By Mike Simpson
For many people, working as a bartender seems like a perfect fit. The roles are highly social, have some room for creativity, and often offer schedules that can work around other obligations, like school or family responsibilities. As a result, competition for the best bartending jobs can be fierce, so you need to make sure you’re ready to shine when answering the bartender interview questions.
Are bartending questions hard to answer? They can be, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to navigate them with these. If you want to make sure you’re ready, here’s what you need to know about bartender interview questions.
How to Answer Bartender Interview Questions
Before we take a deep dive into our top ten bartender interview questions and answers, let’s take a quick moment to talk about your interview strategy. Usually, practicing common questions is a smart move, but you also need techniques to help you navigate the occasional curveball.
In most cases, hiring managers are looking for specific kinds of candidates. Along with mixology skills and the proper license, candidates that are outgoing and engaging are usually favored. Similarly, hiring managers seek out customer service-oriented team players, as they typically perform better.
If you want to showcase that you have what it takes, you need to start with some research. Read the job description carefully to learn about any required skills or experience, as well as key traits that the hiring manager wants to find.
Next, explore the bar’s website and social media pages for clues about the culture. It’s also critical to review any applicable laws regarding serving alcohol to patrons, as you’ll probably encounter regulation-related questions during the interview.
After you handle the research, it’s time to develop your techniques for answering the bartender interview questions. For traditional ones, the best approach is straightforward.
The hiring manager will begin by asking if you have a specific skill or experience. If you do, say “yes,” then provide an example of how you acquired the capability or when you’ve used it in the past. If you don’t, let the hiring manager know, then swiftly pivot by discussing your willingness to learn. That way, you’ll come across as an enthusiastic candidate.
When you’re dealing with behavioral and situational interview questions, you’ll need to use a different approach. You’ll need to either provide examples from your past experience or outline how you’d handle a hypothetical scenario.
While that sounds challenging, the right strategy makes it easier. For both of those types of questions, mixing the STAR Method and the Tailoring Method usually does the trick. You’ll end up with highly relevant, engaging answers that will catch the hiring manager’s attention, increasing the odds that you’ll ultimately secure a job offer.
Top 10 Bartender Interview Questions
In many cases, the bartender interview questions you’ll face are pretty consistent regardless of where you’re interviewing. Mainly, it’s because the core required skills and traits are the same for essentially any bartending role. Fortunately, that makes it far easier to prepare.
However, that doesn’t mean that practice and research aren’t essential. There are more than 726,936 bartenders working in the United States, and many people pursue any particular job opening. As a result, you want to make sure that you’re prepared to shine.
By reviewing bartending questions and example responses, you can see what it takes to stand out. With that in mind, here’s a look at our top ten bartender interview questions and answers.
1. Why did you decide to become a bartender?
Usually, this is one of the icebreaker bartender interview questions that hiring managers use to gauge your motivations and enthusiasm for the work. Ideally, you’ll want to outline some of the aspects of the job that you find appealing, or you can share an example that showcases why you were inspired to pursue this career.
“I decided to become a bartender because it allows me to not only offer exceptional customer service but engage with patrons to a greater level than you find with most other jobs. The social aspects make the work fun, and it gives me a chance to forge strong relationships with one-time customers and loyal, returning patrons alike.”
2. If a customer is clearly intoxicated and tries to order another drink, how do you handle it?
The responsible selling of alcohol is crucial if you’re working as a bartender. As a result, the hiring manager wants to know that you’ll take the right steps if an intoxicated patron attempts to order more alcoholic beverages.
Here, you can either approach this as a hypothetical or discuss an example from a previous job that outlines how you’ve handled this type of situation in the past. Ultimately, either approach works, so choose the one that showcases you in the best light.
“If an intoxicated customer tried to order another alcoholic drink, I’d let them know that I’m unable to fulfill their request, offering an apology for the inconvenience. If they tried to insist, I’d let them know that local law and the bar’s policies prevent me from serving anyone who is clearly intoxicated and follow that up with an offer to get them a non-alcoholic drink instead. Should the patron become unruly at that time, I’d follow the bar’s policies regarding requesting that they leave or engagement with a manager or bouncer for assistance, should that be necessary.”
