Hiring Winners

High season is almost here!  It’s time to hire our team of All Stars to care for our guests who will be arriving soon.  Although it’s tempting to simply put out an ad like the one we ran last year, there is a better way to approach the hiring process to be sure we are hiring right.  Here are the steps that will help us get the results we want.

Step One – The bottom line:  Get off autopilot.  Analyze the organization, department and position.  When you have an opening, don’t assume you should fill the exact same role in the exact same way.  Use this as an opportunity to replace, reorganize, or reduce your team if needed.  What would your team look like if you started over with a blank sheet of paper?  Look ahead. Think beyond what you need today consider future organization / goals.

Step Two – Establish the position requirements by creating a thorough job description. Do this work upfront, not after they are hired.  It will attract the right applicants and scare off the wrong ones. Write the job description that screens the candidates for the skills, knowledge, behavior fit and cultural fit. The job description can then be used not only for candidates, but also for current employees and eventually as the basis from which performance is reviewed.

Step Three – Select the best applicant sources, including an internal posting, social media such as Linked In, online job boards (, Craig’s List), schools, and professional organizations.

Step Four – Pre-screen applicants and let the candidates do the heavy lifting for you. First, create a compelling job ad, and make it short and compelling. Use behavior, style, cultural words that will emotionally attract the right candidate.  Then develop a questionnaire with three to five thoughtful behavior / experience-based essay questions that will clarify not only what they can do but how they will do it.  For example: “When is the last time you had to change a process or system?  Share the process you used to implement the change, and if you had it to do all over again what would you do differently?”

Ask for resumes to be sent by X date.  All applicants receive an email: “Thank you for your interest in applying for XX job at XX winery.  Please review the attached job description.  If are interested in continuing your application, please complete the attached questionnaire.  All resumes and completed questionnaire will be reviewed on X date.” Most don’t complete the last step so only 15% to 20% of original applicants are probably still in the pool.  Review these resumes and questionnaires to decide whom to interview.

Step Five – Design a standard set of interview questions and use them for all candidates.  Avoid “canned” and yes/no questions, but include different types of interview questions.  Data gathering questions are the “resume questions” to clarify facts.  Technical questions will test the candidate’s knowledge in a particular area. Hypothetical or “what if” questions test problem-solving skills, and how well they think on their feet, such as “What would you do if a customer started to yell at you?”  Behavioral questions ask the candidate to talk about when a certain situation occurred.  They often begin with “Tell me about” or “give me an example of how you handled…”  Questions should help clarify skills, knowledge, behavior fit and cultural fit.

Step Six – Conduct the interview. Create a comfortable climate for the candidate to share information. Beware of the legal pitfalls and don’t ask No-No questions about race, religion, birthplace, marital status, etc.  Don’t make any promises which might compromise your company’s ‘at-will’ employment policy.

Step Seven – Conduct skills testing and any needed pre-employment physicals or drug screens.

Step Eight – Check references. Use outside resources for background checks, including social media sites, as well as others not given as references (most HR departments will only provide dates of employment). Ask references “if there’s any reason I shouldn’t hire this person, please hang up now.” This is a powerful way to get a negative opinion about the candidate without compromising company policies.

Step Nine – Conduct the decision analysis by reviewing all candidates against the criteria selected.

Step Ten – Make the offer in writing with a letter – a clear offer, including the job responsibilities.

We’re not done yet.

Step Eleven – Onboard the winner!   Next month we’ll explore how to set your new employee up for success.