I have interviewed hundred’s of job applicants over the years. Some interviews go really well – many not so well. And the questions I get asked, from the applicant, can be real mind benders.
Unfortunately, I have left many interviews scratching my head. I’m going to list here the 10 Dumbest Questions to Ask During Your Bartender Interview.
Where do they come up with these questions? Do they not understand that we’re looking for someone who can fit into our “system” and be an asset to our team?
Don’t be a dunce. The bartender interview process is there for one reason: To connect a qualified bartender/employee with a successful company in the hope that it produces a positive, synergistic effect, and has long-term benefits for both. It’s that simple.
The last thing you want is to come across as only looking out for yourself – or worse yet – someone who has little or no experience and it’s glaringly obvious.
It’s not about you. You may think that you’re the greatest bartender in the world and the bar is lucky that you have decided to apply for a job there. Think again. Bars are in business to make a profit, and the interview process is all about how you’ll fit into their ‘system’ and help achieve company goals.
It’s perfectly OK to ask intelligent, relevant questions. In fact, the person interviewing you is allowing you time to do just that. Use this time wisely and effectively. Ask only a couple of questions. Don’t pull out a list and check them off as you plow through it.
10 Dumbest Questions to Ask in a Bartender Interview
Below are ten questions that I, as a bar manager, have been asked by bartender applicants at some point. Surprisingly, more than a few applicants ask these very same questions.
Do not make the same mistake that others have made by asking these questions, or additional ridiculous questions, thus costing you the job! Be smart – there’s nothing wrong with keeping your mouth shut!
1. Can I drink on the job?
Believe it or not, in my capacity as a bar manager I have been asked this question too many times to count during the interview process. Really? Why would someone looking for a bartending job – or any job for that matter – ask this ridiculous question?
Of course, you can’t drink on the job. MOST bartender jobs, that is. Yes, I know that there are many bartenders out there that do drink on the job. Some with management’s approval – most without.
There is nothing more unprofessional than someone drinking while they work. Or, worse yet, being drunk. But this is a bar you say. Why not?
Bars and restaurants are in the business of making a profit – just like any other business. Employees drinking up the profits, skewing the liquor cost numbers, and acting unprofessionally in front of customers is the LAST thing bar managers are looking for.
IN MY OPINON, even if allowed to – NEVER DRINK BEHIND THE BAR! Wise up, and don’t even think about asking this question – unless you’re satisfied with that unemployment check.
2. How many sick days do I get each year?
Yeah, this question will get you hired, right? Please, never ask this question during the interview process. Asking about paid time off, vacation days, sick days, etc., is not something I would recommend.
If you get the job, Human Resources will answer all of these questions. If the interviewer volunteers some of this information during the interview process – fine. Just nod and say something like “that’s very generous,” or words to that effect.
As I have stated previously in this article, bar managers are trying to find out how you can fit into their system. Help them ensure profitability, and take great care of their customers through fantastic customer service.
They want first-time customers to become long-term patrons. That’s it. They’re not interested in what you believe to be great side-benefits or “perks.”
I was actually asked one time if we kept track of how many times a person came in late for their shift. I simply couldn’t believe my ears and asked them to repeat the question. Thinking that this might provide a clue to them that the question was really unacceptable, they repeated it again. Unbelievable.
A job interview is about what you can do for the company – not what the company can do for you. Find out what all Bar Managers are looking for: 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.
3. If someone shows me a fake ID showing they are of age, can I still serve them?
I shouldn’t even have this question in here as I was only asked this one time in an interview. However; surprisingly, I have been asked this many times from bartenders that have been on the job for a while. This confounds me and is quite possibly the stupidest question I have ever been asked.
Not only is it illegal to serve someone underage, but if you knowingly accept a false or altered ID – you’re liable. Using the “but they showed me their ID” is just not going to work.
Be smart – the correct answer to any question about ID’s is that “we serve only those with acceptable, valid identification.”
This is one of the biggest reasons why bartenders, servers, and bar managers are required, in some states, to take classes on checking ID’s. It’s usually part of an “Alcohol Awareness” class that you may be required to attend in some States.
