one sounds easy but too often employees, and especially cooks, just ditch out on their shift or no call no show. This type of attitude and lack of effort will prevent you from succeeding in both the short and long term. Just showing up to work and being a reliable teammate can make all the difference in not only your life but how management sees you. Afterall, as long as you show up to work and have a good attitude, you’ll beat out just about everyone else for that promotion!

Managing the Lifestyle

As previously mentioned, even though being a line cook can be very fulfilling, it has its fair share of difficulties. For some people, the long hours or physically draining quality of the work can prevent them from succeeding. After all, if you have a family, you probably want to be able to take time off from work to see them, too. And many cooks realize that the salary is not what they want. But for those who truly want to be a line cook, these issues often become immaterial.

Loving to Cook

This is a little self-explanatory but certainly worth reiterating: because you are working with food each day and preparing many different dishes, loving to cook is a must for any line cook. And further, having a working knowledge of different foods, techniques and technologies in the kitchen is important to succeeding as a line cook — and loving to cook is a good way to make learning about all of this easier.

Ability to Succeed in a Fast-Paced Environment

Working in a kitchen, especially at busy times of the day, can be hectic. Different customers have different requests for all of the different orders, there are many things going on at once and people are moving all over. Being able to succeed in this kind of environment is essential to succeeding in the life of a line cook. Similarly, being able to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously or multitask is important, too — it would be bad to forget a part of an order during a busy shift.

But beyond just being able to succeed in a fast-paced environment, the life of a line cook is just as much about thriving in that environment. After all, the best line cooks do not just make the food on time — they make it well so that customers are satisfied and return later for more. And in life beyond cooking, too, being able to thrive in a dynamic environment is good, because many different professions require this skill.

Attention to Detail

This is particularly important for line cooks. To make a good-tasting dish, there is a necessary recipe that must be followed. Deviating from this recipe can be disastrous, so being able to pick out the individual details and follow them is a necessary trait for a successful line chef. But being able to modify things while still paying attention to detail is important too: many customers want their dishes created in a certain way, and being able to accommodate that while still producing a good final product is very important.

Of course, there are other important qualities for line cooks to have, but these are a couple of the especially important ones that are necessary to finding success as a line cook. For some people, these requirements are onerous, but for many, love of food and cooking brings in enough gratification that whatever sacrifices come with the job are worthwhile. It takes a certain mentality to succeed as a line cook, but the work is satisfying when all is said and done.

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