One of the biggest mistakes I see from those aspiring to become a bartender, is that they spend so much time thinking about and worrying about the bartending skills they need to learn and all the drink recipes that they need to memorize, that they are completely blind to the most important skill of all: getting hired as a bartender.
Does that mean you don’t need skills and a few drink recipes bouncing around in the attic? Of course not, but what most bartending schools or “online experts” don’t tell you is that the bartending skills and knowledge they teach is only about 50% of what you need to know in order to get hired. The other 50% includes the actions you take after you’ve learned your bartending skills and memorized your drink recipes. I’m talking about:
- Creating a powerful cover letter and resume
- Picking out the right bars
- Hitting the streets to hand in your cover letter and resume
- What to say to the manager when you hand in your cover letter and resume
- How to follow-up and what to say during the follow-up
- How to nail the interview (what to say, how to answer, what to ask)
And the last one on that list is our focus of the day: nailing the interview. This one can cause a high level of anxiety for most people, which is not surprising, considering that public speaking is the #1 fear in society today. More than death, for some people.
But you can at least prepare for a speech. If you know what you’re going to say before you jump up on that platform, it removes at least some of that fear. With an interview, however, you can’t pre-prepare what you are going to say. Unless…
…unless you know the questions that are going to be asked before they are asked. This gives you a chance to prepare your answers.
So in this article, I’ve not only prepared the top 7 most asked bartender interview questions for you, but I’m going to tell you how to answer them. Inside TheRealBarCourse, in the Interview Secrets module, I go over 47 of the most asked bartender interview questions and how to answer them as well so that you are fully, 100% prepared to nail the interview and land the job.
Bartending schools and other online bartending courses won’t come close to showing you how to do any of the “other 50%” tasks with any value whatsoever, which is why most people fail to become a bartender. And why you will have a huge advantage.
This is why when people ask me, “Should I go to bartending school?” I can only shake my head because despite there being good information and education out there, it is so rare that you find a course that covers ALL ASPECTS of becoming a bartender.
But instead of wasting time and energy throwing stones at others and shining a light on their BS, I’m simply going to give you a little jump start here to help you become a bartender so you can start making some real cash right away.
If you’re really serious about becoming a bartender and want all the skills, knowledge, secrets and advantages, you can check out TheRealBarCourse details here.
Off we go then…
The Top 7 Most Asked Bartender Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself
Now, this is a common question for any industry, not just the bar industry. It’s also a question that can go in a hundred different directions, and you don’t want to head off in the wrong direction or you will stumble into interview quicksand.
At that point you’ll have to wait for someone to pull you out with a tree branch like they do in the movies, but we both know that never happens. You just slowly sink until you are submerged in your jungle tomb.
Same thing if you wander off subject here, so you want to make sure you’re hyper-focused and wow them right off the bat. The main purpose for them asking this question is that they want to see if you have a personality that is going to mesh with their bar and their culture.
Most people will provide either plain, forgettable facts about themselves in a form of agonizing small talk, or they will completely go off the rails and start jabbering and blabbering about anything going on in their life: where they grew up, the foods they like. None of that is relevant and it won’t get you hired.
So what will get you hired? Here it is. And this is the most important information and advice on interviewing you’ll ever hear, so pay attention. Get a notepad, Magic Market it on your ass, I don’t care. Just learn it. Here it is:
Every question you are asked in an interview should always be answered by you telling them how you can help them succeed. Read that again. Every question you get should be answered by you telling them how you can help them succeed.
I want you to step back and think for a moment how fun it is to speak with someone who has your interests in mind. In fact, not too long ago I was having a conversation with a restaurant manager. I happened to be doing some bar consulting for him and I was helping him out with his restaurant.
So we talked for about 30 minutes and when we finished, he stood up and shook my hand and said, “Man, you are one of the most interesting people to talk with. I really enjoyed that.”
The truth is, I wasn’t that interesting at all. But I sat and asked him questions about his restaurant and about his personal life and how I might be able to help him. And then I sat and listened to him talk about those things for 30 minutes. I hardly talked about myself at all, and yet he found me so interesting, and it’s because people love to talk about themselves. They love what’s in it for them. So I made him feel good about himself by taking an interest in what he does.
Same goes with your hiring manager. He/she wants to hear how hiring you is going to benefit them. That’s my long-winded way of saying, your answer should be:
“You know, I could tell you some personal things about myself–my hobbies–like, I love football and movies and hanging out with my girlfriend, but that’s not really what you want to know, I’m sure.
“What I want to tell you about myself as it relates to this job is, I love bartending because I love being creative and I love making people happy. I don’t have much bartending experience right now, but I’ve taken an extensive course and I have learned so much.
“What I am experienced at is being great with people. Learning how to make the drinks great, and how to use the POS…that’s the easy part. I’m a quick learner. The most important part is connecting with the people who come in here.
“So if you want to know about me, as it relates to your bar…I’m the guy (or gal) who is going to do whatever it takes to make our guests happy so they come back again and again, because you and I both know that repeat customers cost a lot less than acquiring new ones.”
