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Boss Uses Coffee Test At Every Interview And Refuses To Hire Anyone Who Fails

Photo: Jenny Ueberberg via Unsplash / sharpshutter via Shutterstock / The 7 Dew via Canva
man in a suit and woman holding coffee cup

The current state of the job market has left many feeling uneasy about what the future holds in terms of finances, career goals, and overall growth; not to mention the rise of never-ending rounds of interviews just to often end up right back at square one. 

However, not all employers will require you to jump over hoops for them during an interview. In fact, one boss unveiled a secret yet simple-yet-effective approach he often uses in interviews to assess if a given candidate has the right attitude to fit in with the company’s culture. 

And that all starts with a cup of coffee.

A boss uses a secret ‘coffee cup' test during interviews and refuses to hire anyone who doesn’t pass.

Trent Innes, the former managing director of Xero Australia, which is an accounting software company, shared in a resurfaced 2019 business podcast with “The Ventures” that he tests his candidates with a cup of coffee, or any preferred drink, and bases his hiring decisions on what the candidate does after they’ve emptied their cup. 

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In the podcast, Innes explained the beginning of the test, “If you do come in and have an interview, as soon as you come in and you do meet me, I will always take you for a walk down to one of our kitchens and somehow you always end up walking away with a drink.” 

After accepting a drink, the candidate is then taken back to the interview site. Once Innes and the candidate return back to the site, the interview begins. Throughout that time, the candidate will gradually sip away at their drink (perhaps to wash away nerves or replenish their emotional stamina) until the interview is over.

At the end of the interview, the employer observes what the candidate does with the empty cup.

Innes explained that at the end of these interviews, one thing he always accounts for is, “Does this person doing the interview want to take that empty cup back to the kitchen?” The answer to this is entirely based on the candidate’s actions, which also largely determines whether Innes believes the person is a right fit for the job.

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The way to pass the test is to simply offer to return the empty cup back to the kitchen.

The former managing director explained that by doing this, the candidate has the opportunity to express their enthusiasm to join the company while leaving a lasting impression. 

“You can develop skills, you can gain knowledge and experience, but it really comes down to attitude, and the attitude that we talk about is the concept of ‘wash your own coffee cup,’” he stated. “You really want to make sure that you’ve got people who have got a real sense of ownership, and that’s really what I was looking for.”

Photo: Shutterstock / Olena Yakobchuk

For those who have interviewed with Innes, about ten percent of jobseekers failed the test by not offering to return their cups to the kitchen. “The really pleasing thing is a vast majority of people do,” said Innes.

Of course, possessing the skills and experience for a given company undoubtedly stand as a pivotal attribute that can land you a job, but a positive attitude is arguably just as important, and the coffee cup test evaluates this. 

With that being said, many argue that Innes’ seemingly arbitrary approach isn’t a fair assessment of a candidate’s ability to be a team player. 

As one person on Reddit thoughtfully pointed out, “Every human is going to be so nervous in that situation. There aren't many humans who will take a cup from the kitchen all the way back to some dude's office, wrap up a tense interview, and immediately go ‘Well better make my way back to the sink to do some dishes real quick.’”

In a tight job market, the interview process can be an incredibly stressful time after long nights of preparation. Ultimately, placing unspoken expectations on candidates not only wastes their time and money but the company’s as well. Better make that coffee to-go!

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Xiomara Demarchi is a New York writer and frequent contributor for YourTango’s news and entertainment team. Keep up with them on Instagram.