Q. Will this lesson help me get a Bartending job?

A. Absolutely. The Soft Skills are highly coveted qualities and traits that all managers across all industries are looking for. In your case, as an inexperience bartender, these skills will be front and center during the interview.

Q. Will the interviewer ask me anything about what is in this section?

A. Yep. However, it’s going to be in the form of a question about customer service or something you did during your previous work history. Even stuff about your “life.”

Here we go. The Soft Skills that are going to land you your first Bartending job. It’s very important that you take a look at the skills below – the Bar Manager sure is.

Exceptional Soft Skills Are Highly Coveted By Bar Managers

The whole reason for Section 4 here – “Soft Skills,” is that you have to replace your lack of experience with something else. Interviewers will have your resume – it’s probably right in front of them as they interview you. They are very well aware of the fact that you are brand-new to the bartending profession. You have no bartending experience.

The previous section, Section 3, the “Hard Skills,” and a couple more sections coming up on cocktail recipes and liquor/beer/wine knowledge are what traditional Bartending Schools teach. It’s great information, and you need to be able to tell the interviewer that you have these basic skills. That’s good, but they’re going to be looking at so much more.

Below are some (the main ones) of the Soft Skills that you need to display in order to pass that interview with flying colors. The interviewer is not going to ask you anything about these skills – as they stand. They will ask you questions that relate to these skills.

I have listed 13 Soft Skills below. I’ll explain what they are, and how they relate to the Food & Beverage Industry – specifically bartending. I just want you to get an idea of what “Soft Skills” really are – and why Bar Managers pay close attention.

For now, give this a quick read. You will understand completely what this is all about when I reveal the best answers to interview questions in Section 16. Keep scrolling – there’s a lot of information, and I elaborate more on the first few skills listed as I believe they are the most important.

13 Soft Skills All Bartenders Need

  • Demeanor
  • Trustworthiness
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Personality
  • Ability to Work as a Team
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Work Ethic
  • Critical Thinking
  • Leadership
  • Flexibility/Adaptability
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Teamwork
  • Positive Attitude

1. Demeanor

Definition of Demeanor: Behavior towards others; outward manner.

            Also: the way that someone behaves, looks, dresses, speaks, etc., that shows what their character is like. Demeanor is a combination of many soft skills.

Take a good look at that bartender working behind the bar. How does he conduct himself? Is he polite? Attentive? Does he carry himself well? Does he go about his business in an efficient manner? That’s demeanor.

How about facial expressions? A person’s demeanor is expressed not just verbally – but in many non-verbal ways. How many times have you gone to a restaurant or bar and been served by an employee who has a sad face, a furrowed brow – or even a scowl on their face? That’s their demeanor, my friends, and there’s no place for it behind the bar.

Exceptional bartenders understand that it’s all about perception. Customers are smart – they can sense others’ emotions. So can the Bar Manager – who just happens to be conducting the bartender interviews.

Bartender Presenting Grasshopper Cocktail

A bartender with an exceptional demeanor has a winning attitude, engaging personality, and communication skills that will knock your socks off – all rolled into one. He’s flexible, adaptable, and great at conflict resolution and problem solving. His work ethic? Beyond reproach. The total package, loaded with “Soft Skills.”

Think the bar manager isn’t trying to detect some of the “Soft Skills” you might have during the interview? Think again. Besides experience, Soft Skills – demeanor in particular, are what’s going to get you through that interview with flying colors.

2. Trustworthiness/Working For the House

Definition of Trustworthy: Responsible, reliable, honest, and can be completely trusted. Being trustworthy is a moral value. Some consider it a virtue.

Yes, you could say that “Trustworthiness” and “Working For the House” are two different things. They are. And aren’t. When a bar owner is confident that you are working for the house – he deems you trustworthy.

No free drinks allowed? You don’t give out free drinks. No drinks served after 1:45 am? No drinks are served. Working well with other employees so that you create a great customer experience? Trustworthiness and working for the house.

Will the bar owner leave you in charge while he’s at the bank? Does the bar manager trust you to check in the liquor order? Trustworthiness.

Exceptional bartenders are trustworthy. Management knows it. Customers and fellow employees know that this bartenders’ character is beyond reproach.

Managers and bartenders alike understand that it takes a long time to build trust – and one incident to totally destroy it. It’s almost sacred. You can bet that the interviewer is going to try and determine if you are trustworthy.

I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey. Here’s a quote from him:

“Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust – distrust – is suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them – in their integrity and their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them – of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities, or their track record. It’s that simple.”

Stephen Covey

Trust goes both ways. Many bar owners have a hard time trusting their bartenders because they’ve been burned too many times in the past. Bartenders can mistrust their employers because of broken promises or mistreatment.