Do you see how that works? You won’t believe how impressed they will be to hear someone give an unselfish answer for the good of the business instead of the good of themselves.
And did you notice how I said “our guests”? I’m going to make our guests happy—a little subliminal suggestion—like I’m already hired. And then if you provide knowledge about repeat customers costing less, they won’t know what hit them. I’d hire that person right off the bat. Interview’s over.
2. What do you like most/least about bartending?
Another little bonus tip here: No matter what question you’re asked, keep it positive. Nobody likes a whiner and nobody wants a whiner working for them, complaining about their last job.
So for this question, if you have a list of things that excites you about bartending, name them. I don’t know what excites you, but maybe you love making craft cocktails, or you love talking with guests, or you love that you don’t have to sit behind a desk, that you can be up and moving.
Whatever it is that excites you about bartending, just make sure to have an answer ready, and if they do ask what you like least about it, say something along the lines of, “There isn’t much I don’t like about bartending or serving people. Sure, some of them will get loud and might be difficult to deal with if they’ve had a bit to drink, but I love it all.” In other words, political deflection is the best method here.
That, of course, is also a popular interview question: how to deal with drunks or how to know when someone has had too many. That’s not covered in the top 7 but you can find that answer in the course, along with the other interview secrets if you wish to learn more.
3. Why did you leave your last job?
Unfortunately I don’t know why you left your last job. Or if you have ever even had a last job. Or if you’re selling crack and you’re looking for a 2nd job. I have no idea, but whatever you did or were doing before you came here to apply for this job, you need to be ready with a good story and explanation of why whatever you were doing is no longer the path you wanted to be on and why this path is the best thing since the Bourne Identity movies. Make sense?
Now, if you got fired or let go from your last job (that would be a worst case scenario) you need to tell them, “I felt like I did everything I could do to make sure I was doing my job the best I could, but it felt like it simply wasn’t a good place for me to be anymore.” Or whatever you need to say to be neutral (remember: political deflection in all areas of negativity).
Of course you should never outright lie, but if you need to do a little tap dancing to make sure they understand that you take the jobs you work at seriously, then that’s what you need to do. As long as you’re being sincere about it.
Here’s another little bonus for you: never ever ever never ever ever talk bad about your last boss. You can say that the two of you didn’t mesh or that your personalities were just really different, but the moment you badmouth him/her, all the hiring manager is going to hear is that you are a troublemaker who talks trash about his/her boss behind his/her back, which could be him/her one day (I’m getting pronoun dizzy).
4. What is your definition of great customer service?
This one will be short and sweet. Say this and nothing else. Or something close to this. You don’t need to memorize it word for word.
“Great customer service means anticipating the customers’ needs and knowing what they want before they even know they want it.
“That means following up to make sure that what they originally desired or needed measures up to the quality that we promised so that they want to come back again and again and again.”
You’ll notice here that I keep going back to getting the guests to come back again and again. That’s simply sweet music to their ears.
5. What would you do if you saw a co-worker giving away a drink?
As you are most likely aware (I’m selling my own kind out here) bartenders are notorious for being some of the biggest thieves of any industry, simply because it’s so common. But whatever your personal feelings are about being a tattle-tale or a rat from all the gangster movies you’ve watched, put those aside during this question.
This is an integrity question, and the only answer you will give and that they want to hear is, “I would feel really bad about it, but I would need to inform you or another manager because it’s stealing, even if they don’t think it is.” That answer passes the integrity and morality test. Just make sure you answer it with some sincerity and that it doesn’t come across as a canned answer.
6. What is your favorite drink to make?
Obviously this is a tough one for me to answer for you, as I don’t know what you like, or if you even have a favorite drink to make considering your inexperience, but I want you to be prepared for this question. They want to see if you have any idea how to do anything. They might know you have little or no experience, and they might be fine with that, but if you tell them you’re taking an online course and learning, and then you don’t have a favorite drink to make, they might just write you off.
So if you don’t have one, find one, as well as how to prepare it. It doesn’t need to be complicated. They most likely will not have you actually prepare it behind their bar. I rarely see that, but you should be able to name a drink, what’s in it, and then describe how you would make it.
7. How do you make a __________________?
This one probably scares the hell out of you more than any other question, because your biggest fear is that someone will ask you to make a drink you don’t know how to make.
But as I keep telling my students, just memorize the drinks I provide in TheRealBarCourse—I have the 101 most common cocktails and the 21 most ordered shots. You only need to memorize about half of those to get started, and you will be fine. I promise you. If you do that, you will easily be ready for this question. If you aren’t a student of TheRealBarCourse, try to find and memorize the top 50 drinks you can find and you should be fine.
In addition, if the hiring manager knows you don’t have experience, they aren’t going to ask you to make a drink nobody has ever heard of. They will most likely give you one that is fairly common, so you’ll be fine.
I hope this helps you out. If you are going into an interview, I hope you absolutely kill it and get hired. And once you get hired, get trained, get some experience, get better at your job and then if you want to level up to a better bar, you’ll have everything you need to do that.
See you next time.