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20 High Impact Interview Questions

So, you’ve received a server resume that sparks your interest, now how will you interview them?  Do you have a question or series of questions that cuts through the BS and leads right to the meat of who the person is?

Some people interview well yet bring nothing with them to the job, they have tricked you with their clever answers and clean shirt. People are smart, they know how to answer common questions to benefit themselves.  That’s why some out-of-the-box questions combined with some old-fashioned human instinct can help get you the team you want to have on your side.


Below are the top 20 best interview questions that I acquired from over 100 restaurant managers –managers that lead amazing restaurants and bad-ass service teams.  I hope you enjoy them, use them, learn from them and yours to the comment area below.

1.      What do you like to do in your free time?

  •  if they are quick to respond about a hobby they are more likely to be focused on whatever they do
  • if they have just moved to Flagstaff, they had better like the outdoors or they may not be staying too long in Flag
  • if they don’t have much going on they could be heavy partiers

2.     What drives you to be in the food and beverage industry?

 This is one of my favorites, you get some great answers…

3.     We like to think outside the box and want servers and staff who can think on their feet….

 the $$ question:  Besides writing, can you name 5 uses for a pencil?

4.     Why are you leaving your job?

People become very candid when they answer.  If their reason is anything like they just want to make more money, didn’t like the management or had problems getting along with others, those are red flags.

5.     What do you love about working in a restaurant?  What do you hate?

The answers are very enlightening about their attitude, personality and commitment.

 I also ask what do they like eating and cooking.

And what scares them the most….

6.  This is the book that our application is based off of: How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft’s Cult of the Puzzle – How the World’s Smartest Company Selects the Most Creative Thinkers

Here’s an example of one of our application questions:  In a circus, are you the ring leader, lion tamer, lion or spectator?  Why?

I do not believe in interviews and this book explains why.  This book has great insight into the hiring relationship.  It also has a study from some esteemed University that has broken down “why people like other people” and it seems unexplainable.  It is something in the gut that tells you within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone whether or not you like this person (or want to hire this person).  I have gone off this theory ever since I read it.  If I love the application and then I meet you and I get that “it” feeling you will be hired.  It can work without the application but then there are more unknowns.  So the application allows me to peak into your brain and see your problem solving skills, your emotional ties, and what you value.

 I think it is why I like the problem solving questions so much; the person is telling you something about himself without being aware of that at all.  So these questions serve 2 purposes, one is demonstrating their true problem solving skills and also how creative their mind can be.  And two, it shows some true personality along with comprehension.


7.   Name a time when you had to deal with a conflict between staff members (i.e. verbal dispute or two people not getting along) and how did you manage this dispute?

The answer to this question can give great insight into what kind of person you’ll be dealing with and what style they have.

You could also ask this question in a more direct way.  Give a scenario (maybe a scenario that has actually happened in the restaurant) and ask how they would have handled it or how they would handle it if it happens to them in the near future.

8.     What do you drink? What are your go-to wines, personally?

The great thing about this question is that it puts them at ease, and lets them answer without feeling like there is a right and wrong answer. But, the answer to this shows me to what extent they are passionate about food and wine. If their answer is “Cabernet”, without much explanation, it suggests that they do not spend much time learning about wine and expanding their knowledge. But, if they say “I’m a fan of Thai food, so a German Riesling, especially from Mosel or Nahe, are personal favorites” I gather that their passion for food and wine doesn’t stop when they leave work.

9.  How do you garnish a Manhattan? What is bourbon? What is “perfect” in a martini order?

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have hired an “experienced” server, only to find out that their alcohol knowledge is horrible.  I can train them, but in a full service bar or restaurant, it is so much more helpful if they come in with the proper knowledge that every server should have anyway.  Asking them these questions helps me qualify them; are they the right fit for my restaurant?

10.   How much money in comps will we spend getting you up to speed if we hire you for this position? 

This question is mine, Jennifer Anderson’s.  I have actually never been asked this, but think it would be a great question.  Every manager knows that s*^% can hit the fan, especially for the poor new guy.  The poor new guy knows this as well.  I believe asking this question will make the server talk about their past mistakes, (if they admit to any).  It will also open a gateway for conversation about their past mistakes; how they handled them and if they own themor if they pass the buck and blame others.

11.   If a guest presents you with a coupon which clearly reads, “not valid with any other offers or discounts” and they try to use two offers, how would you react?

In an industry that is all about saying yes, it is sometimes difficult to say no.  Many professional servers are very anxious when it comes to defining policy and thinking of the company’s bottom line rather than their own.  Sometimes small conflicts occur and must be addressed.  This question is a great way to find out how they would react to this un-common but inevitable scenario.

