For me it's all about work ethic, and then passion. Passion can be shared easily, but work ethic is a much longer learning experience. it takes years and years of hard times to finally understand and develop a good work ethic if you were not raised with one. I know, because I wasn't raised with one and I had to learn the hard way. I have to say this thread stuck out like a sore thumb for me. At the moment, I'm short staffed, not due to lack of passionate people who want to work and learn the coffee industry, it's more the challenges of other responsibilities which come along with working in coffee, such as mopping, doing the dishes, customer service, punching in on time, availability, responsibility, register skills, etc. Passion for coffee is easier to find in people than an awesome work ethic. I'll never hire anyone on "passion for coffee" alone. if they don't know how to mop or scrub a toilet but can pinpoint where the Amaro Gayo washing station is located in Ethiopia, I'll be slightly impressed, but I won't give them a job until I know they are willing and able to clean a toilet. A good deal of people are misguided about the day to day realities of the coffee business. many think it's all about information, precision and craftsmanship. yes, it is, but it's so much more.
The first thing my employees get to do after being hired is take out the trash, then wash the dishes, advance to the cashier position, take on closing duties, then opening duties, and if they still haven't left after that, I start training them on the bar and cupping coffees. Then they advance to shift management, and so on... That's what happened with me, and now I own a coffee roasting company and make my employees go through all the same old crap I went through... I am however always looking out for those folks who know a good deal about coffee and have potential to actualize great barista skills, but even then, if they can't do the dishes, I don't need them, nor do I want them. Commitment is also a huge factor. my questions would be:
have you ever worked in the food/customer service industry?
do you know how to mop a floor, and have you ever had to do so as apart of your job?
where is Uganda? where is Papua New Guinea?
where does coffee come from?
how long were you employed at your last job?
how long did you work at your most favorite place of employment?
why do you want to work here? what are your expectations?
do you know what our mission statement as a company is? (if not, have them read it, and have them give you some feedback as to what it means to them)
just some ranting. hope this helps..
I think attitude, interest, and work ethic are more important than knowledge. You want sponges.
"Hire for attitude: train for skill" Baristas are a dime a dozen, but great people are hard to find. (Actually, most baristas I know are pretty great people,... But you get my point.)
As someone who spent many years in human resources for a large corporation and has conducted literally thousands of interviews, I really like what Cultiva Guy said. Determining a person's work ethic is a huge factor. The hard part is determining if they really do have that ethic or if they're simply able to talk like they have it. A couple of my favorite questions to determine this....
1) Describe to me the best boss you've ever worked for and specifically why that person was the best boss.
That question is immediately followed up with....
2) Now describe the worst boss you've ever worked for and why they were the worst, and PLEASE, NO NAMES. Just tell me why they were the worst.
Candidates might wonder why you want information about their previous bosses, but in reality their answers tell me more about themselves than they will ever realize.
I wish I knew places like the ones you all run where I'm from, because I have passion and work ethic and haven't had any luck so far. I'd say don't turn away someone who is visibly disabled just because it seems like they (and by that I mean me) can't do the job. You might be surprised.
The questions I like to ask is what the best coffee they've ever had - if they say something like "a cappuccino," then it's thanks and have a good day. If they mention coffee with grandma growing up, then I know I've got a people person. Because to them, coffee is about experience, not ingredients.