Personally, although not a fan of excessive red tape, I agree wholeheartedly with this alcohol awareness training. I have found that many bartenders, especially new ones, just don’t seem to understand the importance of following the law – to the letter – when it comes to checking ID’s.
4. If someone is cut off, can I serve them an hour or two later?
No, you should not. This is a question that an interviewer would pay particular attention to. In my opinion, once you cut someone off – they’re done. At least until the next day.
Bartenders don’t want to be held liable, or negligent, for a drunk customers’ actions. Serious business here, and read about the Dram Shop Rule here.
Call them a cab or ask someone to drive them home. Offer them a non-alcoholic beverage. As always, inform management as to the steps you have taken. NEVER serve someone a few cups of coffee and then start serving them again!
Why would you start serving someone again after they have been cut off? If something were to happen, then you would be admitting that you served someone who had been cut off. A no-win situation.
Of course, you could argue that you stopped serving them because of attitude, or something similar, but the point is you open yourself up to someone suing you and costing you your job – or worse. Just don’t do it.
5. Do I get a certain number of drinks I can “comp” every shift?
Really not a question you should be asking in an interview. Again, what you’re really saying here is “what can your company do for me?” Or, “How can I benefit from working for your company?” It’s not what the Bar Manager wants to hear, believe me.
Not only is this an inappropriate question – it also reveals quite a bit about yourself. If I were the interviewer, all I’m hearing is that you’re looking to comp drinks for your friends. Many bars do have a ‘comp’ sheet, but it’s used only for certain situations. Experienced bartenders know this.
The best bartenders I’ve ever worked with have one thing in common: They NEVER give free drinks to their friends. They don’t have to. They understand that complimentary drinks are used to further achieve the bar’s goals – not theirs.
Stay on track, and ask intelligent questions that show you are grateful for the opportunity, and that you will work hard for the house.
6. Are we allowed to stay in the bar and drink after closing?
Are you serious? Of course not! Why would any bar, for that matter, allow people to consume alcoholic beverages after hours? The bottom line is, it’s against the law.
Yes, I have seen it happen over the years, but certainly don’t condone it. It’s one thing to have your ‘shift drink’ after your shift and within legal serving hours – quite another to be drinking illegally after hours.
This question tells me that you don’t understand the laws regarding serving hours – or what is required of liquor license owners. In other words, a complete lack of respect for the owners, managers, and fellow employees. And, how does the bar account for this ‘loss’ of product? Don’t be an idiot.
Personally, if I were interviewing this person, I would not immediately get up and say the interview was over. I would first ask him or her why they are even asking this question – to really try and understand why they would even think about asking this question.
Does it happen in the real world? Not on my shift. This is a situation where the authorities could, at the very least, impose a substantial fine. Worst-case scenario – they close the place down. Liquor law violations add up, and the state authorities pursue these violations aggressively.
7. Do I have to make up any register shortages with my tips?
You might think that this is a valid question. I guess it is, sort of, because I know of some bars that try and force their bartenders to make up cash discrepancies. Not a good policy – and unethical. And, illegal in some areas.
You will have to contend with walk-outs, but then every bar and restaurant does. You shouldn’t have to pay for those, either. However, this question should never be asked!
What I’m hearing here is that you have a problem handling cash. Maybe even difficulty handling the POS system. Even worse, this gives me the feeling that you may be up to no good.
Any time there are cash transactions involved, there will be discrepancies. Hopefully, they’re kept to a minimum – but they do happen.
We’re only human, and during those very busy times, you may make a mistake here and there. Personally, I was always more worried about the bartender that had a ‘perfect’ register each and every shift. A good bar manager will train his bartenders to use the POS properly and count cash accurately.
8. Can I give discounts on drink prices to my friends?
Really? What I’m hearing here is that you expect your friends to come in on a regular basis and feed them free drinks. Not good – and certainly should never be asked in a job interview.
If you, as a bartender, are allowed to comp drinks – they should never be for your friends. Good bartenders know this and save those comps for great customers and other valid situations.
