Interview Techniques for Hiring a Great Bartender

As a bar owner, one of the most important staff members you will employ, is your bartender/s. Believe it or not, the people you choose to place behind your bar can prove a great detriment to your business if you aren’t careful in the hiring process.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical level of education required to enter an occupation in bartending, is actually less than a high school diploma. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t require one, but it indicates you will generally be interviewing and working with young people. There are a few key points to touch upon when you’re looking for that rock star bartender.

Ask the Right Questions
It is crucial to be prepared prior to the interview process, to know exactly what you want to ask and the best answers you expect to hear, to suit your business. The following are some crucial, and creative ways to test your future bartenders.

  • How do you cut someone off?
    • This is by far the most crucial question to ask in an interview. It is essential that your bartender is paying attention and is observant enough to know when someone’s had too much. Although lagging to the table may work sometimes, you want to look for someone that is assertive. The correct answer should always be: “I cut them off, in a kind manner.”
  • What would you do if the customer said their drink was weak?
    • If you have a good bartender on your hands, they should be confident in their pours, and so should you. Using a jigger or a measured bottle pourer, are foolproof ways to ensure the perfect pour. When a customer complains, the correct answer is to be firm, but kind.
    • The wrong answers would include:
      • Confronting the customer and causing a scene
      • Adding to the drink already poured
      • Over pouring their next drink (this is consider theft)
  • What would you do if you caught another bartender stealing?
    • Bartenders can steal from you in many ways. This includes actions like: undercharging, giving away free drinks, over pouring, staging walkouts…the list goes on. There is no right answer to this question, but being so direct during the interview, shows that you are tough on bar theft.

Look for Certain Skills

  • Energy and Speed
    • You want a person that has a lot of energy, as the job can get very demanding, both physically and mentally. ¬†People that smoke, or drink on a daily basis, are more apt to be slow and take more breaks, so someone that seems fast and is in good prime health, is always a plus.
  • Positivity and Communication
    • This is pretty much a given. You want a bartender that is positive and an amazing communicator. A communicative person will suggest new ideas, and be open to yours. Adversely, a bartender should never bring their personal problems to work. Staying positive is especially an important trait when you get in-the-weeds.
  • Responsibility and Attention
    • A good bartender will be able to monitor the bar at all times. This includes how much each person has had, and who’s glasses are empty. They must maintain a good atmosphere at all times.
  • A bartender is responsible for a large part of your operation. They have to be mindful of not only their space, but their servers as well. They are held in charge of making the majority of all drinks in the establishment. A good bartender should always be trustworthy.

Test Their Knowledge
Asking your interviewee to take a simple math test should be something you consider as part of the interview. A bartender must do math quickly and on the spot. It doesn’t have to be Calculus, but they should have basic math skills for the job.

Test their memory and reasoning. Ask the candidate to repeat an order with at least 7 ingredients, like a different garnish or a substitution. Then hand them a menu and ask what they would charge for the order.

Lastly, test their knowledge and pours. Ask them to make a common drink, like a Sex on the Beach or a White Russian. Even the most basic bartenders will know how to make these drinks. Taste test it for flavor and strength. You could also see how they do on a house special drink, given the recipe. Always pay attention to their timing, when doing all of this.

Overall, go with your gut. If you follow these guidelines, and find a friendly face that you remember, you should have a great working relationship with your staff!