The Recipe for Success: 3 Recruitment Lessons I Learned from Competing on MasterChef

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3 Recruitment Lessons I Learned from Competing on MasterChef

The comparisons between a Recruiter and a Chef may not be obvious but in many ways, they are two peas in a pod. In both professions, you live a 24/7 lifestyle to reap the rewards of your work. Both reward perfectionists obsessed with succeeding in a highly competitive industry.  

As someone who works with recruiters every day and is crazy for food, it amazes me how two completely contrasting environments can have so much in common. In 2016 I competed on the TV show Masterchef, which was around the same time as I started working for Bullhorn. During this time I realised that there is a big crossover between both the work of a chef and the work as a recruiter.

So how has MasterChef helped me and how does it apply to you? These are the 3 lessons I learned from competing on Masterchef.

1. Specialise, Don’t Generalise

“I am Portuguese and very proud of it too”, was what made me stand out. Modern Portuguese food made me unique and played into my hands with my sometimes wacky approach. This exact notion was quickly turned into an anecdote that came back to haunt me on the sacred medium of Twitter(see images). But that was precisely the point. I wanted to stand out. I captured the attentions of judges, tweeters, critics and the public by doing something I knew inside and out— my specialisation.

You can fall into a comfort zone of trying to place jobs in every sector. This will only come back to hurt you as a recruiter. Why? Being the Jack of all trades doesn’t pay off. Until you’ve perfected your art in one sector, it is difficult to build a profitable and sustainable business. Focus on one niche, in which you excel, a passion or one of your known strength strengths. just differentiate.

Recently I attended The Global Recruiter Summit 2017 where Dinette Koolhaas, Vice President and Operations Leader EMEA from Kelly Services mirrored this exact idea. She was measured in her words that recruitment agencies struggle to differentiate themselves in such a saturated market. She stressed the importance of specialisation. As an example, a lot of Kelly’s success had come from being different.

2. Preparation Saves the Day

Be ready. Equip yourself with utensils and knowledge that can empower you to succeed. Failing to do so may leave you with egg on your face (see photo). I struggled with the Invention test during my time on MasterChef. The reason? I could not map out what to do with the secret ingredients. This resulted in a confused and incomplete dish.

You will rarely have candidates that are flawless. They might need some preparation and coaching. Time invested in a candidate also turns out to have gone to waste, as a candidate doesn’t turn up to an interview. Annoying? Yes. A reflection on your true skills? No. This is a failure to prepare. You will never be able to plan for life’s uncertainties and it is up to you to control what is within your power.

Much like when cooking a mystery meal from scratch. I did not have the blueprint for that specific meal. But if I had stuck to my instinct and believed in my ethos, I would have certainly come out of that challenge proud of what I had done. Instead, a sense of guilt and disappointment tarnished what was an inspirational few months.

Prepare for the unexpected, anticipate potential roadblocks and have a contingency plan if nothing goes to plan. These are not the secrets to success, but the foundations of a mentality that will drive you to be the best professional you can be.

3. Learn from Your Mistakes

To learn from my mistakes wasn’t easy. On MasterChef, you have very little time to adapt enough to show a marked improvement the following round. Typically, we lean towards using failure as a springboard to learn. But mistakes can happen even when we are successful. I was obsessed with every detail and surrounded by perfectionists. You cannot afford to rest on previous successes as it guarantees you nothing.

Don’t stress. A simple instruction for a complex issue can be enough. Though, we often set insurmountable objectives that end up causing major dips in performance. When we have a variety of things to worry about, this makes it difficult to see the end-goal clearly. Relax, we are merely humans and blunders can become the building blocks to victory.

My proudest moment was cooking for food critic Charles Campion, which won me the dish of the day! He is a ruthless judge, and whilst my competition had somewhat of an off-day, I stormed that round and put myself in a great position (see picture). However, had I studied my performance carefully I would have noticed some large gaps that I could improve on. Perhaps I could have gone on to really mount a charge for the win.

Ultimately I was not able to channel those negatives into positives and bowed out after failing to impress a 2 Michelin-starred chef. I had notched up 2 dishes of the day until that moment. By focusing only on the praise for my unique and refreshing approach, I wasn’t able to fully grasp my errors. If I had, it could have propelled me to a win.

Learn from victory as well as defeat. Continue to hone your skills with every interaction, stick with your instinct and you will stand every chance of bettering yourself.

Have you got your own recipe for success? Please share them with me and feel free to reach out on Twitter: @Ped_amaro‏ or email me at

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