12.  What’s your favorite restaurant dining memory.

I like this question because an applicant’s answer gives me a lot of information on whether or not they’re a “food person” or someone who doesn’t necessarily love food but just has a history of waiting gigs.  Either situation is totally okay, but I prefer people who themselves love dining as opposed to just eating.

13.   These are some questions we have asked in sit down interviews. 

  •        If you were to write your own job description what would you want to do?
  •        What qualities do you look for in the people you work with (above you, below you, beside you)?
  •       What do you feel you should do in this position but might not enjoy?
  •       What do you feel you should tell us but hesitate?



Want over 100 interview and application questions, assistance in building an add and 5 unique application templates?  Over 30 pages of hiring ideas.  Learn More HERE.


14.   How do you gauge the success of a restaurant?

By seeing their definition of a successful restaurant I can gain an understanding of their priorities or, at the very least, see if their mentality is in alignment with ours.  Some people might think a successful restaurant is one that is a James Beard award winner while others define success as a strong and respectful team that provides excellent service on a regular basis.

15.  May I walk you to your car?

One other thing I like to do is have a candidate walk me out to their car at the end of the interview where I look to see how well they treat what is likely their most expensive and important possession. If it is disgusting, I try to think how they will treat the things that don’t belong to them. This serves as a fairly accurate barometer.

16.    If there is one thing about the restaurant industry you would change, what would it be?

17.  Can you tell me one of your proudest moments at work?

This question is excellent!  It tells me what they most value in their own abilities, what they see as important and shows their potential as an employee.

18.  What does hospitality mean to you and how can you show that to our guest?

The first part of this question is easy.  Everyone can answer it.  The second part is where people stumble.  Service steps for implementation can be blurry so a clear answer really shows me something about the candidate.

19.  Have you dined with us?  How could our service improve?

If they have dined with us I get feedback about the restaurant I run from a servers perspective, that’s pretty powerful.  If they haven’t dined with us then I assume that we are one of many restaurants that received their application and I can ask them questions based on that.  If they haven’t dined with us then I can still ask about their last dining experience, what they would have improved if they had had the power to do so.

20.  If I were to ask your past co-workers which you were best at: guest interaction, food knowledge, keeping the place clean or creating a fun work environment, what would they answer?

All of these attributes (in my own opinion) are extremely important so there is no “right” answer. Sometimes there is a “personality/specialty” gap in the team that needs to be filled.  If we are having a problem with the team keeping things clean and organized, I might be more interested in the person that thinks their past co-workers would classify them being super clean.

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Other popular articles:

How To Be A Horrible Restaurant Manager

Crappy Servers, Who’s To Blame?

The Best Restaurant Books

Create A Great Server Resume

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  1. I can’t believe people are complaining about the car comment. I think it’s a great thing, and personally I would think it would be odd, but it would be a less formal way to chat with someone your thinking of hiring. It doesn’t have to be the deciding factor, but it could be a good indicator. I know many people who have sloppy cars and while they may be a hard worker, they are not organized or clean which you need both in a bar, restaurant, resort, kitchen, etc…..

    I think in today’s world you have to dig deeper to find good quality people to staff any customer service position. This is the representative your selecting for your customers to see first, hear first and follow first, this can set your mood for your whole dining experience. You want people who care, sadly customer service expectations have went down and experiences are not as good, not just in the restaurant, but everywhere. If I don’t get good service, I won’t return. I have spent many years in the restaurant and bar industry and have left many places and never went back due to poor service.

    This is your business, you have to protect it with everything you have got. If you don’t feel right asking questions like that to people, then you must not really care who you hire.

  2. I love most of the questions and will be using quite a few of them very soon! Have to agree that the car question is terrible – personally if someone offered to walk me to my car I would find that very creepy, not professional at all. I would be less inclined to take the job having been ‘followed’ and judged in that way. Also the worst kept, rubbish filled car I have ever seen belonged to my old boss – a longstanding GM with Marriott, go figure!

    • Hi Laura- Thanks for the comment. It’s funny (slightly) that every time I see that there is a comment on this article I say to myself, “the fricken’ car,” and it is always a comment about the car. It makes everyone so mad. But, right or wrong, we know that someone out there is doing it. Knowledge isn’t always something to like.

      At any rate, I hope you find the staff of your dreams! Interviewing is so important. And asking the right questions is part of it.

      Thanks again Laura!

