Pact – How To Hire For A Job No-one Is Qualified To Do

Insight & Opinion

Pact - Hiring a Coffee Roaster

When should you resort to an Ex-Factor-style bake off to interview for one of the most important roles in your start-up? The answer is when the person you’re hiring definitely won’t have any experience, and the only requirement is that they must have a deep love for flavour!

At the end of 2014, Pact Coffee faced this exact challenge. They wanted to hire a Coffee Roaster with zero experience to keep their roasts unique, but who could learn quickly to produce roasted beans of the highest quality? Pact couldn’t say for sure what the role would involve, only that the successful candidate would be trained with one of the best roasters in England. They’d also be aboslutely critical to the future success of the company.

Guru caught up with Laura Bridges – Pact’s HR Manager…

“It’s fair to say that hiring for a Coffee Roaster was no easy task. So, after taking a deep breath, I started in the usual way – listing the hard and soft skills they’d need. I know as much about roasting as I do about writing code, so in the end I only had two points to work with: they must have the ability to cope with ambiguity and a love of tastes and flavours.”

Naturally, an unorthodox job spec needed an unorthodox hiring process. Enter the X-Factor bake off. Forget interviewing and asking things like ‘what’s your biggest weakness’ – we needed to see what they knew about flavour. So we asked applicants to cook us something and tell us about it.

The applicants were incredible and the interviews tasted amazing – if you’ve ever been faced with a manager who doesn’t want to interview use this technique, our staff were queuing up to get involved. The final three came down to a Pastry Chef, a former Web Designer and a French Product Manager. Our unique approach attracted people who saw the role as a chance to transform their passion for food into an exciting career change.

At Pact, we really value dynamic people who go above and beyond the everyday to get the job done. The loose parameters for the position, meant all the candidates really had to roll up their sleeves. There were no canned responses, just a genuine love of flavour and a curiosity for the role.

I learned from the X-Factor bake off challenge that crafting the hiring process to suit the position is a great way to attract passionate employees who are able to operate out of the box. Plus, I got to hire new talent in a way that stretches my imagination too. I mean, how many HR professionals are allowed to set up an interview process like that?

The time to hire more people to join the Pact team has come around again. And rather than feeling like I’m going through the motions, I’m excited to take some risks in order to find the next round of talented people who will bring that something extra to Pact Coffee.