Companies Hiring, Executive Feature

Turning Tables: What It’s Like to be an Applicant at E. & J. Gallo Winery

TA Shot

It’s fitting that E. & J. Gallo Winery recruited Carrie Montag to join their Talent Acquisition team at the company’s Modesto headquarters three years ago. Not only did the now Senior Employment Branding Specialist, experience Gallo’s recruiting process first hand, Montag is the embodiment of the Gallo culture of family, collaboration and humility. A Midwesterner, Montag wasn’t sure she wanted to leave her recruiting job at MillerCoors in Wisconsin. “I loved my job and I’ve lived, gone to school and worked in the Midwest all my life, so I wasn’t so sure about California,” says the mother of two.  But the more she talked with the Gallo recruiters, the more she “fell in love with the company and with their family culture. At the end of the day, recruiting is all about creating a connection to the company.”

6 management team at malibu wine

The family owned winery with over 6,500 employees nationwide conducts roughly 1,000 interviews a year. Montag is part of the 20-person Corporate Talent Acquisition Team, handling all corporate (salaried, non-salaried and union) as well as international and coastal winery recruiting. It’s a job that exemplifies one of the guiding principles of the company: collaboration. “We work closely with Human Resources, Business Leaders, and Corporate Communications,” says Montag. “Everyone has to be on the same page.” That collaboration is one of the contributing factors for Gallo’s 2017 Glassdoor award for Best Places to Interview.

The careful pre-briefing of candidates with initial phone interviews and constant communication with hiring managers sets Gallo apart. It’s important that the hiring team understand exactly what the company is looking for in a candidate. And on the flip side of the process listen to the needs of the potential employee. Everyone needs to be on the same page before a potential hire is brought in for a face-to-face interview. Montag credits the upfront effort of the various teams involved as one of the driving factors for Gallo’s high retention rate.

All those involved in hiring must be experts on the jobs they are looking to fill. “They will be asked a lot of the same questions interviewees are faced with,” says Montag. “It’s one of the most important jobs of a recruiter to have done their research and talked to the corporate managers about what they want. They are often asked ‘I see the job description but what is it you’re really looking for?’ They have to be able to answer that question and if they don’t have an answer it’s important to find the answers and get back to the candidate.”

Gallo’s Talent Acquisition team is considerate of the potential employees’ comfort throughout the process. “We try to do only one on-site interview,” says Montag. “People are busy and many have to travel to Modesto, so we consider their geographic situation as well as whether they have a family they need to be away from to come here.”

Attention to public comments is an integral part of accommodating candidates. After reading Glassdoor reviews indicating the visit to the Modesto campus could be intimidating, the company changed the way interviews are planned. “We had been taking them from office to office to interview with various executives,” says Montag. “Because the campus is large we even used golf carts to get around.” The team learned from social media that moving candidates was worsening an already uncomfortable situation. Now the potential hire is situated in one place and managers are brought to them. That change is part of a conscious effort to be kind to everyone involved.

An equally vital aspect of the pre-briefing protocol is communicating the company’s unique culture. Gallo is the largest family owned winery in the world and Montag says it is truly a family endeavor with 15 family members actively involved. “As a private company, decisions are made to benefit the whole company and our employees.” The ideals of family are pervasive. Montag points to her own situation as an example. “I have a special needs son and the company has been exceptional in helping me in any way I might need and accepting our family into the larger Gallo family.”

The whole company makes an effort to be flexible not just for one staff member but for all employees’ sake. There are telecommuting opportunities, transportation to and from the East Bay, as well as offices throughout the country for those employees who may not be able to relocate. The recruiting team does like to knock down misconceptions about Modesto, which has its own attractions in addition to being close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Another pillar of Gallo culture is humility. “We don’t showboat,” says Montag who is careful when selecting potential candidates to determine if they are collaborators. “You may be the very best at what you do,” she says. “But if you’re not willing to work with the team and learn from others you won’t be comfortable here. Share your ideas. Be humble.”

All of the company ideals come across in the treatment of job candidates. “We try to carry out our corporate behaviors,” says Montag. “That applies empathizing with guests who are coming to talk with us about employment.” Details are carefully attended to so that the experience of interviewing is pleasant. “We want people to say they had a good experience with us, even if they don’t get the job,” says Montag. That’s the ultimate compliment for a company and its recruiters.

 

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