How to hire a bartender

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Bartenders play an essential role at any bar or venue where they’re hired – and are largely responsible for the vibe of the place where they’re preparing drinks. 

Bartenders are frequently hired to work at bars and clubs but they can also serve customers at various types of events such as:

  • Weddings

  • Corporate events

  • Anniversaries

  • Birthday parties

  • Graduation parties

  • Charity events

Regardless of whether you’re hiring for an event or looking for a long-term employee to prepare and serve drinks at your establishment, keep in mind this isn’t as easy a hire as it seems. A bartender who is rude or inconsiderate towards patrons or who messes up their orders can ruin your clients’ mood – and your reputation.

The right bartender can boost your sales and improve customer satisfaction. To help you make the best hire, we have prepared this comprehensive guide on how to hire the right bartender for your venue. 

In it, you’ll find information about the job role and the necessary hard and soft skills,  recommendations for pre-employment skill tests you can use to evaluate candidates, and advice on where to look for skilled bartenders.

You’ll also find out more about average salaries, questions to ask during interviews, and a sample job description you can use straight away. 

What is a bartender?

Bartenders must wear multiple hats. To be a good bartender, one must master a variety of tasks, all centered around the bar. 

First, a bartender must verify customers’ IDs. You can be charged with misdemeanor or felony if you serve alcohol to minors – the fines for felony offenses can run up to tens of thousands of dollars. Make sure you’re hiring someone who complies with legal regulations and is responsible.

Next, the bartender takes customers’ orders and prepares the drinks. This includes serving the right amounts of alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, mixing cocktails, adding garnishes such as maraschino cherries and limes, and making sure that each drink looks nice. 

The bartender needs to make sure that the bar is well-stocked and that there are enough supplies for all the drinks that you’re offering. They have to order or restock supplies during their shift if something runs out.

Your bartender must also tend to the cleanliness of the bar area, following best practices. This includes keeping the bar counter, glasses, and all equipment clean. 

Sometimes, the bartender might need to supervise the rest of the staff or other bartenders, depending on the venue. 

A bartender should also look for signs that someone might be drinking too much and limit their access to alcohol, and also make sure customers who had too many drinks leave the bar safely. They might have to call them a taxi. 

Bartenders should keep an eye out for other dangerous activities at the bar. A 2016 study published in the journal Psychology of Violence suggests that drink spiking is a lot more common than we previously thought. An attentive and observant bartender who looks out for unusual activities or behavior at the bar can prevent something like that from happening. 

Before you hire a bartender, it’s important to learn about the different types of bartenders and to decide which one best fits your establishment or event.

The five main types of bartenders are:

  1. Standard bartender: This is the most common type of bartender who fixes drinks and makes sure the customers feel welcome and are having a great experience.

  2. Mixologist: Mixologists focus more on the cocktails than on the customer experience. They know how to craft new cocktail recipes and use different ingredients, such as syrup, to design seasonal menus.

  3. Barback: You can think of the barback as a bartender’s assistant. Barbacks perform tasks such as stocking the bar with supplies, preparing garnishes, and changing kegs. If your establishment or event is busy, barbacks are a must.

  4. Sommelier: Sommeliers are highly trained and their specialty is wine. They create wine lists, help your customers with informed recommendations, and train your staff on proper wine service.

  5. Cicerone: Some people call them beer sommeliers because they specialize in beer just as sommeliers do in wine. They are experts in flavors and service of beer and can make good recommendations to your customers. 

Bartender hard skills

Some of the necessary hard skills to look for in a bartender are:

1. Mixology and drinks preparation knowledge

Mixology is the art of creating cocktails. A good bartender should know how to make a variety of delicious drinks and be familiar with the way that different flavors complement each other. 

Being good at mixology means:

  • Having a deep understanding of the different types of liquors, spirits, mixers, and garnishes

  • Crafting creative and tasty drinks

  • Making helpful recommendations

  • Creating visually appealing cocktails

2. Basic math skills

To create the perfect cocktail, bartenders need math, chemistry, and personality. A bartender needs to be able to do mental calculations quickly because they should be able to: 

  • Return change to multiple customers

  • Evaluate how much stock they will need

  • Calculate proportions for the drinks they’re making

3. Point-of-sale (POS) system skills

Bartenders need to know how to use POS software and hardware so they can charge customers the right amount of money and help with stock level management. 

