Top Job Interview Questions for Cafe Workers and Baristas

Barista steaming milk in cafe

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If you want to work in a café as a barista, you'll find that in your interview you are liable to be asked about anything from, “How are your customer services skills?” to “What do you know about different coffee drinks and customer coffee drinking habits?”

Knowing what you're going to say before an interview will make you seem calm and collected when you come face-to-face with your potential employer. You'll also have well thought out answers that will make you appear informed and articulate.

Keep in mind, however, that the questions that follow are just samples. You may be asked some of them but not all of them. You'll likely be asked questions specific to the particular job and coffeehouse or café you're applying for as well.

Customer Service Skills and Experience

Working in a coffeehouse requires great customer service skills, so expect the interviewer to ask about yours as well as any previous experience you have working in a café. Some questions about your customer service experience may include:

  • How would you handle a customer who was angry because of a mistake you made?
  • How would you respond if your shift were understaffed and the queue of waiting customers lengthened?

Also, the interviewer may ask you to rank your customer service skills overall, including how you'd describe your skills as a salesperson. They are looking to see how comfortable are you not only in taking and preparing coffee orders but also in upselling other products to customers. So, think about how you would go about upselling and be prepared for questions along this line.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Be honest. Don't give yourself top marks without explaining why. You might also be able to include areas where you can improve without making yourself look like a poor job candidate. Perhaps there's an area of customer service that you haven't had much experience in so you'd like to improve there.

In the same vein, the interviewer may want you to describe your previous experience in the service industry. “Do you have any experience operating an espresso machine?” they might ask. The interviewer might also inquire as to your experience with press pots, a pour-over bar, and siphon pots. Be prepared to discuss what the differences are between coffees made with each method.

Knowing Your Coffee Drink Recipes

You should also have a good knowledge of popular coffee drinks and be able to describe the difference between them. A few of the coffee drinks that most commonly appear on menus are:

  • Cappuccino
  • Caffè Americano
  • Café Latté, Espresso
  • Caffè Macchiato
  • iced coffee
  • Latte Macchiato
  • Café au lait
  • Cafè Mocha
  • Frappuccino
  • Caramel Macchiato
  • Café Cubano
  • Cortado
  • Turkish Coffee.

Stress and Problem Solving

Dealing with stress and chaos is a big part of working in a coffeehouse. Accordingly, the interviewer will probably want to know about the most stressful work environment you've been in and how you handled the stress. They might also want to know about your problem-solving and teamwork skills, especially about times you've had to help co-workers tackle problems. Try to think of instances where you’ve independently and collaboratively solved problems before you walk into your interview.

Mental Agility

Being a barista requires mental agility. So, expect the interviewer to ask how you stay focused while doing a simple, repetitive task. Your potential employer may also ask about your memory. Do you have a strong one? Have you ever had to memorize a long list of items? Are you talented in doing mental math and competent at cashing handling?

Personal Interests

Coffeehouses don't just want employees who need a job. Rather, they seek baristas who have a genuine interest in coffee culture. With this in mind, they'll likely want to know whether you drink coffee or tea and what your favorite café beverage is. 

More specifically, they may ask why you want to work for their café in particular and whether you have tasted anything from their café. Make sure to plan and study the menu carefully before you walk into the interview – this will give you talking points where you can express your enthusiasm for their products and their store climate.