Barback jobs can be strenuous, often involving late night shifts, long hours and heavy lifting. But barback jobs offer plenty of advantages: flexible scheduling, a lively work atmosphere and room for professional growth as a bartender, bar manager or floor manager. Because of this appeal, landing a barback job can be challenging. Competition is stiff, and bars can be discerning about who they’re willing to add to the team. But with the right attitude and approach, getting a barback job is a realistic career objective.
Scout the want ads. Applying for a barback job found in the classifieds has an obvious advantage: The company is definitely looking to hire someone. But chances are, dozens of other would-be barbacks read the same ad and may be applying for the job.
Pay a visit. Stop by bars or restaurants that seem like a good place to work, and ask for an application. It’s better to stop by during slower times, when the bartender on duty may have a moment to talk. If it seems appropriate, buy a drink and chat with anyone working behind the bar—they may have some inside advice. Remember to tip!
Fill out an application. When filling out applications, use black ink and don’t skip questions, even if they seem irrelevant. List any relevant experience, including hospitality or catering experience. Be creative: helping stock the bar for a cousin’s wedding reception counts. Alert any references listed that they should expect a phone call.
Know the audience. Certain kinds of bar and restaurant establishments like to hire team members that will fit with their customer demographic and existing team of employees. A burly, tattooed barback might be out of place at an upscale country club but the perfect fit for a trendy downtown nightclub.
Have good timing. Bars begin gearing up for busy holiday or summer seasons well before the season actually starts. Apply early, and check back every couple of weeks to build genuine familiarity with managers, bartenders and other barbacks.
Know about alcohol. Have a strong understanding of alcohol brands and drink preparations, including the local vernacular for certain brands or types of alcohol. There’s nothing worse than being given a chance to guest barback at an establishment and then not understanding when a busy bartender asks for a bottle of Grandma (Grand Marnier).
Be flexible. Bar staffs are notoriously fluid, so jump at the chance to barback even once a week. Shifts will accumulate in no time.
Be prepared for hard work: washing glasses, carrying buckets of ice, cleaning up after partiers. Managers are impressed when barbacks willingly embrace these tasks.
Be professional. Many people mistakenly believe that since bars are fun places to be, hiring rules are lax. Show up promptly for interviews, wearing clean, professional clothing.