Monthly Archives: May 2013

Name-Dropping During an Interview


Usually knowing someone at a company where you’re seeking employment is a good thing. But dropping their name without any tact could rub a human resources official the wrong way and it might even cost you the job. “HR folks can sabotage a search if they feel one-upped,” said career coach Kelley Rexroad, a former human resources executive with more than 25 years of recruiting experience. “It is an ugly but true fact.”

Name-dropping is a technique that might seem smart during an interview, but experts say that most good hiring managers will see right through it and the ploy could backfire drastically.

“I have a saying given to me years ago by a friend: ‘You can’t unring a bell,’ ” Rexroad said. “Don’t name-drop until you need to. You could see the person you know in the hallway when you interview. If he (or) she speaks to you, you will get big points for not name-dropping.”

Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer of the Charles Aris recruiting firm, has personally placed hundreds of people in 100K-plus jobs, but he says that some have missed out because of name-dropping. “If it’s done inappropriately, it can come across as egotistic and pretentious and can backfire,” he said.

However, in some fields your most valuable attribute could be who you know. In these cases, it’s not inappropriate to mention your contacts — just do it directly. “If you’re a salesperson and you have a world-class Rolodex, that’s an asset that should be discussed,” Oakley said. “If you want the person on the other side of the table to know that you know someone, you should just say it. Don’t name-drop it.

 The difference is in the delivery. Referencing an important contact needs to be communicated within the context of business, particularly as an example of how you would add value to a company. That’s what a hiring manger wants to hear. They don’t care if you’re golfing buddies with one of the vice presidents, so don’t mention something like that in passing. “There’s a fine line between that working well and that backfiring,” Oakley said. “You have to be a real good actor.”

Instead, he said, it’s better to just explain who your contacts are or what clients you’ve done business with in the past. “They could appreciate it or won’t care … but it won’t hurt you for trying to be sly about it,” Oakley said. “You won’t get penalized for trying to be cute.”

When preparing for an interview, it’s better to study up on the latest news regarding the organization, rather than thinking up ways to seem like an insider. Oakley said that demonstrating knowledge about the latest earnings reports or product lines will do more for your image than any kind of name-dropping. “Current events-dropping is extremely important to do,” Oakley said. “You’ve got to demonstrate interest to get the job. You have to show that you’ve done your homework. … Name-dropping is a different beast.”

The power of following others

Who was the first person to go from corporate to freedom?

I guess we’ll never know, but I’m not sure it matters much.

Firsts are important. They help to convince others than it can be done. Did you know that within 3.5 years of Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile, 16 runners also broke a record many believed could not be beat?

However, what I think is really important are those who follow. They make it easier for others to do the same.

If you don’t know what I mean by the power of the follower, check out this amazing video below. I don’t know why, but it puts a chill up my spine every time I see it. I admire the willingness of one person to say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do that too”, and what it can trigger.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to share with you the stories of a few people who made the decision to exit corporate and start their own businesses. They’re just ordinary people, with one slight difference. They made the decision that they would follow their passion and build their dream business.

Hopefully by sharing their stories, they might just inspire you to follow


Building Culture with the workplace

Building Culture in the Workplace Improves Profitability

A great workplace environment is the foundation true success in business. Corporate cultures that encourage positive interactions between peers experience speedy financial growth. 

 Employee retention and efficiency have been proven to be direct effects of building a positive culture within the workplace.

 Culture in the workplace.

As retention and efficiency improve, so do the profit margins of any business.

Meanwhile, operational processes become much more fluid. Customer service tends to improve when workplace culture fosters a pleasing environment.

The wine industry is very much based on customer experience. Satisfying the needs of consumers in the wine industry sets the tone for a very loyal customer base. 

Companies that are proactive in the development of building cultures that fit their particular needs provide are in a better position to achieve success. Companies can provide themselves with a strong foundation by recruiting employees that are best suited to contribute to their own workplace environment. 

The term psychographic refers to a person’s values, attitudes, and lifestyle. The psychographic grouping of employees is what creates environments where strong  bonds can be formed among workers. 

The elements that comprise the list qualities mentioned are not physical features. Therefore, companies must develop hiring models that will chooses its members based on their non physical attributes.

Find creative ways to tap into a potential employees true nature involves understanding their individual perspective on life.
Trust is required for employees to reveal their true perspectives on life.

Consistent fairness and honest consideration for individual perspectives is the key to building the trust required to meet a company’s needs.

By examining the most relevant features of  candidates, company’s can build a corporate culture that increases profitability.

Benchmark Consulting has been recruiting and screening candidates since 1995.

Over time, our reputation has come to attract clients from a wide range within the wine industry. We are experts at recruiting candidates that contribute to building a strong corporate culture. 

If you are interested in maximizing the benefits of your workforce contact us for more information.  

