Hiring the perfect barista is like chasing the perfect shot: difficult, but worth the effort.
Many people still view being a barista as a part-time job for college students – which makes finding the right people for a quality-focused third wave shop a challenge. Especially if your shop is in a smaller city, where the pool of qualified applicants may be pretty slim.
And we know that, as café owners, you have more than enough things to worry about without stressing about poor hires. So we’ve created five tips that will make your next recruitment drive as easy as using an AeroPress.
SPANISH VERSION: 5 Consejos Para Contratar al Barista Perfecto
1. Know What You’re Looking For
Make sure you clearly define what you want from your new barista. Do you need someone to work the bar or to be in the kitchen? Or do you someone flexible enough that they can jump in wherever they’re needed? Don’t stop there: how many hours do you need them to work? What level of experience is ideal? What kind of attitude should they have? What personality do they need to click with your team?
And regardless of the position in question, you should also be looking for the following traits:
- Teachable attitude
- Relevant skills
- Good communication skills
Why is this step so important? Because one, if you know what you’re looking for, you can easily weed out applicants who don’t fit that description. Two, any potential new employees will appreciate knowing what they are getting into. And three, it will help you focus your advertising for the position, making it easier to get the word out to only those people who would be suitable.
First step: set your sights on your perfect candidate.
2. Ask the Right Questions
As a hiring manager, you can’t just walk into an interview without having prepared. Before you start, write out a series of questions and potential follow-up questions to ask each applicant. Make sure these will really address the skills and traits you listed in step one.
Don’t just ask yes or no questions, either. Using open-ended questions gives the applicant a chance to tell you all about their skills and experiences in a way that communicates their personality. It’s a great opportunity to evaluate whether or not they will really fit in with your team.
And while the candidate is answering, pay attention to the details. It’s not just what they say but how they say it. Learn to look beyond the monologue of their practiced answers and see a bit of their individuality, personality, and demeanor.
Prepare a list of questions before you start the interview.
3. Consider a Panel Interview
In many small shops, there are usually only one or two people involved in the hiring process. Yet there’s a lot of value in panel interviews, especially once you’ve narrowed down the field to three or four applicants.
Different people will interact differently, so your team may not form the same impressions as you did. But everyone at the shop will have to work with whoever you hire. This means that you can avoid some potentially troublesome situations simply by letting the rest of your staff meet and interview applicants.
If you have a second-in-command, have them conduct a round of second interviews. And if you’re the only one making the decision, consider having as many of your staff as possible take part in the final interview.
Don’t do it alone – get your staff to help with recruitment.
4. Follow Up With Previous Employers
References are useless. No one puts down someone who won’t give them a glowing review. However, the previous employers that candidates didn’t provide as references are another story. (Remember to check your local laws around this, though; you may need the candidate’s permission to contact them.)
When you reach out to previous employers, make sure to ask these questions:
- What was their position, role, and dates of employment?
- Would they be eligible for rehire?
- Did they get promoted at any time?
- Were they on time?
- What were their strengths?
- Is there anything else you should consider before hiring this person?
Once you have some candidates you think might fit, call their previous employers.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Wait – Or Make Mistakes
You mustn’t let the pressure of finding someone lead you to hire the wrong person. Hopefully you’ll find yourself picking the best candidate ever from a pool of perfectly qualified applicants. But if that isn’t the case (and there’s a good chance it won’t be), it’s okay to wait. Many, if not most, positions don’t have to be filled right away. And hiring the wrong person can waste money in training costs, create discord among your staff, and be an all-out headache for everyone involved.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t let this keep you from hiring anyone. It’s impossible to know all about a candidate from a few interviews and a résumé, so at some point you need to have faith in your impression. Trust yourself to have enough experience to choose the best person for the job.
And remember, if you find you hired the wrong person, it’s not the end of the world. Just don’t prolong the process of replacing a poor fit – it’s not good for your employees or your business.
Waiting for the right employee can seem terrible, but it’s worth the wait.
Hiring new baristas can be a stressful, time-consuming business. Yet don’t short-change it. Follow the suggestions above for a smooth hiring business and a new barista that will produce excellent coffees, work well with your team, and bring a strong work ethic to play.
Written by E. Squires. All photos via Pixabay.
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