Exceptional bartenders do not have these issues because management trusts them implicitly. Believe me, for top-of-the- bartenders, if management doesn’t trust them, they’ve probably moved on a long time ago. Trust is a two-way issue.

So, then, what exactly do I mean by “Trustworthiness?” Let’s start with loyalty.

Definition of Loyalty: A strong feeling of support or allegiance.

It’s quite simple, actually. An exceptional bartender understands exactly who is signing his paycheck. Following the bar’s house policies is never an issue for this guy. He’s the consummate team player. And believe me, the bar owner has a pretty good idea of who is a team player and who is not.

Is there a hiccup in the flow of work? Resolve it. Or, bring up the subject with your boss and find an acceptable alternative. You work for the benefit of the house. The bar owner trusts you to bring these things to his attention.

Go ahead – give him a pour test. Really? This guy doesn’t need a pour test!

The bar manager wants you to push those six cases of wine he bought at a discount? Sell it!

“That’s not my job!” Words never spoken by an exceptional bartender. Maybe it’s not in his job description, but the exceptional bartender pitches in when he can – he knows that it benefits the house.

He never gives out free drinks without management approval and accountability.

The Bar Manager trusts that he’ll show up on time and ready to go. Proper uniform, physically fit, well-groomed.

“We pour a shot and a half for regular drinks, 2 ounces on the rocks, and 2 ½ ounces for martinis. I know what the liquor cost should be. If the cost starts getting out of hand, I’ll put you back on a jigger.” Words never spoken to an exceptional bartender.

Bartender Pouring White Cream Cocktail

An exceptional bartender always protects the house. A customer’s ID looks altered – but you could be wrong? Don’t serve them. Or get the manager. Trustworthiness.

Complaints from fellow employees? Find out what is at the heart of the matter and help solve the issue – or bring it up to the bar manager so he’s aware of it. Never join the complainers! An exceptional bartender always suggests solutions to management instead of complaining.

“If you pour a little heavier – I’ll hook you up.” “I’m very sorry, sir, but we poor a good shot here – and that’s what you have in your drink now.” In most situations like this, the customer is basically asking you to rip off the bar owner. Exceptional, loyal bartenders know exactly how to handle situations like this. Trustworthiness.

They know how to sell. Suggestive selling, up-selling, selling themselves. Once you know how to do this smoothly, and without being pushy, you’re truly working for the house. And trustworthy. And a team player.

Always display a positive attitude towards management. This includes when you are off the clock. If you’re bad-mouthing your boss while out drinking with your buddies – get a new job. Or, maybe you should look inward. More on that later.

You get the picture. Exceptional bartenders work for the house and are loyal to the bar owner. There are no trust issues.

3. Effective Communication Skills

Definition: The ability to make information understandable to someone else effectively and efficiently.

These are much needed skills in the bartending profession. It’s all about communication with your customers, fellow employees, and the boss. You need to listen and respond accordingly!

  • Both verbal and non-verbal skills
  • Respect
  • Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Friendliness
  • Clarity
  • Responsiveness

I’m not going to break down every one of these communications skills. They’re fairly self-explanatory and common sense. Just know that the interviewer is going to be looking for these communication skills. How? Let me give you an example:

One question that you’re probably going to get is, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” Fairly straightforward question, right? Actually, it’s a loaded question.

The interviewer is trying to get you to open up (More on this particular question in Section 16 – The Job Interview). He’s observing your Communication Skills. He’s simply listening to you ramble on and looking for clarity, confidence, friendliness, etc. Effective communication skills.

4. Personality

Definition: The combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.

So, what about personality? Yep – we finally get to the word “Personality.” Personality is listed on almost all “Top 10” lists of bartender skills and characteristics. I don’t have a problem with that – it’s just that “personality” is only one part of a human beings’ character. It’s one aspect of how a bartender conducts herself behind the bar. It’s part of his demeanor.

Yet, personality is important in its own way. But here’s where it gets tricky in the interview. Why? Because you don’t know who’s interviewing you! You have no idea of what this person is really looking for. Is he looking for someone like himself? Someone who has a personality similar to his current employees? You just don’t know.

Here’s where you have to play it cool. Being overly “hyper” is not the way to go. I often hear about “bubbly” personalities. Is that what they really want in their bartenders? I don’t think so. Not entirely, anyway.

Personality is your “whole.” How you think, behave, and generally feel. It’s complicated, and I really won’t go into any detail here. Just know that the bar manager is looking at your personality – how you conduct yourself and your general manner of acting, speaking, and communicating with others. Soft Skills, my friend!

5. Ability to Work As a Team

Teamwork: The efficient and effective actions that a group of people perform to complete a task.

