What you wear can often be just as important as the things that you say and the information on your resume. This is because many interviewers will use your appearance to judge whether you’ll fit in to their organization. If you dress overly formal or too casually then you will look out of place. The same applies if you turn up in the wrong style of clothing or in the wrong colours. All of these things may see you getting overlooked for another candidate who looks more like they’d be a good fit for that particular bar. It’s not just a case of dressing correctly it’s about fitting in.
Aim to wear to your interview a similar outfit to what the bartenders AT THAT BAR wear when working. For example if you are applying to a place where the bartenders wear black dress shirts, black ties, and black dress pants, then you should turn up to your interview wearing a light dress shirt with a dark tie and dark dress pants. Looking like one of their employees helps the interviewer to picture you as one. It will also alleviate any doubts they might have over whether you can look the part.
To find out what the bartenders at the place you are interviewing at will require a little bit of research. The best and easiest way to find out is to visit the bar yourself before the interview. It will also help you to get a feel for the place. If you can’t visit beforehand then either Google Image search the bar, or go on their website to see if there are any photos of their bartenders on there.
When you find out what they wear, do your best to match it, BUT NOT EXACTLY. Turning up for an interview dressed exactly like the bar staff will come across as cocky, presumptuous, and honestly, a little bit weird (For other Bartending Mistakes to Avoid, click here.)
Below is a guide to exactly what to wear to bartending interviews. Starting with the most formal I will take you through the different dress codes that bars have for both men and women.
Upscale Bars & Dining:
This encapsulates everything from fine dining restaurants and high-end cocktails bars to hotel bars and fancy events companies. These are the sort of places where the customers are dressed formally. If the customers are dressed up then the staff must also make an effort.
Bartenders in these places usually tend to wear a white shirt, black waistcoat and bow tie combo; or a dress shirt and tie. For an interview at these kinds of bars you should wear…
Tops: Wear a light (not white), plain coloured dress shirt (small patterns like light stripes or gingham are also acceptable). Don’t roll your sleeves up. If the organization’s staff’s uniform includes a waistcoat, then you should also wear one (as long as your shirt and tie are different colours to theirs, wearing a black waistcoat will be fine). If they don’t wear waistcoats, then neither should you, it’s too much.
Bottoms: Dark dress pants, black, dark grey, navy, or brown. No patterns.
Shoes: Black or dark brown leather dress shoes only.
Accessories: Whether they wear a regular tie or a bow tie, just wear a plain dark, or simple patterned, regular tie. A bow tie will look like you’re trying too hard. Wear a dark leather belt that matches the pants. Also make sure that you have a good watch on, bartenders need to keep an eye on the time, so show them that you can. Just avoid anything brightly coloured or with Mickey Mouse hands. No jewellery.
Tops: If the women wear a waistcoat then follow the Men’s advice above. Often however the women will just wear slim black dresses, if that’s the case, then you should too. Just make sure that it is a practical dress – i.e. something you can work in. (It doesn’t matter if the women wear black dresses, you can too, it may be cliché but the little black dress really can be worn anywhere). If the women wear a black skirt or black pants, with a black blouse, then you should wear a dark, plain coloured blouse (not black), and again, make sure that it is a practical outfit that you can work in.
Bottoms: If it’s the waistcoat combo they wear, then slim dark dress pants will be fine. Again if the women at the place wear black dresses, then you should too. Finally if the women wear a black skirt then you should also wear a dark practical skirt.
Shoes: Dark leather shoes with a medium heel – no high heels, flats, or anything with an open toe.
Accessories: If the bartenders wear ties or bow ties then you can also wear one, however you don’t have to. Do whatever feels comfortable.
Tie your hair back with a plain hair band. If you wear earrings make sure that they are small and simple, nothing that dangles. If you wear a bracelet then you may wear a small metal one (fabric is unsanitary). Necklaces should be small so that they can’t get caught on a co-worker or dangle into a customers drink. Unconventional piercings should also be avoided.
This encapsulates everything from chain restaurants like Joey’s and Earl’s, to small neighbourhood restaurants and high-end public houses. They are the type of establishments where some of the customers might dress up while others won’t make the effort.
Here male bartenders usually wear black or grey dress shirts with black dress pants while the women wear black blouses and either black skirts or pants. For an interview at these kinds of bars you should wear…
Tops: A plain or simple patterned, lightly coloured dress shirt, buttoned all the way up to the second to top button, again don’t roll up your sleeves. Don’t wear a waistcoat if they don’t.
Bottoms: Dark dress pants, no patterns. No Jeans.
Shoes: Black or Brown Leather dress shoes.
Accessories: Only wear a tie if the regular bar staff do. If they don’t then you risk looking out of place. Again make sure that you are wearing a watch and that your dark leather belt matches your pants. No jewellery.
Tops: If the female staff wear slim black dresses, then wear a slim, practical, dark coloured dress. Likewise if they wear a dark dress shirt, then wear a light coloured dress shirt; if they wear a black blouse, then wear a plain coloured (anything other than black), practical blouse.
Bottoms: As before try to match what the staff wears. This means that if they wear a dress then you should too; if they wear a black skirt, then wear a plain, practical, dark coloured skirt; and if they wear slim black pants, then wear slim, dark coloured formal pants.
