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Barista Interview Questions

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  1. Can you tell me the difference between a cappuccino, a latte and a macchiato? See answer
  2. What would you say is your best and worst specialty coffee drinks you make and why?
  3. How do you clean and maintain a professional espresso machine? What can happen as a result of infrequent cleaning?
  4. What do you think are your personal strengths and weaknesses? How do they contribute to your ability to be a good barista?
  5. How do you handle the repetitive nature of typical barista work to remain positive and energized?
  6. Can you provide one example of when you provided good customer service and a time when a customer was dissatisfied with your service as a barista?
  7. Can you provide me with a few examples that demonstrate your multi-tasking skills as a barista?
  8. Do you enjoy coming up with your own specialty drink combinations? If so, what have you created and how would you describe it?
  9. Your coworker calls in sick ahead of the morning shift. You have off, but your manager calls asking if you can fill in. How do you respond?
  10. What experience do you have heating up or serving cafe food? What examples can you provide?
  11. How would you rate your verbal communication skills as a barista? Can you give me a few examples?
  12. A new customer comes into the cafe and is unsure what to get. What do you suggest to them from our menu and why?
  13. Are you a quick learner? How would you feel about changes to coffee drink recipes or seasonal items?
  14. Can you tell me about your typical day as a barista at your previous job?
  15. Have you ever used a POS to complete customer transactions?
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6 Barista Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

What are your best and worst specialty coffee drinks you make?

A:

When starting out as a barista, it helps to know at least the basic differences between a latte, cappuccino and frappe and how to make them. Asking for a candidate’s best and worst creations helps you hone in on his or her coffee experience and knowledge; not only of how to make a drink, but what makes one good. What to look for in an answer:

  • Confidence and humility when describing strengths
  • Self-awareness and reflection when describing weaknesses
  • Technical knowledge on the recipes and machinery utilized
Example:

“My worst drink is a cafe au lait because I add too much milk. My best is a cappuccino because I make great foam.”

Q:

How do you clean and maintain a professional espresso machine?

A:

Espresso machines are expensive, delicate and essential to any coffee establishment’s functioning and success. Keeping them clean and working properly ensures the quality of beverages produced and the safety of the barista and the patron alike. You want to know how much a candidate is aware of proper cleaning procedures, maintenance schedules and safety protocols and how much of it you’ll have to teach them. What to look for in an answer:

  • Familiarity with coffee-making machinery
  • Awareness of and attentiveness to safety protocols
  • Ability to follow and convey step-by-step procedures
Example:

“At my previous job, we cleaned our machines daily at the end of every shift to maintain a healthy environment, a lengthy process because of necessary safety protocols.”

Q:

What do you think are your personality strengths and weaknesses? How do they contribute to your ability to be a good barista?

A:

While this could be an appropriate question to ask in most jobs, it’s particularly relevant in a barista position because you interact with people constantly both as a server and as a coworker and team member. Having a candidate identify his or her best and worst qualities reveals how well they will integrate with your staff and customer base as well as how they deal with conflict and take constructive criticism. What to look for in an answer:

  • Compatibility with your existing staff and typical customers
  • Warmth, outgoingness and sociability
  • Openness to constructive criticism and compromise
Example:

“I’ve always gotten high marks by managers for taking feedback well and was even voted employee of the month by peers and customers multiple times.”

Q:

How do you handle the repetitive nature of typical barista work?

A:

Some people are not cut out for repetitive jobs while others find it endlessly interesting to interact with customers, make a variety of drinks and master each one. You want to know which kind of candidate you’re facing before giving him or her any serious consideration for employment. The right candidate will find joy and self-satisfaction in executing such a routine with excellence. What to look for in an answer:

  • An engaged and self-motivated work ethic
  • Desire to serve
  • Satisfaction from work done well and a passion for constant improvement
Example:

“I don’t find this kind of work repetitive. Every customer is different, and every drink is a new opportunity to do my job better.”

Q:

Can you give one example each of a time you provided good customer service and a time a customer was dissatisfied with your service?

A:

A barista’s adeptness with coffee machinery and recipes is arguably secondary to the experience the customer has of being served by him or her. Asking for a specific positive customer service experience shows you what the candidate finds valuable in that area. Asking for a negative example shows self-reflection, willingness to improve and gives insight into how the candidate resolves customer problems. What to look for in an answer:

  • Cognizance of what constitutes good customer service
  • Experience helping a range of customers
  • Self-reflection, problem-solving skills and motivation to improve
Example:

“Once, I helped a customer find an alternative to a discontinued item she’d ordered. Once, I forgot about a customer and kept him waiting. I apologized for his wait and upgraded his beverage.”

Q:

Can you tell me the difference between a cappuccino, a latte and a macchiato?

A:

In addition to a cafe's specialty coffee drinks, baristas also need to know how to make a variety of different signature coffee drinks, from mochas and flat whites to lattes. This question allows an interviewer to gauge a candidate's knowledge of different coffee terminology and how to prepare signature drinks. A candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Knowledge of coffee drink terminology
  • Understanding of layering techniques
  • Passion for coffee
Here is one example of a quality candidate answer:
Example:

"A cappuccino is made up of an equal layer of espresso, followed by steamed milk and topped with milk foam. A latte has less espresso, more steamed milk, followed by milk foam. With macchiatos, you start by filling it with espresso before topping the espresso with milk foam."

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