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What makes a great butler?

how_to_be_a_great_butler.jpgWe posted a great role for a formally trained butler on our Villa Recruit jobs board this morning.  A full-time position based half the year in West Palm Beach, the other half the Hamptons.

BUTLER ROLE:  “Responsibilities include serving at formal dinners, managing the home, assisting in the planning of events, dinner parties and running errands. Knowledge of beverages desirable. Other responsibilities include calling in repairmen and overseeing their work, as well as dealing with contractors and landscapers. Occasionally housekeeping when necessary.”

Posting the various responsibilities of the role, made me think about what it takes to be a really great butler.

As Google would have it “chief manservant of a house,” the reality of being a butler in this day and age, is so much more than just the stereotyped “gentleman’s gentleman.”

“House Manager” is far more accurate and fair description of today’s butler.

What is the role of the House Manager or Butler?

The “House Manager” or “Butler” is expected to juggle a few aspects of running a private household; whether it’s overseeing staff, the household budget or keeping control of day-to-day finances.  It’s always worth taking the time to really scrutinise the full list of responsibilities of the role before applying.  Is it right for you? Are you the right fit?

Butler roles aren’t just for men

No longer the pre-requisite of the gentleman’s gentleman.  Today’s butler role is just as suitable for women as men, as society becomes more and more accepting of gender equality rather than sticking with the outdated, distasteful stereotype.  Quite rightly, each applicant is judged for their skill, experience, ability and character, rather than their gender. The butler (or House Manager) plays a vital role in the smooth running of the house and their employer’s life.  As with the role we’ve posted today, half the year the post is live-in and the other half is not, so the ability to flex with your employer’s needs is crucial.

What should a butler wear?

Think smart when attending the interview, even if it’s online.  Your potential employer will be judging you on first impressions and personal grooming is paramount.  As butler, you would be representing your employer and the household, and he/she will expect the ideal candidate to impress family, friends, visitors and associates.  You can always dress down if your employer requests it, but it’s harder to convince him/her you can be smarter if you’ve already unveiled a shabby look!  Depending on the post, the day’s events and your employer’s requirements, generally butlers adhere to a more formal/smart dress code. 

What key characteristics does a good butler need?

That’s easy: honesty, loyalty and discretion. A natural intelligence and flair for initiative will be highly sought after, more so than experience or skills built up over years on the job.

What to leave out of the butler CV?

Lies! Stick to the truth. Honesty is always the best policy with any application or CV. Don’t mislead your prospective or current employer, you’ll only come unstuck and find yourself out of a job if and when things unravel.

Does a butler need references?

Absolutely yes, references are essential.  Even if you haven’t had experience, there’s always the option of finding work experience with the offer of board and lodgings, no salary.  It will give you experience plus that all-essential reference. Don’t underestimate the value of character references too, but only approach “upstanding members of the community” for those!

What will the interview look like?

It will most likely begin with either a telephone or video call. All being well this will be followed by a number of interviews with existing staff before the principal. Do your research though. Forewarned is forearmed, it’s good to know a little about your employers and the household, how many in their employment, details of the role, what your responsibilities will be etc and make a list of possible questions with prepared answers.


  • Stay positive
  • Keep eye contact
  • Firm handshake
  • Good posture
  • Smart appearance
  • Listen carefully
  • Be prepared

If in doubt, ask!

Remember we said honesty is one of the key characteristics of a good butler? Well, be truthful with employers and colleagues about anything that makes you feel uneasy, or unable to perform certain tasks.Good, honest communication always prevails. Particularly in the early days when you’re still finding your feet. It’s the perfect time to take stock of rules and how the household is run. If in doubt though, don’t be afraid to ask! 

Remember, your employers are not your friends

It can be tricky when you’re working and living in close proximity to your employers and colleagues. The lines of professionalism can sometimes get blurred if you believe a friendship is building.  Don’t come unstuck. The reality is you are staff and if you want to keep your position, make sure you don’t become over familiar with your employers and visitors.

The sole of discretion

The Butler or House Manager is a highly trusted member of the private household. Trusted to uphold your employer’s values of privacy and discretion.  Just as much when you’re off as on-duty. British protocol and etiquette dictate that the use of social media whilst on duty is strictly OFF LIMITS!  As always, check your contract and any NDA’s you’ve been asked to sign, but as a rule never feature or share images of your employers, their family, home or any aspect of their lives.

For details of our latest House Manager and Butler roles, check out our latest jobs pages.

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