Boss reveals the “coffee cup” test they use in interviews

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking as many interviewees ponder how best to answer the employer’s questions.

But not every company asks difficult questions. A boss revealed the “coffee cup” test he uses in job interviews to determine if an applicant is right for the job.

Former Xero Australia CEO Trent Innes explained how he refuses to hire anyone who doesn’t return an empty cup to the kitchen at the end of an interview.

“I’ll always take you for a walk into one of our kitchens and somehow you always end up walking away with a drink,” Mr Innes said in a resurfaced 2019 interview with the podcast The ventures.

“Then we take the drink back, do our interview, and one of the things I always ask at the end of the interview is, does the person doing the interview want to take the empty cup back to the kitchen?

Boss, employee shakes hands
A boss reveals the coffee cup test he uses for job interviews.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“You can develop skills, you can gain knowledge and experience, but it really comes down to attitude, and the attitude that we talk about a lot is the ‘wash your own coffee cup’ concept.”

Mr Innes said the secret trick allows him to get a good sense of who you are as a staff member.

“So I was trying to find the job at the bottom level, which regardless of what you’re doing within the organization, is still extremely important and actually drives a culture of ownership,” he said.

“If you walk into the office in Xero one day, you’ll find that the kitchens are almost always clean and sparkling and the concept of washing your coffee mug is far from it, but that kind of led into the interview room.”

Trent Innes refuses to hire anyone who doesn't return an empty cup to the kitchen at the end of a job interview.
Trent Innes refuses to hire anyone who doesn’t return an empty cup to the kitchen at the end of a job interview.
Trent Innes/Twitter

Mr Innes said your eagerness was key to getting you the job, offering to give you back your empty cup at the end of the interview.

“You really want to make sure you have people who have a real sense of ownership and that’s what I was looking for.

“Attitude and ownership matter, especially in a really fast-growing environment like we’ve been experiencing and even at this stage. We want to make sure we have people who have real, strong ownership and a growth mindset.

“It’s really just making sure they actually fit into Xero’s culture and really embrace everything they’re supposed to be doing.”

Mr Innes said only five to ten per cent of respondents fail the ‘coffee cups’ test because they don’t take their empty cups into the kitchen with them.

“The really gratifying thing is that the vast majority of people do [offer],” he said.

“I don’t always force her to take it back, it’s just an offer and normally I would of course take it back for her — it’s just the point of the offer.”

Mr. Innes is not the only employer who has a nifty trick.

During her podcast She’s on the right trackAuthor and money columnist Victoria Devine recently shared a tactic she uses to help interview applicants make selections.

“When I advertise on LinkedIn in my job descriptions, the About You section in the middle of the description explains that it says, ‘You must have great attention to detail,'” she explained.

“Then it says, ‘You understand that to apply for this position you must use the email address at the bottom of this ad and address it to Victoria and email directly with a cover letter’ … and whatever I do.” am.” Please for.”

Victoria Devine shares that she will not consider applicants if they do not fully follow the application instructions.
Victoria Devine shares that she will not consider applicants if they do not fully follow the application instructions.
Victoria Devine

“If you apply directly on LinkedIn, I don’t even look at it because you didn’t follow the instructions.

“I think that’s a very legitimate way of recruiting, but when we recruit, we actually get a large number of applicants because of our exposure in the media.

“It’s really an easy path for me. I’ve already cut it in half.”

Another hidden tactic bosses might employ is the receptionist test.

In 2020, an employee took to Reddit and wrote, “Today a candidate screwed up their interview within 5 minutes of entering the building.

“He was dismissive of the receptionist. She greeted him and he barely made eye contact. She tried to engage him in conversation. Again, no eye contact, no interest in speaking to her.

“What the candidate didn’t know was that the ‘receptionist’ was actually the hiring manager.

“She called him back to the conference room and explained how valuable and respectful each and every person on our team is.

“Because of his interaction with the ‘receptionist’, the hiring manager felt that he wasn’t a good fit. Thank you for your time, but the interview is over.

“Be nice to all inside the building.”


DUSTIN JONES is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. DUSTIN JONES joined USTimeToday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with DUSTIN JONES by emailing

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