Anyone who has worked in the Food & Beverage Industry knows the importance of teamwork. Yes, everyone has a job description, but as a bartender you’re going to cross over into other employees’ “areas” quite frequently.

Helping the servers garnish drinks. Clearing away dirty dishes, cleaning up that mess on the floor. Perhaps directing people to an open table. Turning the music’s volume down. It’s all teamwork.

Teamwork is a very basic concept in bartender world. You’re either a team player – or you’re not. The interviewer is going to be looking for evidence of your desire to work with others very closely in the interview. Enough said.

6. Problem Solving Skills

Definition: The process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.

You’re going to be solving problems as a bartender. Lots of them. I tend to look as these “problems” more in the line of customer service solutions. Either way, thinking fast on your feet and taking care of any issue that a customer may have is important in the eyes of the person interviewing you.

This is a lot of common sense. Turn down the heat/ac. Send a steak back to be properly cooked. Tone down the rhetoric between two of your bar customers. It’s all problem solving skills.

The goal here is simple: Do whatever it takes to provide all customers with a great customer experience.

7. Work Ethic

Definition: The principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward.

Of course the Bar Manager wants you to have a good work ethic – that goes without saying. Briefly, here’s what he’s looking for:

  • Dedication – Commitment to a job well done. Finishes projects.
  • Discipline – Determined, and will exceed expectations.
  • Integrity – Honest, and morals are beyond reproach.
  • Professionalism – Neat, organized, and carry themselves well.
  • Reliability – Always on time and in proper uniform.
  • Responsibility – Always accepts responsibility for actions.

8. Critical Thinking

Definition: The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Critical thinking skills are highly valued in the Food & Beverage Industry. Especially bartending. There’s a lot of stuff going on in a busy bar. Below is the 7 step process of critical thinking. I got this from zety.com in case you wish to explore further:

  • Identify the problem or question.
  • Gather data, opinions, and arguments.
  • Analyze and evaluate the data.
  • Identify assumptions.
  • Establish significance.
  • Make a decision/reach a conclusion.
  • Present or communicate.

9. Leadership

Definition: The action of leading a group of people or an organization. Others’ efforts are maximized to achieve a common goal.

Leadership is important as a bartender. Right or wrong, when the manager is away – the bartender is in charge of play. There are reasons for the bartender USUALLY being left in charge (instead of the lead server or head cook), and I discuss that later in the course.

  • Leaders are ethical and work for the house.
  • Leaders are really good at cross-cultural communication.
  • Leaders encourage forward-thinking employees.
  • Leaders focus on not just helping others – but developing them.
  • Leaders are very self-aware.

10. Flexibility/Adaptability

Definition: The ability and willingness to adjust one’s thinking or behavior.

This Soft Skill is pretty easy to understand. Bartenders must be flexible in how they treat their customers and employees. Go with the flow, so to speak.

Flexibility in work schedules, venturing out from behind the bar, and many times subordinating oneself to a fellow employee in order to accomplish a certain task or goal.

Just go with the flow! Help others, follow house policy, and, of course, be willing to adapt to anything a customer may request or require. Exceed expectations!

11. Conflict Resolution

Definition: Simply the process of resolving dispute or disagreement. Reconciliation between parties.

Conflicts in a bar? No way! You may very well get a question in the interview about “Conflicts.” I know, some of you may not agree that the below are really conflicts (instead, minor issues), but you’re going to run across all of these situations if you’re a bartender.

I cover the situations below in great detail in Section 12 – Bartender vs. Customer. A very lively section that will really open up your eyes to the world of bartending!

Here’s a few:

  • Very loud arguments between customers
  • A bar fight
  • A conflict between an employee and a customer
  • Bar tab “walkouts”
  • Running tabs – not paying
  • Supposed weak drinks

I could go on and on here – but we’ll save it for Section 12 down the road. Just know that you will run across both major and minor conflicts as a bartender – many on a daily basis. Solve them in a professional and courteous manner!

12. Teamwork

Definition: The combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient.

Most Bar Managers will ask you something about teamwork. In the bar business it’s all about teamwork, and if you have ever been in any sort of customer service business you already know how important it is.

Teamwork is really about utilizing all of your Soft Skills to deliver a great customer experience. I don’t think there is any need to elaborate further on this.

13. Positive Attitude

Definition: The way that you think and feel about a thing, especially when this shows in the way you behave.

Also: If you are positive about things, you are hopeful and confident, and think of the good aspects of a situation rather than the bad ones.

I think the definitions above pretty much cover this Soft Skill. The interviewer will be observing your overall attitude and personality. Show up prepared!

There you have it – 13 Soft Skills that are pretty darn important in the Food and Beverage Industry. As I mentioned before, I’ll show you how these skills will be popping up during the Job Interview in Section 16.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

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