New Belgium Brewing is on a hiring spree this year. With their new North Carolina facility gearing up to open in early 2016, they have just concluded their latest new hire orientation in Asheville and welcomed that location’s 40th employee.
By March, 2016 they expect to bring on an additional 40 employees.
And by the time they are at full capacity in Asheville, they expect to be employing 150-160 people there.
So it’s safe to say that the HR team at New Belgium is well versed in the hiring process. They screen a lot of applications, they meet with a lot of candidates, and they have a lot of insight to share with those of you interested in breaking into a career in craft beer.
I got the chance to catch up with two key members of the New Belgium HR team last week where we had a fun conversation about all the hiring they’ve been doing, their hiring process, and their thoughts on things that job seekers can do to better position themselves to be noticed and hired by a craft brewery.
Annie Korenjak is Asheville’s HR Manager. She’s been with New Belgium since 2010 where she started out in the brewery’s Fort Collin’s Liquid Center (tap room). Her background was in yoga and retail prior to working in craft beer, and over the last five years she has learned a lot about craft beer, about the business, and about New Belgium.
Annie moved from Colorado to Asheville in early 2015. She’s in charge of hiring and onboarding all the new employees, which involves working to ensure that each new hire is a good fit for the position and then introducing them to the brand and culture of New Belgium. Her tenure and experience working in a variety of positions over the last few years makes her a great person for this front-line position.
Greg Churchman’s role at New Belgium is that of Talent Sage. His work is more in talent acquisition where he identifies candidates and brings them into the process. Greg has been with New Belgium for three years, so if you’ve applied to New Belgium during the past three years, Greg has probably reviewed your resume and cover letter. He works to ensure that those candidates he invites to meet with Annie have the potential to be a good fit.
Things That Matter
After Annie and Greg updated me on the hiring that they’ve been doing, we got right into discussing what matters to them when someone applies for a position.
While this conversation was specific to New Belgium, the tips and advice they share can be applied to nearly any craft brewery. I’m going to expand on each, but in no particular order, the following are what matters most to Annie and Greg when considering an applicant:
- Transferrable Skills
This is largely self-explanatory. If you are interested in working in craft beer, being referred by someone who already works at the brewery is an advantage.
While being on a first-name basis with the Tap Room staff may not cut it, having a quality referral into the company does.
So if you know someone who works for New Belgium (or your desired employer), and they are in a position to comment on your skills, character, or experience, ask them if they would consider referring you to HR.
The Importance of Transferrable Skills & Experience
Craft Beer is in boom time. People like to drink it, people like to make it, and the industry is growing and growing.
So naturally, this boom is leading to both an increase in the number of craft beer jobs available as well as an increase in the number of people who want a career in craft beer.
Employers in the past may have had a strong preference to hire someone with directly related experience, but they don’t have that luxury anymore. There are more jobs to fill than those with direct experience to fill them. This is true for New Belgium.
This is good news for people who want a career change into craft beer (of which there are many), but there is a “but”.
But applicants need to understand the job they are applying for and they need to show the employer what, if any, transferrable experience or skills they have.
I see this a lot here on Craft Beverage Jobs, and my conversation with Greg and Annie confirmed this. Like many of the employers who post here on Craft Beverage Jobs, New Belgium is willing to consider a candidate with no craft beer experience (for positions that don’t necessarily require it), but aside from the very entry level jobs, there needs to be some demonstration by the applicant that they have transferrable experience or skills.
When you’re in a career change, it’s crucial that you not only research the position for which you are applying to, but you also need to help those who are in the position to consider your candidacy by connecting the dots for them.
Want a job in craft beer sales? Demonstrate in your cover letter how your 5 years experience working at the hardware store gave you sales experience. Let the employer know that during your 5 years you built relationships with contractors and helped them make informed purchasing decisions.
Want to work in craft beer marketing? Your background in biotech couldn’t be further from craft beer, but if you can demonstrate your creativity and the results of the social media marketing campaign you managed in biotech, you will increase your chance of being considered.
Intention: Shotgun vs Rifle Approach
You may be dead-set on getting a job in craft beer, but this doesn’t warrant taking a shotgun approach to applying for jobs.
Employers like New Belgium would rather see one application from you for the job you are most interested in getting than seeing you apply to every vacancy with the company.
Applying to many jobs – especially ones in a variety of departments – communicates that you’re not sure what you want to do. It communicates a lack of focus, and that is a turn-off when considering you for a position.
Be intentional. Research the organization, and only apply for the position that best fits your skill set and desired career path.
One interesting thing that came out of my chat with Annie & Greg is that neither of them had craft beer experience prior to getting hired by New Belgium, and Greg admitted to being more of a “wine guy” than a beer guy before being hired.
This led us to discuss the importance of passion of craft beer as a contributing factor to someone being considered a potential candidate for employment.
You might be surprised, but passion for craft beer isn’t all that important.
Passion for life is.
Annie’s ultimate goal is to hire someone who will do a good job and who will love the work. As such, she wants to know what drives a candidate when she meets with someone, but loving craft beer doesn’t automatically mean you’ll make a great employee.
Brewing is becoming more of a science than it ever has, so education is increasingly becoming more important.
Where in the not so distant past, a solid homebrewing background would have gotten you an interview as a brewer, Annie, Greg and I discussed a quickly approaching future where a minimum requirement for a position in production is a degree in fermentation sciences.
In fact, New Belgium recently had an internship position available at their pilot brewery. To be qualified, a candidate needed to be at least a junior (or graduate) of a fermentation sciences program.
If you’re interested in obtaining a fermentation sciences degree, check out our Ultimate Guide to a Career in Craft Beer for a list of programs we’ve compiled. We’re noticing new programs pop up all over the country, so if something in your area isn’t listed on our guide, look up your local community college or university to see if they offer something.
The New Belgium Application Process
Looking for a job can be emotionally tough. The nature of job seeking is a vulnerable experience because when you apply for a job, you’ll either be accepted or rejected. And that period of time when you’re waiting to hear back from a potential employer can be the most grueling aspect of the job search.
So I was really impressed to learn that New Belgium responds to all applicants. This is big. They receive a ton of applications, so responding to all is no small task. If they decline to invite you to an interview, you’ll receive a note; if you have an interview, you’ll receive a phone call.
New Belgium also is starting to conduct more and more video interviews. This allows them to add an additional level of screening prior to face-to-face interviews. So if you apply for a job that includes a video interview, you’ll be asked to log into their program and record a video that answers several questions.
What to Wear to a Craft Beer Interview?
Last, but not least, I asked Greg and Annie what someone coming for an interview should wear. We covered this topic in a guest blog post earlier this year, but Greg had some good advice for all craft beer job seekers going to an interview at any craft brewery: call and ask.
The craft beer industry is casual, but just because every employee of a brewery shows up in cargo shorts, doesn’t mean that you should interview in them. Each brewery may have its own culture, definition of casual, and expectations. Don’t be shy and just ask how to come dressed.
Jobs at New Belgium
Interested in working for New Belgium? It’s a great craft brewery with a great culture of employee-owners, so I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
They’ll be actively looking to fill 40 positions in Asheville over the next 6 months (mostly in hospitality, packaging, and brewery operations), so now’s a great time to be a craft beer job seeker in North Carolina! They also are regularly hiring in Fort Collins and for sales positions around the country.
They only accept applications for open positions, so the best way to learn what is available is on their website:
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