Shoes: Dark leather dress shoes, medium heel. No flats and nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: Tie your hair back with a small, plain hair band. Like the men you should wear a watch. Keep jewellery to a minimum, if you want to wear a bracelet then limit it to one on each wrist. They should be understated and metal (fabric is unsanitary). If you war earrings make sure that they are small and simple. Avoid earrings that dangle. Likewise if you wear a necklace it should be small and simple. Avoid items that are overly bright and elaborate and that could get caught in something or dangle in a customers drink. Finally avoid any unconventional piercings – as in nose, lip, tongue, or eyebrow.
This section covers everything from neighbourhood pubs, Irish bars and sports bars to lower-end public houses, and dive bars. These places tend to be very casual. Hardly anybody will dress up and the drinks are cheap. They are the kinds of places that are, for their regulars, a home away from home. As they are comfortable places their bartenders tend to wear comfortable clothes.
Generally bartenders at these places will wear a casual button up shirt or sometimes a t-shirt, and dark jeans. Female bartenders may wear a skirt instead of jeans. However even if the staff at the bar you are interviewing at wear t-shirts you are still going to have to put a bit of effort into your outfit. For the men this means a collared shirt while the ladies will be required to wear either a shirt or a smart blouse.
While the bar may not be formal the interview still is. Therefore you should wear…
Tops: A casual, plain coloured button up shirt will be fine. Anything more and you risk looking out of place.
Bottoms: Only wear dress pants if it is part of the staffs uniform. If they wear jeans, then wear dark coloured jeans (either black or indigo). Avoided faded or ripped jeans. Make sure yours are smart and pressed, the sort of thing that you would wear with a blazer on a night out.
Shoes: Smart leather shoes, no trainers, no boots, no canvas shoes – even if they do, this is still an interview, there is a minimum level of formality.
Accessories: No ties, you’ll look out of place. Wear a watch and a belt. No jewellery.
Tops: A plain fitted button up shirt or a plain practical blouse will set the right tone, a dress may be too much.
Bottoms: In these places bartenders usually either wear a dark slim skirt, or dark slim jeans. Whichever the staff wear you should follow suit. If this means wearing jeans then opt for a smart, dark pair (black or indigo), that aren’t faded or ripped.
Shoes: Dark leather flats, or something dark with a small heel – no trainers, nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: You can afford to wear a few more accessories here than you could at the bars above, but nothing impractical that will hamper you when tending bar. This means that you should avoid big earrings, bracelets, or necklaces as these items can all get caught or dangle into customer’s drinks.
Tie your hair back with a hair band. Wear a watch – bartenders always have to keep an eye on the time. No nose, lip, tongue or eyebrow piercings.
This, perhaps obviously, means nightclubs, places with dance floors and the kinds of bars where customers don’t stick around any longer than it takes to order a highball, pay for it, and get some change.
Here the bartenders, both male and female, usually wear something black, in a tight fit. The guys often just wear a tight black t-shirt (maybe a dark dress shirt), and slim black jeans. The women will wear a slim black dress, or a tight black t-shirt /sleeveless top, with a black skirt.
This sounds very informal, but if you want to look like you could bartend there then you’re going to need to wear something similar.
Tops: A slim dark dress shirt – even if they wear t-shirts this is an interview and there is still a minimum level of formality that needs to adhered to.
Bottoms: Slim dark jeans, nothing that is faded or ripped. Dress pants will be too formal.
Shoes: Either dark leather dress shoes, or all black shoes – no accents or linings that draw attention to themselves.
Accessories: Wear a belt and wear a watch. If you want to wear jewellery, make sure it’s small and understated, nothing that draws attention to itself, and nothing that could get caught on anything, or anyone, behind the bar.
Tops: If the bartenders wear slim black dresses, then wear a slim dark coloured dress. Preferably this should be something practical that you could work a shift in. If the staff dress in black t-shirts or sleeveless tops, then you should wear a smart, dark, sleeveless top.
Bottoms: If they wear a dress, then you should too; if they wear a black skirt, then wear a slim dark skirt. In some places the women will wear slim black pants, if this is the case then you can as well.
Shoes: Dark with a heel – nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: Clubs are perfectly happy with you accessorizing. While this means you can wear whatever you like make sure that it is practical enough allow you to tend bar without it getting caught in something or falling into a customers drink.
If the place that you are applying to doesn’t fit into one of these categories or sits somewhere between two of them then the same rules still apply. If you have an interview at a hipster bar, where the bartenders dress in oxford shirts, suspenders, and bowties, then wear something similar. Likewise if you are going to an interview at leather clad biker bar then dig out your leathers. Remember that your choice of outfit is all about showing that you can fit in.
Whatever you decide to wear make sure that it is something you feel COMFORTABLE wearing. The whole point of mirroring the dress code is to show the interviewer that you would be comfortable working at that bar. If you are squirming in your outfit then you will ruin this illusion.
At the end of the day looking the part will only help you so much. How well you answer the questions, how confidently you go over your resume, and your general demeanour in the interview will all play a major part. The person who is most comfortable doing all these things is the one who will get the job so make sure that you are comfortable in your outfit.
P.S: If you end up at a bar that gives you some freedom with your wardrobe, check out the link below to learn how you can use that wardrobe to make some more money!