To get a job as a server, you must be prepared to do more than just take orders. The day-to-day of a server is filled with responsibilities like greeting customers, giving menu suggestions, cleaning and setting tables, and collecting payment. Servers represent the forefront of customer service, and to be hired as one, you must be able to make sure each guest leaves happy with their experience. But first, you need to prove that you are capable of doing this to your potential employer. Here’s how.
Server Job Overview
The different types of serving positions require different levels of expertise, mostly varying by type of restaurant. From fast food to fine dining, servers are a large part of the American economy, with over 2.6 million servers employed in the restaurant industry in 2016. In fact, since the number of restaurants in the U.S is increasing, with over 660,000 in 2018, restaurant waitstaff is becoming a bigger piece of the workforce. The largest sector of the restaurant industry—therefore employing the most servers—is “quick-service restaurants”. These establishements are characterized by food being prepared quickly with limited table service.
On average, a server earns about $16 per hour in the United States. ZipRecruiter statistics report that, “wages [can be] as high as $29.09 and as low as $5.29, [but] the majority of Waiter wages currently range between $10 (25th percentile) to $17 (75th percentile) across the United States.” Naturally, waiters in the fine dining industry have the opportunity to earn more income, with some table captain and manager positions earning upwards of 70k–100k a year. However, these positions require robust food and wine knowledge and years of experience. On the other hand, workers in the fast-food industry earn, on average, about $8.85 per hour and $15k–25k a year.
Characteristics of a Good Server
Firstly, servers are great multitaskers, as they typically bounce between many responsibilities—all while providing a smile and great customer service. It is very important for servers to have multitasking skills, since they often are dealing with multiple tables and requests at the same time. If you are a server with poor multitasking skills, you will likely find yourself overwhelmed, forgetting orders and requests, and dealing with unhappy customers.
Good communication skills
Equally as important, servers need to have top-notch communication skills. Servers encounter many different types of people and personality types, so you need to know how to speak to them all accordingly. Ideally, a server will be friendly, yet clear and concise when communicating with customers. Sometimes there will be disputes, whether it be dealing with payment issues, order mishaps, or picky customers. So, the server must know how to communicate properly with the customer, without getting annoyed or frustrated in tough situations.
Lastly, a server needs to be a people person and be somewhat outgoing—or at least be able to fake it. Customers expect to be greeted with a smile, and many times enjoy small talk with their server. Knowing this, it is in a server’s best interest to be friendly and engage in conversation when it’s welcomed. After all, it will likely earn you a bigger tip!
Setting yourself apart
Once you’ve decided that you’re interested in becoming a server, it is time to brush up on your skills and expand upon characteristics that will set you apart in a job interview. If you don’t have prior experience working as waitstaff, think of ways you can apply your previous experiences to skills that are important as a server. For example, if you’ve worked in retail, emphasize the customer service aspects of that position—like checking people out, helping customers find items in-store, and dealing with customers making requests for returns.
If you really want to boost your resume, look into getting certifications. Many certifications are free or offered at a low cost, and will show that you are dedicated and willing to learn more about how you can succeed as a server. These can be especially helpful if you have no prior serving experience. Some good options are hospitality courses, food safety courses, and even bartending courses show a potential employer that you’re versatile and taking initiative.
Here are a few Udemy courses that could be useful starting out:
- How to become a professional waiter ($10)
- Bartending Mastery – Cocktail & Bartending Masterclass ($20)
- Health & Safety and Food Safety for hospitality operators ($10)
Additionally, achieving these certifications can make you an asset to an employer. You could potentially help train other employees in the future on these topics.
Content Creation in the Restaurant Industry
Also, showing your interest in the position through content creation is an impressive measure to go above and beyond your competition. Having a social media account focused around food or restaurants shows your interest in the restaurant industry, as well as showing that you can offer additional skills like social media marketing. Other ideas include creating a podcast or blog. Including something creative and interesting like these ideas on your resume will not only help you stand out, but also gives potential employers concrete examples of your other strengths in marketing and connecting with people.
Using your network
Once you start your job hunt, the first place you should turn to is your network. These are people that already know you and would likely be willing to vouch for you! Ask your friends and family if they know of any restaurants that are hiring or if they have connections at any restaurants. Even better, ask for a referral if they work in the restaurant industry themselves. Many hiring managers prefer to hire through a referral, or even promote from within the organization so that they are more familiar with the applicant. Many restaurants might not publicly announce that they are hiring but would consider hiring another server if that person were highly recommended.
If you are on good standing with previous employers, ask them for recommendations. It is generally best to do this right when you are leaving a position, since it is easy to lose touch with your previous managers. Depending on your relationship with past managers, you could even ask them for advice or use their network. Most importantly, a stellar recommendation letter can sway a potential employer to hire you, or at least get your foot in the door to get an interview. Especially if you don’t have experience as a server, a recommendation can solidify that you have related skills and experience, and it’s more convincing to have a third-party’s opinion.
