The Top Ten Bartending Interview Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

A lot of Bartenders worry about making a huge mistake in an interview, some colossal blunder that without a doubt will cost them the job. They usually focus on avoiding these huge mistakes so much that they completely miss all the little ones they make, which is unfortunate, because it’s actually these little ones that end up costing them the job. These smaller mistakes are things like how prepared you look when you first step through the door, how long your answers are, and how involved you appear in the interview. These little things that you normally wouldn’t think about hurt your chances for that exact reason: they make you look like someone who doesn’t think much.

Whether or not that really is you, how you behave in the interview is all the interviewer has to work with, so if you come across in anyway thoughtless or unprepared, that only leaves them to assume you’d act that way on the job.

Fortunately, these little mistakes are an easy fix – not once you’ve made them however, but before, so that you don’t make them in the first place. All you need to know are which mistakes to look out for and exactly why they’re mistakes, so you can make the small, but necessary measures to avoid them. With that being said, what you’ll find below is a list of the ten most common Bartending Interview mistakes, exactly why they’re mistakes, and a few things you can do to avoid them. Let’s start off with the moment you walk through the door…

1. Arriving Late

This first one sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens all the time. Applicants stroll through the doors five minutes late, or burst in sweating and gasping for breath with mere seconds to spare.

Why This Is A Mistake: It gives the interviewer no choice but to think you’re the kind of person that tends to be late, and no employer wants to hire someone like that. If you’re late to your interview, sorry, but there’s not much you can do to salvage it.

How To Avoid This: Arriving late is usually the result of poor planning. The night before your interview, make sure you have everything planned out exactly for you to arrive at the interview ten minutes early. That means have your exact route planned out, know how long that route will take, when you’ll need to leave home, and how long it’ll take to get ready. Have absolutely everything planned out so that you end up outside the bar with plenty of time to spare.

If you’re going to need a coffee, leave yourself plenty of time to get one and drink it so you don’t…

2. Bring a drink in with you

It’s commonplace to have a coffee in hand pretty much everywhere you go today, but it’s a mistake to bring one to an interview. Countless applicants bring a tea, coffee, or energy drink in with them to the interview, and then proceed to sip on it throughout while the interviewer is talking to them.

Why This Is A Mistake: It’s a sign of disrespect to have a cup up to your face when someone is trying to talk to you, plus you’re more likely to miss what they’re saying if you’re concentrating on your drink. Even if you finish the drink early on, the container will just become something to play with, and again, divert your attention from what’s being said.

How To Avoid This: If you need something to hydrate yourself or help wake you up, leave yourself plenty of time to get and have a drink beforehand so you don’t bring anything in with you.

Also, it’s an interview so you might be a little nervous and jittery. If that’s the case you definitely don’t want to bring anything with you that you could potentially spill all over your nice clothes – and by nice clothes I don’t mean anything too formal because you don’t want to end up…

3. Overdressing

Regardless of what kind of bar they’re applying to, guys tend to automatically reach for a dress shirt and tie, and girls automatically reach for a dress, or a blouse and dress pants.

Why This Is A Mistake: If you wear a dress shirt and tie to your interview that’ll be fine, as long as that’s what the bartenders at that bar wear, but if it’s not – and you’re the only person in a room full of people wearing t-shirts and jeans – all that’s going to do is make you feel uncomfortable and look out of place.

How To Avoid This: Ideally what you want to wear to your interview is something very similar to what the Bartenders at that bar wear on the job, because that’s what you’re trying to look like – someone that could bartend there. So find out exactly what the bartenders do wear, and then do your best to match it (but not exactly, that’d just be weird). If this means showing up to your interview in a waistcoat and tie, fair enough, and if it means showing up in a pair of jeans and a casual button up (this is still an interview, so at the very least it has to have a collar), so be it, you want to fit in.

(To find out EXACTLY What To Wear To A Bartending Interview, click here.)

Now one reason you might end up overdressing for your interview could be because you…

4. Don’t Know Anything About The Place

The majority of Bartending Job applicants have never actually been to the bar they’re applying to, so they know next to nothing about the place other than the fact they’re hiring.

Why This Is A Mistake: You won’t know how to answer any specific questions about their menu, or why it is you want to work at that particular bar. And as they find out how little you know about that bar, you’re going to come across as someone who couldn’t be bothered to spend ten minutes doing a bit of research, and someone that doesn’t want to work there nearly as much as they simply need to work – and “desperate, but lazy” really isn’t the image you want to give off.

How To Avoid This: Do everything you can to find out as much about the place as possible. If there’s time for you to go down to the bar before your interview, do it; but if there isn’t, then look them up online – check out their website, scour the web for reviews. Show them you know something about their bar so they can see there’s one less thing they’d need to teach you.

The more you know about the place, the more you’ll have to say, so that you don’t end up…

5. Not Saying Enough

A lot of applicants freeze up in the interview and will only speak when responding to a question.

Why This Is A Mistake: This is what most applicants do, so you doing the same won’t help you stand out. It also comes across to the interviewer that you’re either lacking in confidence or knowledge – two key traits of the successful bartender. You’ll also come across as not particularly skilled at selling yourself, and if you aren’t good at selling yourself, why on earth would they think you’d be any good selling their drinks?

How To Avoid This: Prepare everything you want to say well before your interview. The same questions always come up in Bartending Interviews, so find out what they are and prepare killer answers for them. Also work out what it is about you that makes you a unique candidate, why they should hire you instead of somebody else, and then work out exactly how you can tell them that. Prepare what you want to say beforehand, so on the day you don’t freeze up like everyone else.

