So it's Sunday and it's hot and I'm taking the family to the local pool. But I need my caffeine fix, and I'm trying to figure out the mechanics of sneaking a triple venti latte into the pool area without getting caught. I decide it's worth the risk, so we stop at the nearby Starbucks en route to the pool.
While I'm waiting for the barista to make my order, I notice a small table with a little sign and a pad of employment applications. As an employment lawyer, I'm always interested to see how businesses go about hiring new employees. I'm curious, especially with national employers, to see how many violations of state law (in my case, Massachusetts) the application has. I counted just two.
Now don't get me wrong. My purpose here is not to call out Starbucks, which is by all accounts a first-rate employer. Every state has slightly different employment laws, and a company that operates in multiple states has to pay attention to all of them. It's an enormous pain to have a different application for every state a company does business in. Many multistate employers try to synthesize the laws of their different states, and often include footnotes with state-required language. (Starbucks included language for California, Maryland, and — yes — Massachusetts. Just not all of it.)
But here's what the application does right. More than right. Better than just about every other application form I've ever read.
After asking all the usual job-application questions, it asks the following:
- Have you ever visited a Starbucks Coffee location? Where? Describe your experience.
- What do you like about coffee?
- Why would you like to work for Starbucks Coffee Company?
- Describe a specific situation where you have provided excellent customer service in your most recent position. Why was this effective?
Now the first and third questions are pretty basic. They probably get a lot of lame answers, which help weed out the barista pretenders.
But the second question and the fourth question are brilliant, and should be emulated by all employers.
Starbucks is all about two things: coffee and customer service. To attract the best employees, Starbucks looks to hire people who get coffee and get customer service. Judging from the top-quality service I get every day at the Starbucks near my office (the School Street store in Boston) — where Gregg, Meg, Theresa, Roger, and the other "partners" (as the company calls all its employees) make an extra effort to remember my name and my order — it seems to be working.
What questions can your company put on its job applications to make sure you attract employees who get what your company is all about?
(As for the minor Massachusetts statutory problems: give me a call, Starbucks, and I'll tell you what they are. On the house.)