put your bartender woes behind you

Bartenders are pivotal employees. They serve your clientele, dole out your inventory and have their hands in the till. Amassing and maintaining a qualified bartending staff requires time and a great deal of effort. Selecting the right people for the job the first time around requires preparation and the ability to learn a lot about each applicant in a very short period of time.

The costs of hiring the wrong bartender can be staggering. It’s better to operate short-handed for a period of time and rely on your existing staff than hiring someone unqualified or inappropriate for the establishment. It will be more advantageous in the long run to delay hiring another bartender until the right candidate can be found.

One of the attributes effective interviewers have in common is being good listeners. It’s extremely difficult to learn anything about a prospective employee if you’re doing most of the talking. Watch the person’s facial expressions and body language. Use every valid impression you can to help you make the right choice the first time.

Following are some tips on how to make the process reap better results:

• Keep an eye on application presentation. The appearance of a person’s application for employment often reveals as much about his or her level of professionalism and attention to detail as does the written information it contains. Its neatness, correctness and presentation reflects much about the author. Make a note of how the document looks and any impression it might give you about the person.

• Screen for scheduling limitations. When you’re handed a completed application, ask the individual a few screening questions, such as how many hours a week he or she needs to work and how much money the person needs to earn. Also, find out if the applicant has reliable transportation and if there are any scheduling conflicts you should be aware of.

• Check all listed references. Prospective bartenders should be asked to supply three or four professional references, people who can testify directly about the individual’s abilities, character and work ethic. If the applicant seems like a contender after the initial interview, take the time to contact the person’s references.

• Review work experience. Even if an applicant provides you with an accurate accounting of his or her work experience, it may portray an incomplete picture of his or her competency. Experience is an intangible commodity. It’s important in an interview to determine how the applicant’s work experience qualifies the person for the position.

• Don’t oversell the job. It’s best to give a realistic estimate of how many hours a week a prospective employee might work and how much he or she can expect to earn. Likewise, don’t give the applicant an overly optimistic impression of his or her advancement prospects within the company. The person could become disillusioned and resentful as the reality of the situation sets in.

• Note your thoughts. Develop a form to facilitate recording your impressions and observations during an interview. It should contain a list of interview questions and a section for rating the interviewee on the various sought-after qualities and attributes. Use of a standardized form will make the interviewing process more uniform and more likely will help achieve a beneficial result.

• Maintain eye contact. When conducting an interview, it’s advisable to maintain steady eye contact with the applicant. The eyes often reveal a person’s level of confidence, truthfulness and character. If the person has difficulty maintaining eye contact, it may provide some insight into his or her personality.

• Ask open-ended questions. One key to conducting an effective interview is to ask questions that are challenging and difficult to answer without a lengthy response. Probe for the person’s limitations. Ask questions that require an individual to address his or her professional strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, the more penetrating the question, the tougher it is to answer, and the more you’ll learn by asking it. Consider the following examples:
a. What is the worst thing your former employer could say about you? What is the best thing?
b. What would you do if you caught a fellow employee stealing from our business?
c. What are your major job-related weaknesses? Strengths?
d. What do you like most about bartending? What do you like least?
e. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
f. If you could change one thing about your former manager, what would it be?

• Evaluate personal stability. Considering the high cost of employee turnover, assessing a prospective bartender’s circumstances and stability is advisable. For instance, some might consider an applicant who is married less of an employment risk than someone who is single. People who tend to stay at their job for more than a year exhibit more stability than those who move from one place to another after only a few months.

• Conduct two interviews. The hiring process is too crucial to rely on only one interview or one set of impressions to make a final decision. It is optimum to have another person conduct a second interview, after which you’ll have someone with whom to compare notes.

• Test professional aptitude. Before the second interview, test the applicant’s bartending knowledge. Include questions about mixology, products and alcohol-awareness. The results of the test will provide you insights into the person’s level of expertise and stated work experience.

• Review personality and demeanor. Not everyone has the personality to be a bartender. Likewise, not everyone is compatible with the existing staff. It’s important to determine whether the person will fit in with your clientele, fellow employees and management team.

• Judge on adaptability. No matter how experienced a bartender is, there still will be aspects of the employment that require the person to adapt to a new way of doing things. While you’re interviewing prospective bartenders, assess how flexible and willing to learn the individual appears. Avoid hiring bartenders who think their learning days are behind them.