3. If a patron asks you to recommend a drink, what do you do?
While many bar customers will know exactly what they want, some might want to explore something new. In that case, many patrons turn to the bartender for recommendations.
Usually, you want to make sure that your answer doesn’t start off with providing a recommendation right away. Instead, discuss how you’d learn about the customer’s tastes to find a drink that is likely to please.
“If a patron asks for a recommendation, my first step is to ask them to tell me the names of other drinks they currently enjoy. That helps me learn a bit about their preferences right away.
If they don’t have examples, I’ll ask about their preferred flavor profile. For example, are they looking for something sweet, fruity, crisp, or spicy? Do they enjoy the bite of alcohol, or do they prefer it to be a bit masked by other flavors? Again, this helps me figure out what they’re after, allowing me to recommend a drink that offers up the right flavors.”
4. When a patron comes in, how do you greet them?
As with most customer-oriented businesses, greeting incoming patrons is typically viewed as essential if you’re working as a bartender. It makes customers feel seen and can set a positive tone for their experience.
In many cases, a short-and-sweet answer is enough when answering this question. Simply outline what you typically do (or would do, if you’re new to bartending), and you’re in good shape.
“When a patron comes into the bar, my first step is to make contact and smile. Then, I follow that up with a, “Hi, and welcome to the bar,” mentioning the bar’s name as I address them. After that, I may continue with, “Please let me know if you need anything,” or “I’ll be right with you,” depending on whether I’m currently serving another customer. That way, they know I’m there to handle their needs immediately, setting a positive tone.”
5. What do you enjoy most about bartending?
With this question, the hiring manager wants to learn more about the aspects of the job you like. It’s another of the bartender interview questions that lets them assess your passion, so focus on the duties that you’re genuinely enthusiastic to handle.
“What I enjoy most about bartending is that it’s a chance to blend social, customer service-oriented activities with some artistry. Making cocktails that exceed expectations is incredibly rewarding. Plus, I enjoy having a bit of flare when I create the drinks, making it a mini entertainment experience. Ultimately, I’ve found that patrons genuinely enjoy a bit of a flourish, and I use that to help keep the mood positive while people are waiting for drinks.”
6. If a customer approached the bar who looked potentially underage, what would you do?
Serving an underage customer can be catastrophic. The legal ramifications are often severe, ranging from stiff fines to the loss of liquor and server licenses. As a result, the hiring manager wants to know that you’ll be diligent about not serving an underage person alcohol.
In most cases, you can simply outline a standard process to verify a customer’s age. However, it’s also helpful to discuss what you’d do if they protested, showing that you can handle the situation if the person became argumentative.
“Generally speaking, I aim to card every customer that approaches the bar, as well as keep an eye out for anyone who’s ordering for a party that may have an underage person mixed into it. If the latter occurs, I’ll decline service, stating that I need to see everyone’s ID before I can take the order. While the customer may view that as inconvenient, ensuring I follow the law is my priority.
If the customer refuses to provide an ID, then I would continue to refuse service, using a polite, professional tone. I’d explain that it’s the bar’s policy to ensure no underage persons are served alcohol, as well as the law. If they became hostile, I’d take appropriate steps to address the situation, such as informing a manager or bouncer about the unruly patron or, if I’m allowed, requesting that they leave immediately.”
7. What would you do if a patron ordered a drink and you didn’t have all of the required ingredients?
While bars are typically well-stocked, unexpected order delays, a higher number of orders using a particular ingredient, and similar issues can cause a bar to run out of something that’s needed for a specific drink. This question helps the hiring manager see how you’d act if this issue occurred.
“If we were out of an ingredient that was needed for a particular order, the first thing I’d do is apologize for the inconvenience and let the customer know we don’t have the required ingredient. Next, I would see if there’s something else they may want and offer a recommendation of another drink with a similar flavor profile that didn’t require that ingredient if they seemed uncertain. That way, we can work together to find them an alternative that they’re sure to enjoy.”
