Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Tag Archives: Hiring

The Chef or the Cook? Choosing the Right Candidate

How do you balance hiring decisions when given a choice between someone with education and certification, and someone with experience only? I often hear, and agree, that certification does not guarantee a qualified person for any position. As a certified Project Management Professional and Certified Business Analysis Profession, I could not agree more. I will use the scenario of the Chef and the Cook to discuss the differences and explore how this could apply to other professions such as a project manager, business analyst, or accountant.

I always look forward to checking out the Chef’s special when I go into a restaurant. Often the Chef’s special is something a little different that highlights their talent as a chef. The dish is something that the Chef has created using his extensive knowledge of ingredients, flavors, and a talent to combine food, herbs, and spices in a way that tantalizes the taste buds. The Chef must also manage the kitchen crew and keep up with the demands of the restaurant to ensure a great restaurant experience for the patron.

Have you noticed that chain restaurants do not have Chef’s specials? They may have day of the week specials, but these are set every week. That is because the menu and the recipes are established by a corporate office and have proven to be true winners for the brand. The difference here is that the chains employ cooks. Those who can competently follow a recipe while keeping pace with the hustle and bustle of a restaurant.

The Chef will likely have a passion for food, experience in the kitchen, and advanced training from a culinary school, whereas the cook often found a job that they did reasonably well and has gained experience over time. (More on the difference between a Chef and Cook).  Advance training often involves gaining a broader foundation of techniques and proven best practices of those great chefs that have gone before. These foundations make it easier for the Chef to create, innovate, and successfully adapt recipes. Does certification or graduation from the culinary school guarantee a competent chef? Does lack of a culinary program infer that someone would not be a competent chef? Absolutely not. The school may provide additional knowledge and tools to become a better chef, but some may inherently get this. On the same note, having the education may not be enough if the talent for food and kitchen management is not there. “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. My conclusion is that the combination of experience and education, mixed with natural talent, increases the likelihood of hiring the right candidate. Experience and education is what can be most effectively measured when recruiting.

Consider what candidates bring to the table in both experience and education when recruiting for your next position. Certification is an indicator of retaining and being able to apply learning at the conclusion of the educational experience, but not an end all to be all. The below chart should help you gauge how an individual’s education and experience qualifies them for that job you are looking to fill. But recruiting is always subjective, so don’t forget to use your instincts. Be sure you are getting the person you need. Often times a cook will better suit the need.

Matrix of Education and Experience for Qualification

Qaulification Matrix

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