Once you’ve done these things, you need to have a fantastic, updated resume ready for when you start interviewing. Take inspiration from waiter resume examples online, and be sure to detail on your resume that you have the most important skills for serving, as well as anything that sets you apart. Ask your network for feedback on your resume and edit it accordingly, and practice interview questions with someone so you are as prepared as possible.
Job-Searching Resources for Servers
LinkedIn can be a quintessential resource for job hunters, even if the position you’re seeking isn’t typically what is highlighted on LinkedIn. Of course, you can use LinkedIn to find jobs to apply to, but actually the most valuable thing is building your network on the platform. By connecting with other professionals in your area and industry, you can call on them to help you in your job search. The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial—so you can’t just be asking strangers for favors all the time. However, by gradually building your network on the platform and engaging with people along the way, you’ll find that your connections can be very helpful in giving career advice and job leads. If all else fails, make a post explaining your job hunt and ask if anyone could be of help in resume advice, mentoring, or referring you to someone in their network.
Optimizing your LinkedIn
Your headline is very important on LinkedIn—it’s the first thing people see! For getting a job as a server, you want to showcase your people skills and enthusiasm for the position through your headline. For example, a good headline could be…
“Server | Customer Service Enthusiast | Food & Wine Lover | I help restaurants improve their customer experience”
With your LinkedIn headline, the goal is to know your audience, state the value you bring to an organization, and optimize for keywords that employers could be searching for. If you don’t have direct experience in serving, make sure you tailor your headline to the traits that are important for a server, like customer service.
The last thing to be doing on LinkedIn is joining groups. Search for keywords like “Waiters” + “Your city” and see if there are any groups tailored to you. You can also join job seekers groups and keep on the lookout for any relevant positions that recruiters post.
There are several places to easily find an abundance of server positions online, and they will be helpful resources to see which restaurants are hiring in your area. For getting a job as a server, it is best to use these sites to find openings and then—if you really want to go the extra mile— show up to the establishment and apply in person. This will give you a chance to make a lasting impression, rather than letting your resume get lost in a sea of online applications.
- LinkUp: This is an industry-specific job board with many (over 20,000 to be exact) up-to-date server positions across the country.
- Indeed: This is a standard job board with easy-to-use filters to find relevant server positions. It also has a salary comparison feature.
- Glassdoor: This is another basic job board that will help you find exactly what you’re looking for. One bonus about this site is that sometimes people list the interview questions you can expect from a company.
Community Outreach is the number one thing to do if you are trying to get a job as a server ASAP. To successfully do this, you need to visit local businesses, introduce yourself, and see if they are hiring. Oftentimes, you will get an impromptu interview from the manager on the spot—so be prepared! Even if a restaurant you are interested in isn’t hiring at the moment, if you leave a good impression, the manager might remember you and give you a call when they have a position open.
Tips for visiting restaurants:
- Go in during the least busy times
- Leave your info with a manager
- Do research on the company beforehand
- Be familiar with their food and drink menu and any house favorite dishes
Interview essentials & questions to prepare for
Whether you land an interview from an online posting or visit a restaurant to see if they are hiring, there are a few things you need to bring with you in order to be prepared. First, you obviously need your resume. It is best if you carry it in a nice-looking folder or padfolio, to have room for printed recommendation letters, business cards, and cover letters. Bringing these things will definitely showcase your attention to detail to the hiring manager.
In choosing what you wear to an interview, it is important to look neat and well-kept. For a serving position, aiming for a smart casual or business casual outfit will prove that you know how to present yourself well. If you are seeking to get a job as a server in fine-dining, it might be in your best interest to wear business formal attire instead.
Interview Questions for Server Positions
Apart from typical interview questions to prepare for, there are quite a few questions that you will likely get asked at an interview for a server position. To get a job as a server, make sure you know how to answer the following questions:
- Are you comfortable carrying serving plates?
- Have you worked long shifts before? Are you comfortable being on your feet?
- How will you respond to customers who are dissatisfied with their food, table, or another issue?
- Have you eaten at our restaurant before?
- How would you treat a customer who is notorious for leaving bad tips?
- How would you handle multiple tables at once?
- What is your knowledge of food/wine?
- How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?
After the interview
Once you’ve completed the interview and you don’t know whether or not you landed the position, the next step is to follow up. This is a step that many people don’t bother with, so it can truly set you apart from the rest. If you have the manager’s email, send a thank you email the day of or the day after the interview. Mention what excites you about the possibility of working at the restaurant and reiterate your strengths or a few details of your conversation with the manager. It can be short and sweet. If you don’t have their email, you can call a few days after the interview to thank them and follow up.
Lastly, if you don’t end up landing the position, it is always beneficial for personal growth to ask for feedback. The hiring manager might tell you your weaknesses in areas like experience, your resume, or your interview skills. This might be hard to hear at the moment, but it will only help you to improve moving forward, so you can land the next position.
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