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10 Questions a Bartender Should Ask In the Interview

OK, so you just nailed your interview for a bartender position and the bar manager asks you if you have any questions. Don’t be fooled, as this is a very important part of the interview process, and could make or break the entire interview.

The interviewer might say something like, “So, do you have any questions for me?” It’s OK if you have questions about your possible new job and company. In fact, most bar managers will ask you this very question simply to get a better feel of where your head is at.

It also gives them a better idea of just how you’re approaching the bartender interview. So, I’ve compiled a nice list of 10 Questions a Bartender Should Ask In the Interview.

The wrong answer? Simply saying ‘No.’ Bad move. Not only are they interested in getting you to engage with them, they genuinely wish to know if there are any concerns that you may have. As a general rule, bar managers are looking for bartenders that are outgoing and a bit talkative. Don’t disappoint!

As I have mentioned before, if you get far enough into the interview where they’re asking YOU if you have any questions – it’s a good sign. Have some questions ready to go, and feel free to use the below examples – or variations of them.

The interviewer’s are probably looking for any red flags in your questions (as they did earlier listening to your answers to their questions!), and will get a good idea of what your priorities are. For a great list of questions NOT to ask, you can read my article on 10 Things to Never Ask in an Interview.

You may have some questions about some of the things that the bar manager discussed during the interview. Good. Ask those questions immediately while they’re fresh in your mind! Don’t wait for the end of the interview because you may not be given time. Play it smart.

One last thing. Never ask more than 3 – 5 questions. Keep it short and simple. Take a look at my list below, pick out a few questions, and then tailor them to your past experience. Practice! This will go a long way in adding confidence in your ability to ace the interview – and get that job!

10 Questions a Bartender Should Ask In the Interview

Below is a sample of 10 great questions to ask at the end of your bartender interview. Just stick with a couple of them – don’t waste the interviewers time by asking all of them!

Before asking these questions (actually, before you even start applying for bartending jobs), find out exactly what Bar Managers are looking for in new hires by reading about the 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.

Bar Managers are looking for more than just basic bartending skills – the “Hard Skills,” so to speak. You better believe that during the entire interview process he is evaluating your “Soft Skills” also.

What are Soft Skills? Do yourself a favor and brush up on your soft skills. These skills are highly valued in any industry – not just the Food and Beverage business!

Here we go…

1. Do you have quarterly or annual reviews?

This is a great question to ask your interviewer and always impressed me. You’re making it clear that you understand your performance will be (or should be), evaluated, and you will be held accountable for your work ethic.

This also implies that you’re looking for advancement and wage increases – without coming right out and asking what the policy is. Good move.

It’s been my experience that many restaurants and bars do have a review process in place as part of their company policy. Unfortunately, they either fail to abide by the policy – or they totally ignore it altogether. This is a shame, as consistent reviews of their employees’ performance can reap valuable rewards.

It’s not just the idea of rating an employee’s performance, either. When employees are evaluated on their job performance, they’re more likely to bring up issues that bar owners and managers were unaware of. Please, do not ask ‘How often do I get a raise?’ Bad move.

I would word the question something like this: “I’m always interested in further developing my skills and discovering more ways to accomplish the company’s goals as well as my own. Will there be quarterly or annual performance reviews of my work so that I can better learn how to achieve these goals?” Nice question..

2. Will my schedule be set – or are the hours flexible?

This question may have already been answered during the interview. Usually, a bar manager will state up front the general requirements for the job, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the hours and wages are.

Side Note: Most bars and restaurant’s understand that people can usually work only days or nights. Not both. They get it. Make no mistake – being available for ANY shift is a notch in the “plus” column.

What’s good about this question is that it presents the opportunity for you to state that you’re available at any time – or, at the very least, remain flexible for almost all hours that the bar is operating.

Of course, the position may be for days or nights only, weekend nights, day shifts, etc. The interviewer will usually establish what your hours will be at the beginning of the interview.

It’s OK to slip into the conversation that you’re flexible. This is valuable information for the bar manager’s to know, as they can then make a note that you are able to cover additional shifts.

If you do have restrictions on the hours you can work – state them. Don’t be misleading, as it’s a good way to get let go because of your dishonesty. There’s nothing more frustrating to a bar manager than to find out that you were not forthcoming during the interview by failing to reveal your shift/hours restrictions.

