Bar Management, Culture

2-Minute Tuesdays: Interviewing Bar Candidates

By Trevor Bernatchez

Trevor Bernatchez

May 7, 2019

Bringing on a bartender is one of the most pivotal hiring decisions you can make at your restaurant.

Once you get somebody interested in the position, it’s time for an actual interview. There are so many questions you could ask, but here are just a few important ones to keep close on hand when interviewing for your bar program.

1. How do you cut off patrons?

This is a sensitive and crucial question. Generally, you’re looking for a variation of three different themes here. First is appealing to the patrons’ friends. Unruly patrons are more likely to listen to friends over a bartender. Second is to space out their drinks, make sure they get plenty of water, and basically ignore them as best one can on a pretense of being busy. The third is the direct and honest approach. Some mention of these answers should definitely be touched on.

2. How would you make a basic drink?

Next, ask them how they would make a fairly basic drink. Not something too easy like a gin and tonic—pick a well known drink with a few basic ingredients like an Old Fashioned. Do they add a personal flair? Do they name specific brands? Do they even know the correct recipe? If they describe something that you would put on the menu, it’s a good answer, even if it doesn’t match your recipe.

3. What do you know about our menu or venue?

Then, ask what they know about your menu or venue. This will reveal whether or not they’ve researched your establishment and what preconceived notions they may have. Whether or not their answer is actually correct, you’ll find out whether they’ll admit they don’t know and if they offer to learn.

Remember that it’s not always the interview answer that matters.

During interviews with potential bartenders, you will also be playing the role of a cold-reader. You’ll need to discern details and small insights from people based on actions, body language, hesitation in speech, and many other factors. When asked questions about dealing with difficult situations, do they hesitate and avoid eye contact, or do they launch confidently into an answer?

It’s likely that the confident applicant will be better able to handle the actual difficult patron or situation. You also want to make sure that they can carry on a conversation and keep people engaged and entertained, while also staying focused.

Bringing on a bartender is one of the most pivotal hiring decisions you can make at your restaurant. What they do and how they act reveals what kind of employee they may be just as much than the answers they give in the interview.

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