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Murphy-Goode winery set out in the spring of 2009 to hire a social media whiz to facebook, twitter and blog them into the wine-lover’s Hall of Fame.   With a monthly compensation of $10K, a quaint house and not to forget the actual dream job description:  California, wine paradise, picnic areas… it is of no surprise that around 2000 people sent in applications for the winery position.  To take on the task of creating a sound hiring process and screening of the many applicants, MG hired Linsey Careers, headed by Angee Linsey and her recruitment team to handle the flood of great applicants.

And now that the cards have been dealt, the bets are in, we see who has won this round of poker.  It was no chance, no simple luck that Hardy was chosen by MG in the end.  But there are lessons to be learned:  how to play the game!  I caught up with Angee after that wild and exciting final weekend leading into the declaration of a Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent and asked her a few questions.

Thank you Angee, for your encouragement in this interview and for taking the time.

A note of clarification.  Murphy Goode Wines is brand within the Jackson Family Wines portfolio.

[AGL — Andy’s Goode Life]  Let’s start with some background information.  Why would I hire you?  Tell me a wee bit about the traditional recruitment and consulting you have done prior to A Really Goode Job.

[Angee]  I have about 14 years experience as a recruiter.  I’ve started my recruiting career with a contingent firm and transitioned to inside corporations where I have been a corporate recruiter, recruiting manager and I led the recruiting operations efforts for a large company as well.  I now have my own retained search firm specializing in marketing, corporate communications and public relations searches.

I also have a master’s degree in career development.  This is a little unusual for a recruiter, but I find that it is an amazing asset for me.  I have a perspective that allows me to really understand the candidate’s motivational and cultural fit, as well as screen for the appropriate skills and experience.  Prior to becoming a recruiter, I was a public relations/corporate communications professional.  I think my communications skills also are invaluable in my current position.

[AGL]  A master’s in career developement? … that means you can see the potential in pretty much anyone!

[Angee]  Well… there is a lot of talent out there.

[AGL]  Was “wine” a new topic for your company or how about “social media”?  Tell us how MG approached you or how you found MG.  I am assuming you did not answer an ad in the classified section…

[Angee]  Linsey Careers had done some work with Jackson Family Wines to help them hire members of their public relations team.  Because of that relationship, I was invited to consult on the Murphy Goode project.  Social media was definitely a new space for my team and me– but it’s pretty new for everyone.

[AGL]  So you have known about “A Really Goode Job” forever…?

[Angee]  I was in on the project from the beginning.  The executives at Jackson Family Wines who presented the idea is the client I’d been working with on other positions.  She asked me to provide some input on the initial plan.  While a brilliant marketing and public relations plan, the reality was that in the end there would be a hire.  That means there are additional hiring and process considerations on which Linsey Careers could advise that needed to be included in the overall plan.

[AGL]  Ok, this leads to the role that internet played *before* MG in recruitment jobs.  And what *other* resources might you pull out to help find the right employee?

[Angee]  The internet has played a significant role in recruiting for several years now.  Starting with job boards, candidates and companies can find each other on a global scale at an affordable price.  Social media is taking on an increasingly important role with sites like Linked In and Facebook.  Even Twitter gets the word out about jobs in a way that has not happened in the past.  It’s people connections that make this all possible.  The whole point of social media is two way conversation (via the web), and connecting with people.  I believe that as humans we want to help each other out, so if I hear about or see a tweet or message on Linked In about a job and I know someone that fits the description – I’m going to pass on that information.

[AGL]  Funny you mention twitter:  this is how I found out about MG!  People were tweeting about it in GERMAN and I picked that up on my German twitter accounts.  I am guessing that A Really Goode Job has catapulted you into a new world:  what was your understanding of  “social media” pre-MG?  Do other recruitment and consulting firms have SocMed campaigns up and going?  And will you be planning to branch out further in social media?

