Budtenders are the sommeliers of cannabis products. They need to be familiar with the plant, its effects, how particular products get made, and average activation times. Canadians refer to budtenders as educators, product specialists, or cannistas. Regardless of the term in your market—selling cannabis is a learned skill. Dispensary sales staff often find themselves wearing a variety of hats as they guide a customer through their purchase decision.
Unsurprisingly, dispensaries place a great deal of trust in their budtenders. Not only are budtenders responsible for keeping a large number of valuable products safe and secure, customers rely on their expertise to improve their own quality of life. In some cases, patients are seeking relief from severe medical conditions. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
On average, budtenders make $33k/year—but top performers can earn significant negotiating power with their employers, thanks to industry turnover. This number also doesn’t account for the generous tips you’ll be reigning in from grateful customers and patients with new digital payments solutions. Going above and beyond can mean there’s a promotion in your future. And don’t forget—dispensary staff in the US receive extensive amounts of product samples.
Your resume is your first—and often only—chance to make a great impression. If you want your budtender application to stand out from the rest, you should include these five crucial things that today’s employers are looking for.
1. Solid character references
References are crucial to making an excellent first impression. Whomever you choose to represent you should have your back and be able to speak to your personal and professional character. This is especially important in the cannabis industry, as attitudes surrounding cannabis consumption vary widely. Lean on references who are not only well-versed in the benefits of cannabis, but are supportive of your professional endeavor. It might seem like a no-brainer, but many applicants list references who are less than enthusiastic about the cannabis industry—and it shows during the phone call.
You can’t go wrong with including a former supervisor or two, especially if you have retail experience. Budtenders have to know how to handle inventory correctly and should possess the same customer-facing skills that a traditional retail worker would have. When building out their teams, dispensary owners and managers look for candidates who show themselves to be reliable, consistent, and thorough. Given the stringent regulations around compliance, attention to detail is also paramount.
2. Demonstrated product knowledge
Product knowledge is as essential in cannabis as it is in any industry. But the important thing for any aspiring budtender to realize is that there’s a difference between experience and knowledge. While legacy market knowledge may seem like more than enough, the experience of shopping at a dispensary can help you observe the workflows up close.
“The best budtenders are also skilled at sharing that expert knowledge with their patients and customers. Budtenders must be personable since they will be an ambassador for the dispensary.” So, explain nuanced differences in terpenes and cultivation practices—while it takes time and dedication, it will pay off in your cover letter and in the interview itself. Study the cause and effect of popular strains—this will help prepare a customer looking for a specific sensation—like energy or relief.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the state of the cannabis industry today and your prospective employer’s position in it. If you really want to impress, take your permit test early to help get in the door. All US states and Canadian provinces require educators to hold a valid cannabis handler card. While you technically don’t need this permit until the day you start work—preparing will show confidence in yourself and commitment—and from there, the sky’s the limit! The more you know about the position you’re applying for, the better you can position yourself as the ideal candidate.
3. Technical skills
Everyone knows budtending is a demanding social job because it takes attentive listening skills and a positive attitude. You’ll be putting your social skills to the test every day to drive sales. But what’s less well-known is the fact that budtending also comes with technical requirements. The more you understand about the technical infrastructure that enables cannabis retail, the more valuable of an asset you’ll be to the dispensary.
At the very least, you should familiarize yourself with inventory management systems and SKUs. Every sales transaction made inside a cannabis dispensary must be recorded, verified, and sent to regulators for approval, so applicants who can key data into a system quickly and accurately will have a leg up.
4. A basic understanding of compliance
Speaking of regulators, if there is one thing that keeps dispensary owners up at night, it’s compliance. This is especially true when hiring budtenders because it’s rarely the case that the dispensary owner personally makes a compliance mistake that triggers an inspection. More often than not, it’s a busy or distracted staff member who takes the fall.
Cannabis compliance is complicated, and keeping up with the industry as it evolves is a demanding job. Applicants who understand this and can adhere to complex rules are likely going to be more dependable than someone who is completely unfamiliar.
The more you know about cannabis compliance laws in your state or province, the better positioned you’ll be to take on business-critical responsibilities for the dispensary you’re applying to. You don’t have to memorize the entire legislative agenda—just do your homework enough to take some of the burden of compliance training off your employer’s shoulders.
5. Your personal elevator pitch
As a budtender, you’re selling cannabis. But as a job applicant, you’re selling the dispensary on why they should hire you. This is where your “elevator pitch” comes in— allowing you to quickly summarize your work experience, strengths, and why you’re interviewing. Have a favorite pastime? A hobby you enjoy? Maybe you’re part of a wider social or cultural movement that you care about. Talk about it! Budtenders have to showcase their social skills.
Throughout history, writers, politicians, doctors, and scientists have used cannabis to supplement insight into their various fields of activity. What are yours? How has cannabis played a role in your life story? Express why you’re passionate about it and (if you’re comfortable) how it’s helped you personally. These are the kinds of things you’ll be talking about with customers, so you can bet your employer will want to hear it first.
If you’ve added all of the following to your application, you’re ready to move on to the interviewing process. Don’t forget to brush up on cannabis consumption types, different consumption methods, and legal ordering types in your area. Learn the daily purchasing limits for shoppers. You’re almost certainly going to answer questions about the things listed above—especially product knowledge and compliance—so be sure you’re ready.
A background check might also be required for security reasons. Expect to explain what you would do if you caught a co-worker or shopper stealing. In a tightly-regulated industry like cannabis, inventory discrepancies can lead to surprise inspections, fines, and revoked licenses. Turning a blind eye might cost you your permit or everybody their job. Retailers want to know that they can trust you and that you have their business’s best interests at heart.
The cannabis industry represents an exciting economic opportunity and career path for people who are passionate about cannabis and ready to devote their time to expanding its legal accessibility. Make your resume reflect that, and your application will jump to the top of every employer’s desk.