A very effective way to ask this question is, “I do have a couple of college courses on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Other than that, I’m free to work any shift that you need.” This will most likely be acceptable to the interviewer as you’re letting them know up front that there may be a minor scheduling conflict.

3. How many drink pricing tiers do you have and how does your pricing structure work?

This is another good question to ask because it shows, at a minimum, that you do understand a few of the basics of bar liquor cost control. You might even ask a follow-up question about how much they pour for a regular drink as opposed to a martini.

Again, this is something that all experienced bartenders should have knowledge of, and you’re subtly telling the interviewer you know your stuff.

A simple question: “In your drink pricing structure, are you pouring more, and charging more, for a Jack Daniels rocks as opposed to a Jack Daniels and Coke?” Simple.

10 Questions a Bartender Should Ask In the Interview

A great way to phrase this question (for experienced bartenders), is, “The last place I worked at was really great, but they had somewhat of a confusing pricing structure between different brands of alcohol. Could you explain to me how you categorize your pricing tiers?”

In other words, you’re asking the bar manager to lay out the pricing structure as well as what brands/types of alcohol they designate as ‘premium’ or ‘top shelf.’

The whole idea of you asking this question is to show that you’re knowledgeable about the different brands of alcohol, how drinks should be priced correctly, and the different pricing categories.

The interviewer will immediately know that not only do you understand that sales and gross profit are important – but that you understand how important the pricing structure is to the overall profitability of the bar.

Just don’t go overboard here and start bashing your previous job experience. Notice in the question I recommended above that I first indicated that the place I previously worked at was a great job. Never start spouting off about all of the negative aspects of the job at your previous places of employment.

4. Is the POS System fast and fairly easy to use?

This is probably one of the better questions you should ask. Gone are the days of the old-time cash registers. These days, it’s all about touch screens, POS (Point of Sale), BOH (Back of House), and additional server terminals. This may sound a bit confusing to someone who has never used this type of system, but the learning curve is not steep.

By asking this question, you’re demonstrating your experience in using POS systems. There are many different types, and you could ask an additional question like, “Do all servers and bartenders have their own key-cards or do they use a pin number?”

This is a very easy way to get the point across that you’re familiar with the POS system and understand that it’s a big part of the accounting procedure.

A great question to ask here is, “At my last job, we used the XYZ POS system. What system do you use here?” Again, this is just a simple way of revealing that you are familiar with the systems used in modern restaurants and bars. It’s not something that is likely to impress the interviewer – it just confirms that they will not have to spend a lot of time training you on their system.

On a final note, this is probably a perfect question to ask if you have no experience and are looking for your first bartender job. Lacking bartending experience, you need to point out the other skills you have acquired that are very similar. In this case, that you are experienced in using different types of POS Systems.

Perhaps you have worked as a barista. Or a server at a local sports bar. Maybe even as a grocery store check-out clerk. This is valuable experience in the use of POS systems – and, again, tells the interviewer that you will need minimal training on their system.

5. Is their room for advancement?

You’re interviewing for a bartender position. Why ask this question? Many bars and restaurants hire from within – no matter what the position may be. Management is no exception. It makes good sense to ask this question if you love the industry and plan on moving into a management position.

Another reason for asking this question is that bartenders with more experience, and more time as an employee, will have the best shifts. Some are even ‘shift leaders’ or maybe even the ‘head bartender.’ There’s nothing wrong with having a desire to move up the ladder. Most bar managers will appreciate this question.

I would phrase the question something like this: “I really love this business, and may decide to further advance my career and go into management. Does this company encourage this sort of forward thinking?” Great question.

But here’s the real value of asking this question: You’re letting the bar manager know that you want to stick around. The employee turnover rate in the restaurant and bar business is high – to say the least. All things being equal, the bar manager will go with the person who indicates that they’re looking for long-term employment.

6. Is there an opportunity to pick up additional shifts?

Another great question, as it indicates that not only are you able to work pretty much full time – but you are available to step up to the plate as a team player and help management by offering to cover other shifts for whatever the reason.

A great way to ask this question is to say, “I understand that you’re looking to fill the Wednesday through Friday evening shifts. That fits perfectly with my schedule. Will there be opportunities to pick up additional shifts?”