[Angee]  I confess it’s all a bit new to me.  Just like many companies, I’m still personally struggling with how much time I want to spend updating the world on what I’m doing.  I like to write and I’ve dabbled with the idea of a blog for a very long time.  I think the Murphy Goode project has taught me a lot about how to effectively approach my use of social media.  I don’t think the right answer is to be crazy with 10 tweets a day and a daily blog.  But I do think there is a strategy (that I’m still working on) that will allow Linsey Careers to go that next level – particularly within the area that I specialize.  Which sort of answers another part of your question here.   Social media is a very important part of many roles in marketing and public relations/corporate communications.  I am so glad I was catapulted into the thick of it with Murphy Goode because I believe it makes me that much better at identifying talent for other clients that need to include social media in their skill sets for future hires.

As far as other recruiting firms using social media – absolutely.  I know several recruiting firms who are very effectively using social media to get information to both clients and candidates.  Like all companies out there today, some are doing it more effectively than others.

[AGL]  I can see the emerging blogger in you!  You have added a few things to your Linsey Careers home page since I started watching you.  The Lighter Side of Dating Job Search comes to mind.  Perhaps you “simply” change the set up of that one page on your site:  profile the most recent article in the top and list all other previous articles below (perhaps by category or theme once you have a structure emerging).  You don’t need to pop out articles each week… (I see *ideas* popping up in my mind… we can continue this conversation “off page”… 😀 ).  Give us an honest answer here Angee, had you heard of Murphy-Goode wine before becoming involved with Jackson Family Wines?

[Angee]  I did know of Murphy-Goode.  But through this project I became much more familiar with their wines — which are quite good.

[AGL] What was driving me nuts throughout the whole campaign was the fact that I could not get much information about the people at Murphy-Goode:  who are they, what are they really like.  It was great to see Dave travel the States and read the occasional posts about who met up with him, see the pics, but I felt extremely distant from that.  In my mind I was trying to find answers to deeper questions:  What exactly is Murphy-Goode looking for?

Did MG have a strong, fixed idea of who they were looking for (for example someone with strong networking skills or a specific charismatic personality) or did they have a better grasp of what kind of “outcome” they expected the successful applicant to reach (perhaps X numer of hits/month on any given social media)?  Were you expected to help MG define these kind of goals?

[Angee]  I helped shape some of the specifics around what a successful hire would be doing.  It’s important in any job search that everyone is on the same page regarding what success means to the person being hired.  The more measurable and specific you can be up front, the more likely you’ll find the person who can accomplish that vision.  As a team we really ensured we were all on the same page regarding skills, experience, culture fit and personality.  We also recognized that there would be some variation on how everything panned out during the six months based on WHO was hired because the personality of the one selected would certainly shape the overall result.

[AGL] OK we all read the job description on the URL, but what qualities were MG  really looking for and how were you “finding” these qualities in the multitude of applications?

[Angee]  We actually received this question from nearly every candidate we screened.  What we said we were looking for was actually what we were looking for.  Everyone wants to read between the lines, but in fact – we said it as we meant it.  Obviously it’s very difficult to identify skills and experience, culture fit and personality on a one-minute video.  We also had an application form that requested links to writing samples etc.   It was quite interesting because I think my team did a pretty good job pulling out some amazing talent from the 900+ videos we received.  I’m sure there were many amazing and talented people we missed as well.  That’s true with any hiring process.  A resume may be good, but for some reason, it may not “click” with the person doing the initial screening.  For better or worse, in the end it’s a human process.  Sadly, sometimes that means good people get missed – but hopefully it means great people do not get missed that might if we solely relied on automated processes for screening.

