This is something I learned the hard way. Every job you take should have your resume and future career prospects in mind. Even the name or impression of the place matters as much as what you actually do or learned there. If someone looking over your resume has no idea what something really is, they may or may not bother to find out. They may not ask the question for you to properly sell yourself. They may not even bother reading the polished description.
Time is money, and people are full of BS. Often they're looking for the one guy (or gal) out of many that seemingly fits the bill at first glance, with little to no apparent risk. This is especially good to keep in mind for those without a culinary degree. Not all, but many chefs have biases.
I had an interview obviously cut short for a job I was certainly over qualified for because I didn't go to culinary school. Nevermind the fact that my almost 7 years of breakfast cooking at places at least double, some quadruple the size of this little cafe is more than adequate to sling eggs and potatoes. I cooked like 1500-2000 cover brunches for years. This place sat 40 - 45 people, and had the same set up. Knowing what he was doing, I even offered to demonstrate my knife skills, cook a few orders and offered a letter of reference I brought with me (keep those in your back pocket for the interview, don't forward them, they'll often get ignored because the process isn't there yet) just to try to aikido my way around the stonewalling.
You never know what someone is really looking for, even if they tell you something, so my point is cover your posterior. Every chef and interview is different. Have all your bases covered.
I have had real line cook jobs, worked breakfast in a super busy place for years, have done a ton of stuff from high end pizza to BBQ to some catering, to bars, cafes, baking etc etc. I have a solid work history, good references and know what to say, how to answer the questions and what to ask. But, many times an interview may not get far enough for most of that to matter. You cannot give good answers to questions never asked. You cannot seem too needy by conjuring it all up without prompting. Most chefs decide when the rest of the interview is a polite formality and you can do so little to reel it back in.
The job before my last I did not stay in long because company policy was that they did not give out professional references. No wonder they have high turnover. So I only worked there for like 6 months until jumping ship into something much better paying and more up my alley than inauthentic but high volume Mexican working with the likes of those with "no class" tattooed on their face and possibly illegal alien level 2 sex offenders.
I took job at a place called Dogtown. It is a Rochester dynasty at this point, like Pat's King of Steaks in Philly, or Zweigle's hotdogs itself in the Rochester and Fingerlakes regions. They hock Zweigle's hot dogs with gourmet topping combos listed as a dog "breed" on the menu, burgers, good sausages, and what is huge in Rochester known as a garbage plate. They have really good ingredients for most items, make almost everything from scratch in-house, tons of veggie options (#1 Vegan restaurant in the city while being the second largest buyer of Zweigles franks behind the Wegmans supermarket chain lol), won a PETA award for the best original veggie dog (custom made by a good local company) because of a new topping I contributed to, and we do homemade vegan soups and sides and have decent food. Every year they win like 4 or 5 City Newspaper awards. It was very high volume. It is probably the second busiest place I have worked in. It is the second busiest place in the ROC behind Dinosaur BBQ. I made more money there than many of the chefs who recently interviewed me lol. I could tell when I answered the question and offered my last stub (I wouldn't believe it). I won't say how much I made to sling cheap meat with fancy toppings because it will probably piss you most of you off, but it was darned good, and I had some benefits.
I took the job not just for the money, but the guy was also interested in my experience and knowledge for new specials, soups, sides and menu items. I jumped at the chance to have some serious freedom of creativity (good luck finding that as a mere cook boys). I took advantage and did some cool stuff. I could just call him up, have him get what I wanted after a brief explanation of my vision, and he'd just trust me to do it right, which I did. I knew more about equipment than his staff and I needed no training. It was cake. I was also a shoe-in because his wife and business partners were Greek, and I came up from Greek restaurants and diners; they already liked my roll.
It is a super popular place among the young hip crowd, but not the type of person probably interviewing me. Most of the interviewers are older, don't get blasted and stroll down the avenue looking for grease and carbs to stave off their hangover. Some of them aren't from Rochester or drive in from the country or 'burbs on the other side of the city. Many of them may have only heard of it in passing but have never been and do not know what it really is. Most of these chefs have families and little free time and can eat better food for free. I know that is boning my resume in the minds of the chefs I want to work for right now.