Free drinks and over-pours cost the house money. Lots of it. Bars are taking inventory on a regular basis (they better be!), computing their liquor costs, and adjusting pricing as they go along. It’s not up to you to give out free drinks – it’s not your booze!
Side Note: Throughout the years, I have known many fellow bartenders, bar managers, and bar owners whom I’m friends with. We used to get a kick out of “busting” each other’s bartenders for giving out free drinks and over-pouring.
Believe me – it’s not that hard to catch a bartender ripping off the house. Just keep that in mind. In fact, I wrote a very informative post about just this subject – How Bartenders Rip Off the House.
9. Do I have to keep the bar clean – or does the barback do that?
This is always a good one. Just how lazy are you? Another question I get is “What are the server’s responsible for?” This just tells me that you show up for your shift and go through the motions with a minimum amount of work. You’re probably not the bartender I’m looking for.
It’s always the bartender’s responsibility to keep the bar clean and orderly. In fact, it’s one of the first things your customers will notice when they sit down at the bar. This is a no-brainier, folks.
Use the interview question and answer period to show that you’re interested in contributing to the team effort of making the bar a success. Pointing out, at some moment during the interview, that you’re a very tidy person is probably a more effective route to take.
10. Am I allowed to leave my shift early if there’s an emergency?
Well, sure you are. Believe it or not, I have been asked this question many times. Not so much in the past, but it seems to be happening regularly these days. Red flags all over the place here!
Of course, there’s going to be emergencies in your life where any boss will happily allow you to leave. When it starts happening on a frequent basis it becomes a huge problem.
But, how often do these emergencies occur? Once a week? Twice a month? Super Bowl Sunday? I’m not liking what I hear here. This has ‘danger’ written all over it.
A bartending job, like all other jobs, requires you to be behind the bar working when you’re supposed to be. Please – never ask this question if you’re serious about getting the job.
Bonus Question – Do I have to stock beer and change kegs?
Yes, of course you do. You may have worked at a place in the past where bar backs did this sort of work – but not here. In the vast majority of bars, the bartenders perform this task. These chores are really quite simple, and is never a concern with experienced bartenders.
The question tells me a lot. Don’t like manual work and heavy lifting? Then you’re probably not a very good bartender. In every job there are some things that we simply do not enjoy doing. Maybe changing the soda containers is one of them for you. If you’re new to bartending, get used to stocking beer. All of it!
Bonus Question #2 – How often do I get a raise?
You haven’t even been offered the job yet and you’re asking for a raise. Not the smartest thing to do. Other than the bar manager telling you what your starting wage is, all ‘money stuff’ will be discussed when you get hired and sit down with Human Resources.
This is not the time to haggle over money, ask about vacation and sick leave, and inquire about how much the current bartenders make in tips each night.
Instead, a good question may be “Do you have semi-annual performance evaluations?” That’s actually a great question and shows that you plan on being a great employee and part of the team.
Dumb Bartender Questions Final Thoughts
The question and answer period at the end of the bartender interview is designed for you to finally ask a few important questions about your possible future bartending position. Use this time wisely.
I would suggest that you take the time before the interview to memorize a couple of questions that are intelligent, relevant, and short. Here’s a post I wrote about good questions to ask the bar manager.
Use this time to further demonstrate your knowledge of bar procedures and customer service. Maybe ask something like, “How much time do bartenders have to set up the bar before opening?”
Or, ask what their pricing structure is and what they’re using as well liquor. Keep the questions short and easily answerable, and you’ll be just fine.
Related Bartending Questions
How should I dress for a bartender interview? You want to stay on the semi-formal side. I always paid attention to those showing up or the interview in a suit. Yes, dressing in a suit still counts for something.
Most places these days have their bartenders dressed in some sort of tie, or vest, so keep that in mind. It also a great idea to see what the current employees are dressed in and come up with some sort of variation on the style and colors.
Should I bring my resume to the interview? Yes, of course. And a good cover letter. You may have already dropped off a resume, and, hopefully, a cover letter, on your initial visit.
However, bar managers are busy people. They may show up for your scheduled interview without your resume. Be prepared, and have one ready to hand over on the spot. It just makes sense.
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