  3. I am not happy with any of these questions. Who cares what kind of car you drive? I want to know if you know food, ingredients, service, how to take orders, increase a check, sell my food and wine. Do you know about salads, steaks, desserts, wine service, table settings. Chef B.Elliott

    • B. Elliot, I get the sense that you are upset over these questions, but that can’t be because that would be ridiculous. Again, these questions are contributed by people all over the country. It’s not really a matter if you’re happy with them or not, they are being asked. But there is good news, you don’t have to ask them! Yippy for you! You can ask about salads and steaks and desserts and whatever else your chef heart desires.

    • Asking a person “Can I walk you to YOUR car?” implies they should have their own car which is potentially discriminatory. Unless they need a car to do their job(work in a pizza delivery job, etc)you should not ask if you can walk them to their car. It is not relevant to the job. The legal question in that regard is “Do you have a reliable means of transportation?” An employer could be sued for not hiring a person, even if they clearly didn’t qualify for the position for asking a discriminatory question. The individual could state “They asked to walk me to my car, but I didn’t have a car. I took a bus to the interview so they didn’t hire me” and claim discriminatory hiring practices. In a “sue happy world” it happens. Just advice from an HR person. Have a good day.

  4. Honestly the questions were great. The only one I was absolutely upset over is when you JUDGE them by their car. Come on that is so wrong on so many levels. It is their personal car and not any of your business whether they keep it clean or not. I know many friends who keep tier cars a mess but are the most hard working people I know!! That is unbelievable.. Really.. Who are you to even so that??

    • Hey Kailee. The questions are good ones, kindly provided by managers all over the U.S; they get you thinking and ready for an interview. I think your end question was “Who are you to even show that??” Well, the thing is, whether I agree with what that manager does or not is an absolute beside-the-point. Who cares if we like it, the fact is that some manager out there looks at interviewees cars and someone might have an interview with him tomorrow. It’s not my job to filter what I have learned about how some people think, but to let people know the possibilities. Thanks for the comment and the passion, I love it!

  5. Thank you for posting this. There are some great questions here! I am getting ready to be interviewed for a new job and wanted to brush up, and a few questions like these have thrown me for a loop and made me stammer in the past!

    • Thanks Keith! There are some questions that can really make you think…and stammer, that’s for sure. Knowing what to expect eliminates the surprise factor and helps you nail questions. Thanks for the comment!

  6. It seems a little unfair to judge someone’s work ethic based off of the appearance of their car, don’t you think? If you are not impressed, do you offer them a chance to explain or simply chalk that up as disgusting and try to guess how they will treat your stuff?

    • Hey KJ. You are not the first person to point this out. There are just so many tactics and perspectives that different managers have… I think I would never be hired if someone judged me by my cars cleanliness! I’m a messy girl, but I can lead a team and handle a dining room like no ones business. How’s your car? Would you be hired???

      • I would agree in that there is some degree of value to see the way in which someone keeps their personal belongings. But I think that when monetary compensation is given in return for labor then personal habits get stored and work ethic is seen. In other words, if I got paid to keep my car clean that *ish would be clean all day errday. It’s the same reason people don’t cuss and speak professionally in a work setting but at home they might just let out all the filth they can think of. Granted someone who does not speak dirty at home would be much less likely to drop an fbomb in an inappropriate setting versus someone who flys fbomb all day long… Make sense?

        • Heck ya it makes sense. You are not the first person who doesn’t like the car cleanliness idea… I don’t think it’s a regular thought to most hiring managers though, so that’s good! Thanks for the comment Eli!

    • KJ I agree with you! I take pride in my most expensive possessions and look after them as best I can but living down a country lane with two horses kept it the forest means my car will mostly be dusty in summer and muddy in winter. I’d hope the employer would ask or give chance to explain and if they judged me anyway I wouldn’t want to work for such a shallow minded person.

  7. These are really good questions, thank you. One of my favorite questions is “Persuade me to buy a beer instead of water” or “Give an example of when you have gone above and beyond for a guest.”

    • Yes Melissa! Good ones. I like the “persuade me” one. Sometimes people are so weird about involving themselves in the guest experience. While I don’t confuse guide with control, a healthy amount of “this might suit you better” is always a good thing. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Hi!
    Where can I find questions that could be answered in a multiple choice style and demonstrate industry knowledge?
    (i.e. process questions)

    • Hey Brenda. So, I don’t know. There is not a lot of helpful resources out there in that realm, which is kinda odd considering there are hundreds of thousands of restaurants that conduct interviews and could use a little help. I have a rough draft of a product that might interest you, but it is at the designers right now and I will then have to add to and tweak it. Sorry I couldn’t point you somewhere right now.

    • I need to be in conection with you gus coarse want training manual for bartender ‘waiter/waitress and kitchen staff.

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