Food Employers’ Top 3 Tips To Landing Your First Job

We know how challenging it can be to embark on your job search after graduating.  With so much advice and information, new grads can find the process overwhelming.  Resources like Careerealism and The Muse have great advice on job searching and we often share it on our Twitter and Facebook feeds. However it is not specific to the food industry.

If you are reading this, it’s likely you are interested in a career specifically in food.  Here’s a summary of the feedback we received from employers in the Food and Beverage Industry. We interviewed a variety of hiring managers at companies ranging in size from start-up to large corporate. We asked where they find graduates, what experience they seek and what are the challenges with bringing new grads on.

Where do Food Employers go to find New Grads?

Employers of all sizes confirmed they post jobs through career centres at colleges or universities. Often these companies will favour organizations that are local to them. Many companies also expressed a preference for Job Fairs. These allow employers to meet potential candidates face to face. In this way companies can provide more targeted information to candidates with specific career interests. In addition, recruiters have the opportunity to gain a first impression of the people who will be applying to their roles.

Larger organizations, with recognized brands, post jobs on their own websites, and also on large generic job boards. Examples of generic job boards include Monster, Indeed and Workopolis. An organization that posts on these sites will get hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. In the case of smaller companies, they do not have the resources to sort through piles of resumes to find candidates with the relevant skills and experience. Therefore many smaller companies favour food industry job boards. These attract fewer, but more targeted, applications.

A final way that employers find good candidates is through referrals from current employees. That’s why it is so important to network with your peers, and stay in touch even after you have graduated. Remember to let everyone in your food industry network (and beyond!) know that you’re job searching.

What universities, colleges, programs or courses do employers look for?

Our research showed that employers focus on local schools with good reputations and appropriate food related programs. Also school reputation is very important because hiring managers want candidates who will learn and grow with the organization. Relevant degrees from reputable institutions take the perceived risk out of hiring for the long term. In addition, when hiring for entry level positions, organizations prefer programs that are specific to the position being applied for.

What other experience appeals on a resume?

Unanimously all the employers we asked said that volunteering, volunteering and more volunteering was a key ingredient on a resume.  If your resume is being compared with several other similar ones, volunteer work involving food will tip the balance in your favour. Another key characteristic of strong grad resumes is evidence of experience in manufacturing.  While there are many food industry jobs that require desk based work, an equal number require employees to be ‘hands on’ with production processes. Finally experience in a regulated industry was highly valued. Because working in food comes with the requirement to comply with a ton of regulations and safety programs, experience in a regulatory heavy context is very appealing.

What are the biggest challenges when bringing students/new grads into an organization?

The big three challenges that employers identified were:

  • Unrealistic compensation expectations. Employers say that the starting salaries new grads expect are not reasonable.
  • Hours of work and flextime. New entrants to the industry need to be flexible with their hours in the early stages of their career. Food can be a demanding, though rewarding, profession, so do your research of the hours that are typical in your chosen field
  • The Rules! Like school and university your work place has a set of boundaries and rules. Being on time, dressing appropriately and adhering to established etiquette is key.

Top 3 tips for New Food Grads

  1. Make sure you want the position. It may sound obvious, but interviewers can tell the difference between someone with a genuine motivation for a chosen field and someone that just wants a job. Interest is also tied to effort.  Being late, or an untidy appearance demonstrate interest levels that are lacking.
  2. Research the company. Arriving unprepared without any idea of what the company produces or who their customers are, will seal your fate. You won’t get asked back.
  3. Network. Get to know the industry and the players within it. Join associations, ask lots of questions and you will have the upper hand now, and in the future, as you move forward in your career.

What NOT to do

When asked, employers said that when candidates started asking about money straight away it created a huge red flag. It’s a given that money is important, just don’t go there during the first interview.  

Also remember that passing the probationary period does not mean it’s time for a pay rise. Be prepared to prove yourself and show your value.  If you become a well-respected member of the food industry many doors will open to you, both internally and also at other companies—good news travels fast—your reputation is everything and it starts with your first job.

A Final Word….

The food industry is unique.  Generally people that get into food/beverage do so because they have a genuine interest and passion for it. The unsociable hours, the stringent regulations and those unflattering hair nets (just kidding) are accepted out of a love for the industry and a role in the wider food system.

Thank you to all the HR Managers and Corporate Recruiters that provided their feedback. We very much appreciate it!  If you are an employer or a graduate and have additional comments or suggestions, please share in the comments section below. Our intention is to close the gap between grads and employers – what’s your perspective?