How To Get A Bartending Job Without Actual Bartending Experience

This article is for people who want to move up to bartending but have no experience behind the bar. You have, however, worked or are working in the hospitality industry but just have no actual experience as a bartender. You’ve worked as a host, barback or server – and you think bartending is a better gig. First of all, you’re right – bartending is better. But now to the matter at hand – how do you move up to bartending without any actual bartending experience?

If You ARE Currently Working in a Bar / Restaurant

The easiest way for you to do this would be to work your way up the ranks in the restaurant / bar that you are currently working at. Places always hire from within and simply talking to your manager about your desire to get on the bar will start the ball rolling. Bartending with no experience isn’t too difficult if you’re already employed at the place you want to bartend.

Next, you’ll want to show your bar manager or the bar owner that you’re serious about your desire to start bartending. You can do this by first asking to shadow one of the current bartenders (without pay) and secondly, by offering to work a couple of the slower shifts – again, for free. This will do a couple of things. Firstly, it will show your manager that you mean business. Secondly, it will give you hands-on experience behind the bar, mixing, pouring, making drinks and engaging customers.

Once you’ve got some experience behind the bar from shadowing, now you’ll want to learn the opening and closing procedures. Again, talk to your manager and let them know your intentions. Tell them that you want to learn all aspects of the bar and so you’d like to come in on your off time to learn the opening and closing procedures behind the bar.

If you take these things seriously, your bar manager will see your sincerity and eagerness to learn and it will go a long way when s/he starts thinking about filling the next open bartending position. And if you don’t want to bartend in the place that you’re currently working at, this experience will serve you well when you get an interview with a place where you do want to work as a bartender.

If You ARE NOT Currently Working in a Bar / Restaurant

You obviously can’t shadow and learn from the bartender if you’re not currently working in a bar / restaurant. Therefore, you have to approach things a bit differently.

First, you’ll want to make a list of all the skills you’ve acquired while working in the industry that translate to bartending. Customer service will likely top this list but think about other things like drink knowledge and pouring skills, whether you’ve helped out doing inventory, restocked behind the bar etc. If you’ve worked as a server before, you’ve had experience cashing out. Anything that you’ve done in your past job that can be transferred to bartending will help you out during your interview.

Now that you’ve got that list handy, start crafting the perfect cover letter. A bar cover letter is a necessity for a couple of reasons. First, it makes you stand out from the rest of the hundreds of resumes a bar receives and second, it allows you to state your case as to why you think you’re qualified to be a bartender even though you have no actual bartending experience.

On your cover letter, you’ll want to make use of that list you’ve prepared. Explain how, even though you don’t have bartending experience, you do have all these other skills which are needed behind the bar. Highlight areas where you excelled in your previous industry experience.

If you have past experience either hosting, serving or barbacking, here’s what you’ll want to include in your cover letter:


– You are great with customers and dealing with customer complaints.

– You know how important it is to be able to handle money and the experience you’ve had in this area.

– Highlight the time management skills you’ve acquired

– Ability to play as part of the team – helping out delivering food and bussing tables

– Memory skills – how you can remember regular customers’ names, favourite seats and even menu choices


– Familiarity with different cash / POS systems

– Customer service skills

– Ability to multi-task

– Whether you’ve had the highest sales out of all the other servers

– If you’ve won server sales contests before

– How many tables you could serve simultaneously

– Money handling skill and cashing out procedural knowledge – mention how accurate your cash outs always were

– Any knowledge you have of drink recipes

– Ability to carry multiple drinks / orders at the same time

– Your understanding of the importance of cleanliness and restocking


– You know what hard work is – your ability to go non-stop for an entire shift

– Knowledge of different beers, coolers, wines and alcohols

– How you understand how important cleanliness is

– Customer service skills gained from dealing with customers on the floor

– Ability to deal with irate customers

– Drink / recipe knowledge you may have acquired

– Whether or not you’ve ever helped out bartending before If you were the highest tipped barback

– Understanding of liquor inventory systems

– Ability to multitask How your great memory has served you in your past job

In addition to the above items, you’ll also want to include something about your great personality. How you love the interaction that a bartender has with their customers but yet you understand when it’s time to entertain versus when it’s go time.

If you’re really serious about getting that job as a bartender, mention in your bar cover letter that you’re willing to train for free or work a shift or two just for tips. No bar manager / owner wants to waste money training someone who’s not going to work out. Taking this risk out of the equation will go a long way to tilting the scales in your favour. Close your bar cover letter by stating that you would love the opportunity to come in and discuss your qualifications and how your employment will benefit their establishment.