Baristas are the lifeblood of your coffee shop. Not only do they make and serve your product to your customers, they are the face of your establishment. Baristas are perhaps the most important employees you will need to hire but spotting a good candidate can be challenging. Here are some of the top traits you should be looking for when hiring your next barista.
One of the most important but difficult to assess qualities in a barista is their passion for coffee. In an industry plagued by high turnover, it’s essential to hire candidates who won’t burn out after a short time. Baristas who have a passion for coffee and a dedication to their craft are more likely to trudge on in spite of long hours and rude customers.
But how do you differentiate between feigned enthusiasm and genuine passion? For starters, ask your candidate to talk about coffee and gauge their response. Do they seem excited and happy to talk about coffee? Can they talk about coffee at length? You can usually tell the difference between someone giving a canned, rehearsed response and someone talking about something they’re genuinely passionate about. You’ll know it when you see it.
Another question you should ask your candidates is how they’re learning about coffee and honing their craft on their own. The best baristas don’t just view making coffee as a day job but also as a hobby that they pursue on their own.
The most obvious thing to look for in a barista is their ability to make a killer cup of brew. Ask your candidate to make you a drink during the interview and observe their process. Do they display good habits such as maintaining a clean workspace? Taste their drink and see if it’s up to your shop’s standards.
There are many other skills that you should look for in a candidate, such as their ability to multitask, perform consistently under pressure, and keep their workplace organized. While not all of these skills can necessarily be assessed in an interview, it could be useful to ask candidates situational questions that involve those skills and evaluate their approach to handling the situation.
Keep in mind that while skill and experience are important, you shouldn’t necessarily disqualify less experienced candidates. As long as they demonstrate passion, eagerness to learn, and a can-do attitude, they can be trained in the skills they need for the job. The less experienced but passionate candidate may just turn out to be your star employee later down the line.
Last but perhaps most importantly, you should seek candidates who are capable of providing outstanding customer service. It’s important to look for customer-centric candidates not only because your baristas will be the face of your shop but also because providing excellent customer service can be a great competitive advantage in the crowded coffee industry.
Baristas who make the effort to learn their customers’ names and favorite drinks will earn you regulars, whereas baristas who provide sub-par customer service will lead your customers to the next shop down the block. One way to test your candidate’s customer skills is through role-playing. While it may not give you an exact representation of how your candidate will treat your customers, it may give you an idea of how your candidate will approach them.
Hiring a team of good baristas can elevate your shop and separate you from the competition. As long as you look for candidates who are passionate about coffee, willing to learn, and committed to delivering excellent customer service, you’re already on your way to hiring your next star barista!