Having said you don’t want to talk to little, you also don’t want to…

6. Talk Too Much

If an applicant isn’t saying enough, they’re usually saying too much. They’re not quite sure what to say, so they just fill the silence with noise hoping that the right thing will eventually spew out.

Why This Is A Mistake: You tend to ramble when you’re not quite sure exactly what you’re trying to say, and that’s exactly how it comes across to the interviewer. Also, whoever’s interviewing you has a lot of other applicants to get through too, as well as their regular job, so you going on any longer than necessary won’t be appreciated.

How To Avoid This: The same way you’d avoid not saying enough: Prepare everything you want to say well before the interview, and prepare how to say it concisely, so on the day you can sell yourself with detailed yet concise answers that give off the impression you tend to do things well and quickly.

Another reason you’ll want to prepare what you’re going to say beforehand is so that you don’t say the wrong thing, like…

7. Badmouthing A Past Employer

Without fail, interviewees are asked why they left their last job, and almost as often, they say it was because their last employer did something wrong.

Why This Is A Mistake: Whether or not it’s true, it shows you to be the kind of person that criticizes and complains rather than solves problems – not who they want running their bar. It also leads them to think you’d say the same thing about them if the job didn’t work out, and nobody wants their name sullied.

How To Avoid This: This continues with preparing what you’re going to say well before the interview. When you’re doing that, weigh your last employer with your prospective one: is it closer to home? Do they serve more of a type of drink you’re interested in? Are there shifts available that weren’t at your last job? Whatever the difference is, just make sure it’s something true that doesn’t paint you or your last employer in a bad light, and shows your potentially new employer that their bar really would be a better fit for you.

The goal here is to not make yourself look like a complainer, which is almost as bad as looking like a lier, which can happen with…

8. Fuzzy Resume Facts

We’ve all been guilty of this one at some point: putting something on our resume that’s only kinda true, but not entirely. Something like we worked at such and such a bar in “2013”, rather than saying we worked there for 3 weeks over christmas before quitting; or something like we were the “Head Bartender” at our last job simply because we worked there longer than anyone else.

Why This Is A Mistake: Quite often you’ll get called out on it. You usually get called in for an interview because someone looked at your resume first and liked it, so questions regarding your resume are bound to come up. Usually you’ll be asked about anything on your resume that was slightly vague, and if that thing wasn’t entirely true, when you struggle to answer the question you’re either going to come across as slow or a lier – neither are good.

How To Avoid This: Don’t put anything on your resume that isn’t 100% true. Only put on your resume what you can confidently elaborate on in detail, so if you get asked about it you don’t come across as a lier.

Fuzzy resume facts can also make you look like someone that doesn’t pay much attention to detail, and coming across as someone that doesn’t pay attention in anyway is a huge mistake, so make sure you don’t get caught…

9. Zoning Out

Interviews can be early and in places that are new to us, and sometimes, they can be kinda boring. As a result, a lot of applicant’s minds wonder off elsewhere and they stop paying attention.

Why This Is A Mistake: Obviously you’ll look like the kind of person that won’t be able to stay focused on the job. And the interviewer WILL KNOW when you’re not paying attention because they’ll see your eyes glaze over and look somewhere else, or because you’ll have to ask them to repeat a question. Also, it comes across as disrespectful.

How To Avoid This: Sit up straight and maintain eye contact. Stay engaged: nod, verbally agree, and constantly contribute to the conversation. If you’re tired have some caffeine and a good meal before the interview. Doing a little research about the place can help too because you’ll get less distracted by all the different sights and sounds if you’ve seen them before.

You don’t want to do anything in the interview that makes it seem like you’re not engaged, and one of the easiest ways to make that mistake is by…

10. Not Asking Them A Question

Every Bartending Interview ends the same way: with the interviewer asking you “Do you have any questions for us?” which is most commonly answered with “Err, no… I don’t think so… no.”

Why This Is A Mistake: It shows the interviewer that you didn’t think far enough ahead to anticipate this questions, so you probably wouldn’t think ahead on the job. It won’t come across as you simply not wanting to know anything because this is a place you hope to make a living at, somewhere you hope to make the money that’ll pay your bills, if there really was nothing you wanted to know, then you really don’t think enough about things to work behind their bar.

How To Avoid This: Before your interview think about everything you might want to know about the place and come up with a few questions about that (as long as it’s not about money – that’ll give off the wrong first impression). You’ll want to come up with a couple just incase they inadvertently answer one of them earlier in the interview. Be one of the few applicants that actually asks a question, and show them you think ahead.


Whatever question you end up asking them, you need to follow it up with “When do you expect to have made a decision by?” You REALLY NEED TO ask this question because you REALLY NEED TO know the answer. If you don’t, you can end up waiting around at home for them to call way longer than you should do. In the case that they never do call, you’d just end up wasting your time and delaying the overall process that finishes with you getting a job. So to avoid this mistake, at the end of your interview ask them when they expect to have made a decision by so when that time comes, if you haven’t heard from them, you know to follow up with a call to find out if they’ve hired anybody yet. If they have, now you know to move on and get back to the job hunt, and if they haven’t, well, you’ve just reminded them they need to hire a bartender and that you’re available for the job.

Good Luck!


For even more interview mistakes to avoid check out the link below:

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