Behind the Bar The Business of the Bar

Ready to Nail Your Bartender Interview? Do This.

Image: shapecharge

You’ve polished your resumé, networked like a champ and finally landed an interview for your dream bartending gig. Now what? Beyond the obvious, like showering and showing up on time, our panel of experts shares its tips for nailing that in-person interview.

1. Make a Good First Impression

For Julia Momose, a consultant with Chicago’s Oriole and partner and creative director of the forthcoming Kumiko, also in Chicago, the interview starts before a candidate even walks into the room. “A big thing for me is the way you conduct yourself via email and other communication prior to a face-to-face,” she says. “I look for proper grammar and spelling, flexibility with scheduling, attention to detail, and overall professionalism.”

That professionalism extends to your social media accounts, as well. Momose recommends keeping separate personal and professional accounts and ensuring all public content is appropriate for potential future employers.

Social media can also give you a chance to shine. “Obviously, you never want to put anything on the internet that you would regret later, but I do like to see people’s interests and personality outside of work, ” says Alexis Brown, the co-founder of the nonprofit Causing a Stir and a bartender at Chicago’s Drifter, who researches candidates online before interviewing them.

2. Do Your Homework

Social media reconnaissance works both ways, says Channing Centeno, a bartender at Otis in New York City. “Not only is it a great tool to showcase your work and market yourself professionally, but you can research a potential employer’s interests, too,” he says.

Centeno suggests reading “every single article you can find,” ordering any books the bar or its owners have published and actually eating and drinking at the establishment before your interview. “That way you’ll be able to drop knowledge and keywords that will make you really stand out and show that you get their business,” he says.

Xavier Herit, the director of food and beverage at NoMo SoHo hotel in New York City, always appreciates candidates who do their homework. “The head bartender I just hired blew me away in her interview,” he says. “She had done some impressive research on the hotel, took notes while I talked and had very specific questions about the team and the cocktails, which demonstrated her communication skills and attention to detail.”

“When it comes to the ‘do you have any questions for me?’ portion of the interview and a candidate asks thoughtful questions about the establishment, the menu and our processes, they really stand out to me,” says Momose. “This demonstrates an understanding of the role they’re applying for and a willingness to understand the place’s culture.”

Conversely, “if someone doesn’t have any questions, it shows me a lack of preparation,” says Alexa Delgado, the head bartender of Lightkeepers at The Ritz-Carlton in Miami’s Key Biscayne. “And if you’re not ready for the interview, you’re definitely not ready for the job.”

3. Dress the Part

Momose recommends “dressing for the job you want” and “being aware of the type of uniform people wear at the establishment.” She says, “Wear something similar that showcases your own style and is appropriate for the venue.”

Centeno employs this strategy, saying “when you’re interviewing for a job, they’re going to decide in that first impression if they can see you working in that space.” He adds, “You want to look like you will fit in.”

4. Remember the “Tend” in Bartender

Yes, you’re trying to sell yourself in your interview, “but your ability to listen and communicate with other people is a huge part of your job,” says Chris Eflord, the co-owner of Seattle’s Navy Strength and No Anchor. “I look for that in candidates.”

Delgado agrees. “Actively listening during a interview tells me you’ll know how to make guests feel comfortable and welcome,” she says.

“Ultimately, the main quality of being a bartender is tending the bar, which is taking care of people.” says Herit. “If you can make great cocktails and aren’t nice to people, you’re in the wrong business. We’re about hospitality. I want to see passion for customers, the company and the cocktails. Those people are rare, and when I find them, I keep them, because they will help my business succeed.”