7 Strategies to Land Your First Bartending Job

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Chapter 5

With your resume written, it’s time to get out there and start looking for work. For many of you, this will be the most difficult stage in the hiring process. It was for me…

When I first started looking for a bartending job, I struggled. I didn’t know what to do and I knew nothing about the hospitality industry. So I did what most people do. I jumped online and applied for a couple of bartending positions I found on a job advertisement website.

Then I sat back, put Netflix on, and waited for the job offers to roll in.

Needless to say, they didn’t. And it took me a long time to figure out that there are much better job hunting strategies out there.

Now that I’ve worked in the industry for almost 5 years, I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. And the truth is, it’s not as complicated as you think. If you’re willing to work hard, you want to learn, and you’re easy to get along with, you’ll find a bartending job.

As far as job hunting strategies go, there are a number of different ways you can go about looking for work. Some of these strategies are more effective than others. And some will work better depending on who you are and where you live.

Let’s get to it.

What Managers are Looking For

Working in management positions for almost 2 years has taught me a lot about the hospitality industry. In particular, it has taught me a lot about hiring staff. Hiring my own team forced me to figure out what to look for.

And what to avoid.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but experience isn’t everything.

There are much more important qualities managers look for. They want someone who works hard, someone who wants to learn, someone who is easy to get along with, and someone who’s willing to work their way up.

Someone who embodies these qualities is going to be very successful when they’re looking for a bartending job.

And let’s face it, anyone can possess these qualities. At the end of the day, it’s up to you. You can choose to work hard, you can choose to learn, you can choose to be friendly, and you can choose to work your way.

Get this part right, and finding a bartending job will be A LOT easier.

Here are 7 different bartending job hunting strategies you can start using today:

  1. Who do You Know?
  2. Job Advertisement Websites
  3. Direct Email
  4. Social Media Groups
  5. Cold Call
  6. Have a Drink & Chat with the Bartender
  7. Resume Dropping (The most effective!)

Strategy 1: Who do you Know?

There’s nothing better than knowing someone who already works in the industry. Instead of spending hours preparing your bartender resume, and handing them out. All you need to do is call up a friend and ask them for a favor.

If all goes well, they’ll sort you out with an interview or you’ll be asked to come in for a trial. And if you’re really lucky, you might even be given a job on the spot.

That’s how I got offered a bartending position in the French alps. I asked my friends in the industry for a recommendation and they put me into contact with the owner of a nightclub.

I got the job without even being interviewed.

Using your connections is a great way to find work, but what if you don’t know anyone?

If you’re just starting out, the chances are you won’t. So, unfortunately, this strategy will be useless for a lot of you.

Strategy 2: Bartending Job Advertisement Websites

By job advertisement websites, I mean websites like Craigslist, Gumtree, Seek, and Indeed. Applying for jobs using these sites is one of the easiest ways to look for work. All you need to do is search for hospitality roles and apply for the jobs that are advertised.

This strategy can work, but out of all the strategies, it’s the least effective.

Why?

Because it’s the least personal and you’ll be competing against hundreds of other faceless resumes. For this strategy to work, you’ll need to apply for every hospitality job you can find. And even then, it might not work.

When I first started looking for bartending work, this is the only strategy I used. And it wasn’t until I started using the resume dropping strategy (see strategy 7) that I saw any success.

But because it’s so easy to do, I still recommend doing it. This strategy is best used in combination with some of the others. Doing this will help you figure out which venues are looking for staff. So then you’ll be able to target those venues with one of the more effective strategies below.

And who knows, you might get lucky and be asked to come in for an interview or trial!

Strategy 3: Direct Email

Another way you can apply for bartending jobs is by emailing managers directly and letting them know that you want to work for them. This strategy is more effective than responding to job advertisements because it’s more personal, it shows that you’re proactive, and it gives you a direct line of communication with the right person.

