Things You Should Know Before Having an Interview with a Bartender

Zafar Jutt

Interview with a Bartender


Before interviewing a bartender, it’s crucial to understand the significance of the role within your establishment. Bartenders are not only responsible for preparing drinks but also for creating a welcoming atmosphere, engaging with customers, and ensuring a smooth operation at the bar. Their performance can greatly influence the overall dining experience and customer satisfaction, making it essential to find the right fit for your venue.

Know the skills and qualifications needed

Familiarize yourself with the essential skills and qualifications that a good bartender should possess. This includes knowledge of a wide range of cocktails and beverages, proficiency in mixing techniques, and an understanding of responsible alcohol service. In New York City, bartenders should have completed the New York State Alcohol Training Awareness Program (ATAP), which covers the legal aspects of alcohol service.

A great bartender should have excellent customer service skills, the ability to multitask, and a knack for creating a positive and engaging environment. They should also be adept at handling high-pressure situations and maintaining a clean and organized workspace.

Prepare relevant interview questions

Crafting the right questions to ask a bartender in an interview is key to uncovering a candidate’s suitability for the role. Here are some areas to focus on:

  • Experience and background: Ask about their previous bartending experience, including the types of establishments they’ve worked in and the volume of customers they’ve handled. Questions like “Can you describe a particularly busy shift and how you managed it?” can provide insights into their experience and problem-solving abilities.
  • Knowledge of drinks and techniques: Test their knowledge with questions about popular cocktails, mixing techniques, and drink trends. For example, “How would you prepare a classic Old Fashioned?” or “What are some current cocktail trends that you find interesting?”
  • Customer service skills: Explore their approach to customer service with questions such as “How do you handle difficult customers?” or “Can you give an example of how you turned a negative customer experience into a positive one?”
  • Teamwork and collaboration: Since bartenders often work closely with servers and kitchen staff, it’s important to assess their teamwork skills. Questions like “How do you ensure good communication with your colleagues during a busy shift?” can be helpful.
  • Creativity and innovation: Gauge their creativity by asking about their favorite signature cocktail they’ve created or how they stay inspired and innovative in their drink-making.

Assess cultural fit

Beyond skills and experience, it’s essential to determine whether the candidate will be a good cultural fit for your establishment. Consider the atmosphere and brand of your venue and look for a bartender whose personality and style align with it. For example, a high-energy bartender might be perfect for a lively bar, while a more refined and composed individual might suit an upscale cocktail lounge.

During the interview, observe how the candidate interacts with you and others. Their demeanor, communication style, and enthusiasm can give you a good indication of how they will fit in with your existing team and clientele.

Conduct a practical test

A practical test can be an invaluable part of the interview process. This allows you to see the candidate in action, assess their bartending skills firsthand, and observe how they handle pressure. You can ask them to prepare a few different cocktails, demonstrate their pouring techniques, and handle a simulated busy period.

Pay attention to their speed, accuracy, and cleanliness during the test. Also, observe how they interact with you and any customers during this exercise, as this will give you a sense of their customer service skills and personality behind the bar.

Verify references and background

Checking references is a critical step to ensure the candidate’s reliability and performance history. Contact previous employers to verify their experience, work ethic, and any notable achievements or issues. This can provide valuable insights and help you make a more informed hiring decision.

Consider conducting a background check to ensure there are no red flags that could affect their suitability for the role. This is especially important in the hospitality industry, where trust and integrity are paramount.

Discuss availability and expectations

Clarify the candidate’s availability and ensure it aligns with your scheduling needs. Discuss their willingness to work late nights, weekends, and holidays, as these are often peak times for bars and restaurants. Also, outline your expectations regarding punctuality, dress code, and adherence to company policies.

Setting clear expectations from the outset can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding the demands and responsibilities of the role.

Highlight your establishment’s unique selling points

During the interview, take the opportunity to sell your establishment to the candidate. Highlight what sets your venue apart, whether it’s the atmosphere, clientele, unique menu offerings, or growth opportunities. This can help attract top talent who are excited about contributing to and growing your business.

To wrap up

Interviewing a bartender requires a thorough understanding of the role, the necessary skills and qualifications, and the cultural fit within your establishment. By preparing relevant questions, conducting practical tests, and verifying references, you can ensure you find a bartender who not only excels in their craft but also enhances the overall experience for your customers.

With the right approach, you’ll be well on your way to hiring a bartender who can contribute positively to your team and help drive the success of your business.

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