Unfortunately, the restaurant and bar industry is notorious for employees not showing up for shifts, frequent turnover, and scheduling conflicts. They value those employees who have no issues of this kind.

Bar owners are well aware of this fact, and will jump at the chance to fill open bartending positions with someone who makes it very clear that they take their job seriously, clocks in when they’re supposed to, and are willing to step up when asked.

Yep – reliability is a huge asset in this business, and by asking this question you’re making it very clear that you will do you part in ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Make no mistake – bar owners are looking for team players willing to take responsibility for their shifts.

7. Will I be working in the main bar, service bar, or a combination of both?

Ask this question if the bar manager has not yet indicated where, exactly, you will start off working. Of course, it all depends on the type of establishment you’re applying at. If they have a huge restaurant, and a service bar, you’re probably going to start in the service bar for at least a few shifts.

I would phrase the question something like this: “I like variety in the shifts I work, and would love the opportunity to work in both the service bar and the main bar. Would working in both bars be part of my schedule?” Again, you’re letting the manager know that you are flexible and willing to work in whatever area they designate.

8. Are bartenders allowed to take food orders at the bar?

bartender serving a chef salad

This is a great way to bring up your food service experience – if you have it. And, to let the interviewer know that you understand serving food is part of a bartender’s job.

As we have discussed before, bars are in the business of making an acceptable profit, and food sales certainly help them meet their goals. And, if you sell your guest a plate of jalapeno poppers – he just might order another beer.

A great way to phrase this question: “At my last job, we sold a lot of food at the bar which helped increase our guest-check average. Do your bartenders take food orders – or is that strictly the food servers job?” This question reveals that you’re definitely onboard with adding to the overall sales of the bar and restaurant. Good stuff.

9. Do you have in-house contests?

Another great question that shows you’re energetic and like competition. And, it tells the interviewer that you are interested in doing whatever you can to help increase sales. This question also tells me that you’re probably very familiar with suggestive selling.

I would phrase the question something like this: “I love competition, and am wondering if you run different types of promotions and suggestive selling contests for the employees.” Perfect.

10. When will you be making your decision?

Great question and most bar managers know that this one is coming. You may not get the answer that you’re looking for, but it does tell the interviewer that you want the job and are raring to go.

I would ask the question somewhat like this: “I’m sure that you are interviewing multiple applicants for this job, and am wondering when the interview period will be over and you’ll be making a decision.”

Short and to the point. Some variation of this question would be perfect. It’s not pushy, and gives the impression that you are eager to begin your new job as soon as possible.

Bartender Interview Questions Conclusion

The question and answer period at the tail end of the interview is very important. If you got this far – they’re probably interested.

Use this time wisely, and pick a couple of questions from the list above to ask the interviewer. Or, ask other relevant questions that you may have that you came up with during the interview.

Remember that the interviewer has taken time out from his busy schedule to sit down with you. Don’t waste his time. Don’t pull out a list and start asking detailed questions. Yes, there are some really dumb questions to ask in the interview! Follow that link for a detailed explanation.

Don’t ask about sick pay, vacation, pay, etc. Focus on questions that will demonstrate your abilities – and your knowledge of bartending in general.

I once had an applicant ask me a very detailed question about our liquor cost and inventory procedures. He then proceeded to ask me if we performed ‘spot checks’ on bartenders and whether or not we used ‘blind drops.’

Hmmmmm. Red flags all over the place here. It’s one thing to demonstrate your knowledge of bar accountability procedures – quite another to ask questions like the above. Careful here.

The above question may be appropriate if you’re applying for a management job – but not as a bartender. And, if you’re asking questions like this simply to impress the interviewer – you’re probably on the wrong track.

Related Bartending Topics

What if I have no bartender experience? Don’t sweat it. The interviewer has most likely already seen your resume and is very well aware of this fact. If he was not interested in hiring you – there would be no interview.

I highly recommend going to Bartending School. Learn about the 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.

Stick to the basics, point out your previous experience in jobs similar to bartending and customer service and you’ll be OK. Above all else – indicate your desire to learn and further develop your skills.

What should I wear to the interview? Use common sense. What kind of bar is it? Casual? A formal dining atmosphere? You can never go wrong with wearing a dark suit. Just make sure that your clothes are clean and pressed, check your hygiene, and please – show up on time!

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