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August 23, 2019 Ask This, Not That: 6 Best Bar and Restaurant Interview Questions

bar and restaurant interview questions

Uh-oh. Your bartender just gave her notice. You need to hire someone STAT! You post the job online, sort through resumes, and end up with 7 possible candidates. Now it’s time for the interview process…are you ready with a list of solid bar and restaurant interview questions? If not, start with this guide of what to ask – and what to avoid.

1) Don’t Ask: “Do you have kids?”

Instead, Ask: “Are you able to work within our business hours?”

Picture this. You arrive a few minutes late to interview someone for a server position. You say, “sorry I’m late! My son’s soccer game went into overtime…do you have kids?”

Oops, you just asked one of the bar and restaurant interview questions that’s considered illegal by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC). The EEOC’s goal is to protect jobseekers from discrimination and unfair hiring practices. If you ask about kids, someone discloses they have them, and you choose not to hire that person – you could be investigated by the EEOC. The EEOC may suspect you didn’t hire the candidate because their children would impact their work schedule.

You also should never include the following topics in your bar and restaurant interview questions: marital status, criminal record, age, children or pregnancy status, race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, nation of origin, and many other off-limits questions.

If you oversee multiple restaurants or bars, train your managers to avoid all illegal bar and restaurant interview questions – and comments – or it could cost you.

Recently, the EEOC sued Darden Restaurant Group for including age-related bar and restaurant interview questions in their hiring process for the Seasons 52 restaurant chain. But it wasn’t just questions. Comments such as “we’re looking for someone younger” or “Season 52 hires young and fresh” were cited in the lawsuit. Darden settled with the EEOC for $2.85 million.

2) Don’t Ask: “Can you tell me about yourself?” (The Most Unhelpful, Uninspired of All Bar and Restaurant Interview Questions)

Instead, Ask: “What is a recent example of a goal you set, and how did you achieve it?”

Asking a candidate to talk about themselves is a rookie move. Even if you have a list of great bar and restaurant interview questions lined up, you’ll seem unprepared by starting with this on. If you end up hiring the interviewee, they’ll carry this first impression of you as a disorganized manager into their job.

Instead, prepare a list of high-quality bar and restaurant interview questions. It’s a way to lead by example: you’re putting care and effort into hiring the best team, and you expect care and effort from every employee you hire.

Another reason to skip the “tell me about yourself” bar and restaurant interview question? It rarely results in quality information about your candidate. They can simply humble brag for a few minutes, and you’ll need to sit there and wait – because you asked one of the worst bar and interview questions.

The better option? Ask for a concrete example of a behavior or skill you are looking for in the ideal candidate.

3) Don’t Ask: “What type of music do you like?”

Instead, Ask: “If you weren’t in the bar and restaurant biz, what would you do instead?”

Many managers want to seem “cool” in the eyes of their potential hire. In their eagerness to be liked, they’ll shoot the breeze and ask random questions that reveal nothing of value. So skip bar and restaurant interview questions revolving around favorite sports teams, TV shows, and music. If your goal is simply to get to know the person, ask more illuminating questions like: “what is one of your favorite hobbies?” or “when you have spare time, what’s your favorite thing to do?”

101 Interview Questions (for Every Bar & Restaurant Position)

The hiring guide for owners & managers.

4) Don’t Ask: “How would you handle inconsiderate customers?”

Instead, Ask: How would you handle a table of customers who won’t leave?”

The more specific your bar and restaurant interview questions, the better. In this instance, asking how the candidate would handle an inconsiderate customer is too vague. Are they bothering other customers? Were they rude to a server?

As you gather a list of bar and restaurant interview questions, come up with common – yet challenging – customer-facing scenarios a candidate would need to handle. This will reveal their problem-solving skills and how much importance they place on treating customers well.

When it comes to front-of-the-house positions, seek out candidates who are passionate about serving customers. After all, the latest research suggests that 80% of restaurant complaints revolve around poor customer service. So definitely ask at least a few bar and restaurant interview questions related to caring for customers!  

5) Don’t Ask: “Can you provide the names and numbers of 3 references?”

Instead, Ask: “Can you provide the names of the last 3 places you worked?”

As you plan your bar and restaurant interview questions, pay attention to small details. For example, don’t just ask your potential hire for a list of phone numbers and names of references. Unfortunately, some job candidates may give you the phone number of a friend who will fake you out with a convincing, glowing recommendation.

Instead, after going through all your bar and restaurant interview questions, finish up the conversation with a request for the names of the places the person has worked. Then, call these establishments yourself, ask for the manager, and you’ll get a more honest review of your potential employee. 

6) Don’t Ask: “You answered these bar and restaurant interview questions perfectly! When can you start?”

Instead, Say: “Thanks for a great interview! I’ll follow up in a few days.”

It’s surprising how many so-called hiring experts suggest you should follow your gut instinct when hiring.

Newsflash: A study presented in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests the opposite.

Researchers found that “what you see in the interview, may not be what you get on the job.” So if you find yourself charmed as you ask your bar and restaurant interview questions, don’t act hastily.

It may be tempting to hire someone on the spot. They aced your bar and restaurant interview questions. Plus, you fear they’ll accept another job if they leave without an offer. That “gut feeling” – that someone is the absolute best candidate – is a sign to step back and slow down. Check those references! And, if needed, call the candidate back for a second interview.

It’s also imperative that you carefully prepare bar and restaurant interview questions…and stick to your script! The researchers also discovered that unstructured interviews led to an increase in gut feelings that a candidate was “the one,” yet they went on to underperform after being hired.

The #1 rule when it comes to bar and restaurant interview questions is to prepare them now. Take some time to outline 10 questions for each position in your establishment. That way, when you need to hire for that position, you won’t have to wing it, or scramble to come up with questions. Cheers to hiring smart – and hiring for the long haul!

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