It might not be your dream job, but slinging burgers and up-selling drinks is one way to earn the cash you need to pay the bills. If you land an interview for a waitress job, you're likely going to interview with the managers, and will have to dazzle them with your extensive knowledge of their type of cuisine. Restaurant managers are going to want to know that you care about their product, that you will take care of the customers, and that you will show up to work on time.
Before you show up at the interview, make sure you know something about the restaurant and the type of food and drink it serves. Check out the restaurant's website to gain some idea of its reputation and what customers are saying about the place. Also study the menu. Take note of special ingredients or details about the presentation of the food; you can get a good idea about clientele and management's expectations by reading the descriptions for each food item. Long, flowery descriptions probably means a "foodie" clientele; one-line descriptions probably mean the clientele doesn't care too much about quality or ingredients.
You checked out the menu -- now you know something about the level of quality the restaurant strives for. If you're applying at a "foodie" restaurant or an upscale place, you're going to need to nail the questions about food quality. This may mean knowing about types of cuisine, how the food is prepared, or what the food should look like. Same goes for drinks. In an upscale place, you're going to need to know types of wine and how they pair with food, how to make specialty drinks, and how to up-sell customers to buy more.
Restaurant managers want to know that you're going to take care of their customers and encourage them to come back. In this portion of the interview, a manager may come up with a scenario in which a customer is unhappy and ask you what you would do to deal with it. The manager may also ask you what you would do if you found that a food or drink item was not up to snuff. The best ways to answer these questions are to draw from your own experience and to use common sense -- the ultimate goal is to keep customers happy, while not costing the restaurant extra money or time.
Restaurant work often means odd hours including split schedules and late or early hours. Managers may ask about your availability -- in their ideal world, you'll be available any day, any time. To nail this portion of the interview, make yourself as available as possible. Standing appointments at the hair salon or your favorite yoga class are not good reasons to say you can't work a certain day. Likewise, further nail the interview by showing that you're responsible -- lots of waitresses have bailed last-minute and left them in the lurch, and managers don't want it happening again. If the manager asks what you would do if your car broke down on your way to work, answer in a way that makes you seem responsible and committed.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.