When you’re emailing them, you’ll want to keep the email short, simple, and specific. And make sure you remember to attach your resume!

Here’s how you could lay it out:

Hi [Manager's Name],

My name is [Your Name] and I'm emailing you because I'd love to work at [insert name of venue] as a bartender. I've always loved going to [insert name of venue] because of it's [insert adjective] vibe. It suits my personality perfectly which is why I believe I'd make a great addition to the team.

I know that my experience might not reflect my ability, but I'm a hard worker, I want to learn, I'm easy to get along with, and I don't mind starting out as a barback or server. 

I understand that you're currently in need of good staff, which is why I'd like to offer you my services, whenever suits you best. Having an extra hand behind the bar couldn't hurt! And it would be a great chance to meet you, to meet the team, and to see if we'd be a fit. Obviously, my services would be free of charge.

Let me know what you think. 

I've attached my resume for your review and I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers,
[Your Name]

This strategy works well when you’re applying for a job with larger establishments. Mainly because managers spend more time in their email inbox.

But in order for it to work, you need to have access to the manager’s email address. You could do this by looking at the companies website or asking one of the bartenders on duty. But a lot of the time, you won’t be able to get it.

So keep reading!

Strategy 4: Social Media Groups

Photo of world & social icons

Finding work through social media groups has become a lot more popular recently. And believe it or not, it's actually an extremely effective way to find work. Especially if you have experience.

But even if you don't, bar & venue managers still advertise entry-level bartending positions, barback positions, and server positions in these groups.

To get access to them, simply search for bartending/bartender groups on LinkedIn & Facebook. And join the groups in your area. Then whenever someone advertises a position, send them a message, attach your resume, and wait for them to get back to you.

If they don't get back to you, follow up your application with another message politely asking them what's going on.

Not only do these groups give you access to exclusive bartending job opportunities. But they also give you access to a community of thousands of bartenders. Which is great!

It means that if you ever have any bartending or hospitality questions, there's an army of bartenders at your fingertips that are ready to help you. So these groups are great to be a part of even if you're not looking for work.

The problem with this strategy though is that there might not be a group that covers bartending jobs in your area/city. These groups are still quite new and they haven't taken off everywhere.

So if you don't have a group that focuses on your city, you'll have to skip this strategy.

Strategy 5: Cold Call

I personally don’t have any experience with this strategy. But I've come across a few traveling bartenders who use it all the time.

Basically, what you do is call up the bars & restaurants in your area, introduce yourself, and find out if they have any work available. If they do, ask them for their email address so you can send them your resume. Then ask if you can come in for an interview or a trial.

One of the benefits of this strategy is that you'll find out straight away if a venue needs staff. You won't waste time going around to different bars applying for jobs that don't exist. You get to the point quickly and you're able to move on to the next venue if there's nothing available.

This strategy isn’t for everyone. Cold-calling takes balls!

And you may find it difficult to talk to the right person. I.e. Instead of speaking with a manager, you'll be speaking with one of the staff members who organizes the bookings.

So if you do use this strategy, be sure to request to speak with one of the managers. And if they're not around, call back later.

Strategy 6: Have a Drink and Chat with the Bartender

Photo of 2 bartenders

This is one of the most effective strategies out there if you want to land a bartending job. Here's what you need to do.

Visit a bar you want to work at during a quieter period. Ideally between 3-5pm. Sit at the bar and order a drink. Tip the bartender well so they notice you, then strike up a friendly conversation. Don't ask about work yet. That comes later.

The goal of this approach is to get the bartender to like you. The best way to do this is to keep them talking about something they're interested in. Like bartending!

Once you think the bartender likes you, then you can mention that you're looking for work. And if you've done your job well, he'll bring the manager over for an impromptu face-to-face interview.

If you're lucky, this bartender might even be the manager.

The reason why this approach works is because you're essentially making a 'friend' within the industry. And more specifically, at a bar you want to work at.

