What you wear to a Bartending interview can sometimes be just as important as what’s on your resume, and the things you say. The reason being, is that it can tell the interviewer just as much about how well you’d fit in there. If you dress too formally or not formally enough, if you dress in the wrong style or in the wrong colours, you’re going to look out of place, and if you look out of place, they won’t want to hire you. The person they want to hire is the candidate who looks the most like they’d be a good fit – at that particular bar. So it’s not just a case of dressing formally, it’s a case of fitting in.
Ideally what you should wear to your Bartending interview, is something very similar to what the Bartenders AT THAT BAR wear on the job. For example, if you’re applying to a Bar where the Bartenders wear black dress shirts, black ties, and black dress pants, then showing up in a suit is going to make you look out of place; what you want to wear is a light coloured dress shirt, with a dark tie, and dark dress pants – nothing more. You want to dress just like their employees because it forces the interviewer to imagine you as one, and will alleviate any doubts they might have over whether you can look the part.
Now to find out what the Bartenders wear at the bar you’re interviewing at, you’re going to need to do a little research. The best way to research what they wear is to actually go down to the bar before your interview and take a look. If that just isn’t feasible however, then either Google Images the bar, or go on their website to see if there are any photos of their Bartenders on there. When you find out what they wear, do your best to match it, BUT NOT EXACTLY – showing up in their exact uniform will just come across as cocky, presumptuous, and honestly, a little bit weird (For other Bartending Mistakes to Avoid, click here.)
What you’ll find below is exactly what you should wear to your Bartending Interview, split up into all the different dress codes that bars have out there, and then split up again into Men’s and Women’s options. I’ll work my way down in formality, starting off with…
Upscale Bars & Dining:
This covers everything from Fine Dining restaurants and high end cocktails bars, to hotel bars and fancy events companies. I’m talking about the kinds of bars that customers dress formally to go to, and the staff dresses to match.
The Bartenders at these kinds of bars tend to either wear a white shirt, black waistcoat and bow tie combo; or a dress shirt and tie. For an interview at these kinds of bars you should wear…
Tops: Wear a light (not white), plain coloured dress shirt (small patterns like light stripes or gingham are also acceptable) – don’t roll the sleeves up. If they wear the waistcoat combo, then wear one too (as long as your shirt and tie are different colours to theirs, wearing a black waistcoat will be fine). If they don’t wear waistcoats, then neither should you, it’s too much.
Bottoms: Dark dress pants, either black, dark grey, navy, or brown – no patterns.
Shoes: Black or dark brown leather dress shoes – nothing else.
Accessories: Whether they wear a regular tie or a bow tie, just wear a plain dark, or simple patterned, regular tie – a bow tie will look like you’re trying too hard. Wear a dark leather belt that matches the pants. Wear a smart watch – bartenders need to keep an eye on the time, so show them that you can – nothing bright coloured though, or with mickey mouse on it. No jewellery.
Tops: If they wear the waistcoat combo like the men, then follow the Men’s advice above; sometimes however, the women in these bars just wear slim black dresses, if that’s the case, then you should too, as long as it’s a practical dress – i.e. something you could actually work in (even if they wear black dresses, you can too, the little black dress really can be worn anywhere). If they wear a black skirt or black pants, with a black blouse, then you should wear a dark, plain coloured blouse (not black), and again, something that you could work in.
Bottoms: If it’s the waistcoat combo they wear, then wear slim dark dress pants. If they wear the little black dress, then follow suit; and if they wear a black skirt, then wear a dark coloured skirt, again, something you could work in.
Shoes: Dark leather shoes with a medium heel – no high heels; no flats; nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: If the Bartenders wear ties or bow ties, you’d do well to wear one too, but you can afford to go without if you’d prefer. Tie your hair back with a plain hair band. Small, simple earrings, nothing that dangles. If you tend to wear a bracelet, make it a small one, and metal (fabric is insanitary). If you want to wear a necklace, make sure it’s small – nothing that could get caught on a coworker or end up in someone’s drink. No unconventional piercings – as in nose, lip, tongue, or eyebrow.
Casual Dining covers everything from chain restaurants like Joey’s and Earl’s, to small neighbourhood restaurants and high-end public houses. These are the kinds of bars customers might dress up to go to, but nobody would think twice about it if they didn’t.
The Male Bartenders at these kinds of bars most often just wear black or grey dress shirts with black dress pants, and the women usually wear a black blouse, with either a black skirt or pants. For an interview at these kinds of bars you should wear…
Tops: Wear a plain (simple patterns are also acceptable), lightly coloured dress shirt, buttoned all the way up to the second to top button – don’t roll the sleeves up. Don’t wear a waistcoat if they don’t.
Bottoms: Dark dress pants, no patterns. No Jeans.
Shoes: Black or Brown Leather dress shoes.
Accessories: Only wear a tie if they do, if they don’t, you’ll look out of place wearing one. Wear a watch, and a dark leather belt that matches the pants; no jewellery – that’s it.
Tops: If they wear slim black dresses, then wear a slim, practical, dark coloured dress. If they wear a dark dress shirt, then wear a light coloured dress shirt; and if they wear a black blouse, then wear a plain coloured (anything other than black), practical blouse.
Bottoms: If they wear a dress, then you do too; if they wear a black skirt, then wear a plain, practical, dark coloured skirt; and if they wear slim black pants, then wear slim, dark coloured formal pants.