[AGL]  That still leaves us kind of out in the open.  Your answers are like slippery fish, flopping out of my hand before I get a grasp of them *she smiles*!  Did you work with  some form of measurement:  I dunno, say 30 % good education, 50 % strong online representation, 20 % previous work independent of online work? (Just making this up as I go…)

[Angee]  We did not.  People processes are rarely that “scientific.”  My screening team looked at the videos for creativity, presence and to determine their social media knowledge.  If you notice the majority of the Top 10 were pretty specific about their skills in the video.  We didn’t really consider education until much later in the process.  Once we identified an applicant from their video, we went to their writing samples.  The importance of excellent written communication skills was very high on the list.  From there, we did a phone screen with a set of questions that everyone received.  We were looking for their ability to tell their own story, as well as learn more about how they would tell the Murphy Goode story.  After that, we asked for resumes to explore the rest of their work history and determine the best candidates.

[AGL]  I actually never did see the application forms:  what did you ask of the applicants when they submitted their videos?

[Angee]  The application was sort of a “standard” form that asks for contact information, employment history and education history.  We also left room for people to put a few lines about themselves and some links to writing samples.

[AGL]  When I look at the top 10, I see ten great individuals but I find it difficult to find the common denominators.  Looking at Jenna and Rachel for example they seem to be the point opposite of each other, granted I am soley able to make this limited observation from any material which they have posted or which has been posted about them.  What is the scoop on that?

[Angee]  Indeed all 10 of the final candidates each had different talents to bring to the table.  As I mentioned before, the shape of the position would certainly be determined by the person selected.  It could have literally gone any way.  Each of the Top 10 brought some amazing and unique talents to the table.  Because Hardy was the one who was selected in the end, the job will be shaped by him – but with the over arching goals specified by Murphy Goode.

[AGL]  I think of all the videos I saw and the ones which “spoke” to me an wonder how on earth you would even get that down to 50.

[Angee]  I agree!  There were so many good ones!  The decision was very difficult, but of course so many factors beyond the video itself were considered.

[AGL]  Did you and your team have personal favorites that made it or that got cut brutally early?

[Angee]Of course.  But as the recruiting team, our job is to present the candidates and the hiring team determines who moves ahead in the process.

[AGL]  Tell us a bit about your team and the selection process:  How many people did you have on the job?  How involved were the MG people throughout?

[Angee]  I had five people reviewing videos and three were screening candidates by phone.  The Murphy Goode hiring team kept a close watch on the video applications as they came in and would frequently send their comments to our team as we determined who would be screened.  Once we presented information, which included writing samples, the MG hiring team also was very diligent in reading the examples and even doing a little “Google” search now and then on people to see what else was out there on particular candidates.  A few also followed the Twitter and Facebook efforts of the candidates – particularly once the Top 50 was selected.

[AGL]  Do you have a social media whiz on your team?

[Angee]  On the Linsey Careers team?  That headcount is not in the budget.  I do try to surround myself with brilliant people in this space so I can learn and continue to improve my own social media efforts.  If anyone wants to volunteer to get me set up better than I am today, please let me know!

[AGL]  Ah, so much good work to be done, so little time in the day!  Show me how to increase ROI on my daily minutes and hours, and I will be more than glad to help you out!    I see on your web site that you are concentrating one aspect of your work on wine and spirits recruiting:  is this new, a natural direction after your involvement with Jackson Family Wines?

[Angee]  When I took on some PR searches for Jackson Family Wines, I realized how much I like the wine industry. I’m on the board of the Puget Sound chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food and I love wine.  I live in Seattle and there are  not a lot of recruiters that specialize in this industry in my area and Washington wine is becoming quite a big business.  I’m interested in building this as one of the specialties within Linsey Careers.   But that is not at the expense of the Marketing and PR practice.   The great news is, I have members of my team who have great expertise to ensure any searches we land within our specialty areas are handled  professionally and with quality as the primary goal.

[AGL]  So if there are any wineries out there looking to hire, you would be the number one stop!

[Angee]  Of course!  I particularly specialize in the infrastructure part of the wine business – sales, marketing, finance, web services – and of course, social media.

