Lunch is a favorite part of the day for many students and teachers. If a school runs a modern cafeteria, with a variety of food options every day, including some plant-based options and meals for people with gluten or lactose intolerance, it immediately has a competitive edge over schools that do not run such a place. Working in a school cafeteria, you will be responsible for helping with the food preparation, cleaning (tables, utensils), and serving food, depending on your place in the process (you may actually do all these things, rotating between different stations in the cafeteria).

The good news is that this isn’t a difficult job interview. Hiring managers will typically ask you only¬† a few questions about your motivation, experience, expectations, and attitude to work and to certain situations that can happen in the school cafeteria on any day. As long as you do not remain silent, and show at least some enthusiasm for the job, they will typically hire you. And what’s the bad news? There isn’t any. Let’s have a look at the questions!


Why do you want to work in a school cafeteria?

Let’s be honest. No children dream of working in a school cafeteria once they grow up. Most workers in cafeterias earn minimum wage, and that’s why people dream of other careers. Having said that, the job has actually some advantages. For example, you will end your day early, the stress levels are low, and you will have some contact with young people–which is always nice.

You can refer to these things in your answer. Say that the working hours suit you, or the type of work (considering your previous experience), or basically that in this stage of your professional career, you are looking for a stable job with low stress levels. The key is to find something positive on the job. They shouldn’t get an impression that you apply only because you have to, because you cannot get a better job at the moment.


Can you tell us more about your previous working experience?

If you’ve done a lot of things before, which is often the case with cafeteria workers, you do not need to mention everything. Pick just two or three most relevant roles. Job of a kitchen helper, cook, assistant cook, cleaner, or any other position you had in the kitchen, restaurant, hotel, or a similar facility.

You should show confidence in your ability to handle the job–regardless of your level of experience. If this is your first job application, you can mention at least experience from school, or from home (cooking, cleaning, etc). At the end of the day, this isn’t a difficult job, and you can learn to take care of your duties directly on the job.

How do you imagine a typical day in work in the school cafeteria?

Try to use your imagination. A typical day looks almost the same in any cafeteria, so if you’ve worked in one before, you can simply narrate how your day looked like, what you did from the morning to the afternoon (or evening, if you’ve worked in a corporate cafeteria), and say that you expect more-less the same days in your new job.

Another idea is mentioning various duties you imagine taking care of. If you opt for this one, do not forget to give big importance to cleaning, because that’s the duty most of us don’t like. Show them that you count with cleaning plates, linens, utensils, kitchen floor, etc, that you do not plan to choose what you will do and won’t do.

* May also interest you: Why do you want to work in this restaurant? 7 sample answers.


This job is repetitive, and can be quite boring. What will you do to stay motivated?

You have few options for a good answer. One is saying that repetitive and “boring” job is exactly what you are looking for. You’re not that young anymore, and jobs in which you face new challenges every day, and have to deal with unknown situations, are not a good choice for you. You prefer to have your routine, knowing exactly what to do, and simply taking care of your duties, day after day. You can add that talks with colleagues and occasional interactions with students will certainly help the days to pass quickly. They will spice your routine at least a bit.

Another option is simply saying that you need a job, because you have bills to pay and regular monthly expenses. You know that you cannot afford to drop your level too much, or neglect some of your duties in the cafeteria. If you did so, you could easily lose the job, and that’s not something you can afford in your age and with your expenses. Hence you will stay motivated, regardless of the repetitiveness.


Imagine that one of the students complained about the quality of food. How will you react?

In most of the cases you won’t be responsible for the quality of food. However, it doesn’t mean that you should simply ignore the feedback. On the contrary. As a good cafeteria worker, you take each feedback seriously, because you want to see both teachers and students satisfied, and basically make the cafeteria a better place for everyone. That’s the attitude they seek in your answer.

So, you can say that you will thank them for their feedback, pen it down, and make sure to let the head cook know (especially when more students complain). You can also add that in no way will you start any arguments with the students who complain…


Other questions you may face in your school cafeteria worker job interview

  • How would you describe a great colleague?
  • What are your expectations on other team members in the cafeteria?
  • What do you know about our school, and why do you want to work in our cafeteria, and not in some other place?
  • Tell us about a conflict you had with one of your colleagues in the past.
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What questions or concerns do you have about this role?


Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a school cafeteria worker belongs to easy job interviews, and you have no reason to stress out about it. As long as you show at least some enthusiasm for this type of work, and confidence in your ability to handle the job (possibly after the training) they will give you a chance to prove your skills in the cafeteria.

Read the questions once again, think about a decent answer to each one, and do not forget to do some research about the school, and their cafeteria. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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