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Applying For Your FIRST Bartending Job

Where you apply is just as important as how you apply for a job. People often fail to get their first bartending gig because they apply to the wrong places. Fancy cocktail bars and busy nightclubs may be the type of places you want to work in but they don’t tend to hire first timers. They also rarely call back, therefore unsuccessful applicants can quickly become dejected and soon give up searching all together. Being selective about where you apply should make landing your first bartending gig quite easy.

Take the time to work out which bars are more likely to hire newcomers and focus most of your efforts on applying to them. Forget about the places that are unlikely to hire you for now. This tactic means that you will get far more invitations to attend interviews, which in turn will boost your morale and keep you motivated. It doesn’t matter if you are applying for you first job or fifty-first, half the battle is keeping your spirits up and staying motivated.

So who hires first-timers?

Lots of places hire first timers. Places that are small and slow are far more likely to take a chance. Anywhere that experienced bartenders won’t bother applying to like family owned restaurants, neighbourhood pubs, university pubs, dive bars, pool bars, golf courses, and yacht clubs. Many of these are places that you probably don’t want to apply to but right now, when you are looking for your FIRST bartending job you shouldn’t be thinking about where you want to work but where you can work. These places, as well as the ones listed below, regularly hire first timers. This is because they don’t have a huge pile of applicants to choose from. Also their bars are quiet enough that they’re comfortable hiring people who haven’t tended bar before.

For now, try to forget about anywhere that doesn’t meet this criteria. You may want to work in nightclubs and cocktail bars but so does every other bartender. Until you have enough experience to compete then don’t waste your time applying to these places. They have more than enough experienced candidates to choose from and probably won’t even bother giving you call back, which will really hit your morale.

You should also forget about chains like Earls and Joes, at least for now. Even if they wanted to hire you they couldn’t because their corporate structure won’t let them. Also stay away from busy places like fine-dining restaurants, hotel bars and sports bars. The busier the business the less likely they are to hire newbies.

No that we’ve told you this remember that this is just a guideline. If you want to apply for jobs in these places then go for it. Applying to a few, and we really do mean just a few of these, alongside some of the other places we have suggested won’t do too much harm. We are just saying that as you are a newbie your chances of success will be a lot lower and therefore you should maximize your chances by applying to smaller or quieter bars.

Also you won’t have to stick to the small places forever. It is just your first job not your last. Think of it as getting some experience under your belt and on your resume. Once you’ve got that you can begin applying to the places that you really want to work at.

However before we get ahead of ourselves lets get back to applying for your first job. Once you have identified some likely targets you then have to apply. We have some tips for that as well.

 How to Apply

Applying online is easy. Just email your resume to the address on the advert and sit back and wait for the reply. Despite this, whenever possible, it is far better to apply in person.

In the hospitality industry you should only apply for a job in person during a small window each week: Monday to Thursday between 2:00pm and 4:30pm. If you apply in person outside of this window it immediately marks you out as a newcomer to the industry. This is because applying before 2:00pm interrupts the lunchtime rush while after 4:30pm interrupts dinner. Additionally don’t apply on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, weekends are always a busy time for bars. There isn’t a bar manager anywhere in the world who appreciates being interrupted during their busiest period just to accept a resume.

While this is the rule there are a few exceptions. For example if the job advert asks you to come at a certain time then do so. If the place that you are applying to doesn’t open until late, turn up half an hour before opening. While the bar will be closed to customers the staff will be there. Finally whenever you do apply if, when you enter, the place is busy turn around and walk straight back out. Return later when things have calmed down. I repeat no bar manager wants to be interrupted just to accept a resume.

When you are able to hand your resume in make sure that you give it to the bar manager. Handing it to anybody else means that the manager may never see it. The hostess may misplace it or “misplace” it (especially if they are trying to work their way up to bartender). It also defeats the whole point of applying in person. You want the manager to see you because manager are always happier about calling in a face they can picture as opposed to relying on a strange name from a sheet of paper. If when you go to hand your resume in you discover that the manager isn’t there ask when would be a good time to catch them and return then.

If you limit applying to the times we have set out and only to slower bars you probably won’t be able to apply to many places every day. This is a good thing. Applying for a job is both physically and mentally exhausting. Applying in person to more than five places in a day will tire you out. The more tired you are the less motivated you will be to try again tomorrow. Also if none of the places call you back it is easier to accept 5 rejections than 10.

When looking for a job half the battle is keeping your morale high and not being discouraged. It is far better to hand in resumes to a few bars that are likely to take a chance on you than handing out hundreds of resumes to places all over the city. The latter course of action may result in mass rejection and exhaustion.  Pick your targets carefully and keep your confidence high. It’ll help you for the next stage of the process: The Interview.

Before we give you some advice on acing a bartending interview here, in greater detail, are the types of bars that hire a lot of first-timers.

  • Family owned Restaurants
  • Greek Restaurants – not sure why, but they do
  • Indian restaurants – again, not sure why
  • Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurants
  • Wine-Espresso Bars
  • Neighbourhood bars – specifically for their weekday-day shifts
  • Restaurants that do breakfast – for their breakfast shifts.
  • University Bars
  • Diners
  • Dive Bars
  • Economy-hotel Bars
  • Anywhere with a bar that looks like crap
  • Pool Bars
  • Casinos
  • Golf Courses
  • Yacht Clubs
  • Event Staffing Services
  • Service Bars (that means a bar where the bartender only makes drinks for the servers; customers can’t order at these bars)
  • Boston Pizza for some reason – even though it’s a chain
  • And anywhere where you’ve got connections (it really can help)

Also, just in case you had missed it, every student at Metropolitan Bartending School get 1 to 1 job search coaching until they land a job. In part this includes elaborating on what we’ve just said as well as giving you the names of specific bars and restaurants to apply to.

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