Shoes: Dark leather dress shoes, medium heel. No flats; nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: Tie your hair back with a small, plain hairband. Wear a watch. If you want to wear a bracelet, maximum one on each wrist, make sure it’s understated, and metal (fabric is insanitary). Wear small, simple earrings – nothing that dangles. If you wear a necklace, make sure it’s small; nothing that draws attention to itself, and nothing that could get caught on something behind the bar. No unconventional piercings – as in nose, lip, tongue, or eyebrow.
This covers everything from your neighbourhood pubs, irish pubs, and sports bars; to lower-end public houses, and dive bars. These bars are ultra casual, very few people dress up and the drinks aren’t expensive. These kinds of bars are the customer’s homes away from homes, the bars they’re most comfortable at, and as a result, the bars where the bartenders wear the most comfortable clothes.
The Bartenders at these kinds of bars usually just wear a casual button up, maybe even a t-shirt, and dark jeans. Female bartenders may wear a skirt instead of jeans. Now if the Neighbourhood bar you’re interviewing at’s Bartender’s just wear a t-shirt, I’m afraid, gentlemen, that you’re still going to have to wear a collared shirt, and ladies, you’re going to have to wear a shirt or a smart blouse, because even though the bar may not be formal, an interview still is. For an interview at these kinds of bars, you should wear…
Tops: Wear a casual, plain coloured button up, much more than that and you’ll look out of place.
Bottoms: Only wear dress pants if they do. If they wear jeans, then wear dark coloured jeans (either black or indigo), pressed, no washes (that means when the colour fades in the middle), no rips – smart jeans that you might wear with a blazer on a night out.
Shoes: Smart leather shoes, no trainers, no boots, no canvas shoes – even if they do, this is still an interview, there is a minimum level of formality.
Accessories: No ties, you’ll look out of place. Wear a watch and a belt. No jewellery.
Tops: Wear a plain fitted button up, or a plain practical blouse – a dress is too much.
Bottoms: The Bartenders usually either wear a dark slim skirt, or dark slim jeans, whichever they do, you do the same. If it’s jeans, then wear dark jeans (black or indigo), with no washes or rips.
Shoes: Dark leather flats, or something dark with a small heel – no trainers, nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: You can afford to wear a few more accessories here than you could at the bars above, but nothing impractical that you couldn’t bartend in – so no big earrings, bracelets, or necklaces that could get caught on anything, or have a piece fall off. Tie your hair back with a hairband. Wear a watch – bartenders always have to keep an eye on the time. No unconventional piercings – as in nose, lip, tongue or eyebrow.
I think you know what “Clubs” covers – nightclubs – places with dance floors, and the kinds of bars where customers don’t stick around any longer than it takes to order a highball, pay for it, and get some change.
The bartenders, both male and female, usually wear something black, in a tight fit. The guys often just wear a tight black tee (maybe a dark dress shirt), and slim black jeans; and the girls often just wear a slim black dress, or tight black tee/sleeveless top, with a black skirt. I know that this is pretty informal, but if you want to look like you could bartend there, you’re going to need to match. For an interview at a Club you should wear…
Tops: A slim dark dress shirt – even if they wear tees, there’s still a minimum level of formality that needs to adhered to.
Bottoms: Slim dark jeans, nothing with a wash or any rips. Dress pants will be too formal.
Shoes: Either dark leather dress shoes, or all black shoes – no accents or linings that draw attention to themselves.
Accessories: Wear a belt and wear a watch. If you want to wear jewellery, make sure it’s small and understated, nothing that draws attention to itself, and nothing that could get caught on anything, or anyone, behind the bar.
Tops: If the Bartenders wear slim black dresses, then wear a slim dark coloured dress – ideally something practical that you could work in. If they wear tight balck tees or sleeveless tops, wear a smart, dark, sleeveless top.
Bottoms: If they wear the dress, then you should too; if they wear the black skirt, then you wear a slim dark skirt. Sometimes they do wear slim black pants, in which case you can too – or leggings.
Shoes: Dark with a heel – nothing with an open toe.
Accessories: Clubs are perfectly happy with you accessorizing, so you can essentially wear whatever you’d like, as long as it’s practical enough to bartend in without fear of getting it caught on or falling in something.
But what if the bar you’re applying to didn’t fit into one of those categories? Or what if it teetered between two of them? Well the same principles apply. If you’re interviewing at a hipster bar, where the bartenders dress in oxford shirts, suspenders, and bowties, then you should too if you want to show them you’d fit in there. If you’re interviewing at a biker bar where the bartenders wear all leather – and, err, well, all leather – then you should too to show them you belong there.
If the bar you have an interview at is a high end cocktail bar, but the bartenders wear jeans, a patterned shirt, and a waistcoat, then wear jeans, a patterned shirt and a waistcoat to your interview. There are a lot of bars out there that overlap the categories I gave above, and there are a lot of bars that don’t fit into them at all, just make sure you find out exactly what they wear, and try to match it to show them you could work there.
Whatever you decide to wear to your interview, the most important thing is that it’s something COMFORTABLE! The whole reason you’re trying to mirror their dress code is to show them you’d be comfortable working there, and that they’d be comfortable working with you. If you’re squirming around in your outfit, you’re not going to look like you’re particularly at ease being there. But not only that, what’s ultimately going to land you the job is how well you answer their questions, how confidently you go over your resume, and in general just how easily you chat with your interviewer. The person they’re going to end up hiring, is whoever was most comfortable doing all that. You want that person to be you! So start off by choosing some comfortable clothes.
P.S: If you end up at a bar that gives you some freedom with your wardrobe, check out the link below to learn how you can use that wardrobe to make some more money!