POS systems are usually quite simple but you must make sure your bartender knows how to use them because mistakes can be quite costly. 

Bartender soft skills

A bartender should be able to do more than mixing drinks. Like most customer-facing jobs that include lots of communication, the role of a bartender also requires many different soft skills.

Bartender soft skills graphic

Some of them include:

1. Memory

A strong memory is critical for any bartender. They have to memorize lots of information under pressure, such as:

  • Large drinks orders

  • Who ordered what

  • Cocktail recipes

  • How much cash to give back

2. Communication

Communication is the heart of bartending. A bartender should be able to listen attentively and make friendly conversation with customers. 

The ideal bartender should be able to:

  • Connect with customers or guests and make them feel welcome

  • Pay attention to customers’ orders

  • Express themselves clearly and professionally 

3. Time management

Bartenders work in high-pressure environments. Having great time-management skills is the only way to survive in that kind of atmosphere. Being able to manage your time well means you can:

  • Provide timely and efficient service

  • Maintain a smooth workflow

  • Increase customer satisfaction

4. Customer service skills

Excellent customer service is essential for any bartender. They should be able to:

  • Greet customers warmly and make them feel at ease

  • Pay attention to their needs

  • Create a positive atmosphere

  • Inspire customer loyalty

5. Problem solving

There are many issues that bartenders must be able to solve quickly. Handling busy shifts, unpredictable situations, or even sometimes conflicts – a bartender must rise to the challenge and come up with a solution on the spot.

Having strong problem solving skills means to: 

  • Objectively analyze each situation

  • Adapt quickly to changing circumstances

  • Come up with an actionable solution

6. Attention to detail

Being meticulous at your job means you can deliver an exceptional experience to your clients. For a bartender, it’s important to have an eye for detail. That way, they can:

  • Make every drink look special

  • Craft and garnish cocktails with precision

  • Keep their space clean and organized

How to test bartender skills

Resumes or even recommendations aren’t a bulletproof way of knowing whether someone meets your hiring criteria. That’s why pre-employment skills testing should be a critical part of your hiring process for any role – including that of a bartender. 

Skills assessments are an effective way for you to evaluate if candidates have the right skills for the job – and do that fairly and objectively. 

With TestGorilla, you can build a customized assessment of up to five tests relevant to the job.

Using skills assessments when you’re hiring helps you:

  • Reduce the cost per hire

  • Avoid bias

  • Enhance the candidate experience

Here are some tests we recommend to use if you’re hiring a bartender:

  • Communication: This test will help you find a bartender who can listen attentively to your customers and communicate well with them.

  • Problem solving: This test identifies candidates who can interpret information and apply logic to find the right solution. 

  • Customer service: Find candidates who can understand customer needs and know how to provide excellent service.

  • Time management: A bartender with strong time-management skills will help you run your bar smoothly, even during busy periods. 

  • Retail sales: This test will help you find candidates who have good sales skills and are able to build strong relationships with customers.

  • Numerical reasoning. This test identifies candidates who can work with numbers and have strong numerical skills. 

  • Basic triple digit math: Evaluate applicants’ abilities to solve mathematical problems using triple-digit numbers.

  • Attention to detail (visual): Find a bartender who is meticulous at their job and pays attention to the details that make the experience special.

