The Bartender Interview: Tell Me a Little About Yourself

The Bartender Interview: Tell Me a Little About Yourself

You finally landed that interview for a bartending job. You’re going to be asked some tough questions – count on it. Bar managers are looking at two things: experience (or fitness), and likeability. It’s your job to answer each question quickly and concisely.

I’m writing here about just one bartending question you may be asked in the interview, but Bar Managers are looking for very specific skills and qualities. Know exactly what they’re looking for by reading all about the 7 Skills and Qualities Bar Managers Are Looking For.

Don’t blow this! It’s hard enough just getting an interview. You’ve probably been applying at many places to land that first bartending job, so you must understand that the actual interview is that final, crucial step in the hiring process.

Knowing how to answer this specific question is part of my series on bartending job interview questions. There are about twenty common questions that aspiring bartenders will be asked when interviewing for the job. And, no, you’re probably not going to get asked all twenty. Usually just five or ten.

Don’t sweat it! Relax – the bartender interview is simply a ten or fifteen-minute ‘conversation’ between you and the interviewer. If you’re prepared, you’ll make it through with flying colors and land that job. Knowing how to answer this particular question will give you a huge ‘unfair advantage.’ Most people have no idea how to answer this question – but you will!

“Tell me a little bit about yourself” is not really a question. Instead, it’s a very simple way for the bar manager to break the ice and prod you into opening up and talking about yourself. If you’ll follow my suggestions on how to answer this question, you’ll have an ‘unfair’ advantage and be miles ahead of those competing for the same job.

Quite often, this will be the very first question asked and will set the stage for additional questions. Your short monologue (or story), will give the bar manager a pretty good idea of what to ask you next.

They have your resume, so now they’re trying to figure out if you ‘fit in.’ What kind of personality do you have? Do you speak smoothly and exhibit proper language skills? Are you energetic or lifeless? Monotone? Fidgety? Nervous? And, most importantly, are you charismatic and likable? They’re paying close attention to everything you say and do during the interview process.

You may read through my suggested answers to this question, below, and ask, “OK, so why should I answer this question in this way? Is this really what the bar manager is looking for?” The short answer is yes.

The food and beverage industry is changing a bit – bar owners are investing a little more time in their interviewing process to find the right person for their bartending positions.

There are some really great ‘interview experts’ out there, and two of the very best that I have run across are Deniz Sisal and a young man who’s YouTube channel is Charisma on Command.

I have combined some of their cutting-edge techniques with my own experience of hiring hundreds of food and beverage workers and come up with near-perfect answers to this particular question.

You’re going to be surprised at how easy it is to immediately impress the hiring manager.

Before I start, here’s something to keep in mind: You do not get to choose the interviewer! It’s your job to connect with this person – whomever it may be.

As the interview progresses, try to find something in common with this person. You can talk with anyone out there in the world for just a minute or two and gain some solid clues as to what they’re in to.

One additional thought: You do not know why they’re hiring. Did someone just quit? Are they expanding? Did one of their bartenders get caught smoking weed in the storeroom last night? The interviewer may, at some point, reveal this to you – so be prepared to say that you are available to begin working immediately.

I’m going to give you three very good answers to the “Tell me a little bit about yourself” question that you can use as a guide for your own answers. Remember that it’s all about ‘telling a story.’

This may be controversial, but saying that you’re enthusiastic, a team player, and a hard worker tells them nothing! That’s what every other applicant is saying. Be different!

The interviewer is evaluating how you speak for more than one sentence. Turn it into a story! I want you to practice your answer so that it feels like you’re talking to a new friend and telling them about your past. Don’t over-complicate it! Give the interviewer a one-minute story – I’ll show you how.

Things You Shouldn’t Do

Your answer should take only about one minute – maybe just a bit more. Practice. Do not ramble on! If you practice answering this question, you’ll get it to where it’s very concise and to the point. Your response will naturally roll off your tongue and make a good impression.

Please – don’t elaborate on your experience! They have your resume in front of them and have most likely gone over it prior to the interview. There’s nothing wrong with briefly highlighting your experience as you tell your story – just don’t go overboard.

Don’t crack jokes. This is a big no-no as it’s usually a sign of nervousness. Besides, the bar manager is not looking for a comedienne. They’re looking for someone who is likable, trustworthy, and ‘fits in’ with their current staff and company mission.

They’ll most likely ask some follow up questions on your experience. Remember: This is about telling a story!

Three Examples on How to Answer this Question

Let’s do this. Here’s my first example:

The interviewer asks you, “Tell me a little bit about yourself, Charles.” Or, “OK Charles, what have you been up to the last few years?” Try a variation of the below for your answer:

“I’m currently working part-time as a checker at the Safeway grocery store over on 32nd Street.  It’s a very fast-paced environment, and I’m responsible for ringing up approximately four thousand dollars per shift in retail groceries as well as great customer service. Many people are regulars, and shop here weekly, so it’s fun chatting with them as I ring up their items.

I’m originally from Minnesota and am currently in school part-time pursuing my degree in computer science. It’s hard work and taking a while – but I should have my degree in a couple of years. I like golfing in my spare time, but my real passion is barbequing outside.

I’ve wanted to be a bartender for quite some time now as I have friends in the business who brag about how great of a job it is.  In the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort actually going out and observing working bartenders and memorizing all of the basic and classic cocktails. I even completed an online bartending school program to further my skills. I’m sure that with all that I’ve learned so far, my customer service skills, and your in-house training program I’ll be able to smoothly transition into a great bartender.”

