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5 top tips for winning that restaurant job interview

Posted by Tanya Timmers on Dec 22, 2015 8:00:00 AM
Tanya Timmers

Restaurants have hit a major staffing crisis. There is a huge shortage of chefs everywhere, and front of house staff turnover rates are off the charts.

Many service staff are students or otherwise temporary workers who use their waiting positions as bridging jobs before they kick-start their chosen careers. And it's driving employers and HR managers nuts.

If you're one of the those people who is actually passionate about the hospitality industry, then you've got an advantage here. It's people like you who hospitality managers want to hire!

So how do you convey your qualification and enthusiasm for the job? Here are some tips to help you nail your next restaurant job interview.


Be prepared

You're reading this article, which means you're already off to a good start. The most important first step is to prepare yourself for the interview.

Of course that entails knowing how long it takes you to get to the location so you show up on time. But more importantly, before that, you should have done your research.

Make sure you read the job ad carefully. Oftentimes, employers list the types of skills and personality traits they look for in a job. Use that knowledge discreetly when convincing the interviewer you're a good fit. 

Also do some research about the establishment. This will help you answer the old Why do you want to work here? question. It also enables you to ask some intelligent questions at the end of the interview.

Manage your body language

Body language is crucial during job interviews, because it tells the interviewer a lot about you. If you tend to get a little nervous for interviews, that's okay. There are a few tricks that can help you seem more confident and positive.

  • Smile when you introduce yourself, and keep a friendly tone throughout the interview.
  • Sit up straight. Leaning back can make you come across as bored or uninterested.
  • Avoid crossing your arms to keep an open posture.
  • Don't fidget. If you don't know what to do with your hands, just keep them in your lap or in front of you on the table.
  • Make eye contact when speaking to put more confidence in your words.

If you keep your posture open, positive and confident, then that tells the restaurant manager you'll be the same on the floor. This can be key to getting the job.

Provide proof for your strongest skills

If you've got experience in the restaurant industry, you probably know where you excel. Those are the skills you want to get across to your interviewer, and this is what your interviewer wants to know about.

But everyone can claim they're good at something. You will be able to set yourself apart from other applicants through the examples you use to back up your claims.

Think back to some of your success stories. Where did you get some great feedback from customers? When did customers praise you for something? What problems have you been able to fix in previous jobs?

You don't have to go over the top. Just share some tangible examples. Stories are also a really good way to convey personality, which will help you stand out from other applicants.  

Compensate for your weaknesses

Will you do yourself a favor? When your interviewer asks about your weaknesses, will you please give a better answer than "I'm a bit of a perfectionist sometimes." That answer shows a complete lack of personality.

Don't frame a positive trait as a weakness, like "I sometimes tend to push myself a little too hard". The hiring manager will see through that. Know what your true weaknesses are, and then address them in a delicate way.

You don't have to pretend you're perfect. You just want to reassure the interviewer you don't have any shortcomings that will cause problems on the job. If you're interviewing for a sandwich hand job, it won't matter if you haven't perfected your coffee-making skills.

Anticipate common questions

Though some hiring managers can be really creative in their interviewing tactics, there's a good chance you'll get asked some version of these questions:

  • What's your greatest strength?
  • What's your greatest weakness?
  • What do you like about working in hospitality?
  • What do you wish you could change about it?
  • Why would you make a great addition to the team?

Experienced restaurant service expert David Hayden has answered these questions on his blogwhich you can use as inspiration to prepare your own answers.

It's also becoming common for interviewers to ask more open-ended questions so they can find out information about your personality. Questions like that could include:

  • What is your favourite restaurant/food/drink?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What would you do if you knew a co-worker was taking food home with them?
  • How would you respond if a customer claims they got the wrong order, and you knew for a fact that's exactly what they ordered?

Learn to anticipate questions. You've probably had to answer a lot of them before. Have an idea of what you want to say, but don't rehearse your answers - this may come across poorly in the interview. 

Leave on a positive note

After you've asked the interviewer your own questions (don't skip this important step - it'll make you seem interested in the position and concerned about doing a good job), make sure you wrap up the interview on a positive note.

Even if you aren't feeling 100% confident you'll get the job at the end of the interview, keep a bright spirit. You want to convey enthusiasm for the job and an eagerness to get started with it.

Sincerely thank the interviewer for the opportunity to meet with you. Let the interviewer know you're available for any more questions. You can ask about the decision deadline here too if you want.

Leave radiating positivity, and don't be too anxious. You probably did fine. At the end of the day, nobody expects you to be perfect. 

Good luck! I hope you get the job! 


Topics: Hospitality career tips, Hospitality staff, Restaurants