If you are looking for a job in the wine industry, you might want to see Donna Parker. The founder of WinePro Recruiter International, Parker specializes in wine industry recruitment. We caught up with the staffing veteran to learn what it takes to make it in the wine business.
When is the Wine Industry Hiring?
“Hiring revolves around the timing of the winery or crush,” says Parker. “It’s pretty quiet in August and September.”
The seasonality of winemaking determines her daily routine much more than the Labor Department’s jobless numbers. Throughout November, December and January is when Parker says she gets the majority of calls from people telling her, “Donna, here’s what I do. Here’s what I’d like to do and here’s where I’d like to do it. And what do you think?”
“Anyone who would like to think about changing jobs is contacting me, from New York to California, Oregon and Washington and everywhere in between,” she says.
Experience Matters and Conversations Build Relationships
Parker has been working as a job recruiter in the industry for more than 30 years.
“No one else was doing anything like this at the time,” she says.
She has placed winemakers, top executives, middle managers, cellar masters, lab directors, sales directors and marketing managers, building strong relationships with wineries over the last three decades. Her business is mostly from word of mouth.
“I don’t do cold calls. I never have. Wineries call me, and then we engage in the conversation [about] what the heck does a recruiter do and could I be of value to you,” says Parker.
Relationships and Reputation are Key
Most of her clients are mid-size and smaller wineries, and their situations tend to be highly competitive.
Parker works on a retainer basis. “I’m in favor of having a partnership with the person I work for, and when they give you upfront money, they’re your partners. [That] is what motivates me to work hard every day: having partners.”
Those looking for a job, she says, find her because of her reputation. “I’ve been in this business for so long that people know the name,” Parker says.
Trust is Important
Looking for a job and trying to find out what is available can create a sense of vulnerability for people.
“They want to talk to someone whose name they have heard for a long time,” Parker says.
She also stresses that confidentiality and discretion are vital to her success.
“You’ve got to trust the person who’s got your résumé, that it won’t go to the wrong person,” she says.
Parker has a small office in downtown Santa Rosa, California where “we can talk. It’s very private and often employers, winery owners, will choose to meet there.”
She does not deal in volume. “I know my clients at both ends of the transaction,” says Parker. “The wine industry is an industry of relationships, and that couldn’t be more true here.”
Advice to Employers
She has a piece of advice for every employer, be they in or out of the wine business.
“When people call me and tell me they want to look for another job, it’s never about money. It’s always about how they’re treated. How they’re managed means more to them than anything.”
Parker suggests “scheduling time just to listen to how things are going. Listen to your people.”