Decrease Hiring Mistakes – Get an All-Star Team

It’s hiring season in the wine industry and it’s time to get all team members on board and ready for the high season. Ideally every winery wants to have an All-Star team, but how do you hire these superstars?


You probably have a tasting room associate job description that’s been used for a while. To raise the bar, it’s important to start fresh. Think about the All-Star team you’re trying to build. What do the great staff members have in common? When considering these qualifications, think about them from three different angles:

  1. Knowledge (general wine and wine industry basics, specifics on the winery, etc.)
  2. Skills (wine tasting, wine service, sales skills, etc.)
  3. Behavioral traits (both behavioral and cultural fit)

And for each, we need to determine what’s essential upon hiring versus what can be trained. While certain knowledge can be taught and skills can be practiced, basic traits like work pace, customer service heart, facility with details, curiosity and warmth are part of a person’s natural behavior profile and aren’t easily changed. For example, we can train someone to better understand wine, but we can’t train them to be personable.

Job Description

The job description should be a high level description of work responsibilities and expectations up front to save time later. This also works as a good self selection / self opt-out process for the candidate.  If it is well written, it also (combined with actual goals) can be the foundation of future performance reviews.  A win-win situation, so it is worth it to spend some time here.

Taking the time to understand the requirements of the open position – going beyond required knowledge and skills to include both cultural fit and desired behavior style – will ultimately pay off in the form of engaged, successful employees, happier customers and of course more DTC sales.

So, what will attract the right-fit candidates in a job description?  A good job ad should be broad, brief, and focus on the must-have knowledge, skills and – most importantly but often overlooked – behavioral traits and cultural fit.  Use behavior and cultural fit terms that will resonate with the right candidates. The right descriptions promote self selection of the right people.


A great way to help narrow down the candidates to a smaller, more targeted, better candidate pool is to use questionnaires. By using questionnaires during the recruiting process, candidates themselves to shoulder the bulk of the pre-screening process.  Here is how the process works:

  1. Advertise for the job.
  2. Gather resumes, but don’t review any of them (literally don’t peak).
  3. Send out a questionnaire to all applicants along with a very, very thorough job description.

With this thorough job description, it should be the kind that will attract the right person and scare off the wrong fit.  Invite all candidates (no matter if they are qualified or not, because remember, you have not even looked at their resume) to review the job description and if they still want to apply then to fill out the questionnaire.

The questionnaire is the same for everyone and should dive into some behavioral, experience-based questions that you would want to ask in the first interview anyway.  It may also screen for salary expectations, weekend availability, etc.

The result? Only interview those that complete the questionnaire.  It should be about 20% to 25% of the original pool.  By reading both the resumes and questionnaire responses of a much smaller and usually more qualified pool – it will be really clear who is worthy of an interview, and who is not.


Consider the following before the final stage of hiring:

  • Do knowledge and skills testing before hiring. There are many kinds to consider as well as how and when you do this during the recruiting process.
  • Explore cultural fit.
  • Do behavior profiling. Again, there are many kinds of behavioral profiling. Consider at which point of the process you would do this.
  • Do reference checks.

These final checks will help decrease hiring mistakes.

This is a quick overview of some key points in hiring superstars. If you do it right, you will be prepared with a great job description, know how to develop a good job ad, and have ideas on how to pre-screen applications. You will be ready to interview the best candidates, conduct skills testing and behavior profiling, and do reference checks.  Now you’re ready to hire. Good luck!