Applying for a hospitality job

Perhaps you may not have a huge amount of experience and are just looking for some part time work while studying at university, can’t be too hard to find the odd shift to help pay the bills?

You’ve worked in a few bars or cafes, have reasonable experience and the venue is hiring. Sounds like you’re a good chance at getting the job, yet somehow so many people seem to fuck it up.

How is this still a thing? It’s really not that hard.

For some people hospitality is just a job, for some it is a career but either way - applying for it should be simple. How do so many people make a mess of it? If you have no experience, own it - enthusiasm will get you a long way. Lies though - wont. If you have a lot, be humble and have an open mind.

So, how do we go about this?

Walking it into a venue, simple enough? Apparently not.

Cafes are typically busy first thing in the morning or at lunch time.
Pubs vary but typically are busiest after work finishes and Friday/Saturday nights.
Bars vary depending on who they cater for, but ALWAYS are busy on weekends.
Restaurants obviously are busy during service times, whether that is breakfast, lunch or dinner.

AVOID THESE TIMES - or your resume will probably instantly get thrown in the bin.

Sit at the bar and have a beer if they’re busy, even have a chat. Get a coffee and wait for the rush to die down. Even call up and find out a good time, not my favourite technique but it does show some enthusiasm.

Do you need to write a cover letter? If you have experience, your CV should do the talking for you - just present yourself nicely in a venue and hand it over. If you don’t, a personalised cover letter can do wonders. Key word there, personalised.

Absolutely do not write a cover letter for hospitality if you do not passionately love what that venue does and have been there in the past. A cover letter should ONLY be used to show how passionate you are about an individual venue, as a generic letter will probably get your entire CV throw in the bin before they even read your name. If you have no experience, this is a great time to show that enthusiasm we spoke about!

In journalism there is the concept of the inverted pyramid where the most newsworthy information comes first. Typically you can find out exactly what the entire article is about in the first sentence without reading the entire piece. You can skim the first section of several different articles, decide which ones you’re interested in and read accordingly. The same concept works in hospitality when we read CV’s. It’s your job to catch the managers attention as their interest will most likely wane halfway through the first page - can they do the job? Cool let’s get them in.

First things first - do not put a photo at the top, it looks unprofessional and shit. You’re walking your CV into the venue (I hope); if you can’t make an impression and make them remember your face then you’re fucked anyway. In my opinion - if your looks matter enough to get the job, then it probably isn’t a job worth having in the first place.

So many CV’s start with grades from high school or university education, I mean I love that you’re honest but I do not care. I’ve met a lot of great bartenders who have law degrees, I’ve met a lot of great bartenders that dropped out of school at 16. It is irrelevant. How does your final year mathematics help you if you don’t know how to make a negroni? I mean you probably know ratios and what a third is, but do you know the ingredients? They don’t teach booze in school.

Alright, no photo, no high school grades. What next?

Personally I’ve worked in hospitality for 13 years. In this time, I’ve also had three jobs outside of hospitality on top of full time study, travel and many hobbies. My CV is one page long. Only include relevant information.

You volunteered for an animal shelter when you were 14, awesome! Dogs are great. How does that help you make mezcal rositas and explain to customers the difference between amaros and aperitifs? It doesn’t, so why make me read it? Tell me on your first shift.

How would a CEO of an investment firm like to hear about you cleaning up sick when you were a 18yr old bar back? He wouldn’t, so why would you tell him?

Tailor the entire CV to the job you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a bar job, include bar experience. If you’re looking for a coffee job, include coffee experience. If you’re looking for a chefs job, include chefs experience. If you’re a waiter, include relevant experience. Some things cross over of course but be wary of your audience. Applying for a bar job but only have cafe experience? Write a sweet cover letter explaining why you’re the man for the job.

Same works with your references, only include relevant people.

But in all honesty; I absolutely guarantee to you, that if you present yourself well and are passionate - someone, somewhere will take a gamble on you.

My first bar job was in a bar named Laneway, it was nominated for Australian Bar of the Year that year. I’d worked four years in coffee and had no bar experience whatsoever - I did though ‘by chance’ meet the manager on a night out (staying behaved while out is also a good tip!). I explained my passion to cross over and sent him my honest and simple CV the next morning. I did not hear a word from him for some weeks and at the time was working 6am - 4pm at a cafe nearby. I received a call at 3pm one afternoon.

“Hey Matt, I remember our conversation the other week and I’m a bit short on staff tonight. Can you by any chance fill in?”

I ended up working 6am - 2am that day.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I kept my head down, worked hard, and the rest is history. I ended up bar manager 18 some months later after some very intensive training from some incredibly well known Australian bartenders.

Experience is important, but it isn’t everything. Get your foot in the door and show that you’re the one for the job. I was lucky, but all you need to do is be smart about how you approach things.

Small side notes - do not come in with a friend or significant other, it just does not look good. And don’t imply that you’re ‘taking a break’ from your real job, it’s kinda insulting.

Good luck hunting! Any other tips?

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