Just got called to have an interview next Wednesday for a part-time tasting room job at a very popular winery & distillery here in the Hudson Valley. In addition to the tasting room itself, the post would also involve working wine festivals in the region.
Their wines are well-crafted relatively inexpensive white and red wines from Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes grapes. (Vinifera, native North American and French/American hybrids, all sourced.) They’re best known for widely-acclaimed hard ciders made from local apples, pears and raspberries and a strong line of apple and pear brandies and fruit liqueurs. Much of this fruit is grown on premises. These (not so much the wines) are distributed throughout the Northeast, parts of the South and as far as Las Vegas.
The winery/distillery has a small bakery/café run by a CIA-trained executive/pastry chef. (This is not part of the tasting room job.) It also has weekly live music on an outdoor stage, and in the café when the weather turns cold, ranging from acoustic guitar to full bands. In the fall, apple and pear picking in the orchards is a big draw.
Does anyone have advice to offer? Things I need to know/see/be prepared for? What should make me take the job? What should make me turn and run?
I look for enthusiasm for wine and people. Knowing a lot about wine is secondary. As the saying goes, “You can teach people about wine, you can’t teach them to like people.”
For a part-timer I like to know their schedule and flexibility. That is, let me know up front if you can’t work Fridays or if you already have vacation scheduled for next Thanksgiving weekend.
Get an idea of how many days/hours a week or month they expect you to be available. And how much that will vary seasonally.
Ask about the rest of the staff: Things like how long the other tasting room people have worked there and how long the manager has been there. High turnover is a sign of problems, just like with any job.
Honestly, I think if someone showed up looking for PT TR work knowing as much about my winery as you write about the specifics of this winery, and struck me as a people person, I would hire them on the spot.
some questions i ask potential part-time tasting room candidates:
tell me about a difficult customer in your previous work history and how you handled the situation
if someone comes in to taste, and they seem intoxicated, what do you do?
name four varieties you might find in a red Rhone blend
what is more important to you: making the sale or the customer’s experience?
can you work weekends?
if wine sells for $20, and we offer a 10% discount for said wine, how much do we charge the customer?
if a candidate has prior customer service experience, that’s a bonus. if they don’t come across as outgoing/affable/garrulous in the interview, then i’m probably going to look elsewhere. come prepared with questions about the winery as well: not just about the position itself, but something about the history of the place, winemaking style, or something that shows you have an interest above and beyond the tasting room. also, research the winery itself in case you get thrown a question about it.
also, wear appropriate interview attire. even if it’s a part-time position, and the dress code at work is jeans & polo shirts, i would suggest a tie. first impressions are everything.
I used to sell software to lawyers. Do I need to elaborate? Yes. Please do.
Politely and firmly say, “no.” Good answer. Is there anything else you would do?
Syrah, grenache, mourvedre, and counoise. (Spelling them is harder than remembering them.) Nicely done!
Those are the same thing. If the customer has a satisfying experience in retail sales, they usually buy something. Agreed.
Heh. Anyone working retail should expect to work weekends. Do you really get applicants who won’t? (yes. i have interviewed a number of people who, after reading the job posting which specified that we were hiring for weekend shifts, told me in the interview that they can’t work on Saturdays.)
$216, since they should buy a case. (ah. the salesman is strong in this one.)
This is a tough crowd. In the high-tech business, I put on dress shirt, slacks, and sports coats for interviews, but I don’t think I’ve worn a tie at work since 1994.
Fun questions. I would add, “I’ve just walked into your tasting room. Greet me.” (that’s a good one, i’m going to borrow that)
for the first two questions, my interest lies more in how they describe situations, what kind of verbiage they use, and how detailed they can be, versus the actual answer. if i get short, one sentence answers, the red-flag goes up. people behind the bar need to be engaging and dynamic, not someone who simply pours wine and says, “This is our Cabernet.” a charismatic host leads to a better experience for the guest, which as you aptly pointed out, leads to better sales (or at least it should).