8. If the bar was particularly busy, how do you decide the order in which you serve customers?
Many bars get incredibly busy at times, which can make it challenging for bartenders to ensure everyone is served in the proper order. This is one of the bartender interview questions where you can either approach it as a hypothetical or discuss an example from your work history that shows you have the right skills.
“In my last job as a bartender, we frequently saw large influxes of customers on weekends. Generally, I believe it’s essential to service customers in the order in which they approach the bar. As a result, I developed several systems to help me track when people arrive.
First, I remain vigilant at all times, allowing me to track patron movements. That lets me assess the crowd while I’m making drinks for other orders. Additionally, I often create a running mental list, using defining characteristics – such as the color of their attire, unique accessories, or similar standout details – to help me remember the order.
If things are particularly hectic, I’ll keep a notepad nearby to jot down notes, too. Again, I’ll use defining characteristics as the basis for my notes, scribbling just a few words about the arriving customers. Overall, I’ve found my techniques are highly effective.”
9. Are you comfortable taking food orders or serving food at the bar?
Usually, you’ll only encounter bartender interview questions about food service is the establishment also has a kitchen. However, it’s an important one to prepare for regardless, as serving food isn’t uncommon.
With this question, the hiring manager is gauging your comfort level with handling food orders and serving customers in this capacity. Generally, you can simply say if you’re comfortable with those activities, as well as provide insights about how you ensure those responsibilities are handled correctly.
“I am comfortable with taking food orders or serving food at the bar. Often, the ability to dine is a major attraction for customers, so I would work diligently to ensure their needs are met. I’m a fast learner, so I’m confident I can learn your order submission system with ease. Additionally, I pride myself on offering exceptional customer service, and that would extend to anyone who wanted to enjoy a great meal while at the bar.”
MIKE’S TIP: If you have prior experience serving food in bars or restaurants, mention it in your answer. That shows the hiring manager that you’re not just comfortable with the concept but that you have relevant skills and experience, making you look like a stronger candidate. Additionally, let them know if your food handling card is current, as that can also position you as an exceptional applicant.
10. Is your mixology training, alcohol training, and permit current?
In most cases, people need specific training or permits to work as bartenders, as they are typically required by law. As a result, the hiring manager may ask about your credentials directly, allowing them to make sure that you’re legally able to hold the position.
While you might be tempted to simply answer with a “yes” or “no,” it’s best to round out your answer with some additional information. You can mention where you completed the training, when it was completed (or most recently renewed), and other details.
“Yes, all of my training and licenses are current. I completed the required training through a state-approved third-party program two years ago, covering a range of topics, including alcohol safety and information regarding applicable laws. At this time, my license is valid for three more years before I’ll need to renew it.”
5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of a Bartender Interview
When your interview starts to draw to a close, you usually get a critical opportunity. Often, the hiring manager will ask if you have any questions for them, allowing you to flip the script and gather more information.
While it may be tempting to say “no,” asking intelligent questions is a better option. Along with showing that you’re engaged and enthusiastic, it’s a chance to find out more about the job, company culture, and more.
During the interview, questions might come to mind, and it’s perfectly appropriate to ask them. However, it’s a smart move to have a few backups ready, just in case.
Here are five good questions to ask at the end of a bartender interview:
- How many customers does this bar see on an average weekday? What about an average weekend?
- Do bartenders have a relatively set schedule, or does it fluctuate from week to week?
- How would you describe the culture at this bar? What about the team dynamic?
- What’s the average number of hours your bartenders work each week, and how many hours do you envision the new hire will be working?
- How are tips divvied up here? Are they pooled, or do bartenders tip out the support staff?
Putting It All Together
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea about how to handle bartender interview questions. Just make sure to take advantage of every tip and insight above, and take the time to practice your own answers. That way, you increase your odds of impressing the hiring manager and, ultimately, landing a job offer.
Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com.
His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others.
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