Job interviews are nerve racking for everyone. There are many questions to consider, including what to wear to a restaurant interview. The restaurant industry is less buttoned up and conservative than many others, so it can make dressing for the interview confusing. There’s no real business casual standard for restaurants.
Getting dressed is certainly an important part of the process, but it’s only one part of the preparations. You also want to research the restaurant to learn all you can about it and practice likely interview questions. The right outfit, research, practice and preparation combined can ensure you’re a star candidate on the day of your interview.
Here are some more things to keep in mind before your next restaurant job interview.
Upscale restaurant interviews
When preparing for an interview at an upscale place, you want to match the restaurant’s level of polish as much as you can. You don’t need to break out your most formal attire, but items like a black dress, dress shoes, and dress pants would likely be appropriate.
If the place has a dress code for staff or guests, try to conform to it for your interview at a restaurant. Avoid wearing flip flops or other open-toed shoes, baseball caps, shorts, or anything else that might convey the message you aren’t taking the opportunity seriously.
Upscale restaurants usually have websites and social media profiles that are rich sources of information. Google the restaurant’s name and read as many articles that have featured the restaurant as you can. This kind of background can help you ask smart questions, show off your knowledge, and give you a competitive edge.
Casual restaurant interviews
A more laid-back restaurant doesn’t mean laid-back interview preparation. If you want to stand out, you’ll still want to learn about the restaurant in advance and ask informed questions.
Your approach to what to wear to an interview at a casual place can be more laid back though. No matter how relaxed the restaurant, avoid wearing your most casual clothing. Wear what you would wear to work a shift there.
If you can, visit the restaurant ahead of time to see how team members and guests are dressed. Aim for an outfit that would fit into the place, but on the nicer end of the spectrum. Keep it clean, comfortable, and professional.
Office setting, front of house, or back of house?
Different kinds of restaurant jobs call for different interview preparations. The types of questions vary, and how you want to dress will differ as well. Here’s what you need to know about the different settings and how they affect interview preparation.
Though servers and cooks are the first roles that spring to mind when thinking about restaurant jobs, there are many other positions in the business. Plenty of people work not in the dining room or kitchen but in the restaurant’s office. Bookkeepers, communications people, HR professionals, and others work in this space.
For these jobs, keep it business casual. Button-down tops, black slacks, or other dress slacks are likely to impress hiring managers. Some people believe it’s better to be overdressed than to be underdressed for job interviews. It doesn’t hurt to dress to impress—within reason. If you choose to wear a suit, be aware you will likely be the only one.
Once your wardrobe is sorted, practice answering these common interview questions for restaurant office job interviews:
- Can you tell me about your previous office work experience and how it prepares you for this role?
- What were your favorite duties in your last role?
- How do you keep on track and organized at work?
Front of House
People interviewing for front-of-house roles know they will be representing the restaurant and iterating with guests. Aspiring hosts, servers, and bartenders should dress like they would for a shift at the restaurant where they are interviewing.
Don’t be afraid to show your sense of style and personality through your clothes, but keep it conservative. If there’s a uniform, do your best to recreate it with what you already own. Most restaurant server uniforms are simple combinations of pants and button-down shirts in neutral colors. Make sure you dress comfortably, including wearing shoes fit for work.
While you’re waiting for your interview outfit to return from the dry cleaner, ask a friend to do a mock interview with you starting with these practice questions often aimed at would-be servers:
- Can you tell me about a time when you’ve had to deal with a tough guest?
- Why do you want to work at this restaurant, specifically?
- Can you tell me about a mistake you made during service and how you recovered?
Back of house
When interviewing for a chef or line cook position, you can’t wear your trusty chef whites. Instead, you dress more like a front-of-house team member. Because cooks spend so much time behind the scenes in a uniform, their closets may offer fewer options than FOH folks. Keep it simple. A basic black or white button-down shirt with khakis or jeans in good condition will serve you well.
Once your clothing is in order, try rehearsing a few typical interview questions for chefs and cooks:
- What dishes showcase your skills?
- How do you keep your station neat and well-stocked even when it’s busy?
- Can you tell me the difference between broiling and braising?
Getting ready for a restaurant job interview can be stressful, but keep these steps in mind:
- Research the restaurant and prepare smart questions
- Choose what to wear carefully and make sure your clothes are clean and ready
- Practice answering some common interview questions
With a little preparation you can walk into your interview filled with confidence and poised to land a great new job.