Most of us worry about interviews, a lot, and that’s how we act in the interview – worried. So what interviewers end up seeing are a bunch of nervous people that want to work behind their bar. You want to stand out from all that, and the easiest way to so isn’t to be the most qualified, but to be the most confident, and confidence comes from the right preparation.
Purpose of the Interview
Bars don’t hold interviews in order to find out if you can bartend, they hold them to find out if you can bartend that bar. A bartender will have to do a lot more than just pour drinks, they’ll have to look the part, get on with the existing staff, the existing customers, know everything about the drinks that are popular at that bar, keep that bar organized, and setup to the needs of that bar. In short, they’re going to need to have a lot of intangible skills, the kinds of skills that you just can’t put down on a resume, and that’s the purpose of the interview: to find out if you have those skills.
The Bar is trying to find out if you’re going to be the “right fit”. Now they can’t do that by letting you jump behind the bar, so instead, they’re going to have a ten minute conversation with you, and make assumptions. What they’re going to assume is that the way you look and behave in the interview, is exactly how you’ll look and behave on the job. So the purpose of the interview for you, is to look and behave in the way that they’d want their ideal employees to – so you need to prepare yourself to do that.
Bars want their Bartenders to always be prepared: to always have enough ice, enough garnishes, backup bottles, backup napkins, spare paper for the machines; if a customer comes in and asks for “Oh, I don’t know, something fruity…with whisky” the bartender needs to have a list of cocktails already in mind to suggest. Bars want their Bartenders to have everything prepared just incase, so that when the “just incase” happens, service doesn’t have to slow down while the bartenders collect themselves.
In your interview, you want to come across as the kind of person that’s always prepared, and you do that by being prepared for the interview itself. You want to walk into the interview knowing as much as you can about that bar – everything from their most popular drinks to what the staff wears – you want to walk in knowing exactly what you’re going to say, and exactly how you’re going to say it; and you go in on time, at a leisurely pace, looking like you’re ready to work. If you do all that, the interviewer is going to find it very easy to favourably translate “you in the interview” to “you on the job”, and I assure you, unless they’ve read this article, no other applicant is going to do all that.
So how do you “prepare” yourself to come across as “prepared”?
Well the first step is research:
Most of us don’t think past the point of “Ooh, interviews are scary” so we invariably end up surprised by what comes up in them. To get one step ahead of all of the other “Ooh interviews are scary”-type applicants, you need to research interviews themselves: what’s likely to come up, appropriate attire, what you should bring – luckily, you can find all that out here and in the articles linked to this page. Research what are the best things to say, the worst things to say. Go in knowing how a good interview is supposed to look.
Then you need to research the actual place you’re applying to. The best way to do that, by far, is to have a drink there before your interview. I would recommend never applying somewhere that you haven’t been to before, but I know the job hunt doesn’t always allow for that, so just try to get in there for a drink, if you can. What going there beforehand is going to do is make you more comfortable being there – and you definitely want to be as comfortable as possible in your interview. First off, you’ll know exactly where the place is and how to get there, so there’s no running around looking for the place on the day. Second, it’s going to give you a feel for what the customers look like and what they order, so you know what drinks to study up on for the interview. Third, it’s going to let you see how the staff conduct themselves: how they dress, how they act, what duties are assigned to each position; so that on the day you can choose what you say to show how well you’d fit in there. If you can get in there for more than one drink you might even become a familiar face, and managers always prefer to hire someone they know – even if it’s just on the level of facial recognition – than someone they don’t.
Then you’ll need to practice how you’re going to showoff all that information you’ve collected.
What worries people the most about interviews, is that they won’t know what to say – that they won’t know the answer to a question, or that they will, but won’t be able to articulate it. It doesn’t matter how much research you do, if you don’t show them that you’ve done it. So what you need to do is, for a few days (or as many as you have) before the interview, choose what you want to say, and prepare a little script with exactly how you’re going to say it.
The interview by its very nature is going to consist mostly of the interviewer asking you questions, and you answering them. You want to have your answers already prepared, so that when those questions are asked, unlike the other applicants who start their answers with “Oh, err, umm, well I-, hmm, good question”, you just shoot out a detailed answer with no hesitation, and the utmost confidence – that’s going to make you stand out.
