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How Bartenders Get Jobs at Nightclubs

Although there are many other types of bartending jobs where you can earn just as much, nightclub bartenders seem to have this almost mythical quality about them. Everyone wants to work in a nightclub. Especially the younger job seeker.

So, how do bartenders get jobs at nightclubs? You need experience. Lots of it. Speed wins, and if you can’t move your butt along – you’re out of luck. Working your way up the bartending ladder is the only way to go as most all nightclubs will not hire inexperienced or under experienced bartenders.

For inexperienced bartenders, it’s simply unrealistic to walk into a nightclub and expect to get hired. They’re looking for experience – a lot of it!

The bar manager is going to want to see your resume as well as a really good cover letter. They probably won’t consider you without these. In fact, if your resume shows no experience, or experience in a really ‘slow’ type of bar – you probably won’t even get an interview.

Nightclubs receive a huge amount of applications every month, and you’re going to have to stand out from the crowd. Your timing has to be perfect – it’s not too often that they hang out the “Help Wanted” sign.

What Are Nightclub Bar Managers Looking For?

Generally speaking, below are some of the top skills and qualities Nightclub Bar Managers are looking for:

  • Experience
  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Knowing Drink Recipes
  • Accurate Pouring Skills
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Understands What ‘Works For the House’ Means
  • Exceptional Memory
  • Great Math Skills
  • Punctuality
  • Multi-Tasking Excellence

If you would like a really in-depth idea of of what Bar Mangers are really looking for, then read my my article on the 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.

And don’t forget that if you really want a job as a nightclub bartender, then you better be prepared to apply at a lot of places – and follow up multiple times at each bar.

Side Note: Remember that nightclubs are not the only type of bar out there that is busy. Many Mom and Pop type local bars can put out a huge amount of volume. So can those so-called ‘dive’ bars, which can get crazy busy.

Let’s take a closer look at what bar managers and owners are looking for when hiring bartenders for those busy nightclub shifts.

The Qualities of Top Nightclub Bartenders

Nightclub bartenders are a different breed. Not only are they experienced, but they excel in all facets of the job. That’s why these jobs are hard to get. Besides Bartender Soft Skills, which is a whole different topic, Bar Managers will be looking for specific attributes.

Awareness, honesty, and cleanliness are a given; however, bar managers are looking for much more than your basic ‘good employee’ qualities.

Bartending Experience

You need experience. Lots of it. Bartenders currently working in a nightclub type of environment probably have years of experience. There are exceptions, of course, but bartenders working in these types of places have much more experience than your average bartender.

And, these bartenders have experience in many different types of bar atmospheres. They probably started their careers in corporate theme restaurant types of bar. Or, maybe they were servers at a hotel/motel and worked their way up to banquet bartender.

Don’t be fooled – any type of experience can be advantageous, and the more you have the better chance you have of landing that coveted nightclub bartender position.

‘Dive Bar’ types of places are a great place to start developing those speed and efficiency skills. These types of places can be just as busy as a nightclub – but maybe not quite as ‘sophisticated.’ However, I’ve found them to be the best overall place to work.

Bartending Speed

With all things being equal – speed wins. We’re not talking about just ‘pouring’ speed here. You have to be able to get from point A to point B quickly, and if you’re unable to move around in an efficient manner – you’re sunk.

Develop your speed. Pouring liquor takes a special kind of talent, and the more you pour the better you get at it. Simple. In a nightclub, you’re not going to be making a whole lot of ‘foo foo’ type of drinks, so work on developing pouring skills that focus on basic and classic recipes.

Nightclub bartenders are probably making more of the ‘basic’ and ‘classic’ types of drinks than your corporate theme restaurant bartender types do simply because they don’t have a lot of ‘house’ specialties.

In fact, many very busy types of bars simply won’t carry certain ingredients so they don’t have to make those types of fancy drinks. Bananas, pineapples, and other exotic types of fruits and mixers might night be in supply.

