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Interview Questions for a Barista Candidates (Examples)

Jim McCormickAuthor

How to Conduct an Interview at Your Restaurant

Hiring the right barista for your coffee shop can be challenging, nevermind the logistics of the hiring process. With early morning hours and retail space, running a business that takes considerable manpower is exhausting and the last thing you want to do is find new staff and hope they work out. 

But, keep in mind that a little more effort in the hiring process can pay dividends in the long-run with a barista that is conscientious, knowledgeable, and reliable, as well as passionate about your business. Nailing the interview, and that means doing your part on your end, and having a candidate that can confidently and readily answer your coffee shop interview questions is a recipe for success. 

So you don’t miss a step, here is a step-by-step template to making sure that you have done your due diligence in hiring the right barista for the job.

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Interview Questions Template

With culture questions, experience questions, and situational questions, this customizable Word doc will guide your interviews with prospective candidates.

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Barista Interview Tips

To start, you want to begin by making sure the candidate knows who you are within the coffee shop. Make sure to introduce yourself thoroughly and provide some background information. If you’re the owner, what made you start the coffee shop? What is your philosophy on baking? 

How does the coffee shop align itself with the neighborhood and who are your clientele? It’s also important that the candidate leaves understanding the values of the coffee shop and what is most important in running the business. 

This will help you choose the right candidate because you’re giving an accurate portrayal of the business and job, and he or she will be more apt to make the right decisions as to if it is also a good fit for them. 

Explain Need for the Role

Once you have given the candidate a brief “lay of the land” it’s time to introduce them to the position. While some people may think being a barista at a coffee shop is self-explanatory, that is not the case. Is the barista expected to restock any food items? What kind of payment systems do you accept? What is the length of the average shift? 

Some details on exactly what the job functions and expectations are set you and the candidate up for success because it establishes the ground rules from the onset. Before going into the deep questions, you want to make sure that, generally, you understand the candidates job qualifications and past experience. This means reviewing their resume before they come into the coffee shop for their interview, and asking any clarifying questions you might have. 

For example, you might want to decide ahead of time if prior experience working in a coffee shop is a requirement for the position or if you have more experienced staff that can help them learn on the job. As an aside, this is a great time to find out their knowledge of food safety regulations and precautions, which will be reflective of their prior experience. 

Establish Job Requirements

Once you have that question answered, make sure you know what the candidate for your coffee shop’s availability and preferred hours are. Are they a student and will need a changing schedule every semester? What is their expectation of time off? 

Making sure you understand how much you and the candidate expect him or her to be working is a great first step in aligning your expectations. Make sure when you are discussing availability that you make clear the pacing of the coffee shop. Is it a fast-paced establishment with customers throughout the day? Are there lulls? 

All of this information will help to color the candidates perception of the job and the hours they expect to work. 

Culture Fit

Even though you’re looking for a staff member specific to your coffee shop, it is still important to evaluate their leadership potential. Consider asking them when they demonstrated leadership, or how they conveyed leadership ability by dealing with a challenge at one of their previous positions. 

This will help you gauge whether this person might be a potential future manager or has an interest in being a leader in your establishment. Of course, while having a leader or future management material may come in handy, what ultimately matters when hiring for your coffee shop is making sure they are passionate about the industry in general, and that talking to customers and interacting with customers about coffee is something they enjoy and intellectually curious about. 

Next Steps

As you wrap up your interview, make sure to always close with thanking them and letting them know what the next steps are in the process. 

If you have the ability, let them know when you are hoping to make a hiring decision, when you would hope that person would start, as well as any other pertinent information such as the hourly rate and how many candidates you hope to hire in total. Taking the time to do this shows them that you are a considerate staff member and it demonstrates the level of professionalism of your coffee shop. 

Having trouble thinking of specific questions? Let’s help you get started. Here are ten questions to consider when hiring your barista, as well as ten ideal answers to those questions to help you evaluate your candidates.

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Interview Questions Template

With culture questions, experience questions, and situational questions, this customizable Word doc will guide your interviews with prospective candidates.

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Barista Interview Questions

What do you do when someone has just started drinking coffee and has no idea what to order? 


I think that making recommendations and educating customers is such an important part of being a barista. Oftentimes, ordering at a coffee shop can be overwhelming and sometimes the staff doesn’t make it any easier. How is someone supposed to know what a flat white is if they have never heard it before? 


I really like taking the time to explain and figure out what someone might like so I can make recommendations. The first thing I like to find out is what kind of dairy they like, that way I can make a recommendation for something that feels somewhat familiar. If they like a certain type of dairy or dairy alternative I might recommend a latte or an oat milk latte with a flavor addition such as salted caramel or mocha. If it’s warm out I might suggest a hot drink or a cold drink on a hot day. 


I would also want to know what some of their favorite flavors are, or what they have seen before that appeals to them. I also love recommending a hot chai tea with milk to customers who want to try something but aren’t sure they like coffee. 



The customer says they want to try something unique or new, what do you suggest? 


First, I need to get an idea of other drinks they like or if there is something they really don’t like. I have been suggesting that customers try lavender flavored lattes lately because it is a nice flavor addition but it doesn’t dominate the flavor of a latte, so it’s something new but somewhat safe to try for the first time. 