Fortunately, this isn’t an interview with Google, so you can rest assured that the questions that come up won’t be that complicated, or even original. The same kinds of questions come up all the time: “What’s your favourite drink?” “Describe yourself.” “How would you cut someone off?” There are about ten to fifteen questions that come up in Bartending Interviews all the time, which you can be pretty confident will come up in yours.
Now you don’t want to have just any answers prepared, you want to have good answers. That means no one word answers. You want to give specific answers that show you know something about bar tending. If they ask you what your favourite drink is, “Beer” is not sufficient, it’ll just be followed up with “What kind of beer?” So save them the trouble of asking, and say something more 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.” Which of the two candidates giving those answers sounds like they’ll be a better bartender?
Basic questions like your availability and how long you’ve been bar tending always come up too, so have answers, exact answers, prepared for those as well.
The Actual Interview
Now comes the big day. You’ve researched the place you’re applying to, and prepared what you’re going to say, now you just walk in and wow them right? Not quite.
Taking a few steps back, part of the reason you scoped the place out was to find out where it is and how to get there. So the night before your interview, you need to plan out exactly how you’re going to get there, and when you’re going to leave. You want to leave yourself plenty of time so that you can stroll in there nonchalantly fifteen minutes before you’re supposed to be there, just like they want their employees to. If you show up late, or in a sweat, they’re not going to hire you – this is the day that impressions matter most, if you can’t be on time today, when will you be?
You also scoped the place out to get a look at their employees, in part, to see how they dress. You want to match how you’re going to dress with the way they dress to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to see you as an employee. You don’t want to wear the exact uniform, that’s too presumptuous, but you want to give the manager an idea that you wont have to step too far out of your comfort zone to look good on the job. If the place is super 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 of some sort is really going to help them see you doing well there. The same applies to if they wear dark jeans and a casual button up.
Then you want to bring the right things, things that show you’re professional and prepared. No ruck sacks, if you have to bring a bag, make it a messenger bag, and wear a watch so they know you’ll always know what the time is. Bring a pen so if you need to write something down you don’t have to ask for one. Bring a notepad too incase you have to write anything down. Bring whatever you can to emphasize the image of preparation that they want to see.
Obviously, keep your phone on silent, and don’t bring in a drink – the interviewer doesn’t want to speak to you while you’ve got a cup of coffee up to your face.
Then it’s up to you; do what you’ve prepared to do: use the knowledge you’ve gotten from your research, say what you’ve planned to, and wear what you’ve chosen. All that is going to make you as comfortable and confident as possible in the interview, which is going to best allow you to be yourself, and that’s what the interview is for: to see who you are, and if who you are is the right fit. Also, remember to sit up straight, look them in the eye, and don’t interrupt.
After the Interview
The interview is over; it went great: You said what you wanted to say, how you wanted to say it, and you looked great while you did it – what next? Well, you stand up, give them a firm confident handshake, and thank them for their time. Then – and this is the most important bit after the interview – you ask them when they expect to have made a decision by. For whatever reason, not many people ask that, you doing so is a great way to stand out from the crowd as a practical thinker.
Next, you follow up. If you haven’t heard from them by the time they expected to have have selected someone, give them a call. This is going to help you get a job in a couple of ways: If they haven’t chosen someone by then – and they’re busy people so they often haven’t -, you calling them is going to put you first on their mind when they’re reminded that they need to hire someone; but if they have, then at least you know not to hang around waiting for their call any longer, so you can get back to it.
This is all going to make you as comfortable and confident as possible in your interview, and that I guarantee, is going to make you stand out. You’re going to be able to present the best side of yourself, which is going to let them see how you would fit in at their bar. If after all that you somehow 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”, and if you weren’t the “right fit”, you might not have enjoyed working there anyway. Use what you learn from each interview, and use it to ace the next one. Keep applying what you’ve learned here and keep getting better at interviewing. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually start to look forward to interviews, and wonder what all the fuss was about.