Bartender interview questions

Once you shortlist the best applicants with the help of skills tests, you can invite them to an interview to get a better understanding of their abilities, strengths, and experience. Here are some sample interview questions you can ask: 

  1. How do you keep up-to-date with seasonal cocktail trends? 

  2. How do you assist patrons who are unsure about what they want to drink?

  3. How would you handle a situation where a customer is unhappy with a drink you've prepared?

  4. Can you describe a time when you had to refuse service to a customer?

  5. How do you stay motivated during slower shifts?

  6. Can you share your favorite cocktail recipe with us? Why do you like it?

  7. How do you ensure that customers drink responsibly?

  8. Describe a time when you had to deal with a customer who has had too many drinks. How did you handle this?

  9. What steps do you take to maintain a clean and organized bar?

  10. Do you have experience using Point-of-Sale (POS) systems?

  11. How would you deal with a customer who's trying to get a drink after the last call?

  12. How do you handle stress on busy nights? 

  13. You suspect a coworker is under the influence while on the job. What do you do?

  14. A customer alerts you that they have seen a person at the venue spike someone else's drink. What do you do?

  15. You suspect someone is using a fake ID. What do you do? 

If you need more ideas about what to ask, here are some of the best general interview questions you can use to identify the skilled candidates.

Where to find a bartender

If you’re looking for a long-term bartender for an establishment, it’s best to hire an in-house employee. If you’re hiring for an event or a series of events, you might want to book a freelance bartender. 

Where to find in-house bartenders

If you need to hire an employee, you can use the following platforms:

  • Glassdoor: There are many candidates on Glassdoor and you can post up to 10 jobs for free for seven days.

  • Indeed: The job ads giant Indeed offers a large variety of candidates for every role, including that of a bartender. It takes more filtering to find the right one but pre-employment skills tests will help you screen candidates effectively.

  • EBS Matchstaff: This is a platform that works in collaboration with the European Bartender School. You can find top bartenders for your venue in the EU here.

Where to find freelance bartenders

If you’re looking to hire someone for a part-time role or for a one-time engagement, you can use the following platforms: 

  • Gigsmart: Gigsmart is a great platform for hiring skilled bartenders for your events on an hourly basis.  

  • With a twist: You can find bartenders that specialize in particular types of events on this platform.

  • The bash: Here you can find top-rated bartenders for your event. The platform has a large variety of candidates who specialize in corporate events.  

How much does a bartender cost?

According to salary.com, the average salary for a bartender in the US is $22,894 in 2023. Depending on additional skills, years of experience, and certification, a bartender typically gets between $19,919 and $26,298 per year.

Additionally, bartenders get tips, ranging from $1 per drink for simple drinks and up to 20-22% of the bill, according to bartenders interviewed by the Thrillist. 

Bartender job description template

Position: Experienced bartender at [your venue's name]

Location: [Your venue's location]

At [your venue's name], we pride ourselves on providing an outstanding experience to our patrons, with a focus on crafting exquisite cocktails and delivering excellent service in a luxurious setting. We are seeking an experienced bartender who shares our passion for mixology and can create an inviting atmosphere for our clientele.

Key responsibilities

Your day-to-day responsibilities at this role will be to: 

  • Mix, garnish, and serve cocktails and other drinks

  • Engage customers, making them feel welcome and at ease

  • Recommend beverages based on patrons' tastes, ensuring they have a great time

  • Check customers' ID to ensure our venue can serve them

  • Manage bar inventory, restocking supplies as needed

  • Handle special requests professionally

  • Maintain cleanliness and organization of the bar area

  • Collaborate with team members to ensure smooth service and an exceptional experience for our guests

  • Create new recipes for seasonal drinks 

Requirements

We're looking for a bartender who has: 

  • A proven work experience as a bartender 

  • Expert knowledge of mixology 

  • The ability to keep the bar organized, stocked, and clean

  • Exceptional interpersonal and communication skills

  • A passion for delivering exceptional customer service 

Benefits

...And here's what we offer: 

  • A competitive salary with generous tips 

  • A dynamic work environment in a prestigious establishment

  • Staff discounts on food and beverages

How to apply

[describe your application procedure here]

Use skills testing to find the best bartender

It’s hard to find the right bartender for your business or event, especially if you’re relying only on resumes. 

Even if they have a lot of experience in the field, you can’t be certain that they will be the right fit for your establishment’s needs – and the same goes for all other types of restaurant staff

That’s why we recommend pre-employment skills testing: It’ll help you get an objective assessment of your candidates’ hard and soft skills and enable you to streamline your bartender hiring process.

Use TestGorilla’s free plan to optimize your hiring process and hire the right bartender for your venue. 

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