Becoming A Barista with No Experience: 5 Top Key Traits


Becoming A Barista With No Experience

Last week, I shared how our first consulting session went for our future shop! Jeff, from the Denver Small Business Development Center shared some great start-up information, one of them being to get into the coffee industry asap. I’ll admit, we were thinking of just getting an espresso machine and learning the trade ourselves, but I’m so thankful I took Jeff’s advice. Aside from learning how to make quality drinks, you also learn countless important things about keeping a coffee shop that you can only learn by working at one. However, I was surprised to see how many coffee shops are looking for baristas that have already been working at least a year! So my first question was, how can I get a job at a coffee shop without any experience?

I started to research this question hoping to find some tips, and hardly anything came up. So in case you have the same questions I did, I’ve compiled some basic things that have been helpful to me in this upcoming week’s three-part series that I will be posting. I hope they can be useful if you’re pursing a barista position or a job in the coffee industry and have no idea on where to start.

Getting a Job as a Barista with No Experience

Naturally, a lot of shops do want to hire people with coffee or food service experience. They already have a feel for the pace of the job and know how to work in a fast environment while providing exceptional customer service. One coffee shop owner I talked to recently said he’s pretty strict on hiring people with experience because they have a feel for these things. However (there’s hope!), he said he’d take someone with no coffee experience but with a great attitude over a skilled barista with a sour personality any day.

attitude > skill

As I was looking for barista openings in my community, I started to get a feel of some skills to have to succeed as one. Knowing these skills are important. You want to make sure you’re a good fit so that YOU can enjoy the job and succeed at what you’re doing, and so you can benefit your job and THEY can enjoy you as an employee also. With any job, you don’t want to apply if you’re not a good fit; not only will you be unhappy, but your attitude will affect those you’re working with as well.

Having the right skills and traits will ensure you’re being the best barista you can be while enjoying it. Here are some of the top skills and traits needed to be a barista according to job searches, articles, and interviews from actual coffee shop employers:

Five Top Key Traits for a Barista

5 Top Key Traits Wanted for a Coffee Shop Barista

You are:

  1. A People Person

    At least you know how to be around people. This includes being friendly and relatable. You want to engage with customers, as well as enjoy working with your team. You want to be personal, but also professional, realizing you represent the company! I mean… how many of you have never gone back to a coffee shop because your barista was rude? Or have continued going because they were friendly?

  2. Fast & efficient

    You’ll be hired to make drinks and keep up with orders, and the faster and more efficient service you provide, the more customers you’ll be able to serve. And customers will want to return to a place which provides quality coffee in a quick manner. Thus, you must have a high work ethic and be willing to work hard. You should be comfortable providing quality work in a fast-paced environment, and self-motivated to see and do what needs to be done around you. Being a barista really is a lot of work, and you have to be willing to do it.

  3. Customer focused

    You could read and write tons of articles on customer service, and I’m pretty sure you can conclude the importance of being customer focused and putting their needs first. A good barista does just that—puts customer needs first and wants to make people feel special and surpass their needs. You care about serving others in the day-to-day, as well as developing long-term relationships.

  4. Clean & Attentive

    Taken from Pinterest.com

    Cleanliness and sanitation is very important in the food industry. As Colette says in Ratatouille, you must keep your station clean!! Having high standards of hygiene and keeping areas clean is a great trait to have. Organization wins over sloppy carelessness any day.

  5. Willing to Learn & Improve

    You’re humble, and ready to learn and improve. You’re willing to adapt your new job’s standards of doing things, leaving a know-it-all or superior attitude at the door. You’re always looking for ways to improve yourself, to be the best you can be, and you take responsibility and pride in growing and achieving in your accomplishments. You want to learn what you don’t know, as opposed to giving up on yourself or thinking you’re fine as you are.

As a freshly new barista to the coffee industry, this list is by no means extensive or exhaustive! However, these are traits that have come up over and over in various job postings, blogs, forums, and articles when it comes to getting a job as a barista. It will help you if you know what coffee shop owners are looking for!

As a given you should also have a love for coffee, or a desire to grow your love for coffee!

With anything, you must love what you do to be successful in it. However, if you’re new to the industry –as I am– I want to encourage you that attitude and character go a long way in getting hired, even without being a coffee expert or connoisseur.

A barista is
Attitude & Character

I believe a good attitude and a kind and genuine character is one of the biggest things coffee shop managers are looking for. Owners and employees really do want to work with people who are happy and enthusiastic, and want customers to see that you love your job and love serving them. They want to see you work well with others, and that you can interact and spread the cheer to everyone who walks in the door. An article I browsed upon that was written by a coffee shop owner mentioned that ATTITUDE is everything, and he often fires his baristas the moment they lose their smile. If you want to be a barista, LOVE what you do, and people will love you too!
Other great add-ons managers are looking for in a barista:

  • Be flexible. An easy to work with attitude, and a flexible schedule helps!
  • Experience in: the food industry, customer service, fast-paced environments, handling pressure, and handling cash

These are the top things I found employers are looking for in a barista—other than having direct coffee experience. What do you think? Can you get a job based on character and attitude alone? Keep on the look out for more tips on becoming a barista without coffee-related experience that I’m discovering in my journey– hope they help you too!