[AGL]  I hope that wineries find you because you certainly have a good grasp of who is out there and a head start with all the new connections you have made throughout the Murphy-Goode application process!  There were a few surprises for the average observer (like me) in the end.  One question we have is this:  Was MG considering hiring more than two people all along (the Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent and a “back-up”) or is this a pleasent change in venue (thinking of Rocky and Kamary here)?

[Angee]  There was only a plan in place to hire one.  We did indicate to the applicants that a “back up” candidate would be selected in the event our first choice was unable to accept the position.  That’s just a smart move because life happens and someone may have to back out for unexpected reasons.  The fact that Rocky ended up with a four-month internship for the harvest season was a decision that was made – literally – Monday night before the Tuesday announcement.  I think the fact that other applicants (not just in the Top 10) are being identified for other opportunities throughout Jackson Family Wines is a testament to their ability to recognize the great talent that this campaign brought to them.  Not everyone is ideal for Murphy Goode.  But there are a lot of other opportunities – some not even social media opportunities – that may be ideal for other candidates.

[AGL]  So you never really can know what is going to happen with such a campaign!  Throw scientific methods out the window and just show your passionate self… someone will pick up on it!  Angee, time to get personal here before we wrap up:  What is the greatest surprise you had with this recruitment?  What is the number one lesson you learned for your company, the wine industry or social media thanks to MG?

[Angee]  The greatest surprise for me was the community that was formed by the applicants for A Really Goode Job.  It is so cool to see the true friendships that have formed between the various candidates.  The spirit of support and friendship was evident from the very beginning.  You were actually a big part of that as well.  While candidates were disappointed when they didn’t make it to the next round of the process, they remained steady in support of those who did.  I believe many of those connections will be long lasting and I’m thrilled to have been with a project that had that positive effect on so many people.

I also love that so many of the applicants were able to get exposure to their talents in such a wonderful way.  I know that many have been approached by other companies (both in and out of the wine industry) because of their quality video presentation for Murphy Goode.  Rick Bakas landed an amazing job at St. Supery and it’s a perfect gig for him.  The brand is such a great match for his personality and skills.  I can’t help but believe that his application and selection or the Top 50 didn’t help him in that quest.  I look forward to seeing where others land as the weeks and months pass.

As for lessons learned – oh there were many!  Obviously some areas I could control, and some I could not.  I have a great presentation about the recruiting process and recommendations for others who decide to take on a video application process.  I’ll save those great lessons for people who would like to invite me to speak or consult their projects.

[AGL] … wow, sounds like you have some great ideas for your blog post, too!  Trickle a post in once a month… and add a few other social media techniques *she is always thinking*…  One final question, Angee.  This is what we have all been waiting to hear:  How do you woo a recruiter and future employer to hire you?

[Angee]  I probably have some other opinions about how to impress recruiters – but here is the MOST important tidbit for answering that question:

To get noticed by a recruiter, you don’t have to have crazy gimmicks .  If you can clearly and concisely demonstrate through your resume, interview (or in the case of a video application – through your video), that you have the specific skills and experience the company is seeking, you will be noticed.    So often people apply for jobs because they “think they would be perfect for it” but there is no evidence that they actually have the skills and experience required.  Recruiters are looking for people who can do the job – but they can only know if you are the one, if you communicate it in a way that can be understood quickly.

In the case of a video application process,  many true “recruiting” techniques go out the window.  This was a screening process rather than a recruiting process.  (I can explain that if it doesn’t make sense).  But the principles I describe are the same – clearly demonstrate why you have what the company needs.  Just saying you’re perfect for the job, doesn’t make it so.  Show us why and how.

[AGL]  *she is off to brush up on some vital skills*  Angee, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions.  We all really appreciate the time and effort you put to help make this MG campaign a true learning experience.  Won’t you hang around my place here a bit and answer some of the reader’s questions?

[Angee] I would be happy to! Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit more about this great project.  And don’t forget to keep an eye on Hardy!  He officially starts next week! (Aug. 15th, 2009)

You can connect with Angee on the Linsey Career homepage, Facebook, LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter.