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Joshua Weatherwax

Bartender Interview Questions and Tips: How to Stand Out

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Whether you're asking the questions or answering them, interviews are rarely fun. Surely everything was covered in the bartender cover letter and bartender resume that were submitted, right?

Well, not really. Customer satisfaction skills, menu engineering experience, and how to handle certain hypothetical situations all need to be addressed. That's why it's important to cover a wide range of topics through interview questions and hire the most effective bar staff.

Read on to see common bartender interview questions, how to prepare, and how to get the job with no prior experience.

Bar Interview Questions: Interview Questions To Ask A Bartender

Coming up with questions to ask a bartender can be difficult, especially if you aren't the bar manager or don’t have a lot of experience running a bar. However, there are a few common themes you can touch on to make the deciding process easier.

Good interview questions for bartenders are designed to determine their ability to react to changing circumstances and their knowledge of basic skills.

These are the most common bartender interview questions:

  • Why do you want to work here? This is a classic interview question because it helps identify what the interviewee knows about the business. Bartenders will be the face of your business, so they should understand the mission and marketing of the bar. This is also a great question for eliminating applicants who are only in it for the bartender salary. If money comes up here, it's not going to be a good fit. The cost to open a bar will include these salaries, and you want it to be money well spent.
  • How do you make (insert one of the drinks every bartender should know)? This may be an Old Fashioned, a gimlet, a martini, or some other drink that you know is ordered regularly at your establishment. This question is a great way to see what the interviewee knows about mixology and weed out people with little experience or knowledge.
  • Do you have any relevant certifications? Things like a bartending license, sommelier certification, cicerone certification, or other pertinent certifications can help set an applicant apart and shows they're dedicated to the craft. You'll also need to make sure they're legally allowed to serve alcohol because that's a headache nobody wants down the road.
  • Where do you go when you want a cocktail? This question may seem unimportant, but it's a good way to get insight into the applicant and the type of atmosphere they enjoy. If your bar is a sports bar, and they only go to high-end martini bars, they might not be a good fit.

There are also some general bar staff interview questions that can be asked here.

  • Have you ever worked as a barback? Bartenders with previous experience as a barback not only have first-hand knowledge of how a bar works, but they're also usually good resources for your current barbacks. They'll treat them well and can help guide them on top of other duties. This isn't make or break, but it can be a deciding factor between two evenly-matched candidates.
  • Do you have experience cleaning and prepping a bar? Cleaning and getting the bar ready for service are two big parts of bartender duties. A bartender who doesn't know how to do these things will bog down all the other bar staff and will need additional training. If you have other bartenders, it may be worth taking the time to train one, but it's easier to hire one with experience and just show them where the restaurant cleaning supplies are and how to use them to clean bartender tools. This is also a great time to mention how you've created a bartender cheat sheet to help streamline bar operations before.

Wine Job Interview Questions

Wine jobs are similar to bartending jobs in many ways, but there are a few unique aspects to working at a wine bar or being a sommelier. The biggest difference between the two is the need for someone with a certain certification.

Wine workers usually go through far more extensive training and receive expensive and coveted certifications like that of a master sommelier.

With that in mind, here are a few wine job interview questions:

  • What wine pairing do you usually recommend? Wine and food are often sold together and help drive revenue for many high-end restaurants. This means it's a great skill for a sommelier or other wine professional to be able to recommend great pairings. It will keep customers happy and can increase the value of each sale many times over. This also relies on them understanding basic concepts like how to open a wine bottle, the different wine bottle sizes, and knowing wine names.
  • Why were you interested in becoming a sommelier? Like with the bartender questions above, this is a good way to uncover the goals and motivations of an applicant. Long-term goals are a good sign that the person will be around for a whole, and they'll help you grow your business instead of just seeing it as a temporary job.
  • What are the qualities to look for when purchasing a wine? While this particular role may not actually order the wine, they may be able to provide valuable insight into why you should or shouldn't buy a particular wine varietal. It will also help establish the level of knowledge and expertise of the applicant.

How To Prepare For A Bartending Interview

Preparing for a bartending interview may sound daunting, but there are a few ways to make it easier for yourself. Instead of asking "how to interview for a bartending job," you should be asking "how do I get them to see my value?"

With that in mind, here are our top bartender job interview tips:

First, make sure you thoroughly read the bartender job description. You may be hit with a few curveball questions, but you at least need to be prepared to answer anything related to the initial job posting. This is an easy way to show you have an attention to detail and avoid making you seem like you just applied for the role at random.

Second, do your research. Go to the bar or restaurant's website and read whatever you can on the site. When was it started? What's their mission? Do they have a happy hour? The more you know about the business and the hospitality industry at large, the more you can tailor your responses to meet what they're looking for.

Third, make a good first impression. Though many bartending roles are more laid-back than other jobs, you still need to look professional when you show up for your interview. Show up in a business-casual or professional outfit, shake the manager’s hand, and be respectful. This will keep you from starting the interview off on the right foot and at least get you the opportunity to sell your value.

Four, learn how to use different types of restaurant tech. You may not be able to get hands-on experience, but researching how to use a bar POS system or beverage management systems can go a long way. It shows that you’re willing to learn new things and are prepared to hit the ground running. We recommend looking at our own BinScan inventory scanning app. It’s free-to-use for BinWise Pro customers and can be paired with the Socket Scan S740 handheld barcode scanner for several additional benefits in high use environments. It saves bars and restaurants hours of work and can make you look like you really understand bar inventory management. It's also great to use as a wine cellar app for collectors.

What Do You Like About Bartending?

What do you like about bartending is the #1 question asked in interviews for bartenders. This question will help define the interviewee's goals and skills. Maybe they're driven to achieve high customer satisfaction, or maybe they like the thrill of a fast-paced environment.

Passion for the role can help set the person apart from other applicants and can even make up for a lack of specific knowledge. Whether you're the applicant or the hiring manager, this is a question that needs careful consideration.

Bartender Interview No Experience

While many bartenders started their careers as barbacks or servers, you can still get the job with no experience. It all comes down to how well you handle interview questions.

Here are a few tips for acing a bartender interview with no experience:

First, be upfront with your lack of experience. It may sound like a negative thing, but you should always be honest even if it's about not having experience. This will show the hiring manager that you're a trustworthy person and will give you the opportunity to explain why you applied for the job.

Second, highlight relevant experience and skills. If you've ever worked in customer service, you have relevant experience for bartending. Maybe you know how to upsell, or you know how to use a perpetual inventory system. Perhaps you know the answer to "How long does beer last in a keg untapped?" Take a close look at your previous experience and pull out what you think would translate to the role of being a bartender. It's not all crafting unique cocktails. Customer service and attention to detail are the biggest factors.

Third, sell the future, not the past. What we mean by this, is that your job is to paint a picture of where your career is going, not where it's been. You may lack experience, but you have lofty goals that you're going to accomplish. They can be a part of that future and benefit from your growth. Don't be cocky, but make sure they understand that becoming a bartender is something you're going to do even if they don't hire you.

Interview From The Top

Job interviews can be draining and anxiety-filled events. But, if you truly want to be a bartender, you'll be able to fight through it and show the hiring manager that you're the right choice for the job.

Get prepared in advance, dress well, and stay calm, and you're on your way to a great new job. Just make sure you know the rules regarding how old to be a bartender in your city and state. You don't want to waste anyone's time.

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