How to Prepare for a Job Interview in a Coffee Shop

thinkcoffee_animalnyThose of us who have been through the job hunting process know that the nearby Starbucks is more than a place to grab a coffee; it’s also where you prepare for that upcoming interview. With 30 minutes to go, you need to stand in line, place your coffee order, wait for that order, take your drink, find an empty seat, drink your coffee and, with minutes to spare, make your way over to your final destination.


As a career coach for the job hunt, I have worked with numerous clients on how to successfully ace interviews from the moment the interview is scheduled to the thank you note afterwards. I know how to maximize every step in the process, including those 30 minutes at Starbucks, so that you always feel confident and prepared. Below is a step-by-step guide that will show you how to make your pre-interview Starbucks visit your most efficient pregame stop yet.


Step 1: Walk Into Starbucks and Prioritize

At this point, you have 30 minutes to go and are likely in need of a quick review because your nerves could be getting the best of you. Pull out your cell phone, open up your notes and start planning. Chances are you already know your Starbucks order (and it shouldn’t be adventurous today to keep your tummy under control) so instead use your time to type keywords for the five things you must remember to mention during the interview. This time crunch and tiny screen space will force you to prioritize what matters most and the background jazz tunes will help get your creative juices flowing. By now, you should also have thought of questions for the hiring manager and have an idea of what the top interview questions will be for the job and how to answer them.


Step 2: Wait In Line and Review

While standing in line, use this opportunity to fill-in the blanks. You already have your five keywords, so now it’s time to figure out the professional stories that best demonstrate your top skills and experiences. Are you long-winded? Starbucks lines are usually fast so try to get down these stories to their most essential takeaways so that you can recall them during the interview. You also have your list of questions, your thoughtful response to the common prompt, “tell me about yourself,” and, if you’re really looking to stand out from the other candidates, an idea of what you’d like to accomplish your first 90 days on the job. Prioritize the information you want to convey first in case you end up being short on time


Step 3: Place Your Order and Communicate

While telling the barista your order is not quite the same as speaking with a hiring manager about your professional accomplishments and background, they both involve communication. The best strategy is to tell the barista that you are job interviewing. Yes, that’s right. Make small talk and be a little vulnerable. During the interview you feel vulnerable, so why not start the acclimation process early on? Then, see how you did. This is the time to course-correct. Rethink how you plan to communicate during your interview and practice speaking confidently while you order your coffee. Starbucks baristas are typically very engaging, so this will serve as good preparation for the interview.


Step 4: Wait For Your Order and Relax

Now that you have mentally reviewed and prioritized the most important information for the interview and visualized how you will communicate, allow your mind to relax a little and look at yourself in the mirror! Is there anything in your teeth? Is your hair in place? A quick aesthetic check-up is always a helpful confidence-builder. And you don’t want to walk into the interview looking or feeling tense or preoccupied. Rather, you want to be focused and relaxed (but not so relaxed you appear careless). Aim to strike the right balance before you reach your destination.


Step 5: Drink Your Coffee and Think Positive Thoughts

Now that you have your coffee in hand and are nearing the time of your interview, it’s time to practice your pitch. It’s impossible to ban all self-doubts that may still be lingering. Try to think positively and be confident that you are going to do well. May I suggest that you share your pitch with a barista – the one sweeping or cleaning the peripherals? The key is to practice anything you want to say with a nice person who is not judging your ability to do the job of your dreams. You’ve prepared as best as you can and are going to the interview armed with a combination of skill sets, accomplishments and personal attributes that are uniquely you.


Step 6: Head to Your Interview and Ace It

Make sure to head to your interview with minutes to spare and don’t bring your coffee or coffee breath with you. Splurge on the Starbucks gum and arrive 5-10 minutes early with enough time to use the restroom (tip: even if you don’t need to, it’s always good to do a last minute check in the restroom to ensure everything is in place and you look presentable). Before heading out, look in the mirror and smile. This simple act will give you an extra boost of confidence right before you go in.


With these steps, not only will you get to have your Starbucks coffee but you’ll be able to use your visit to your advantage. This half hour preparation has been the key to my shyest clients’ success. It helps you focus on what’s most important while getting you in the right mindset before encountering decision-makers or influencers (tip: remember that receptionists can also be part of the hiring discussions).



For more guidance on how to prepare for interviews, set up a 15-minute consultation with me. I’ll help you navigate your way to being the best candidate for the job.





About Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.


  1. Avatar Melissa on February 9, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Great article…I’ve planned many Starbucks visits prior to interviews to do a review and relax a bit.

    • Avatar Melissa on February 17, 2015 at 8:19 am

      Glad you enjoyed it. There are so many interviewees who stop at a coffee shop that I had to comment on the idea.

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