I just timed myself reading the above and it took about one minute. That’s pretty good, as, again, you don’t want to recite your entire life story. Keep it short and sweet.

bartender pouring liquor

I want you to be aware of a few things that I did here. Firstly, notice that I broke down my answer into three parts: What I’m doing currently, a little bit about my hobbies and past, and then my current goals and how they will fit in nicely with this particular job.

Secondly, I want you to take notice of how, in the first paragraph, I worked in ‘fast-paced,’ handling money, responsibility, and customer service. Not to mention interacting with regulars. These are all skills that top bartenders master. Make a note of this, and try to work these skills into your own ‘story.’ If you have no experience as a bartender, highlighting these skills will be crucial.

Thirdly, in the second paragraph, notice how I briefly gave some personal background and worked in my hobbies. Nice. What kind of place are you applying at? Do they specialize in BBQ? Try and tailor your answer to the concept or atmosphere of the bar. If you have some sort of unusual hobby or past experience – use it, as the interviewer will be far more likely to remember you. It’s all about standing out from the other applicants.

Finally, notice how I worked in my efforts to learn all I could about bartending. This is very important. If you have no experience, you must find a way to impress the bar manager with the seriousness of your efforts to land that job. You have to bring something to the table! Simple. If you can mold your answer into something like this you’re golden.

Here’s another example:

“I recently turned twenty-one and am now ready to pursue what I’ve really wanted to do for some time now: Be a bartender.  I’m currently working as a customer service rep at a call center for XYZ company at their headquarters downtown. It’s all about customer service, and I really enjoy working there as I get to talk with all kinds of people and resolve any issues that they may have. Additionally, a good part of my job is suggesting new products and services that may be of benefit to them.

I’ve lived here in Chicago all my life and really enjoy fishing. There’s nothing like being out on the lake on a hot summer’s day catching a boatload of fish! I also worked as a busboy for a couple of years while I was in high school and really enjoyed that – it’s when I decided I wanted to be a bartender.

I knew that I wanted to be a bartender a couple of years ago, and since that time I have been doing everything I can to learn about the job. I’ve been memorizing the most common drinks as well as the classic cocktails.  I’ve also been going into chain restaurants and bars and observing working bartenders at their job. I ask them a lot of questions. It just seems to be so fun. I also completed a bartending school in order to increase my basic skills. With my customer service skills and ability to learn quickly, I’m sure I’ll be an asset to your bar from day one.”

Notice how I did pretty much the same thing as in example number one. I simply twisted it a bit, but made sure to add in some essential facts that will point out some general skills that bar managers are looking for.

Here’s example number three- short and sweet:

I recently retired from the military after twenty years of service. I’ve wanted to be a part-time bartender for some time now, but base restrictions prevented me from doing that.

My job in the military was in logistics, so I have a lot of experience in finance and organization. I’ve been to many places in the world, and my wife and I enjoy traveling very much – especially since our two children are in high school and are old enough to pretty much take care of themselves with a minimum of supervision. I really enjoy working with my hands and am currently re-modeling our house.

This past year, anticipating retirement, I attended bartending school and continue memorizing additional cocktails. I also spend a lot of time observing and asking working bartenders questions about their profession. Some of these guys are really good at their jobs! I believe that with my organizational skills and the ability to learn quickly makes me a perfect fit for this company.

As you can see, this example is a slight variation from the first two examples. I’m sure that you can see how to answer this very important interview question by using your past experience, hobbies, and future aspirations to your advantage.

Remember to start off by dividing the answer into three parts: What you’re currently doing, a bit about your past and hobbies (make it personal), and your future goals. Let them know that you will be a perfect fit as well as a valued asset.

You can do this! Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot get a bartending job with no experience. Relax, and tell your story. It’s all about having a conversation with one other person and making yourself likable.

Bartender Interview Questions Conclusion

The Bartender Interview: Tell Me a Little About Yourself

Remember what this question is for: It’s primarily to get you talking a little bit about yourself. The bar manager simply wants to see how you speak and conduct yourself. By following my suggestions, the interviewer will have a brief, but revealing, sense of whether or not you’ll ‘fit in’ with the company and fellow employees.

Practice. I cannot stress this enough. Get it down and tell your story so you feel as though you’re in the middle of a one-on-one conversation. It’s that simple. If you master the answer to this question you’ll be miles ahead of your fellow bartender applicants.

Don’t forget to work in any skills that you may have that fit well with the food and beverage industry: Customer service, organization, working with others, etc. If you do not have any actual bartending experience, these skills are absolutely crucial to getting the job.

Related Questions

What if the bar manager asks me about drink recipes? First of all, he probably will, so don’t be alarmed. If you know basic drinks as well as about fifty ‘classic’ cocktails – you’ll do just fine.

Bar managers are not going to try and trip you up with some obscure drink that’s rarely made. As part of my ‘Bartender Interview Questions’ series, I address this question in detail in another post: The Bartender Interview: How Would You Make This Drink?

Should I make stuff up in order to stand out? Please don’t do that. Do not start your bartending career based upon lies. Be honest about your experience. I would challenge you to come up with something in your life that is unusual – whether it’s some sort of past experience or hobby – and use that to assist the interviewer in remembering you. Are you into collecting something? Do you play an instrument? Have you taken a vacation to some wild place? Use it!

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