A bartender’s line of work is one that can be varied, exciting, and full of social interaction. Successful workers in this field are often those who can best relate to their clientele; however, one must also be aware of when to step in and maintain order. Some of the most common questions applicants receive relate not only to alcohol and service-related knowledge, but also to one’s ability to identify and prevent dangerous situations from occurring. Know how to answer each type of question effectively for your best opportunity at success.
At heart, bartending is a fairly straightforward job: make and serve the drinks as ordered by patrons. While it’s definitely important to enter with a firm grasp of your local liquor laws, you should also have strong knowledge of drinks popular in the type of establishment you wish to work in. Are your typical patrons more likely to ask for sweet, fruity blends or stick more with liquor-soda mixes and other basic cocktails? Expect an interviewer to ask you how familiar you are with common drink recipes as part of any typical interview.
Many newer bartenders won’t have an A-to-Z knowledge of mixed drinks at the outset of their respective careers, but knowing 20 or 30 of the basics is a good start. Hiring managers will often ask you how to mix a drink commonly ordered in their establishment, perhaps a martini or a cosmopolitan. Most popular drinks are based on one of about a half-dozen recipe foundations, so don’t feel overwhelmed by a need for advanced knowledge.
Still, the most immediate requirement is comprehensive knowledge of serving laws. You must know everything from the minimum legal age to the cut-off time each night for serving alcoholic beverages. Each state varies in its regulations and in how directly responsible a bartender is for limiting risk of intoxicated patrons attempting to drive home or otherwise engage in dangerous behaviors. Most likely you have already earned a license or certificate by demonstrating this knowledge, so repeating it during an interview should be academic.
Besides serving drinks, bartenders are expected to control the environment to a reasonable extent. Your establishment may or may not feature a bouncer to deal with rowdy types, but before it gets to that point, the server is expected to keep a handle on the situation. Interviewers are likely to inquire about your confidence when it comes to dealing with intoxicated or potentially belligerent persons in the bar.
In your response, it’s important to identify the steps you’d take to resolve the situation. The first item of business is usually to stop serving the individual in question. Instead, offering an intoxicated patron water or coffee can be a helpful way to help them sober up. If the person involved still isn’t able to calm down, a logical step might be to arrange for that individual to be taken home by a friend or via cab, for example. Walk your interviewer through a scenario and display your confidence in keeping your bar under control.
Lastly, you might be asked about your own specific ability to handle stress. Many bartenders are faced with potentially stressful situations and clients routinely. From customers who’ve had too much to those rushes when you just can’t seem to keep up, bartending can be a very hectic profession. It’s important to illustrate your ability to handle these types of environments effectively, not just with ideas but with experiences.
Try to recall specific instances where you—either as a bartender or in a related field—responded well to overwhelming volumes of customers. Talk about how you kept situations under control, what methods you used to keep patrons happy, and generally use real-world examples to substantiate your claims and show an interviewer what would make you a successful bartender in their establishment.