Whether your current dispensary needs to hire a few additional staff or you’re starting from scratch with a new operation, you don’t necessarily have to hire folks with a burning passion for cannabis—although it certainly helps! Still, just because someone loves cannabis doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for your business. The culture surrounding your cannabis operation is unique, and you'll want budtenders who can grow your business without disturbing the environment you’ve worked so hard to curate.
Folks walking through the doors of your dispensary should feel comfortable with their budtender. Knowledge and professionalism, along with a friendly tone, go much further than a love of cannabis by itself. The following best practices will help ensure you're onboarding budtenders who are perfect for both your business and customer base.
This tip might garner some funny looks, but hear us out: those with customer service, account management, retail, and/or hospitality experience are used to assisting others directly. This type of employee is likely to thrive in your dispensary by having the natural ability (and know-how) to assist them during the shopping experience.
Those outside the cannabis industry have also had the opportunity to develop skills that are necessary for bringing people through the doors. After all, almost everyone frequenting a dispensary is going to end up with a "go-to" budtender.
As we mentioned above, a passion for cannabis is important, but it's not a deal breaker—and certainly shouldn't be the sole reason to hire an interviewee. Loving the plant does not mean someone is automatically equipped to handle the full level of responsibility that comes with handling cannabis in a professional, highly regulated environment. Instead, prioritize hiring folks with a positive track record around following rules and being on time. Unfortunately, these days, it only takes one careless action to put your business license in jeopardy.
You'll also want to verify the skills listed on applicants' resumes. When conducting reference and employment checks, ask about the applicant’s competency in the following areas to help determine whether they'll be a potential fit for your cannabis business:
Demonstrated success in these four areas indicates that the applicant has taken previous jobs seriously and puts in effort to perform said jobs well.
Every state has rules surrounding what you can ask references when calling for an employment reference check. Make sure you're not breaking any rules by asking prohibited questions. When speaking with personal/character references, ask about reliability and punctuality. You might also want to ask about how the applicant responds to stress, or how they react when they're frustrated. This will help you gauge the personality of the applicant and whether their reactions to certain triggers are aligned with your dispensary's culture and values.
Try to also get a feel for whether or not they performed their job duties as agreed—did they exceed expectations? Were they a model employee?
Every dispensary—whether medical or recreational—has a menu. But there's also general industry knowledge that's essential to any budtender's success. Although industry experience is a plus and not a requirement, seek out applicants who have a proven ability retain information, so they can discuss your current offerings with customers at length.
In memorizing the menu, budtenders should know this information:
Self-described cannabis connoisseurs are likely going to want to know the answers to questions regarding these themes, so budtenders should be able to provide this information without skipping a beat. If you have an extensive menu, memorizing will be a bit of an uphill climb—but quizzing the budtenders before each shift can be an effective (and even fun) way to keep staff on their toes. You can also opt to reward or incentivize those who have the menu memorized.
Along with memory, you should test a potential hire’s math skills. There's a lot of math involved in retail to begin with, but this especially rings true in the cannabis realm. Budtenders should know the measurements of packaging amounts without having to look them up. They should also be able to count half-gram and multi-product transactions easily.
If you choose to conduct background checks on your applicants, use your own discretion when making hiring decisions. While theft charges might be cause for concern, there's no reason to not hire someone with a cannabis-related conviction in a state where medical and/or recreational sales are legal. Several states with Social Equity Programs (SEPs)—as well as activist coalitions such as Last Prisoner Project (LPP)—are fighting to address the impacts of outdated cannabis policies and their inequities by developing and implementing strategies that seek to center equity in cannabis policy reform.
Before posting ads for budtenders online, create a must haves list and post it with the job duties. These would be required skills. In those skills, you should include that industry experience is a plus but is not required. It's also important to stress that your employees must pass state exams and obtain industry agent identification. Your first instinct is going to tell you to look at those with industry knowledge and experience first, but don’t leave non-experienced hopefuls out when learning how to hire budtenders for your cannabis industry business.