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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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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Employee Turnover: Get Ready, It Happens — 5 Ways To Slow It Down

Employee Turnover: Get Ready, It Happens — 5 Ways To Slow It Down

Turnover rates in the hospitality industry are going up, hitting a whopping 72.1% in 2015. Compare that to the average employee turnover rate for all private-sector workers, 45.9%. If you own or manage a restaurant, according to the laws of averages, you should expect to replace almost three-quarters of your workers each year!

In addition to giving you headaches, disrupting the work flow in your business and disrupting the customer experience, this kind of turnover impacts profitability. The Center for American Progress reports that an employee earning below $30,000 a year costs 16% of that annual salary to find, hire, and train. Replacing a waiter or waitress earning an average $20,880/year, then, costs about $3,340. More highly trained employees like chefs and head cooks, earning an average $46,620-$74,240/year, cost $7,460-$11,880.

Looking at it from a different angle, if you have 20 waiters and waitresses, you can expect to lose 16 of them in the coming year. At a cost of $3,340 each, that’s $53,440 subtracted from your bottom line.

Why is the employee turnover rate so high in the restaurant industry? Low pay, long hours, minimal or no benefits and limited advancement opportunities make it likely that employees consider restaurant work a temporary situation rather than a career.

In addition, characteristics of restaurant employees factor heavily in turnover. Younger employees are more likely to leave as are part-timers. Often younger employees are students, and restaurant work is secondary to other commitments. Older employees sometimes take on a restaurant job when they lose work or experience money difficulties. When challenges ease, they leave.

You can cushion yourself against losses in productivity and profitability and reduce turnover by developing solutions based on the reasons restaurant turnover occurs:

  1. Characteristics of restaurant employees. The ideal employee is one who sees work in the restaurant industry as a career path. This means during the hiring process, you’ll want to get a sense of a potential hiree’s life plan. Hopefully they have not only past experience in the industry but future plans that include work in some area of hospitality. Even verifiable volunteer experience showing engagement with food and hospitality is promising. Since most turnover occurs among younger and older workers, look for mid-range in age, mid-twenties to mid-forties. Verify that a hiree’s skill set fits the particular job description.
  2. Compensation. When you consider the real cost of replacing valuable workers, higher pay doesn’t seem as costly as replacement. Work out your compensation policies so wages are at least competitive and workers receive regular raises. Find ways to recognize extra effort and on-the-job achievement.
  3. Working conditions. Workers are more likely to develop a sense of loyalty to your business if they experience a cooperative, optimistic work environment and have good opportunities for communication. Holding regular staff meetings which all attend and where respect is the basis of conversation do a lot to build team-spirit and a well-coordinated effort. These meetings can include working out challenges that affect the whole group, but save private grievances for individual monthly review sessions. Be sure to build in flexibility with things like dress codes and scheduling. Encourage creativity and ingenuity. People like to exercise these characteristics!
  4. Advancement. In brief, monthly review sessions, provide opportunities to raise more personal issues, but focus these one-on-one meetings on growth and improvement for your employee. How is your employee experiencing their job with your organization? Are there areas in the employee’s current job where they can improve? Where they excel? What is the next step for your employee? This question is especially critical. Long-term employees want to know there is room for them to advance, and they want to see a clear path to it.
  5. Benefits. Long-term employees look for and want benefits. If you have 50 employees or more, you must provide them. Even if you employ fewer than 50, consider providing something. Benefits can serve as a perk to make you more competitive. As a smaller operation, even if you can’t provide big benefits like health, you can offer other things that let your employees know you value them. Free food is always appreciated.

In addition to policies and best practices that make your restaurant environment a great place to be, cultivate personal practices that inspire loyalty: greet your employees each day, praise them when you see extra effort or something you appreciate, include them in planning and problem-solving. If you hire thoughtfully with an eye to the long-term, offer competitive compensation and extra perks, and create a pleasant, energetic, creative working environment with opportunities for growth and advancement, why would an employee ever want to leave?

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How to Help an Employee Who has a Drug or Alcohol Problem

How to Help an Employee Who has a Drug or Alcohol Problem

Drug and alcohol addiction is fairly common among men and women from all backgrounds, races, and classes. Up to 60 percent of people suffering from addiction work full-time, according to a recent report from the National Business Group on Health. That means it’s more than likely that you’ll end up having to face an employee who has a substance abuse problem at some point in your career.

So, how do you handle it? Can you fire someone for alcohol or drug addiction? How is addiction handled according to the FMLA? Here’s what you need to know about how to help an employee who has a drug or alcohol problem:

1. Know what to look for

Knowing the signs of substance abuse is the first step toward helping someone who is dealing with it. Some common signs include being “sick” or coming in late often, general sloppiness while at work, careless attitude and missed deadlines or goals. Physical symptoms vary and can include bloodshot eyes and overall appearance of fatigue and tremors. Employees who are abusing alcohol or drugs while at work might avoid you and other co-workers after breaks, and they might display signs of being intoxicated, such as talking too loudly, slurring their words or being incoherent. If left untreated, one employee’s addiction could result in a work-related accident, costing your company money and potentially hurting other employees.

2. Handle it with delicacy

Confronting anyone about substance abuse must be handled carefully and privately. Brush up on your company’s policy toward substance abuse, including any programs or counseling it might offer. When you speak to your employee, you’ll need to have an action plan in place. This means knowing whether they can take time off or deciding if it’s their last day. According to FMLA, employees who receive health benefits from their workplace could qualify for up to 12 weeks unpaid time off since addiction is considered a health condition. If your employees are not getting benefits, talk to HR generally to find out what, if anything, you can offer your employee to help them seek treatment. Your employee will be more likely to admit to the problem and seek treatment if they know they can do so with discretion and without the risk of losing their job.

Make sure your employee knows that they can seek treatment confidentially. You don’t need to give other employees (aside, perhaps, from HR) the full explanation for their absence. If your company does not have a plan in place, see if you can find local substance abuse programs that are free or within your employee’s budget.

3. Be firm in your expectations

Substance abuse is considered a health condition, but that doesn’t mean you should (or can) condone intoxication at work. Be firm in your expectations-your employee needs to know that they are expected to adhere to company guidelines regarding drug and alcohol use and that their actions are putting their co-workers, and potentially their customers, in danger. Make it clear that you are committed to providing a safe, drug-free work place for all of your employees. That means the employee can no longer show up intoxicated. If they do not want to take time off for treatment, make it clear that you expect their performance to improve.

Handling an employee’s drug or alcohol problem is a delicate situation, but it’s one that should be handled sooner rather than later. Waiting for your employee to seek out treatment on their own probably won’t work, and it could result in an accident, not to mention wasted wages on a non-performing employee. Use these tips to help your employee understand the consequences of their addiction and to seek the help they need.

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