The name of the job has nothing to do with the word bus, but everything to do with the word busy. Busboys, sometimes also called Bussers, typically work in busy restaurants and fast food places, with high capacity (50 + guests) and high customer turnover, simply in places where people always come and go, looking for a clean table, a place to sit at and dine at. Busboys make sure that as soon as one group of customers leave their table, it is available for the next one. They clean or replace the table sheets, and carry away all remaining plates and glasses and cutlery, sometimes also swiping the floor around and under the table.
Busboy is not an easy job, but one you can get without any previous experience. It can be your fist career step in the hospitality field, something you can put on your resume later on. Or simply a means of making some extra money each week… Since the job isn’t hard, and everyone can learn how to do it, you can expect an easy interview. Just a few questions about your motivation, availability, expectations. In some places they may ask you a couple of situational questions as well, such as what you would do if the guests complained that the table was dirty. Let’s have a look at the questions, one by one.
Why did you decide to apply for this job?
Just be honest and show realistic expectations. It makes no sense to talk about the job of a busboy in some lofty terms, claiming that you will learn a lot in the job, or even saying that you’ve always wanted to work as a busser. It just won’t make sense to the hiring mangers, and such an answer would immediately put a dent to your credibility in their eyes.
Do you want this job because you can hardly get a better one with your level of experience? It is fine saying so. Or perhaps you just want to make some extra money and have something you can put on your resume? Again, feel free to express your thoughts. Maybe you have a criminal record, and cannot fantasize of getting any better jobs. Still, you have to live from something, you’re rehabilitated, and grateful for any opportunity to work and earn some money.
Of course, you can point out a few positives of the job. For example that you will be on your feet most of the day, which is definitely more healthy than any sedentary job. Or that you like the environment of a busy restaurant, that it fits you better than some other form of working environment. One way or another, try to speak with at least some enthusiasm about the job. You should not sound desperate or completely out of options while interviewing for this one.
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Job of a busboy is pretty much a repetitive, mundane work. What will motivate in this type of work?
You can focus on money, and the reasons why you apply for the job at first place. Perhaps you want to earn some extra cash to support your studies. Or you really struggle with bills, and need this occupation to make something happen with your life, or at least to keep your head above the water. In such circumstances, one understands the value of any job, and the consequences of losing it. You know that if either the managers or the customers are not satisfied with your efforts, or results, they will send you packing. And you cannot afford it to happen.
Another option is saying that you actually prefer simple, repetitive jobs. One doesn’t have to be the smartest guy to handle the job of a busboy. What’s more, once your shift ends you can leave the restaurant with a clean sheet and clear mind, focusing on your life outside of work. Corporate employees earn better, but they rarely enjoy such a luxury, taking problems with them back home.
You can even point out interactions with customers and colleagues, which add a bit of variety to the job, and will without a doubt help you to at least somehow enjoy the work in their restaurant.
Are you still studying? What is your availability?
Most bussers are paid on a hourly basis, and most of them don’t work full time. At the end of the day, restaurants need them only during peak hours, which can be over lunch time or in the evenings or over the weekend, depending on the type of restaurant, their business model, and typical patterns of their target group of customers.
Anyway, you should show some flexibility, and give them plenty of options when it comes to your availability. Always suggest weekends and evenings, because these are peak times in most restaurants, and such a schedule should fit well with your obligations at school. As long as you present them a clear schedule for your typical week, and show your willingness to sacrifice something for the job, they will be satisfied with your answer.
A customer complains about the cleanliness of their table. How will you react?
Delivering excellent customer service is the top priority of most restaurant managers. The last thing they want to witness are complaining customers–be it directly in the restaurant, or posting negative reviews online. Ensure the interviewer that you will take each complaint seriously.
You will apologize to the customer, clean the table again (if possible in the given circumstances, of course you won’t do that if they already have their plates and glasses on with food and drinks). Most importantly, you will try to learn the lesson, and do it better next time. At the end of the day, you aren’t a robot, and you can sometimes miss some dirt, or unintentionally forget to clean one of the tables. As long as you accept responsibility, learn your lesson, and avoid repeating the same mistake, you are good to go.
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How long do you want to have this job? What are your future plans?
Restaurant managers are not naive. They know that people do not have a job of a busboy for years on end. Everyone wants to progress in their career. While cleaning tables for your living is nothing you should be ashamed of–each job is important and helps someone, otherwise it would not exist, you certainly hope to have a better paid job in the future.
And it is fine to admit it in the interviews, but still, the minimum period you should opt for while answering this one is six months. Say them that you’d like to have the job for six months at least, and then you will see what happens. Maybe they will offer you a better position in their restaurant. Or the school year will end, and you will look for something else, or will simply enjoy your holiday. One way or another, you have no plans of leaving them in a few weeks. That’s what they want to hear before anything else.
Do you consider yourself a team player?
Best restaurants work like well-oiled machines. Each employees plays their part in the success story of the place–cooks, servers, waitresses, managers, food runners, assistants, cashiers, and of course busboys. But people must cooperate with each other and respect each other to make this possible. Therefore you should always say that you enjoy belonging to a hard-working team, and feeling the sense of shared responsibility with your colleagues.
You can even refer to one of your past jobs, explaining how you belonged to the team and saying that you enjoyed the interactions with your colleagues, and how you helped one another to eventually deliver great results to the customers.
Having said that, you have no control when it comes to your colleagues. Sometimes you may be lucky and have amazing colleagues. Other times you will work with people who hate their jobs, and the only thing they display in work in negativity. Even in that case, however, you can be the one who brings something positive onboard–better attitude, good mood, you name it.
What are your salary expectations?
As a rule of a thumb you should keep your expectations rather low. More often than not, you will earn a minimum wage working as a busboy. However, it also depends on the condition of the economy, location of the restaurant, and whether or not they struggle with employees. Remember that in some cases, they may need you more than you need them.
Now, it doesn’t mean that you can ask for $25 per hour. That’s not going to happen. But if the conditions are favorable, you can definitely ask for $2-$2.5 more hourly than the minimum wage. Think about your situation and their situation, and whether you can afford taking risks in this interview. If you can, ask for more. The worst thing that can happen is that they will start laughing, or give you that look which says “what the heck do you think, this is a job of a busboy”. Even if it happens, however, you can always say that you just tried your chances, and will accept a lower wage (the one they offer to you)…
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