Starbucks CEO: 2 Questions He’ll Ask You

Many years ago when Starbucks was just a small Seattle-based coffee store beginning to expand, my wife and I started our own gourmet coffee store in Albany, New York–The Daily Grind

Our store became an instant success and was written up in The New York Times.  And several customers said we should franchise the concept, but I incredibly said:  “No one but people in this wealthy neighborhood will pay these prices for coffee.”  I didn’t have the confidence to proceed with such a bold thought since my wife and I were making good salaries in our state jobs.   The rest was history. 

Even though I decaffeinated a few years ago, I follow everything related to coffee in business today.  So, I was was pleased to see yesterday’s New York Times interview with Howard Schultz, chairman, president and CEO of Starbucks.   Schultz is an impressive manager and his interview provides some great insights for job seekers and bosses.  He clearly places significant emphasis on the hiring process, noting that the first 30 to 60 days after someone is hired is the most critical–so he wisely spends more time with new hires.  If you’re ever lucky enough to interview with Schultz, be prepared for the following question:

Q. If you could ask somebody only two questions in the job interview, what would those questions be?

A. I think I’d ask them about their current family and their family history.  Now you’ve got to be careful with some of this, but I’d want to know that.

Q. What are you listening for?

A. If you don’t love what you’re doing with unbridled passion and enthusiasm, you’re not going to succeed when you hit obstacles.  I want to see emotion. We are in an emotional business, and I need people around me who understand that we are an emotional business and have a visceral affection for it.

Since I didn’t take the advice 30 years ago to franchise my coffee concept, I’m a billion dollars poorer today.  But, at least, I purchased some Starbucks stock when that concept went public nearly 15 years ago.

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