Some Tips On How a First Time Waiter or Bartender Can Find a Job In a Tight Market

The last couple of weeks in the bartending class I have been giving some suggestions on how to find a job in today’s tough times when you are just starting out with hardly any experience. So here are some suggestions and tips from what I have learned and what others have told me as well. They will be in no particular order.

1. Network with others. Nowadays the job ad will have 100’s of applicants and you will get lost in the crowd. But finding out information on a job through someone else will get you in quicker before the stampede ensues.

2. When you are looking for your first bartending or waiting position don’t be picky. You see you need some experience somewhere before you will end up where you want. Even if you just spend a month at the job you can keep your eyes and ears open to move on to something better. Even if the money is not so great that first experience will propel you to greater earnings later.

3. One thing I tell my students is before you finish the course hit the ground running and find a job while you are still excited about the profession. Don’t wait to finish it and get all frustrated and give up two weeks later. While taking the course share with others on how the job search is going for you. Stay pumped up. The employer as well will see you are keen.

4. Use your teacher as a reference. Makes sense doesn’t it?

5. Do not contact employers during busy times. This is a no-no. Before noon and after 2 in the afternoon till 5 in the evening just before dinner service. What I like to do is plan my job hunt the night before and map out where I want to go with a list and apply during those times hitting as many places as possible that I would like to work in. Be ready for the interview when you knock on the door.

6. Always ask to speak to the owner or person in charge of hiring. If the person is not there get a name and ask when is the best time to get a hold of him.

7. Always dress ready for work when you go knocking on the door. They may need you right away. Hey it could happen. There is always turnover in this business.

8. If the establishment is not hiring I don’t stick around for a wasted interview. I am looking for the ones that are hiring. Best thing to do if the place is not hiring is ask if they know of anyone in the area who is. They may save you some time. Don’t bother leaving a resume especially if they haven’t looked at it while you were there. They probably will not later either. It is just the reality and you can save yourself some photocopy costs.

9. Mix it up a bit. If you do not feel like pounding the pavement pick up your Yellow Pages and start calling during the times mentioned and the law of averages states you probably can set up a time for an interview with a couple of potential employers.

10. Always be polite , confident , and show your great personality off. Employers in this business can tell if you will be good irregardless of how much experience you have by your character. They will teach you the ropes. Many a job has been won not by the one with the most experience but by the one who shows the most promise.

11. Be willing to wait on tables as well as bartend. You will become more valuable.

12. Always follow up each interview with a thank you note personally addressed to the interviewer. This will set you apart from the masses.

13. Set a follow up date to get back to one another. I always like to ask when will they be making a decision and when should I expect to hear from them. This way I am not waiting for weeks. I may even add I have a couple of other job opportunities that I am waiting to hear from but I really would like to work for you. That might be a load of bull but they may just hire you on the spot right there. After all , the sense of urgency is just what they need to hire you. When saying this though you have to look the person in the eye and shut up afterwards to wait for a response. If you talk you lose and the pressure is off the interviewer. You can usually tell by what you hear next whether you will get it or not.

14. Be willing to work a free shift to the employer. This will show that you mean business.

15. Last but not least at the end of the interview and you find you really , really , really want to work there and you need to put that person over the edge. Tell them this and look them straight in the eye while doing it , “YOU WILL NOT REGRET HIRING ME.” That my friends is what every employer wants to hear. If you do not get it after that , their loss!

Stay positive and persistent each day and take time to reward yourself for the groundwork and contacts you are making while looking for that one position. It will happen sooner than you think!



  1. Good list, but I would take exception to number 8. interviews can be hard to come by, so any chance to speak with a manager, even if they are not hiring, is good….if nothing else as part of #1, networking.And also as you say in #7, there is always turnover and who is to say that won’t be looking for someone before the f’n day is out?And you, so fresh in their minds, having just interviewed an hour ago before the lumphead called in!!i used to tell my son to appraoch an interview as though they would be sad if they didn’t need anybody because they were really missing out on you.but again, you have great advice here maiter!

  2. Bulletholes..point well taken. Looking at it from the networking aspect you are right. Your input is appreciated. My thinking is the time spent maybe getting that interview you could be missing out on the next opportunity. But what I have said certainly is not set in stone.

  3. I like points 12 and 13. Follow up is one of those things that just keeps putting your face in front of the employer in question.Also good advice on networking. As much as it is against my character at time, a good alliance and an awareness that sometimes, a decision such as getting a job comes down to how much someone likes or knows you.Unfortunately in life, sometimes your skills just aren’t enough….

  4. James…the follow up letter is a good one that so few use.

  5. I always follow up with a nice thank you note thanking the interviewer for their time with me. Even if the interview goes south, I come off showing I have good manners which is foremost in this business.Many a bartender/server/chef has been plucked from a third-rate gig to a better job because someone knew someone and/or word got around. Take what you can get and strive for better. Better is always reachable if you put your mind to it.

  6. Chris…good thought on reaching for the top.It makes sense to have a positive attitude and strive to be better then good things tend to happen.

  7. I would add one thing. If you see an ad in a newspaper, only contact them as a last resort. First of all, 99% of all waiters and bartenders are hired without using an ad. Second of all, if a restaurant is advertising for a job, there might very well be a problem with them since most restaurants never have to advertise. Having said that, my boss at my old restaurant (a restaurant that probably only hired 5 servers total in the 6 years that I was there) used to advertise once a year. He called it “shaking the tree”. He wanted get a stack of resumes to get an idea of what was out there. I’m not sure that anyone ever got hired that way though. So, ya never know, as desperate is desperate. Ad should be your last resort though.However, if you see that an ad that a restaurant is hiring kitchen people, feel free to take your resume by. Most restaurant *do* have to advertise for kitchen workers, especially sous chefs and line cooks, so this shouldn’t be a disqualifier.Finally, if your local newspaper is fond of printing semi-annual pullout dining guides, use that as a mini Yellow Pages. It might remind you of a restaurant that you’ve forgotten about, plus it’s always good to get to see a nice shiny photo of the dining room or a print-out of the menu.dave”So You Want To Be A Waiter” blog

  8. Teleburst…those are great points. You want to be ahead of when they put the ad in the paper to stay one step ahead of the throngs that will flock to the door. A lot like you say just put an ad in to test the market. I may even do the same and send a resume out to see if someone is hiring if I am open to another opportunity. I used to do that a lot but now not so much.

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