You’ve applied for your dream job and been invited to a trial shift – hurrah! But hang on, you’ve never made a flat white in your life. Don’t panic, here’s our nifty guide to help you prepare.
Trial shifts can be a great way to assess how well you’ll suit the role, interact with customers, gel with the existing team and perform during the coffee rush hour. But it’s also an opportunity for you to show off your best qualities and get a real taste for what the Company and life as a Barista is like.
If you’re applying for an entry-level or trainee role, it’s very unlikely you’ll be asked to make a drink for a real customer, so don’t panic. You might be asked to try your hand on the machine when it’s quiet, or at the end of the trial, but specialty coffee shops will want to train you fully before letting you loose on the customers.
Make sure the Manager/Supervisor assessing you knows how much experience you have in making coffee/serving customers before, so they can set you appropriate level tasks during the trial shift.
Show up on time, better yet five minutes early. Showing up late is going to set a very poor first impression.
Don’t wear your Sunday best, but don’t wear anything your Granny would disapprove of. However relaxed the place is, you should still make an effort to look presentable for your trial. Some food businesses may insist on closed toe shoes, piercings to be covered, hair to be tied up and nail polish to be removed.
Most companies will want you to demonstrate a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and a friendly approach to customers and team members, so show that side of yourself off.
Don’t be afraid to ask considered, intelligent questions (at a quiet moment), curiosity is a great quality.
Do your research on the company, their values and ethos. If possible, visit the café before your trial shift to get a sense of their style, the customer interaction and, importantly, how to find the place (so you’re not late for the trial!)
Listen carefully, accurately follow instructions and get stuck in!
Communicate clearly, if you’re taking a customer order, double check if you’re unsure (it’s much quicker/easier to do so than for the Barista to re-make their drink).
You may be asked to attend a trial during the busiest time of the day (often 8am–10am or over lunchtime). Things can get pretty hectic, but try to remain calm. Move intelligently around the Baristas (who will be working on full-speed usually in a small space) to avoid any accidents (i.e. let them know if you’re coming to stock something up, or walking behind them).
The Manager or Supervisor may ask you to sit down after the trial for a chat. If they ask for your feedback on the trial, assuming you still want the job(!) make sure you focus on the most positive areas and things you really enjoyed. If you’re worried that you messed up, take the time to explain where you think you went wrong and how you’d approach it differently next time. Veer away from giving them feedback on how to do things better/differently at this stage (chances are, there’s a good reason behind their systems and processes).
The Manager or Supervisor may ask you questions about availability. If you have other commitments, it’s best to let them know at the outset. However, don’t lead with this info, it’s never advisable to answer the question ‘why do you want to work here?” with “I want a Monday to Friday job”.
You might be asked what your long term goal is. Be honest. If you want to be a Barista Champion, or open up your own coffee shop one day, or just have a fun job meeting new people before you go travelling next year then say so. It’ll help the Manager or Supervisor train you in the right way.
BIG IMPORTANT POINT: Say thank you and goodbye to the Manager or Supervisor, and also to the team you worked with before leaving.