Over the course of nearly a decade of working at and managing a wide variety of bars, restaurants, and taverns, I have turned in and accepted more resumes than I can count. Some of the resumes I have seen were effective, but the vast majority weren’t. To create a resume seems like a fairly straight-forward endeavor, but to tailor one to the bar industry takes a slightly different approach from what works in other fields. As you read this piece, follow the example resume I’ve supplied as I describe and explain each of its elements.
Keep it clean
First of all, consider your formatting options. Formatting can be used to provide a hint of your personality and work ethic. Generally speaking, a bar manager is looking to bolster their team with an organized yet creative bartender who has an eye for detail. Vary font sizes with consistency, use headings effectively, and make sure that your overall layout is neat and concise. How a bartender composes his or her resume speaks to how they compose their well. Prove that you possess an eye for detail.
Now—for the substance.
Like any resume, yours should include a header. Name first, big and glaring. Don’t be subtle—you want your name to be remembered above all others. Then provide all of your basic contact info. It seems like a funny thing to have to point out, but I have been handed many resumes—some of which were actually chock full of experience—which didn’t even include a phone number.
Education makes you interesting
Next we go with education. While your Bachelor’s degree in Post-structuralism or 14th Century Pagan Practices might not have anything to do with bartending, it is good to include your educational information, if you have it. Showing that you have gone to school and completed a degree gives some proof that you are capable to applying yourself to a task then achieving it. And who knows? Maybe the person interviewing you is a Foucault nut too. I landed my first bartending job simply because the owner of the establishment was excited to hear that I’d been studying in Paris, where he had lived for two years. Over the course of the interview he didn’t ask me a single question about bartending. We just swapped stories from the City of Lights.
In your education section, it is also a good idea to add anything that might involve food or drink service, no matter how insignificant, especially if you are relatively new to the industry and don’t possess the most competitive of backgrounds. Perhaps you took a course once on the history of French wines, or you worked in your school cafeteria, or even volunteered with Meals on Wheels. Whatever you can slip in to add to your advantage, it goes on the sheet.
Exaggerate your experience, but only to a point
Now for your experience section. It is in this section where a bit of creative exaggeration can go a long way. Start with your most recent position—name of the establishment, location, years employed, title. Say you were technically just a bartender, but you also were the only bartender on duty at the head of a few waiters and a busboy? Call yourself “Shift Leader”.
Provide a brief description of what your position entailed, but leave out the gritty details. Every bar manager knows what a bartender does—they wash glasses, make drinks, set up the bar, etc. What they want to know is what sort of work you’ve done, and what types of bars and customers you’ve worked with. Do you have experience working with complex drink menus? Do you have a background with wine? Have you worked more in dives or fine dining?
The description is where you emphasize any accomplishments you may have garnered along the way. Have you earned any awards? Bartended at any big events? Instituted some change in the workplace that brought about impressive results? Once again—feel free to get creative. Did you invent a drink that ended up on the menu? Then you “helped develop a seasonal drink menu”.
A bar is a place where you will hear a million drunken exaggerations, and it does not hurt to apply this principle in order to land a job. But remember—anything you put on your resume, the bar manager is likely to bring up in an interview, so don’t overdo it and know what to say when the topic comes up. And flat out fabrications or dreaming up a list of fake jobs almost never works. An experienced bar manager can spot them anytime, just like a fake ID.
Pay your dues—work through the ranks
At the bottom of the experience section of the example resume, you’ll see that I’ve listed a number of non-bartending positions. These are the sorts of jobs you will need to work initially in order to break into bartending. Even getting one of the entry positions at a bar can be difficult, especially without any experience. But having worked at one or more restaurants outside of the bar industry shows that you can handle the atmosphere and the pacing. Hopefully then you can land a back-house or bar-backing job in a bar, which is generally the first major step toward bartending.
Remember: almost every bar promotes from within. Be willing to start at the bottom.
After your experience comes any additional information which might be applicable. A knowledge of languages can go a long way. Spanish is increasingly useful in the United States, and in many high-end restaurants a grasp of French or Italian could push you ahead of the pack. If you know how to use a point-of-sale system (POS), list it in this section. If you are fairly tech-savvy, it is not a bad idea to indicate it here as well, as the ability to design menus, logos, or websites can come in handy.
What to leave out
The two sections that you don’t really need on a bartending resume are the Objective and Reference portions. Including one’s objectives on a resume has become rather out-dated, and any objective you list when applying for a bartending position comes off as flat and insincere. You can include references—especially if you lack experience—but in reality a bar manager will rarely call them.
That’s all there is too it, really. If there is one final thought I can leave you with, it is to consider your audience. Are you trying to work at a rowdy dive or tavern? Show that you have the personality for it. I once hired a bartender with very little experience because he included a photo of himself kayaking over a waterfall—it was pretty impressive.