A Stage, gone corporate (and toxic)

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From the Michelin Guide:

Simply put, a stage is an unpaid internship a cook takes to expose him- or herself to new techniques. Before the advent of culinary schools, this was the most common form of education.

Kitchen Language: What Is a Stage?

As most in our industry know, it is relatively common for cooks to stage at a restaurant before they are hired so they may decide to take a cooking position there, if one is offered by the restaurant. Its current standing is perceived in a negative light given the abuses the system enables— but I digress, and we’ll leave that for another time. Same goes for staging for a Front of House job.

What I am seeing more often now is corporate jobs requiring applicants to perform labor as a requirement of obtaining interviews for potential employment. While a kitchen will often have one or two stagiaires at a time, many white-collar employers will just post a job on a board and then expect all applicants to submit work the company can benefit from, again, as a condition of obtaining an interview or advancing the interview process.

Case in point:

To work in a kitchen most people will stage for a couple days, and then be on their way, or be offered the job; with a tacit understanding at the beginning of the stage whether you are there for a job and or if you’re there to check out the culture and methods of that kitchen in particular.

But now we’re seeing a lot of employers blindly follow in the footsteps of FAANG, with 4 interviews or more whether the position warrants it or not, without regard to the compensation or the benefits the position affords. I have even heard of small law practices attempt this! All because rich companies are doing it.

Such a waste of time for everyone. The HR person (or whomever is performing this task) now has to worry about hiring someone over a period of weeks, potentially months. The hiring team now has to spend time with multiple applicants taking away from useful work. The applicant now has to worry about a process taking weeks (or months!) while there are bills to be paid and food to be put on the table.


So now we have an equivalent of staging but now with more negativity and and abuse built into the process. If your interview process as a company takes longer than three weeks (mind you, not three months) tells me the following about your company:

  • Your internal processes are glacially slow. If you’re this slow to hire me, you will also be slow to approve any potential vacation time.
  • There are people who relish the sense of power making the process slow gives them. I do not want to interact with people like this for everyday work.
  • You will be lightning fast to fire me. It happens in kitchens, it happens in corporate!

I personally will not wait a month for a company to decide to hire me while it also takes ownership of any unpaid work all applicants performed as part of the hiring process, whether it led to employment or not.

Without mincing words, that is theft. And companies that want you to steal your labor in this manner deserve to fail.

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