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Interview Questions for a Bartender Candidates (Examples)

Jim McCormickAuthor

How to Conduct an Interview at Your Restaurant

Finding the right bartender is so nuanced, it should be considered a science. And, whether you like it or not, you’re the lead scientist when hiring a bartender for your establishment. But, never fear, because with a little tweaking of your interview format, asking the right questions, and being transparent about the position, you will be well on your way to hiring a bartender that is reliable, personable, and keeps customers coming back each week. 

To do this, you’ll need to establish protocol for a bulletproof interview and make sure you do your due diligence in hiring the right candidate for your bar.

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Interview Questions Template

With culture questions, experience questions, and situational questions, this customizable Word doc will guide your interviews with prospective candidates.

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Bartender Interview Tips

Let’s start with the basics: the candidate needs to know who you are and what you do at the bar. Are you the owner? How often are you present? Who directly manages the bartenders - is it you, or a bar manager or a general manager? Sharing all of this information will help your bartending candidate understand what the job looks like, who he or she would be reporting to, and how the operational side of your bar functions. 

This will help not only you, but also the candidate decide if this is the right job for them, which is much better than having them start, training them, and then them deciding otherwise, wasting your time and theirs. 

Explain Need for the Role

Once you have given your candidate the download as to how the bar runs and functions, it’s time to explain the nitty gritty of the position. While it might sound self-explanatory, every bar is run a little bit differently, from what kind of side work is required, takeout orders for any food, management, shift length, restocking etc. This is your opportunity to share these details, and in the same breath, find out where their experience lies in all of these tasks and what they are used to. 

You will be able to read their reactions and understand what their expectations are, giving you valuable insight.

Additionally, this is the time to think about experience. You can take a moment to decide ahead of time if prior experience working in a bar or as a bartender is a requirement for the position or if you have more experienced staff that can help them learn on the job. As an aside, this is a great time to find out their knowledge of food safety regulations and precautions, which will be reflective of their prior experience. 

Establish Job Requirements

Lastly, take a moment to examine their interest and abilities in terms of leadership potential. Will you be considering a bar manager or general manager in the future. If you are, does this person have the passion to grow into the role?

Of course, while having a leader or future management material may come in handy, what ultimately matters when hiring for your bar is making sure they are enthusiastic about the industry in general, and that talking to customers and interacting with customers about food service and hospitality is something they enjoy and intellectually curious about. 

As you complete your interview, make sure to always close with thanking them and letting them know what the next steps are in the process. 

Having trouble thinking of specific questions? Let’s help you get started. Here are ten questions to consider when hiring your next bartender, as well as ten ideal answers to those questions to help you evaluate your candidates.

icon Resource

Interview Questions Template

With culture questions, experience questions, and situational questions, this customizable Word doc will guide your interviews with prospective candidates.

Toast

Bartender Interview Questions

What is your go-to drink recommendation? 

Once I find out if they like fruity/sweet drinks or not, I have a few go-to recommendations. For something sweet, fun, but not too sweet, I like a splash of pineapple juice, soda water, and Tito’s vodka with a splash of grenadine at the top. This is colorful, delicious, and light. 

Another fruity drink I think is great is a Midori sour, which is of course, Midori, fresh citrus (I like it with lime), ice, and seltzer. It has a bright lemon flavor, it isn’t too sweet, and the color is fantastic. If someone doesn’t like fruity or sweet at all, I have a few other recommendations. 

A classic is a Jameson and ginger ale with extra lime. This is a great way to have a full sipping drink with a whiskey and the lime juice adds freshness but not sweetness. If they like gin, I like to recommend a Negroni, which is gin, sweet vermouth, campari and garnished with an orange peel. This is a classic cocktail that people feel good about ordering. 

Something fun I like to recommend if I have it is a gin and tonic with the Empress purple gin. Its color is gorgeous but it is not a flavored gin. It’s simply a fun and beautiful cocktail that delivers a classic gin and tonic experience. 


You are tending to a group that wants to order shots but doesn’t want them to taste like alcohol. What do you recommend? 

Green tea shots, made of Jameson Irish whiskey, peach schnapps, sour mix, and lemon lime soda, is a great recommendation for someone who wants a shot that doesn’t have too strong of an alcohol taste. Something really fun that women love on a night out is pineapple upside down cake shots. 

I always encourage men to order them as well, especially at the end of the night. They basically taste like dessert and are made of vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, and grenadine, and I love to garnish each shot with a maraschino cherry. I also think that most shots go down easier and taste less like alcohol if they are incredibly cold, so if I know the group is hesitant about strong shots, I try to give an extra shake so the drink is really cold and goes down even easier. 


This is a modern bar and our customers love the convenience of paying in many different ways. What are some of the different payment methods you are familiar with? 

In my prior experience working at a bar we accepted cash, credit, debit, and mobile pay. Additionally, we accepted gift cards which operated like credit cards and could be swiped at the point of sale, and then the customer would receive a receipt with whatever remaining balance they have left on the card after their purchase. 