Trust in the Workplace

How to Foster Trust in the Workplace

Trust is important in a workplace because it’s so often necessary to rely on one another to get a job done.  Distrust of supervisors, employees, or co-workers can seriously damage morale and consequently, productivity in the workplace.  Going to work every day doesn’t have to feel like stepping into a snake pit!  There are ways to infuse your working relationships with trust.

  • It’s like your mom and sixth grade teacher always said; honesty is the best policy.  Whether you’re the employer or the employee, nobody trusts someone who lies, even if the lies seem small and beneficial in the long-term.  If you’re the employer, make sure you’re transparent about your motivations for implementing certain policies.  Your employees want to be in the loop, as well as understand why they’re doing the work.  If you’re an employee, be open and honest with your boss and coworkers, even when you’ve made a mistake.  (Especially when you’ve made a mistake!)  And seriously, quit stealing the paperclips.  They’re 2 dollars at Staples!
  • Trust is a give and receive kind of equation.  You can’t expect your employer or employees to trust you if you don’t somehow show that you trust them.  This means lay off the micromanagement, and trust your co-workers, partners, or employees to do what you asked of them.  Similarly, if you’re locking up the office supplies, it communicates that you expect them to be stolen, and, lo and behold, they’ll be stolen!  Sure, you might lose a few staplers once you set up the honor system, but in the end, whether it’s the office supply closet or doing a good job on a shared project, most people don’t want to disappoint someone who trusts them.
  •  Remember that consistency is key.  As an employee, you signed up to fulfill certain tasks.  Are you fulfilling them every single day?  If so, then your employer knows you can be relied upon, and will probably think of you in the future when considering someone for greater responsibilities.  If you’re not performing the basics of your job—this includes showing up on time!—you’re showing your employer that you can’t be relied upon.  And reliance is trust.  As an employer, do exactly what you say you’re going to do, and your employees will recognize that they can trust your promises, as well as your vision for the company.
  • Watch your body language!  Whether we realize it or not, we’re constantly communicating nonverbally.  Look people in the eye to avoid being described as “shifty-eyed.”  Stand with your arms uncrossed to signal that you’re open for communication, and keep your hands open and in sight.
  • Finally, it is of the utmost importance to always remain open to communication in all of its forms.  Whether it’s an idea for a new project, a way to improve the workspace, or a piece of constructive criticism, people trust us not only when we’re honest, but when we allow them to be honest with us.


To learn more about best practices in the workplace, contact us!

College Graduates Fare Well in Jobs Market, Even Through Recession

A recent jobs fair in New York. The jobless rate for college graduates in April was 3.9 percent.

Is college worth it? Given the growing price tag and the frequent anecdotes about jobless graduates stuck in their parents’ basements, many have started to question the value of a college degree. But the evidence suggests college graduates have suffered through the recession and lackluster recovery with remarkable resilience.

The unemployment rate for college graduates in April was a mere 3.9 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for the work force as a whole, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. Even when the jobless rate for college graduates was at its very worst in this business cycle, in November 2010, it was still just 5.1 percent. That is close to the jobless rate the rest of the work force experiences when the economy is good.

Among all segments of workers sorted by educational attainment, college graduates are the only group that has more people employed today than when the recession started.

The number of college-educated workers with jobs has risen by 9.1 percent since the beginning of the recession. Those with a high school diploma and no further education are practically a mirror image, with employment down 9 percent on net. For workers without even a high school diploma, employment levels have fallen 14.1 percent.

But just because college graduates have jobs does not mean they all have “good” jobs.

There is ample evidence that employers are hiring college-educated workers for jobs that do not actually require college-level skills — positions like receptionists, file clerks, waitresses, car rental agents and so on.

“High-skilled people can take the jobs of middle-skilled people, and middle-skilled people can take jobs of low-skilled people,” said Justin Wolfers, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. “And low-skilled people are out of luck.”

In some cases, employers are specifically requiring four-year degrees for jobs that previously did not need them, since companies realize that in a relatively poor job market college graduates will be willing to take whatever they can find.

That has left those who have spent some time in college but have not received a bachelor’s degree to scramble for what is left. Employment for them fell during the recession and is now back to exactly where it began. There were 34,992,000 workers with some college employed in December 2007, and there are 34,992,000 today.

In other words, workers with four-year degrees have gobbled up all of the net job gains. In fact, there are more employed college graduates today than employed high school graduates and high school dropouts put together.

It is worth noting, too, that even young college graduates are finding jobs, based on the most recent data on this subgroup. In 2011, the unemployment rate for people in their 20s with at least a bachelor’s degree was 5.7 percent. For those with only a high school diploma or a G.E.D., it was nearly three times as high, at 16.2 percent.

Americans have gotten the message that college pays off in the job market. College degrees are much more common today than they were in the past. In April, about 32 percent of the civilian, noninstitutional population over 25 — that is, the group of people who are not inmates of penal and mental facilities or residents of homes for the disabled or aged and who are not on active military duty — had a college degree.

