Interviews are stressful affairs. It is only natural to be nervous. however if you want to stand the best possible chance of landing a bar tending job then you will have to appear confident. Afterall nobody wants to have a nervous bartender behind their bar. The best way to be confident is to prepare properly for your interview.
Purpose of the Interview
Remember the purpose of the interview is not to find out if you can bartend. The interviewer knows that, that’s why you have an interview. The purpose of the interview is to find out if you can bartend at that bar. You will have to do a lot more than just pour drinks. You will have to fit in with the existing staff, be able to satisfy the existing customers, know everything there is to know about the drinks that are served at that bar, keep that bar organized and be able to set up the needs of that bar. These are fairly intangible skills and are therefore not the sorts of thing that you can show on a resume. The aim of the interview is to establish that you have those skills.
To establish that you are the “right fit” nobody is going to let you loose behind their bar for a shift. Instead they will have a 10 minute conversation with you. During this interview they will assume that how you look and behave in that situation is how you will behave whilst behind the bar. The purpose of the interview for you is to look and behave like the interviewers ideal employee. That will take a little bit of preparation.
Bartenders should always be prepared. This means having enough ice, plenty of garnishes, spare bottles and napkins. If a customer walks in and asks for “Oh, I don’t know, something fruity…with whisky”then you, as the bartender, will have to have a list of cocktails in mind that you can suggest. You should always be ready for the “just in case” scenario so that when it does happen you will be able to deal with it without delaying service.
As being prepared is so important then in your interview you must try to come across as the kind of person who is ready for whatever life throws at them. The best way to do that is by being prepared for the interview itself. Aim to walk into the interview knowing as much as possible about that bar. This covers everything from their most popular drinks to what the staff wear. You should arrive on time looking like you’re ready to work. When you walk into the interview room you should know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you can do this the interviewer will find it easy to picture “interview you” working behind their bar. I will also guarantee you that unless all the other applicants have read this article then you will be the only applicant who will be able to do this.
So how do you “prepare” yourself to come across as “prepared”?
Well the first step is research:
When it comes to their upcoming interview most people will find it too scary to think too much about it. This means that they are not properly prepared. To get one step ahead of all these people you will need to research the interview. This means going through what is likely to come up, what you should wear and if you should take anything with you. It may sound daunting but you will find all this information either here or in the articles I will link to. This will enable you to know exactly what you should, and shouldn’t say. You will be able to enter your interview knowing what a good interview is supposed to look like and ready to replicate it.
The second thing that you will need to research is the place that you are applying to. The best way to do this is by visiting the place as a customer. While I would say that you should never apply to a place that you have never been I know that the job hunt doesn’t allow for that. So if you secure an interview in an unfamiliar bar try to visit it as a customer at least once.
Visiting the bar as a customer will also help you feel more comfortable during your interview. This is because not only will you know how to get there, and therefore wont be rushing to get to an unfamiliar place on time, but you will also have a feel for the place, what the customers look like and what they like to drink. It will also help if you know how the staff are expected to dress and behave as well as having a rough idea of what duties are assigned to each position. All of this knowledge will mean that in your interview you will be able to know exactly what to say to show that can you fit in there.
Another added bonus of visiting the bar before hand is that you might become a familiar face. Bar managers prefer to hire someone they know, even if it is just on a “I’ve seen you around” level.
Once you’ve done your research you will need to practice how to show off all the information you have gathered.
The biggest fear people have when it comes to interviews is that they won’t be able to answer a question, either because they don’t know the answer or, even worse, because they can’t find the right words. This is a real concern because even if you have done your research if you can’t show it off then it is pointless. To prevent this in the days before the interview choose exactly what you want to say and prepare a short script.
The structure of the interview is very predictable- the interviewer will ask you questions and you will answer them. You will be able to do this more fluently and impressively by preparing your answers before hand. This ability to confidently answer their questions will set you apart from all the other applicant who start every answer with Oh, err, umm, well I-, hmm, good question”.
Luckily, interviews for bar work are fairly predictable. The same types of questions come up all the time: “What’s your favourite drink?”, “How would you describe yourself?”, “How would you cut someone off?” There are between ten to fifteen questions that come up regularly. Preparing an answer for each one will help you to appear calm and confident.
When I tell you that you should prepare answers I mean you should prepare good answers. Avoid one word replies, the more detailed your response the better. Expanding your answer also allows you to show off your knowledge. For example if the interviewer asks what your favourite drink is don’t just say “Beer”. They will either think your ignorant or more likely follow it up by asking what type of beer you prefer. A more detailed answer along the lines of “Lagers, Carlsberg particularly because I’m a big fan of lighter beers. In the winter I usually switch over to Ales, but still keep it light with something like a Granville Island Pale Ale” sounds far more confident and like someone who knows what they are talking about. It also makes you sound like a better bartender
It is also a certainty that basic questions concerning your availability and how long you have been a bar tender will come up. Make sure that you have prepared an exact answer for these as well.
The Actual Interview
Your preparation doesn’t end with researching the bar and learning a script of things to say. The night before the interview plan your exact route. Work out what time you will need to leave in order to arrive in plenty of time. Remember it is better to arrive fifteen minutes early and have to take a walk around the block than dash through the doors with seconds to spare. This is the day when first impressions are vital. If you can’t even arrive on time you have no chance.
As you have done your research you will know what the employees at the bar wear. Ideally you should match the way that they dress. This makes it easier for the interviewer to picture you as a member of staff. Don’t wear the exact uniform, as that is presumptuous and a little bit weird. You are just trying to give the interviewer the impression that you fit in. For example if the place is formal, as in white shirt, black bow tie, and black waistcoat, then you showing up in a light dress shirt, a nice tie, and a waistcoat will create the right impression.
You will also want to take the right things with you. If you have to take a bag then a messenger bag gives the right, professional image. A watch should also be worn, make sure it is a smart one. You should also have a pen and notepad so that you can write things down and anything else that can give the impression that you are prepared.
Make sure that your phone is either off or on silent. Also don’t take a drink with you. The interviewer is talking to you not a coffee cup.
After that it is up to you. Do whatever you need to do so that you can enter the interview feeling comfortable and confident. This will allow you to be yourself and show yourself off in the best possible light. Finally remember to sit up straight, look them in the eye, and don’t interrupt.
After the Interview
The interview is over and it went great. You said exactly what you wanted to say it in the manner that you wanted to and you looked great while doing it. So what happens next?
You stand up, give them a firm confident handshake and thank them for their time. Then, and this is the most important bit, ask them when they expect to have made a decision by. Often because of the relief of ending the interview many people neglect to do this. That you have asked this question marks you out as a practical thinker.
Now that you know when they are making a decision, make sure that you follow up. If the deadline passes and you haven’t heard anything then call them. This will help you in a couple of ways. If they haven’t made their decision yet you calling them reminds them not only that they need to hire a bartender but also that you are available. Conversely if they have hired someone then at least you know not to hang around waiting for them to call.
All of this will make you as comfortable and confident as possible in your interview and that, I guarantee, is going to make you stand out. You will be able to showcase yourself in the best possible light while also showing that you would be the perfect fit for their bar.
If after all this effort you don’t get the job don’t worry. It wasn’t that you weren’t good enough it’s just that you weren’t the “right fit”. Try to take the positives from the situation and use it to ace the next interview. If you keep applying what you’ve learned and keep getting better at interviewing then not only will you land your ideal bartending job but you may even start to look forward to interviews.