We also accepted coupons and rewards points for purchases, which were integrated into the point of sale system and could be applied to any transaction, except for gift cards. 



Do you prefer a long or “double” shift or working shorter shifts? Why? 


Depending on the day, I can like both for different reasons. Working a double, especially during a game where people might be watching an important game is fun and it can be helpful to be working the entire game or not break up the service. 


I prefer when I can be on a shift long enough so that my customers do not have to change bartenders or cash out and they have a consistent customer service experience that is simple for them. Working in a bar, you have to be ready and prepared for customers late at night, so working a shorter night shift can be nice because you have the energy and excitement and I like staying until the absolute end of operations and giving everyone a great late-night experience. 


At my last job I worked Friday nights, Saturday lunch, and Sunday doubles, and I really liked that experience because I was able to do a little of everything. 



How do you prefer to work with your coworkers? Do you like having shifts with the same people, and how do you split up division of labor? 


Whenever I’m new at a position, I like to learn what the other people like to do and what they are best at, and then make sure to observe them and learn from them on the job. While I have worked at a bar before, every bar is run a little bit differently, and so learning how other people do things that have more experience is helpful in helping me learn on the job. 


When I’m new, I also try to not have any preferences on how we divide work since I want to learn how to do everything. I’m happy to take on new tasks and get experience with every part of the barkeeping. 


While I love working with people that I know and have an established working relationship with, it is always fun to get to know other staff members, see how they interact with customers, and gain some of their knowledge about drink choices and specials as well as their passion for the serving experience. 



What is your favorite bartending experience and why? 


I really love the opportunity to introduce customers to classic cocktails like a Manhattan, a Negroni, a Martini, an Old Fashioned, and seeing which ones they like. Everyone likes to have one drink that makes them feel sophisticated or that they want to order at a fancy restaurant and I love helping them figure out which are their favorite. 


I also believe classic cocktails are really experiencing a revival and adding interesting twists such as smoking the drink or using high-end cherries really makes the experience fun. If the bar isn’t too busy and someone is asking me questions and clearly wants to stay for a while, I like to offer to do 2-3 classic cocktails, slowly, over the course of their stay. 


We can talk about the different spirits, what flavors they like, and help them find their go-to drink. 



How would you explain your favorite drink to a customer? 


I love a drink that is refreshing, fruity, and not too sweet. I also love drinks that are the favorites in other countries around the world. Lately, I’ve been drinking paloma’s which are tequila, club soda, and grapefruit juice with a squeeze of lime. If you love grapefruit juice they are incredible, and so fresh and delicious, perfect for a summer day. 


They are also probably the most popular cocktail in Mexico! If I work at a bar that doesn’t have grapefruit juice, then grapefruit soda, such as Fresca is also a delicious alternative and I add a little extra lime juice to keep it tart. This the kind of drink that is great on a patio or on a hot day. 



Tell me a little bit about how you handle working when the bar is busy and keep the shared working space tidy. 


Working during a rush is always challenging, but I believe you can prepare for success. This means being organized with everything you need, having a few napkins and straws in one pouch, having the ability to make change so keeping a change pouch with you and making sure you have pens and ordering pads if that is something you use when taking orders. 


I think also spending a few minutes every time you have a pause to check on the bar prep area. Restocking the straws, restocking the fruit, checking on glassware, that way when you do hit a rush you don’t start the rush with missing items. If it is a long rush and everyone is frantic, all you can do is work quickly and efficiently and do the best you can and stay calm. 



Why are you passionate about working at a bar? 


I am very passionate about customer service and hospitality. I have always been a people person so I find being a bartender natural and I like being able to read what kind of experience the customer or group wants. 


If they want to engage and get to know each other, I’m happy to do that, but I also love to give people privacy on a date and refill their drinks and move in an non-invasive way around the bar. Knowing when to do what, when to engage, and when to pull back is part of the challenge of being a good bartender. 


I also really love when people have a good time and get time to relax from their busy lives with a friend or loved one. I am passionate about drinks and enjoy making recommendations, and making delicious cocktails for those that appreciate them as much as I do.

 


What are your long-term career goals and how does working as a bartender help you achieve them? 


I would love to open my own bar or small business someday. I think the way that everything is managed in a bar teaches you so much about what goes into running a business and if you pay attention you can learn so much. 


I would love experience as a manager because then I would learn more about helping to make a schedule, and helping people during my shift succeed. I don’t necessarily think I need to open a bar in the future to use my knowledge from being a bartender, I think that what I am learning is applicable over a wide array of businesses. 


Eventually I would like to get a business degree to learn even more about the back end of running a business.

Final Thoughts

While hiring new staff always takes time and energy, make sure to remember that in the long-run who you hire will represent your business to your customers. If you make the effort to hire the right candidates, who are a good fit for the position, you will retain wonderful staff who like their jobs, and have to do less hiring. It’s more up-front work but the payoff is a win-win for everyone.

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