I worked there too long. I got lured in by money without paying mind to the future. The people that would most likely recognize and respond well to it, are not people I am seeking employment for. I want back into full-service, casual dining, high volume and I want to cook good breakfasts again. I want more than that like fine dining and this one place that has a national buzz going but first things first. But, that relevant experience is farther back in my work history than you should really put in a resume, or that may be believable, although I do work it into my cover letter well. My last 3 jobs look terrible for what I am trying to do.
Dogtown. Mexican place known for its bar and weak food. Spot Coffee. Sales job. Then the meat and potatoes! Not good. Luckily, so far Spot gets me interviews for baking which is what I did there, and I have what seems to be a sure thing lined up right now. Don't be stupid and only chase the cash. I worked at Spot because the money was good, I was already a solid baker from previous jobs, and it was easy money. But none of these jobs have anything to do with what I really wanted down the road in food. I was just getting good money while I took college courses I was doing to please my family. Now I just want to do real cooking again and there is an endless queue of applicants for the jobs I want because it is lean times right now.
I know I will luck out and eventually find a good person that will give me that shot they won't regret, but it is a pain in the rear stalking it down. This city kind of sucks to cook in too. Some places want dishwashers to have had their last 3 jobs and references to be for dishwashing, it is ridiculously an employers market. It dies hard in the winter (half my problem now), but the hiring craze is on starting now. Now is when all the places scoop people up, build them up, get ready for the season. And, there are a lot of bad people to work for. Bad chefs that jump from new place to new place wrecking some saps investment and treating his help like garbage. Owners that don't have chefs and are only in business because they inherited it, own the building, and hire cheap crack heads and sell to bar crowds to stay out of the red are not my cup of tea. Only gigs I don't want are the ones calling me back. Most people really only care what you have been doing lately, not what you did. Talk is cheap.
I may have had a good resume 5 years ago, but it is garbage now, and I am 30. Keep this in mind people younger and smarter than me. This has actually pushed me into going to a solid culinary school now. I know if I had that, that would offset some of my problems in perception, and give me a better network than Craigslist, Indeed, and word of mouth to work with.
Now this may not be sound advice depending on where you work/live, and what your background is, but your resume and cover letter and interview matter the most. For many cook jobs you just need relevant references. Nothing fancy. Someone to say he showed up, gave notice, learned and didn't steal. My quality executive chef references have done squat. It never gets that far. Most jobs I have ever gotten never checked references, either they needed a guy and their guys already knew me, or they just wanted to see me work and nature would take its course. Bam. Or, the guy interviewing you knows someone on your resume, which is always good game. But finding jobs you want out in the wild from scratch without connections is different.
I tried getting a job at a hot breakfast and weekend brunch place that a former boss of mine worked at for years before taking over his parent's place, and he had a good relationship with the owners, and despite them genuinely liking me they wouldn't do it just because it had been that long since I had done the job they were hiring for. I almost can't blame them in hindsight. Why waste time possibly waiting for Lt. Dan to get his sea legs back when some hungry punk fresh off the street has been doing this for the last 2 years and is leaving a place for that one? These places are total wolf pits. The guys that work in these places do not screw around. I know, I used to be one of them. The owners do not want to hear them gripe and get their grill game mucked up. You can't count all the money you lose, but you know you lost it.
My strengths are that I know how to organize myself, be efficient, think on my feet, and know how to learn what I need to know to meet the job's expectations. I pick new stuff up fast, and have had jobs where I knew more than my bosses. Sadly, half the people getting the jobs I want are probably screwing them up, if not already, in the next few months. I don't drink, smoke party or have drama in my life. I'm straight edge, get plenty of sleep, work out, groom myself and have a good car. I have a college education, am well-spoken, no tattoos, write very good cover letters and resumes (I have hired/managed people in sales), a good attitude and yet, I've seen who gets my job. I know why now. Their last job fits the bill nicely. Shucks.
Build and maintain a solid resume kids. It's like brushing your teeth and drinking water. Take the low starting-pay job that sounds better and is recognizable over something not appearing relevant. Like the rest of life, know where you came from, where you are, and how you're going to get to where you want to be.