How to nail the cafe trial shift

What is a cafe trial shift?

So you’ve aced the interview and now they’ve asked you to come in to do an unpaid cafe trial shift at the cafe. Here’s what you need to know and how to nail the trial shift.

A cafe trial shift is used to assess the suitability of a candidate for a role or position. It is important to approach the cafe trial shift with an open mind. Don’t be surprised if you are not actually on the espresso machine making coffee for customers.

In all likelihood, you may be relegated to cleaning duties bussing tables and washing dishes. 

Don’t despair! This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your work ethic and how you interact with staff and customers. You are being watched and assessed for your general attitude and demeanour regardless of what you are doing.

In Episode 1 of the Coffee Jobs Podcast, Colin Harmon, owner of 3FE in Dublin talks about the trial shift and how he never allows people who apply for barista positions to work on the espresso machine in the trial shift.

Barista skills can be taught, attitude cannot.

First impressions matter

It goes without saying, you shouldn’t be late for your cafe trial shift. Get there early, introduce yourself to everyone and get acquainted with the cafe.

You should also pay attention to your personal grooming. If it is a nice establishment, ripped jeans and a wrinkly tee shirt probably isn’t going to cut it.

Have a look at the guy below, would you hire him?

cafe trial
Would you hire this guy?

Go in a day earlier and have a look at what everyone else is wearing and dress appropriately. Brush and style your hair. If you have long hair, tie it back – this is a basic requirement.

Don’t be invisible and take initiative!

Make sure you are visible and can be seen, you are after all trying to make a good impression. There is nothing worse than hiding in the corner waiting to be told what to do next. If you see something that needs to be done, do it. Clear tables, wash dishes, sweep the floor.

It is important to be pro-active. However, it is also important that you seek clarification should you be unsure about how something is done. You may feel silly but it’s better to ask than to get it wrong or even worse, injure yourself.

Know your rights

Finally, keep in mind a cafe trial shift is not meant to last longer than a couple of hours in duration without fair compensation for your time.

There are a few unscrupulous business owners out there who often abuse the cafe trial shift to cover a day where they may be short-staffed. 

If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, the cafe is probably not a place you want to be working at. For more information on unpaid trial shifts, please visit FairWork Australia.

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