Just keep in mind that you might have to come back several times until you're sure this bartender enjoys your company. I've used this strategy before and it works. I've also met loads of experienced bartenders who swear by this approach.

But the problem with this strategy is that it can take a long time. And if you're social skills aren't up to par, it's going to be difficult to pull-off.

That's where my favorite bartending job hunt strategy comes in, resume dropping.

Strategy 7: Resume Dropping

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Over the years, I've found jobs using a variety of different methods. But there was one that I always kept coming back to. I call this strategy resume dropping.

This strategy involves printing off your resume and dropping it off in person, to as many venues you can find.

Here's how you do it. You print off your resume and hit the streets during hospitality’s quieter times. Once again, ideally between 3-5pm.

The managers and staff have more time during this period because they won't have customers breathing down their necks. So if you can help it, never apply outside of these times.

Then, all you do is hand in your resume to as many bars, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, and pubs you can find. When you drop it off, ask to speak with the manager and hand it to them directly.

When you meet the manager, shake their hand firmly, smile, introduce yourself, and ask them how they're doing. Then tell them a little bit about yourself and why you're there.

Say that you're looking for a bartending job and you were wondering if there were any positions available.

He'll tell you straight away if there is or isn't. And if there is, tell him that you'd love to come in for an interview or trial whenever suits them best. If there isn't any work available, thank them for their time and ask them to give you a call if anything pops up.

That's it. Do that with as many venues as you can find during that 2 hour period every day for a week and I guarantee you’ll find a bartending job!

Resume Dropping WORKS

Resume dropping is by far my favorite strategy out there. It works well for a variety of reasons.

First of all, you're applying for the job in-person and you're speaking directly with the manager. Because it's a lot more personal, they'll be more likely to remember you. And if you've made a good impression and they're looking for staff, you'll be asked to come in for a trial straight away.

Secondly, it doesn't take very long. You'll be spending less than 10 minutes at each venue. That's a lot quicker than the 'have a drink approach'. Which means you'll be able to apply at a lot more venues, and you won't have to spend money on a drink!

And thirdly, there is nothing stopping you from using this strategy. Anyone can print off a resume and hand it into a bar. You don't need to know anyone in the industry, you don't need anyone's email address, you don't need special access to a Facebook group, and you don't need to have amazing social skills.

This strategy works so well that whenever I move to a new town or city, it's the first thing I do when I'm looking for a bartending job. Most of the time, I don't need to do anything else.

The last time I used this strategy, I handed out my resume to 10 different venues in 2 hours. And EIGHT of them got back to me asking me to come in for an interview or trial…

That's how effective it is!

A Combination of These Strategies will Work the Best

At the end of the day, landing a bartending job is a numbers game. It’s about shaking hands, putting yourself out there, and applying for as many jobs as you can.

That's why the resume dropping strategy works so well. You're going out there and meeting the right people. And you still get to apply for loads of different jobs in a short period of time. If you could only use one strategy, I'd recommend using this one.

But the best approach is to use a combination of these strategies.

For example, you could apply for jobs on Craigslist and Indeed. Then go into those same venues, drop off your resume and meet the manager.

If you drop off your resume and the manager isn't around, ask the bartender for their email address and email them directly. And if nothing else is working, have a drink at the bar and become friends with as many bartenders as you can.

When you're applying, just remember to keep in mind what managers are looking for. If you can show them that you're a hard worker, you want to learn, you're easy to get along with, and you're willing to work your way up. You'll land an interview or trial in no time.

What about you? Have you used any of these strategies? And if so, how did you go? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!

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Click here to Go to Chapter 6: How to Nail Your Bartending Job Interview

About The Author

Tom Blake

Founder of Crafty Bartending, Tom is passionate about the hospitality industry. For the past 5 years, he has traveled around Europe, Asia, & Australia working as a professional bartender & bar manager. He loves consuming cookies, big macs, beer and wine.

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