I Interviewed at Starbucks

richel newborgAs a manager in the child care and preschool industry for years, I grew tired of my job but still wanted to work in the "customer service" industry.

Since I had quit my job with no other position lined up, I found myself in a situation where I had to find work quickly. I had heard some stories about working for Starbucks from friends, and decided to give it a shot. I was going to school online for my bachelor's degree in business and liked that the company offered somewhat flexible hours.

I knew that they were focused on customer service and creating a positive work environment. This was very apparent when I went to their website and read about the benefits and perks of being a "partner" (what the company calls its employees), including free coffee, benefits and a stock-purchasing plan.

A strategic preparation

I had no retail experience and only had worked in the food-service industry as a hostess in a restaurant back when I was in high school. I figured since Starbucks is so focused on customer service and on being a big company with a small-company feel, I would highlight those areas of my resume that best fit that mold.

Since I had experience working with children, I felt I had a lot to draw from in terms of my ability to serve and create a positive environment for those around me. My previous experiences included fund-raising, going out of my way to ensure excellent customer service, and working hard to encourage and reward employees.

I applied online for an assistant manager position at Starbucks. It was simple to apply and their website was easy to navigate. It took about two weeks before I was called for an interview. In the meantime, I decided that I would re-read the book that Starbucks founder Howard Schultz wrote called 'Pour Your Heart Into It.' I had already read it as part of an assignment in the first course I took toward my degree.

starbucks iced coffee The book gives a in-depth history of how the company started and what the expectations were in the eyes of Schultz and others in the company. Once I got the call for an interview, I went to their website once again and familiarized myself with as much information about the company that I could possibly remember. By the time of my interview, my brain was exploding with Starbucks knowledge.

A warm welcome

My interview took place at one of their local offices with a corporate recruiter. From the second I walked in, I was greeted by everyone that passed by me. People went out of their way to ask me my name and introduced themselves. They made me feel as if I was already an employee and I had not even started the interview.

I had chosen business casual attire for my interview; once I arrived, I realized that I was dressed like everyone else in the office. My interview was in a small meeting room, and the first question they asked me was how I took my coffee. It seems that every time I met with anyone at Starbucks, it was over coffee ... go figure!

In all my prior meetings with Starbucks representatives, I had never drank a regular cup of coffee, only their frappuccinos. So I spent my first interview trying to choke down a cup of black coffee! I was asked a lot of questions about why I wanted to work at Starbucks, what I envisioned for my future and what expectations I had about working for the company.

I was also asked why I was applying for a job in an area that I had never worked in before. To that I responded honestly, "I want a change." That interview lasted almost two hours. I was so comfortable during the interview that I had to remind myself that I was applying for a job.

A quick response

About an hour after arriving home from my interview, I got a call for a second interview, this time with the company's regional manager. During the interview with the regional manager, she asked me some of the same questions, but also included some questions about how I liked to manage people, and how I was planned to motivate my employees. The interviewer also asked me some specific questions about Starbucks, probing my knowledge of how they did business and their product lineup.

She also asked me what my favorite coffees were. I confided in her (I think because I felt so comfortable) that I had never had a regular cup of coffee before my first interview, and I honestly did not know how to make one!

I told her that I loved their frappuccinos and had tried their cafe mochas, as well, but did not drink coffee every day. She laughed! She said that she liked my honesty because the last few people she had asked that question to, had clearly lied. By the end of the interview, I knew I had the job and the interviewer actually gave me her card and told me to call her if I every wanted to transfer to one of her stores (as opposed to the store I applied for). The next day I got a call from the original recruiter and she offered me a job as an assistant store manager, which I accepted.

A word of advice

If you are applying for a management position with Starbucks, make sure you do a little bit of research, especially on their website's careers page. Since Starbucks is really focused on creating a great place to work, you can gain a lot of information about their work culture from that page. You also need to make sure that you are generally up-beat and are a good listener, since those are cornerstones of customer service.

You really need to make an effort to display those traits in your interview. I would also advise anyone who wants to work in management at Starbucks, to really have a strong understanding of what it means to be a leader. Understanding those roles will help you in answering the questions they ask you about motivating your team.

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