Bartender Efficiency

Not to be confused with speed, efficiency is another type of acquired skill that comes with experience. Nightclub bartenders are very aware of their working space, and use it to their advantage.

Knowing where all bottles and mixers are is just part of the efficiency process. Hopefully, the bar manager has everything set up for maximum efficiency, and all bar stations and back bars are set up identically. Consistency is key here.

The bar set up is just part of the equation. Experienced bartenders know to keep frequently called liquors close at hand. This can vary greatly depending upon the shift you’re working and what type of clientele seems to be dominating that particular shift.

Knowing Drink Recipes

how bartenders get jobs at nightclubs

Nightclub bartenders know all of the basic and classic cocktail recipes. And more. You might be surprised as to how many drinks recipes a bartender needs to know, and I wrote about this not too long ago. Check it out, as it’s a very good article for those just entering the profession.

There is no time to look up a drink recipe from a book or manual. In fact, you probably won’t find a drink recipe book behind the bar at a nightclub.

Accurate Liquor Pouring Techniques

This goes without saying. Experienced bartenders pour efficiently and accurately – every time. No exceptions. They’re very well aware of what the house directs them to pour and they stick with it. Wasting booze is not an option.

It doesn’t matter if they’re free-pouring or required to use jigger. Exceptional bartenders will pour accurately every time. There’s a side benefit to this: Efficiency.

In other words, glassware, mixers, bottles, jiggers – they’re all in the same place every time thus contributing to overall consistency and efficiency. Bar owners will love you.

Pouring the correct amount of alcohol, every time, eliminates the need to second guess yourself when a guests complains about weak drinks.

Nightclub Bartenders Work For the House

In other words, nightclub bartenders have an acute understanding of what drives sales and keeps the establishment profitable. If the bar manager wants him to pour 1 1/2 ounces for highballs – that’s what he pours.

Taking into account the needs of the cocktail servers fits into the overall flow. Working with others, cheerfully, is just something that an experienced bartender never needs to be reminded of.

Punctuality, cleanliness, and having a positive attitude towards management, and the house, goes a long way in bringing back those customers over an over. And the bar manager will quickly realize that he doesn’t have to micro-manage you.

Customer Service Skills

This goes without saying, and anyone in the food and beverage industry must have this skill. The nightclub business is a bit different. A bartender is usually so busy that he doesn’t have that much time to develop a good customer relationship with each and every guest.

The key is to make those few seconds count. Acknowledge the guest quickly by offering a friendly word, inquire as to what they’re drinking this evening, and get to it.

Suggestive selling is also important, and experienced bartenders are very good at it. You can bet there might be some Suggest Selling Techniques questions during the interview.

Surly bartenders are not welcome in a nightclub atmosphere. Or in any other type of bar for that matter. Leave your problems at home, and be prepared to kick some serious butt.

Exceptional Memory

This skill is crucial. A nightclub bartender will be taking multiple orders at the same time, preparing drinks for the cocktail servers, and accounting for all drinks through the POS system. There’s no time to waste.

An exceptional bartender will glance at the drink ticket, or listen to the order whether it’s coming from a cocktail server or customer, and immediately start putting the drink order together. This is an acquired skill that many bartenders struggle with.

The really good nightclub bartenders will combine all orders if possible. They may be making a couple of drinks for someone sitting at the bar while simultaneously making drinks for the cocktail server. Not a second is wasted.

Great Math Skills

nightclub bartender cash register

Math is another skill that takes some practice, although many people are just naturally good at this. Some people seem to be exceptional at adding and subtracting. They get it.

The faster you can apply basic math skills – the more drinks you can put out in a given time. It’s just that simple.

This is another area where inexperienced bartenders struggle. There’s a multitude of things happening at the same time. For those of you that have never been to a nightclub, or any crazy busy bar, it looks like there’s complete insanity going on.

In the midst of all this insanity, an exceptional bartender is constantly adding up liquor, beer, and wine orders. And, mistakes are not on the menu.

