CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

The daily grind

By Aunie Edwards
Special to the Toronto Sun

The coffee clique is all inclusive -- colleagues confer, students debate, sales associates schmooze, young mothers brag and commiserate, best friends swap secrets and the solo coffee lover drinks it all in.

Connected only by a warm beverage, the coffee crowd's mutual comfort is largely derived from the similarly eclectic mixture of staff -- student, empty nester, career person, coffee lover.

This comfort zone brews a rich, habit-forming blend that's recognized by coffee house masterminds and reflected in their hiring practices.

"Although we do hire many students, we have no profile of a typical employee," says Gary Sherbanow, v-p of franchise development for Williams Coffee Pub and owner of a Brantford location. "We employ empty nesters who enjoy the work; career people who like the variety of management roles; aspiring chefs and hotel and food management students who want to compliment their studies within a successful business model; and of course, our coffee lovers who already sense what it takes to create the perfect brew with the perfect grind."

The diversity and relaxed ambiance of a community coffee haunt results in a steady flow of applications.

For instance, by advertising a requirement with a simple notice on their counter, Starbucks consistently achieves a healthy response.

Recruit from community

"We like to recruit from the community we serve and many of our partners are customers," says Linda Ryall, partner resource manager for Starbucks. "We also achieve great success with quarterly job fairs and continually collect resumes through our website."

With a constant stream of applicants, the challenge is finding a voice or demonstrating an attitude that will draw the right kind of attention from the recruiter.

For Williams Coffee Pub, most applications are secured during their individual store opening job fairs but bringing a resume to a coffee pub is always welcome. "Just remember that the evaluation for the right fit begins with that first step," Sherbanow says.

But what is that "right fit" and how does one differentiate oneself from the myriad of applicants? Ryall says: "We love to talk to people who have knowledge of Starbucks -- someone who either frequents our establishments or has done some research on what makes us stand out.

Mission statement

"If partner hopefuls understand our mission statement and guiding principles and try to demonstrate that knowledge, they will be welcome applicants.

"Distinguishing oneself from the rest will also depend on the position," Ryall continues. "For example, a barista needs high energy, a passion for people and an appreciation of coffee to catch our attention.
The coffee establishment resume -- how to stand out:
  • Make it easy to read -- bullet form works.
  • Professional does not mean stuffy -- formality for formality's sake is dry, uninspired and easy to pass over.
  • Use the resume to tell the reader a story -- what is important to you and how does that compliment what is important to the company whose attention you seek?
  • Do your research -- learn about the company -- what makes it stand out? Demonstrate this knowledge so that you can stand out.

  • "A store manager role requires a results-oriented, organized planner with strong leadership skills to demonstrate exceptional qualities.

    "A proper resume will illuminate such qualities -- in fact, a good one is a great opportunity to tell us your story," Ryall says. "Don't discount the resume by making it a stuffy formality -- create a bullet form, casual approach that will tell us what you stand for. Starbucks, for instance, is passionate about the countries that supply our coffee and we have a high sense of corporate social responsibility. Use your resume to show us how your mantra might compliment our passions -- we want to know what you're serious about."

    Sherbanow at William's Coffee Pub would agree that there are more features to examine than food service know-how: "Experience can vary and nothing at a William's is undoable, so we really look at the applicant's presentation and demeanour -- a competent individual with a grim exterior, for instance, would not be desired. We need all parts of our team to work well together to deliver superior product and service. One 'bad attitude' can really be poison."

    Good training can compensate for experience, and fine coffee establishments have formal training programs.

    "Our managers and assistant store managers take a 10- week retail management training course and our customer service partners take sessions that will certify them in the specialty beverages and provide them with excellent customer facing skills," Ryall says. "And every non-retail partner, from the president down, begins their journey with us in a Starbucks store, working with our community of customers."

    This combined focus on experience, individuality and training blends seamlessly with the coffee patrons of both Starbucks and Williams, but it also leaves the door wide open for all walks of life to find rewarding employment.

    "The service area traditionally suffers a significant amount of turnover," Sherbanow says. "We have ongoing hiring processes in place, but we also foster a happy work environment in an effort to retain those great employees."

    Starbucks agrees in principle and has created a unique business model that hires "partners" in the corporation, correctly implying that their staff are more than just "employees."

    "Our partners are behind every detail of the Starbucks experience -- they carry our success," Ryall says. "We recognize their value with stock options for each partner -- full time and part time, in every position.

    Group benefits

    "And after reaching 20 hours per week, every partner receives group benefits for affordable health care. Starbucks tops up the perks with a pound of free coffee every week."

    The masterfully executed specialty coffee pubs are here to stay - they represent a perfectly blended specialty brew in a warm and fascinatingly eclectic environment. But they also stand out as an interesting work environment with flexible hours and growth potential.

    To find out more about the companies and their excellent employment opportunities, visit and

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