I also love seasonal tastes like mocha mint and pumpkin spice. While people joke about these being too popular or overrated, a lot of people really enjoy them and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I also think it’s important to not be a snob as a barista, and to be supportive of what people like, no matter what. 



This is a modern coffee shop and our customers love the convenience of paying in many different ways. What are some of the different payment methods you are familiar with? 


In my prior experience working at a coffee shop we accepted cash, credit, debit, and mobile pay. Additionally, we accepted gift cards which operated like credit cards and could be swiped at the point of sale, and then the customer would receive a receipt with whatever remaining balance they have left on the card after their purchase. 


We also accepted coupons and rewards points for purchases, which were integrated into the point of sale system and could be applied to any transaction, except for gift cards. 



Are you a morning person or do you work better in the evenings or nights? Why? 


Working in a coffee shop, you have to be ready and prepared for customers early in the morning, when the most loyal customers arrive ready to start their day off right. While initially I had to adjust to being with a rush of customers early in the morning, I now find it exciting. 


While most of my experience has been working in the mornings, I was happy to cover afternoon and early evening shifts until the coffee shop I previously worked at closed for the day. When I did, I made sure to have a large coffee in the early afternoon to beat any afternoon slump in my energy, but then I was good to go. 



How do you prefer to work with your coworkers? Do you like having shifts with the same people, and how do you split up division of labor? 


Whenever I’m new at a position, I like to learn what the other people like to do and what they are best at, and then make sure to observe them and learn from them on the job. While I have worked at a coffee shop before, every business is run a little bit differently, and so learning how other people do things that have more experience is helpful in helping me learn on the job. 


When I’m new, I also try to not have any preferences on how we divide work since I want to learn how to do everything. I’m happy to take on new tasks and get experience with every part of the coffee shop. While I love working with people that I know and have an established working relationship with, it is always fun to get to know other staff members, see how they interact with customers, and gain some of their knowledge for the different coffee offerings. 



What is your favorite coffee shop item and why? 


I love chocolate and mint, and I know many people do not, but it’s really my favorite. When I have customers who also love chocolate mint i love to make recommendations, like doing a half hot chocolate half espresso and adding a few pumps of mint syrup. I love a mocha mint latte with a vanilla or cream-based dessert. 


I also love spicy chai tea because of how bold the flavor is but it’s also gentle and soothing on the stomach. 



How would you explain your favorite coffee drink to a customer? 


I think many people have no idea how a regular hot latte is really made so I love to explain that. All lattes begin the same — a single or double shot of espresso. This espresso is then combined with several ounces of steamed milk or milk alternative to create a rich, creamy beverage that has a more subtle espresso taste. 


The typical ratio for espresso to steamed milk is about 1-to-2. From there there’s so much you can do, like adding chocolate syrup, cinnamon, vanilla syrup. You can add an additional shot of espresso for extra boost. You can add sugar or simple syrup. I sometimes like adding sugar and a little salt to bring out the deeper flavors. 



Tell me a little bit about how you handle baked goods as a barista and keep the working space tidy. 


When handling food and money, it’s important to keep things as clean as possible. I make sure to use tissues or tongs when selecting the baked goods from the shelf, and make frequent trips to the restroom or use hand sanitizer after handling cash or returning change to a customer. 


Additionally, I make sure that baked goods always go directly into the bag or on the plate and don’t land on another surface in transit. Of course if something is touched or dropped it is thrown away. I also consider the freshness of bakery items. If we sell day-old items, I make sure to separate those out at the end of the night and have them tightly sealed as well so customers can receive the items as fresh as possible the next day for a discount. 



Why are you passionate about working at a coffee shop? 


I love coffee! It’s such a nice way to take a break during the day, and there’s a great coffee drink for every occasion. 


For coffee lovers, we walk up thinking about our first cup and how much joy it brings us, and I love sharing that. I also love the customizability of making someone a coffee drink, whether it’s cold or hot, bone dry, flat white, has caramel syrup, for dining in or to-go. 


When there are coffee trends on social media or TikTok, I always try them, and I order syrups to my house as well. I have a percolator and I love seeing how it works, and I love trying coffee preparations from different cultures, such as Turkish coffee. 



What are your long-term career goals and how does working as a barista at this coffee shop help you achieve them? 


My long-term plans are to own a small business or to become involved with roasting my own beans. I would love to be a small artisan coffee roaster and sell my beans or grounds at farmer’s markets. I love learning how businesses work and what goes into making a profit. 


I feel like working at a coffee shop you learn about how the business is run and you start to develop a holistic understanding of the business. It’s something I’m passionate about so I think no matter what working at a coffee shop will help me learn more about the industry and potentially owning my own small business someday.

Final Thoughts

While hiring new staff always takes time and energy, make sure to remember that in the long-run who you hire will represent your business to your customers. If you make the effort to hire the right candidates, who are a good fit for the position, you will retain wonderful staff who like their jobs, and have to do less hiring. It’s more up-front work but the payoff is a win-win for everyone.

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