Stop me if there's already a hidden thread on this topic . . .

We're getting ready to do some hiring at the espresso cart, what are some key interview questions you all have used? How about some other techniques to find that hidden coffee geek who's just dying to be a barista?

Thanks!

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Watch current customers ... people who strike you as honest, fun, hard working and coffee loving ... we found our evening manager that way. Kaylee was a regular customer with a super attitude, she worked at the local market and as we casually asked around we found that she had a great reputation for customer service as observed by other employees and customers - when we inquired as to whether she might want to make a job switch - we found that she was already looking to leave her current job. She has been a great addition ...
So many ways to screen applicants. I used to use a very thorough system that included custom applications, set questions, interviews, practical skills and personality tests. That system yielded some great people.

I've recently modified that and will be utilizing a friends' system of leaving an "open call" for applicants to come in on a certain day between certain hours. They can come in anytime during that window of time and bring their resume with them for a five minute introduction.

In those five minutes, we'll take their resume, have a look, ask questions and get a general feel for the candidate. If we like the candidate, we'll call them on the phone and ask them to come back at another day and time for a formal interview.

During the formal interview, we'll take maybe an hour to chat, learn more about the candidate and ask a series of set questions (we use ten) and a practical test to see their skill level. Quite frankly, I'm not necessarily looking for a highly skilled barista. I just want to see what skill level they are currently and what needs to be changed to fit our style and our standards.

If necessary, we'll bring the candidate back at another time for an additional interview with other staff for a final evaluation.
Ok, so here is an idea suggested by a chef looking for line cooks in a VERY busy hotel kitchen, where hustle and focus are necessary, and I think we may start incorporating this into our interview process as well... we haven't yet, but I found it very intriguing...

Meet them in a place at some distance from where you're going to actually be interviewing them. Greet them and then tell them that we're now going to be heading to the office, or where ever to conduct the actual interview. Then proceed to walk as fast as you can before running to your office. When you get to the door, turn around and see how far behind they are. If they can't reasonably keep up, or move quickly, they're out.

We're also thinking about adding problem solving situations (as well as questions of course) to the process... For instance.. In the middle of the interview, ask them to retrieve a 12oz pitcher from the bar. Start a timer, or look at your watch and see how long it takes them to communicate and get the item. If they can't get it, they're out... you can also then observe how they work with others and manage challenges.

We haven't implemented any of this yet, they're just ideas... Id be interested to know what you all think about this... it's not really coffee-geek focused, but it we've had an interesting time with very slow coffee-geeks.

Another thing I always like to do is ask them if they would like a drink at the beginning of the interview. If they say no, they better have a good reason. If they say yes I wait a few seconds to see if they say what they would like... if it's not a serious espresso drink, I order them a cappuccino anyway along with the drink they asked for the barista makes the capps first and serves it to us, then the other drink. Obviously I stand behind the quality and the coffee focus of all of our beverages, and we are all on our own coffee journey... but I watch closely the cappuccino and if they drink it, and what they have to say about it.

Not everyone is prepared to drink and describe their taste and experiences of drinking coffee when they come in for the interview, but I can get some response of where they are on their coffee journey and whether or not they would be a good fit.
Most of those things seem to be "gotcha" tricks to try and trip someone up. If you want to see how someone works behind the bar, why don't you just ask them to make a drink and observe them in action?

If I was subjected to what you described, I'd probably consider them to be an idiot.

Monica Rae Hill said:
Ok, so here is an idea suggested by a chef looking for line cooks in a VERY busy hotel kitchen, where hustle and focus are necessary, and I think we may start incorporating this into our interview process as well... we haven't yet, but I found it very intriguing...

Meet them in a place at some distance from where you're going to actually be interviewing them. Greet them and then tell them that we're now going to be heading to the office, or where ever to conduct the actual interview. Then proceed to walk as fast as you can before running to your office. When you get to the door, turn around and see how far behind they are. If they can't reasonably keep up, or move quickly, they're out.

We're also thinking about adding problem solving situations (as well as questions of course) to the process... For instance.. In the middle of the interview, ask them to retrieve a 12oz pitcher from the bar. Start a timer, or look at your watch and see how long it takes them to communicate and get the item. If they can't get it, they're out... you can also then observe how they work with others and manage challenges.

We haven't implemented any of this yet, they're just ideas... Id be interested to know what you all think about this... it's not really coffee-geek focused, but it we've had an interesting time with very slow coffee-geeks.

Another thing I always like to do is ask them if they would like a drink at the beginning of the interview. If they say no, they better have a good reason. If they say yes I wait a few seconds to see if they say what they would like... if it's not a serious espresso drink, I order them a cappuccino anyway along with the drink they asked for the barista makes the capps first and serves it to us, then the other drink. Obviously I stand behind the quality and the coffee focus of all of our beverages, and we are all on our own coffee journey... but I watch closely the cappuccino and if they drink it, and what they have to say about it.

Not everyone is prepared to drink and describe their taste and experiences of drinking coffee when they come in for the interview, but I can get some response of where they are on their coffee journey and whether or not they would be a good fit.
I like Dan's approach. I have found people out of the Food and Beverage industry seem to work the best. Especially those that have worked at independent restaurants, not the big chains. I don't think it matters if they have any bar skills to start unless you need someone right away. It is more important that they have a good work ethic, are good with people and are willing to learn. In the beginning it doesn't even matter to me if they like coffee. In time people will find inspiration and I think that is part of the owners job, to make people excited. One last idea... post a listing on bX. I bet you'll get some responses. Peoples main pages are a sort of resume anyhow.
We've had great success with craigslist also... bizarre as that might sound
I personally find no fault with what Mama Kill just brought to the table. I dont find it as one of those "gotcha" moments, its more along the lines of something that just catches you off guard as it isn't a "traditional" interview. One of my most favorite questions that I've personally been asked was "are you good with your hands?" Really weird question, but if you are, barista skills, especially having consistant dosing, distribution, tamping, etc, carry over really well and often end up being a more competant barista faster than somebody who is a klutz, to put it lightly.
One other thing about the aforementioned interview "technique" of running off down the street away from the interviewee... depending upon the size of the company, it would most likely be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Just saying...
Jeff throwin it down OG style!!
but in all seriousness, this is very true.

Jeff Givens said:
One other thing about the aforementioned interview "technique" of running off down the street away from the interviewee... depending upon the size of the company, it would most likely be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Just saying...
One question I always asked to people was

"What's worse to steal something that costs 25 cents or something that costs 25 dollars?"

if they replied with either of those answers they wouldnt get the job. You shouldnt steal in the first place.
Always try and get "ABC" questions prepared in advance of the interview.(Action, behavior, consequence). When interviewing you want to have concrete examples of how a potential employee will work under pressure, when no under pressure, how the handle customer complaints. Generally this form of questioning during interviews is not used enough. Its pretty easy to B.S an interviewer, but much more difficult if the interviewer is using targeted questioning. EG- "Tell me about a time when you had a customer complain about a drink you prepared". Anyone who says it has never happened is either a demi-god or simply not answering honestly. From that question you can pull out the action (problem), how the potential employee dealt with it and what happened. This form of interviewing takes some practice but once you are fluid with it it produces excellent results and also keeps the interviewee talking, rather than yourself.
one of my favorite things to ask, which identifies more personality than competency is, "if you could make coffee for one person, dead or alive who would it be?"

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