Series Part 3: 5 Tips for Better Hiring

Illustration by  Alabaster

“How to Make a Happier Workspace” ”Begin by Hiring Well


Hey, everyone, we’re not good at hiring.

It’s not just us in the coffee world ”most people in most industries are pretty bad at hiring. Hiring employees is probably the most inexact decision process we’ve designed, and no matter how many questions we ask and how many résumés we look at, we generally make decisions based on gut instincts. This is especially a problem when you consider the ramifications of a new staffer on your baristas.

Hiring is one of those practices that we should be doing with intention, but usually ends up being rushed and done hastily due to need and lack of time. A recent survey of chief financial officers showed that œ95 percent of respondents said a poor hiring decision at least somewhat impacts the morale of the team, with more than one-third (35 percent) saying morale is greatly affected.  The takeaway? Thinking critically about hiring is important if you want your team to be happy.

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind the next time you’re adding to your café’s staff.

#1. Take Your Time.

The best thing you can do is to approach hiring slowly. You know that saying, measure twice, cut once? You want to practice the same patience and deliberateness in hiring. Interviews are usually the first measurement of a person’s abilities, and they’re almost always the only one, but there are a dozen ways you can measure twice. Check references, schedule a stage shift, or ask someone from your staff to join in a second interview or make a list of things they’d like to ask.

#2. Involve Your Staff.

Staff involvement in hiring is one of those things that, when mentioned, most managers seem resistant to. But when you think about it, getting input from your baristas about a new hire is at worst an innocuous practice, and at best an enlightening way to approach meeting a new person. If you’re not on the floor daily, it can be tough to ascertain what skills and traits one needs to be successful. And your staff can feel confident and part of the overall dynamic and well-being of the store in general. In the second installment of this column, we discussed how being ˜in the know’ was the number one thing employees needed to be happy at work. Assisting in hiring is an easy way to do that.

#3. Have the Applicant Interview You.

Most interviews are conducted with the employer asking the majority of questions, but a job interview is just as much about an employee finding a space that fits for them. In interviews, it’s important to put all your cards out on the table for a potential employee. The worst thing that can happen is for you to hire someone who had a different idea of what the job would look like ”these are the people that grow resentful and breed animosity, and who can blame them?

#4. Keep Your Café’s Best Interests the Priority.

It’s certainly not ideal for the café’s vision and goals to change, but it’s much worse to commit to something that isn’t what it was made out to be. In being honest and forthcoming about the goals, visions, and struggles of the café, you not only set expectations for what the job will be like when a new person steps in (continuing to foster the feeling of being ˜in the know’) but you can also have applicants self-select themselves out of the hiring pool if they know this won’t work for them.

#5. Make Sacrifices Now for the Good of the Future.

You might need one shift covered to conduct interviews, or you might need 10, and measuring twice to ensure the right employee is hired can mean leaning more on your current staff. Again, this is where communication is key. It’s OK to admit to them that hiring is difficult. Better yet, explain to them that you want to hire the right person for your unique and highly talented crew, and that it might mean a little more work in the interim. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather work an extra shift for a month than have to work with a dud that was just hired to fill a shift. I imagine most people reading would agree, and can commiserate from having had that happen to them in the past.

Remember, you can set the tone immediately with a potential new team member by being upfront and careful from the get-go. Share and seek out information, and don’t be afraid to talk to someone again, or ask for a second opinion. People want to know what’s happening and how decisions are made, and disclosing some of the rationale behind hiring is an easy way to find the right people and make your staff feel included and happy.

Coming next week: Once you’ve got your staff in place, how do you keep them happy?



Ashley Rodriguez  thought that she’d take a break from teaching middle school science and putz around in a coffee shop for a few months. She ended up digging it way more than teaching (and was vaguely better at it). After spending 5 years making coffee in New York, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she worked for Sightglass Coffee for three years. She recently decided to give full-time coffee writing a go, though she can still be found working bar shifts now and again in Temescal Alley in Oakland. Follow her on Twitter at @ashisacommonname

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