We are getting ready to open in a few weeks and I'm starting to panic - how and where do I find great employees? Most businesses in my area use the local high schools as their hiring pool, but I'm looking for people who are a bit more mature and who are truly interested in coffee and/or learning about the business.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have anything against young talent, but I've been in these places when the high schoolers are behind the counter. On one occasion, I counted 3 specialty drinks, 2 brewed coffees, 4 cookies, 1 piece of cheesecake and a croissant sandwich pass over the counter with no money exchanged. And this was over the course of 30 minutes! As friends came in, they confidently walked behind the counter for hugs and chit chat, got their freebies and then sat down with their free food and drink to do their homework en masse. I want to avoid this type of situation.

I posted flyers at the local colleges and put signs in our windows, but what else should I do?

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I like to use my customers as potential employees. They obviously like our products since they choose us over the competition. They also have seen the current employees in action, so they understand a little about what the job entails. Now starting out, I know you don't have customers yet, but once you do, they are a great place to look. One of my stores is on a college campus, and that is a great place to look for employees. 1 - college students are always looking for ways to make money. 2 - having flexible work schedules to fit into their class schedule helps. 3 - they need to caffeine anyways to stay awake to study. They are a great group to have in your hiring pool. And they are usually more mature & responsible than high school aged kids. That's not to say high school age would be bad. My philosophy is they have to learn somtime, but they need someone there to teach them. That's why I like to have a mix of employees working together. Most nights I have a high schooler, a college student, and then either an older person or another college student. I think that translates that we are for everyone, and not just geared toward any one age group. I think the key is a good, balanced mix.
This is not exactly geared toward your question but I recalled learning this from being in the employment agency business for a number of years. In hiring: there is the "perfect" fit, the "near fit" and "mis-fit". The PF will do it there way no matter, the NF has some experience but is open to training and the MF has nothing, except an attitude that you cannot not hire.

Lastly, you WANT people walking in looking for work. View that person wanting to drop off their resume as an opportunity to find out about them and what attracted them to your store. They can also be a good source of public relations when handled respectfully. If noone is in contact with your store for a job there may be something missing in your operation. Then rate their resume on the spot and save them, all of em! I learned you start looking for a new employee when the last one is hired. You will be glad you have few resumes on file at some point.
Things like that happen because it's tolerated. That kind of activity needs to be routed out and fired immediately.

How do you find great people? I think it starts with you, your attitude and the kind of culture you create in your business. I've been in business for nearly ten years now and while I certainly had to fire employees, overall, I've hired some great people who worked hard and did me proud.

However, in order to find those people, I took my time and worked a lot of hours myself while waiting, searching and interviewing hundreds of applicants until I found the right people for the positions.

Unfortunately, there's no secret formula. You just have to set a standard and find people who want to live up to that standard.
I'm going to be in a similar situation very soon. Before I give you some untested advice, I think it's worth me noting what I would tell you as a bystander, and then apply it to my own situation.

1. Be wary about hiring from the customer pool. I like the people who come into my store, but however "interested" they say they are, or how excited they are about coffee, drinking it and making it are two different beasts. Not only are you taking away from your income (ha!), but I think people do need that "third place" that isn't their work. If I like somebody, I wouldn't want to work with them.

2. Like dating, where you meet someone is going to inform a lot about them. Word of mouth is cool, ad's in community publications (particularly ones in which your store is mentioned) are also good. I'm wary of craigslist or other "classified" publications--those are a desperate bunch.

My ideal employee has heard about my store, tried the coffee, and has talked to the other customers and employees a little before deciding put in an application. I want someone who has had a feel for the place and is willing to give it a shot--not someone who has passed final judgments, for good or ill. I like them green and eager to learn. No "friends who need a job."
You know, almost nothing annoys me more than ordering coffee from someone that doesn't drink the stuff themselves. Its just a waste of time, and I'm usually disappointed. It just blows my mind at how many PBTCs know nothing about coffee other than a menu description of the drinks served at their shop. Please, people... hire coffee drinkers!

We get 2-3 people a week that come through the door asking about a job. Usually, I've never seen their face, they just asked at the Domino's next door, and they don't even buy anything. Come on! There is just no way I'm hiring someone to work behind the bar that can walk into and out of an indie shop without buying something, or at least sniffing the beans on the way out.

My first job in coffee was at my neighborhood shop. I'd been a couple-times-a-week customer for about a year and a half. I thought it was a no-brainer for the owner, because he knew a little more about me than someone off the street. He also knew that I cared about coffee. I was a good employee for him.

Ditto on Jay's comments. HS student or not, any employee has the potential to be dishonest.
To find great employees you need to be extremely selective in your choosing process. Begin with hiring for personality and desire to learn. If you have someone who doesn't drink coffee and/or have a desire to learn about coffee they will never become great at what they do. If you hire someone without a personality, no matter how well you train them, they will never have a personality.

Thats why my modo has always been hire for attitude and train for skill. Make sure you have a training program available so that your product is being served well. Never assume that someone with 'experience' knows what they are doing. Inevitably there will be some mistakes, but that is why I'd also suggest a 1 month trial period. In that case you (and the employee) will have a good idea if things will work out. Best of luck.
Matt Milletto came out with a great article on that in Fresh Cup awhile back.
Here it goes... http://vivabarista.com/content/view/142/65/

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