Barista and Coffee Shop Interview Questions and Tips

Barista steaming milk in cafe
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Expect a variety of questions—from “How are your customer services skills?” to “What do you know about different coffee drinks and customer coffee drinking habits?”—when you interview to work in a café as a barista

You'll perform better during your interview to work at a cafe if you've got a sense of what you're going to say.

By preparing beforehand, you'll feel calm and collected when you come face-to-face with your potential employer. You'll also have well-thought-out answers that will help you appear informed and articulate.

Here's a look at some types of questions you might get during a barista interview. You may be asked some of them but not all of them. You'll likely be asked questions specific to the particular job, coffeehouse, or café you're applying for as well.

Questions About Your Customer Service Skills 

Working in a coffeehouse requires great customer service skills, so expect the interviewer to ask about yours and 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?
  • What is good customer service? 
  • How would you respond if your shift were understaffed and the queue of waiting customers lengthened?
  • How would you rank your customer service skills overall? 
  • How would you describe yourself as a salesperson? 

How to respond: Interviewers want to get a sense of how you will interact with customers. Share examples from previous customer-facing roles. When interviewers ask about your sales abilities, they're looking to see how comfortable are you not only in taking and preparing coffee orders but also in upselling other products to customers.

Think about how you would go about upselling and be prepared for questions along this line.

Questions About Your Experience

In some cases, interviewers will be looking to hire someone with previous experience. They may ask you about previous roles you've held in food service.

  • Have you ever worked in a cafe before? 
  • Do you have any experience operating an espresso machine?
  • What's the difference between pour-over and press pot coffee? 

How to respond: Share details about your previous work experience. If you have not previously worked a food-focused job, try to show how the skills you've used in other jobs would apply. For example, being skilled at ringing up customers is helpful. So too is any experience operating complicated machinery. 

Questions About Your Problem Solving

Dealing with stress and chaos is a big part of working in a coffeehouse. Interviews will be interested in knowing how you would handle these environments. Expect questions like: 

  • What would you do if the internet went down in the middle of the morning rush, preventing credit card transactions from going through? 
  • How do you handle stress? - Best answers
  • Do you work well as part of a team? - Best answers

How to respond: Try to think of instances where you’ve independently and collaboratively solved problems before you walk into your interview. That way, you'll be prepared to talk about your problem-solving and teamwork skills, especially in times you've had to help co-workers tackle problems.

Questions About Your Mental Agility

Being a barista requires a good memory and being quick on your feet. Here's how interviewers may ask about your mental agility: 

  • Do you have a good memory? 
  • Tell me about a time when you had to memorize a long list of items? 
  • How do you stay focused while doing a simple, repetitive task? 

How to respond: Aim to share examples. Plus, if you have any techniques you use to remember complicated orders, share them. 

Questions About You 

Coffee houses 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 may ask some questions about your relationship with beverages such as: 

  • What's your favorite café beverage? 
  • Do you drink coffee or tea? 
  • Have you been to this café before? 
  • Why do you want to work for this café in particular?

How to respond: Study the menu before you walk into the interview – this will give you talking points where you can express your enthusiasm for their products and their atmosphere. You can also take a look at the location's social media accounts to get a sense of the company's vibe and what is served. 

How to Ace Your Interview

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.

Know your coffee: You should also have a good knowledge of popular coffee drinks and be able to describe the difference between them. Coffee drinks that are common on cafe menus include: cappuccino, caffè Americano, café latté, espresso, caffè macchiato, iced coffee, café au lait, frappuccino, and so on. 

Know the café: With any job interview, it's helpful to research the company. That's true for a barista role too. By visiting the space beforehand or taking a look at the spot's social media, you'll get a sense of the company's brand and the products they serve.