Past/Current barista’s and coffee shop employers: what other traits would you say are important to be a barista? Does a good attitude and personality trump having experience alone? What are your thoughts?

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8 Comments

  1. Tips on perfecting the perfect resume for an Barista?

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    • Julia

      Hi Mariam! Lets see… I haven’t dealt with resume stuff in a while but let me summarize some basic notes I have that may help. First of all though, I would say a resume in a barista position is best served as a reference for an interview and your background experience. Make sure you win them over with your personality and making a relational impression, communicating what makes you capable to add value to their coffee shop! Other than that, make sure you:
      1. Tailor the resume to their needs. Know what they’re looking for, their values, their job description, and specially refer how/if you fit that in your resume. Include applicable information that shows you’re what they’re looking for to solve their problems.
      2. Show how you contribute to the position at a glance. Instantly show you have what it takes by being clear and concise, use bullets, and be direct.
      3. Market yourself. Sell yourself and your skills to show you’re what they’re looking for.
      4. Use action verbs in your job descriptions to specially show how you made a difference and what you can do best to better them.

      There’s a ton of info on resumes online, but a barista position is very specific, and you want to basically show them you have the exact skills, personality and experience to do the job and better their company. Good luck!

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  2. When I graduated high school, I wanted to work in a cafe but no one would hire me because I had no experience. So I started working at a tea/smoothie shop where they do sell coffee, but not as intricate as a cafe. Eventually, I worked my way up to a cafe where they showed me how to froth milk, make latte art, and all that good stuff. In my opinion, a great barista is someone who has the willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes to get them where they want to go. And most definitely, a great attitude trumps experience. Without a some good work ethics, it will hard to gain experience!

    I love reading your blog, btw. It makes me so happy to see how far you guys came! Thanks for sharing your stories. 😀

    Post a Reply
    • Julia

      Yes I definitely agree! That’s really cool to see that in action through your story too =] Thank you, and thanks for reading them!

      Post a Reply
  3. Does age matters to be in the coffee industry .Aslong follow the traits of being a new batista:)

    Post a Reply
    • Julia

      Amar, I wouldn’t say so. I think we lose many opportunities when we put more weight on outward circumstances than inner choices: attitude, passion, will, skills, etc. If you look at the barista market I’m sure you’ll notice common age ranges or outward characteristics and make a judgement from there… but you can also choose to look past that and value stronger intrinsic characteristics and use them to empower your life if you wish!

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  4. Great read! I have had success in customer centric positions and been rewarded multiple times in the past by either clients taking the time to visit me with gifts out of the blue or performance based bonuses. I love coffee and full disclosure, grew up in a 5 generation wine and food business, that was sold years prior and so I thought I’d apply to a coffee shop. The energy in there was very tense, you could tell the staff were not happy. Some forced smiles to me when they found out I was there to interview. The manager took the bait, when I mentioned other stores, speciality coffee shops, he mentioned he never visited them and these were literally less than 3 minutes walking distance. That told me he is not open minded. He also stressed how he likes to give out random hours selling it as a way to keep the staff on their toes, I took it as NO work life balance. Not even a shred. Finally, he decides on the third interview to take me to a coffee shop chain down the street, their store looked awesome BTW, total new upgrade and branding. He sat us in there and literally was finding faults that were not really there, he made the staff very uncomfortable, as it was so obvious, what he was doing. I wanted to go back and apologize to the staff at this really nice coffee shop. It looked like we were corporate or something coming in to rip them apart in a very non-discreet manner. I’m all about conservation and I was now offered a position as a barista at a growing chain very eco-driven company with all organic coffee and food and a large selection of vegan options as well and very cool store design – layout. So when we walked out of this store he wanted me to toss out the just purchased coffee. It was most awkward, seeing him and another co-worker who came along, toss out their just purchased coffee, with the lids, sleeves etc..right outside the store. I wanted to enjoy that cup of coffee..LOL..and then recycle it properly in a blue trash can or recycle bin. I left and knew the place was not for me. I so dodged a bullet! I agree with everything you expressed. I also share this story so people realize there are so many awesome coffee shops in LA Blue Bottle, Groundworks, Luxxe, Intelligentsia, Kings Road) and this was not one of them..:) It was so obvious they did not care about their people and from the top down..misery loves company. I joined a company that is happy from the top down and loves the same company…to train as a new barista..I am excited and passionate..as I love food drink and hospitality…thanks again for this awesome post

    Post a Reply
    • Julia

      Well thanks for reading! And wow, what a horror story, haha! I’m sure you learned a lot through that! I think interviews are important to recognize that they are two-way, and you don’t want to work at a place that doesn’t share YOUR values either, so I’m glad you didn’t settle! That’s pretty terrible to go in and tear down other coffee shops too! It’s always interesting to see companies that are happy from the top down, like you said, vs. those that have an unhealthy culture… and I hope for myself (now that I’m not just an employee, but an owner!) that we push to constantly foster a healthy environment. Thanks for the feedback, I always welcome it!

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