Bartending is one of the most incredible and socially rewarding jobs in the world. It’s no wonder that there were over 500, 000 happily employed bartenders in the United States in 2010. Among all the service related positions, including servers and chefs, bartenders are generally the highest paid employees on average, per hour.
Although servers and bussers are generally considered entry level positions, managers and owners tend to lean towards the more experienced when hiring bartenders. On our first night as a new employee we have to be able to prep the bar, pick up a tin and shake a decent margarita, or handle an unruly patron. These seemingly “basic” skills only come with experience.
Before I put you on the fast track to bartender, let me preface this by saying that there are always exceptions to any rules. I’ve seen girls with zero experience hired on the spot just because of their TNA… or the local douche bag because he’s friends with the owner. If this is you, then please get the hell off my website. But, if you’re the average guy or girl trying to get a decent gig at a decent bar, to make a decent living… read on.
There are a few types of establishments you’ll be considering. You have to choose one that best suits your experience and attitude.
High energy, flirtatious bartenders who can mix accurately and fast. You need to be tough, thick skinned and be able to step on a few toes to get in this position. It’s worth it.
Advice When Interviewing: Dress to impress, be confident, smile, and don’t be afraid to let your wild side shine through. But don’t over do it. The management will want to know that they’re not hiring an uncontrollable party animal.
Bar / Hole-in-the-wall
Local bartenders who can chat it up with the regulars, mix a strong drink, and can match names to faces, and faces to drinks work best in this environment.
Advice When Applying: You should befriend the management, owners, or bartenders before applying here.
Restaurant & Bar
More of the focus here is on the dining customers, and less emphasis is placed on bar revenue, which in turn means less money but also slightly less pressure as a bartender.
Most corporate establishments only hire bartenders from within, but don’t let that keep from you from applying. Always apply to many so YOU can have your pick.
Advice When Applying: Dress professional, act professional, have a fun and outgoing personality, and come with a prepared resume.
Non-corporate Nightclub / Bar
High energy, flirtatious, and genuine bartenders make it best here. With family owned or sole proprietorships you’ll find less grief and more leniency, but also less adherence to labor regulations. This can be a good thing.
Advice When Applying: Dress business-casual. Let your fun and outgoing personality shine through. Refresh yourself with 50 of the most popular drink recipes, you’ll be good to go.
Get to Work
If you have no experience as a bartender, you’re going to shoot for a bar-back position in a nightclub or bar. NOT a restaurant. The bar-back position is easy to get and requires no experience. You’re basically a bartenders bitch. but don’t worry, if you kick ass, you can make good money doing this too.
When you speak to the hiring manager, you’re going to make it clear that you’re applying for a bar-back position with the intention of becoming a bartender when a space opens. It’s important to be confident in yourself. Let them see that you are for real in how you act, not with what you say. Talk is cheap.
In this industry, bartending and bar-back positions open up frequently and constantly. Most of the people in these positions are in school, jump from job to job, move alot… so it’s not unusual for a position to open up within a few weeks.
While your busting your ass as a bar-back, you will be studying drink recipes on your off time and watching the bartenders do their thing whenever you can while working. During down time, ask a bartender to show you how to mix drinks or to let you step in with their guidance. This is exactly how I learned.
It might be intimidating to jump right into a nightclub setting, but it’s the fastest and most efficient way for you to learn how to become a well rounded bartender. Once you’ve been bartending in a club regularly, you can be sure that finding a job at any of the establishment types above will be infinitely easier.