Punctuality

You must be on time for your shift. Although this skill (it’s really not a ‘skill’), should fall under the category of ‘being a great employee,’ it takes on a whole different meaning in a nightclub type of environment.

Things happen quickly at a busy bar. Shift changes must be seamless, and a bartender that is consistently late for his or her shift throws a huge wrench into the system.

Don’t be one of those employees who always seems to be ‘running a few minutes late.’ You may be out of a job faster than you think.

A bar’s controllable expenses add up, and the entire employee payroll is the biggest expense. A bar manager expects his bartenders to carry their share of the load, and being habitually late for your shift just isn’t going to cut it.

Best Tips For Getting that Nightclub Bartending Job

Yes, there are some things you can do to gain an advantage in getting that nightclub bartending job. Remember that these types of jobs are usually only offered to very experienced bartenders. If you’re fresh out of ‘Bartending School,’ you probably don’t have a realistic chance.

It’s Always a Numbers Game

Keep applying. Then, apply again. Most nightclub bartending jobs are unadvertised, so in many cases, it’s just a matter of luck. And persistence. And timing.

Remember that many bars are ‘stuck’ with their staff. Maybe they have mediocre or ‘problem’ bartenders and are simply waiting for someone new, and qualified, to apply for the position. You might just show up at the perfect time.

Many nightclub bar managers and owners ‘steal’ their bartenders. Yes, you heard that right. I’ve done it myself. The really good bartenders get a reputation, and managers will go out of their way to try and lure them over to their bar.

Cover Letter/Resume

You better have a good resume. Don’t even show up without a cover letter to go along with your resume. The bar manager is going to look first at your experience.

Many prospective nightclub bartenders really mess this up. Inaccurate or missing information, an unprofessional looking resume, or fabricated work history will get you booted before you know it. Be honest.

Personal Appearance

Yep. This is big. If you’re a slob – good luck. As with any bartender and food server position, you must be neat and clean. Your customers notice it – and so will the Bar Manager.

Showing up for an interview looking like you just fell out of bed is a non-starter. Wise up, and do whatever you can to ‘look the part.’

Know How Profit/Loss is Calculated

If you’re applying for a job at a nightclub, then you’ve already been around the block. You should know the inner workings of a restaurant and bar accounting system. In fact, you may even be asked by the interviewer if you know how liquor cost and gross profit are calculated.

Why would I need to know that, you ask? Simple – the bar manager is trying to gauge just how much experience you actually have.  Please, take the time to learn the liquor cost formula and you’ll be a step ahead of your fellow applicants.

Believe it or not, some people lie on their resumes – and during the interview process. If you’re applying for a nightclub bartender position, you’re probably going to be asked more questions than in an average bartending position interview.

It doesn’t hurt to know exactly how a bar computes their costs and comes up with their gross profit. Knowing why it’s always better selling a Tanqueray and tonic rather than a plain gin an tonic is a plus.

Conclusion

Getting that bartending job at a nightclub is not easy. You’re going to need a ton of experience – or start as a barback. Don’t be discouraged – get as much experience as you can from other types of bars and continue developing your skills.

I cannot stress this enough: if you are a fast, experienced bartender, then it’s going to come down to a numbers game. Set up an efficient plan and hit the pavement. For some great interviewing tips, check out Interviewing For a Bartender Job – The First Steps.

Keep applying at all of the nightclubs in your general area – and don’t forget to follow up. And, when I say followup, I mean MULTIPLE times!

Related Bartending Topics

How do I get my first bartending job? It’s a numbers game. With no experience, get a bartender school certificate and hit the pavement. If you stay consistent in applying for jobs, making the necessary follow-ups, and present yourself well – you will eventually land that first job.

Thinking about going to Bartending School? Check out How Do I Get My First Bartending Job?

Should I start working in a beer bar? Sure! You’ll gain a lot of experience pouring beer, wine, and soft drinks. You’ll acquire skills in how to use cash register (POS) systems, learn how to set up the bar, and gain valuable experience in dealing with customers.

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