interview checklist

Interviewing For a Bartender Job – The First Steps

OK, so you finally got that elusive job interview for your first bartending job. Nice! So, what do I do next? How do I prepare properly in order to increase my chances of getting the job? Interviewing for a bartender job can be stressful, and your actions before the actual interview can sink your chances if you’re not careful.

You’ve taken the time to dress appropriately, are well-groomed, and feel confident that you have the correct answers to any questions that may be asked of you. You know that you will be an asset to the company in your new job as a bartender.

Oops. As you get out of your car and proceed towards the building, you make the mistake of failing to understand that the interview process has already begun.

The below tips can be used in any type of interview for any type of job – not just the food and beverage industry. And, yes, these things really matter. You’ve already accomplished your first goal: Getting that interview. Don’t blow it by making unforced errors.

Understand That You’re Being Observed

Ask yourself the four questions below:

  • Am I being observed as I drive onto the property, get out of the car, and proceed inside to the interview?
  • Do I understand that anyone I come in contact with on the property, inside or out, might be a current employee? And that they may have a say in my being hired?
  • When I come in contact with the first employee inside the building – am I pleasant and professional?
  • Am I confident in the first impression ‘vibes’ that I’m giving off?

There are many things that you can do to help ‘ace’ your first bartender interview. In this post, my aim is to give you some insight as to what you should be doing before you actually sit down with the bar manager.

Before You Enter the Building

The very first thing you must understand is that the interview starts the moment you set foot on the property. What do I mean by this? Simply put, you have no idea who may be watching you as you drive onto the property and head inside for your interview.

man smoking before a job interview

Let me give you a real life example of what I’m talking about here so it becomes very clear in your mind.  Remember that things are not always as they seem.

Some years back, I was conducting bartender and server interviews on the outside patio area of the restaurant and bar I was managing. I could see most of the parking lot, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a young man drive up and park his car.

He got out of the car, took a couple of puffs off a cigarette, and then threw it on the ground without even bothering put it out. I really didn’t give it much thought until 15 minutes later.

I finished with my third or fourth interview and signaled to one of my assistants to send in the next applicant. Guess who came in and introduced himself? Yep. Was his conduct in the parking lot a deal breaker? No, not really, but there’s a couple of lessons here.

Needless to say, the interview started off on a negative note. Personally, I don’t care if someone smokes; however, to litter on company property is probably not the right thing to do. And, in this day and age smoking is looked upon as a pretty nasty habit. Don’t get me started on the possible fire hazard.

Many customers can detect the smell of smoke on someone nearby – and it offends them. Gone are the days of bars and restaurants allowing smoking in all areas.  Something to think about. And, bar managers really don’t want to be looking for their employees and finding them out back on a smoke break.

The point here, is that people are watching you. Please – stay professional. And, yes, there are many bar owners and managers that will definitely penalize you for being a smoker. Right or wrong, I’m not going to get into the possibility of discrimination here.

Just ask yourself: Is it wise to be smoking on company property right before your job interview? My very simple advice is to not give any indication that you smoke. Or quit. I know from personal experience that it’s very hard to do.

No Assumptions – Anyone Can Be a Bar Employee

Who is that person that arrived about the same time as I did and is now walking by me into the building? A customer? Maybe an employee? You don’t know unless you ask – or they’re wearing a uniform.

Always stay kind and professional when speaking with anyone on the property. Again, you don’t know who they are. And don’t forget that customers are constantly coming and going. The last thing you want to do is offend one of them.

You may think that it’s a ‘no brainer’ to treat everyone you come in contact with kindness and respect. You might also think that everyone should know this. Wrong. I’ve personally seen prospective applicants treat others with disrespect for no reason at all – and fail the job interview.  Don’t be one of those people.

First Impressions – Everything Counts

Who greeted you when you entered the front door? A hostess? A Food Server? Maybe the interviewer himself? You won’t know until they introduce themselves. Again, stay professional.

interviewing for a bartender job

Be aware that once your interview has come to a conclusion and you’re heading out the door the interviewer may, at some time, ask anyone that you had contact with what kind of impression you gave. This happens more often than you can imagine.

I have done this many times. Especially when there may a group of applicants waiting in a certain area where other employees can observe them. It may be in the front lobby – or even sitting at the bar. Whether you’re aware of it or not – you are being observed.

Huge tip alert: It’s not party time! Please, if offered a beer or drink while you wait – respectfully decline. It’s OK to accept an offer of water or soda if you’re thirsty, but, generally speaking, you shouldn’t be eating or drinking during the interview.

I frequently used the above scenario to test bartender applicants. You might be tested also. Yes, you’re going to reveal a lot about yourself if you accept a drink with alcohol in it. If you order a shot and a beer before you’re interview – you’re toast.

Most of the current employees will know that it’s ‘interview’ day. And, yes, they do have a stake in the outcome. All bars and restaurants have a certain ‘culture,’ and employees can be especially knowledgeable as to who will fit in – and who won’t.

First impressions matter. Not just with the interviewer – but with current employees as well. This part of the interview process is easy – so don’t blow it. And here are some more tips and tricks to pass that interview.

Am I Confident in My Preparedness?

Confidence in yourself pays huge dividends. Notice I said ‘confidence’ – not ‘arrogance.’ Don’t cross the line, please. Experienced interviewers can easily detect nervousness and unpreparedness. And arrogance.

One of the techniques I used before the interview was to introduce myself to the applicant and then ask them to join me at a table over in the corner. This gives me a chance to watch how they move. In my book, this counts for a lot. Slow movers have a hard time being efficient behind the bar.

Make sure you get the right name of the interviewer. If he introduces himself as George – use ‘George’ to address him for the rest of the interview. If he says his name is Mr. Stevens – then address him that way.

Remember that the interview process is a conversation between two people. That’s all it is. Stay lively. For a great resource on your next steps, learn exactly what Bar Managers are looking for at 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.

Related Bartender Interview Topics

What kind of questions will the bar manager ask me? There are about ten standard questions that many interviewers will ask. Probably not all of them, but certainly some sort of mix. I go over all of these questions in my Bartender Course.

I applied for the job a week ago. Should I bring another copy of my resume? Absolutely. And a nice cover letter. You never know – the interviewer may be pressed for time and does not have your resume with him. See my post on the best way to compile a resume. Good stuff there – and probably many things you’re entirely unaware of.

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