Twenty years ago, the share was 22 percent. Given the changing norms for what degree of educational training is expected of working Americans, employers might assume those who do not have a four-year degree are less ambitious or less capable, regardless of their actual ability.

These forces might help explain why there is so much growth in employment among college graduates despite the fact that the bulk of the jobs created in the last few years have been low-wage and low-skilled, according to a report last August from the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group. Today nearly one in 13 jobs is in food services, for example, a record share.

Clearly, positions in retail and food services are not the best use of the hard-earned skills of college-educated workers, who have gone to great expense to obtain their sheepskins.Student loan borrowers graduate with an average debt of $27,000, a total that is likely to grow in the future.

But nearly all of those graduates are at least finding work and income of some kind, unlike a much larger share of their less educated peers. And as the economy improves, college graduates will be better situated to find promotions to jobs that do use their more advanced skills and that pay better wages, economists say.

The median weekly earnings of college-educated, full-time workers — like those for their counterparts with less education — have dipped in recent years. In 2012, the weekly median was $1,141, compared with $1,163 in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. The premium they earn for having that college degree is still high, though.

In 2012, the typical full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree earned 79 percent more than a similar full-time worker with no more than a high school diploma. For comparison, 20 years earlier the premium was 73 percent, and 30 years earlier it was 48 percent.

And since a higher percentage of college graduates than high school graduates are employed in full-time work, these figures actually understate the increase in the total earnings premium from college completion, said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an independent research organization.

So, despite the painful upfront cost, the return on investment on a college degree remains high. An analysis from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington estimated that the benefits of a four-year college degree were equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2 percent a year, even after factoring in the earnings students forgo while in school.

“This is more than double the average return to stock market investments since 1950,” the report said, “and more than five times the returns to corporate bonds, gold, long-term government bonds, or homeownership.”

What Winemaking Consultants Really Do



WHEN MICHEL ROLLAND was named the winemaking consultant to France’s Château Figeac two months ago, a great protest was registered in certain wine-drinking circles. The St. Émilion grand cru would be ruined; the wine would be “Rolland-ized,” opined drinkers posting on a popular discussion board. One reader even declared that the move was “a disaster for all fans of Figeac.” The impassioned discussion ran to seven pages and lasted two weeks. Who would guess that a winemaking consultant—even the world’s most famous one—had the power to provoke such an outpouring of passion, not to mention a purported ability to destroy a Bordeaux estate?

Winemaking consultants range from professionals who might offer a word of advice on the final blend to those who are involved in every phase of the winemaking—from the vineyard to the bottling line. While consultants have been employed for decades, the profession has lately been the subject of much debate: Do consultants actually help elevate the wines of an individual estate, or do they simply stamp out the same wine over and over again? For example, to members of that particular discussion board, a “Michel Rolland wine” was shorthand for an “overripe, over-extracted, high-alcohol” product. But was that fair? I contacted some prominent winemaking consultants—starting with Mr. Rolland—to hear what they had to say.

Oenofile: A Selection of Wines by Top Consultants

F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street JournalClick to view interactive.

Mr. Rolland has around 200 clients all over the world, in his native Bordeaux as well as Argentina, Chile, California and far beyond (he even has a project in Bulgaria). Mr. Rolland, who spoke to me from Argentina, declined to divulge his exact number of clients, comparing himself to a priest who wouldn’t “talk about how many people he sees in confession.” (A charming if rather odd analogy; priests don’t take money for confessions, after all.)

What did Mr. Rolland think of the critics who talked of his “ruin” of Figeac or alleged that he turned out one wine after the other that tasted the same? Mr. Rolland laughed. “That is ridiculous. To compare Le Bon Pasteur to L’Évangile is ridiculous,” he replied, citing two famous Bordeaux estates, one of which he owns.

Mr. Rolland noted that he has been making wine—quite successfully—for more than 40 years, and he questioned his critics’ relative experience. “How can someone say that all of my wines are alike? They need to learn how to taste,” he declared.

As to turning out wines that were “big and ripe and alcoholic,” Mr. Rolland cited a tasting of Bordeaux put together about six or seven years ago for an English journalist. The wines, among them one made by Mr. Rolland and another made by consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, were served blind. The wine that was “big and strong with woody tannins” was declared “definitely” the Rolland wine—but it was the Derenoncourt. A wine deemed elegant was “definitely” not Rolland—ah, but it was. Mr. Rolland laughed again.

Mitch TobiasPaul Hobbs

There are few specialists who can match Mr. Rolland’s comprehensive global approach, save perhaps for American consultant Paul Hobbs, who has his own wineries in California and Argentina and clients in those places as well as in Chile, Uruguay, Ontario and even Armenia. He said he now consults for 35 to 40 clients. Did Mr. Hobbs have a “Paul Hobbs model” of wine? I asked. “I hope not,” said Mr. Hobbs. “I want to make a wine that makes sense for the client and the region.”

Mr. Hobbs, who was on his way to visit a potential client in Virginia when we spoke, has small winemaking teams in California’s Sonoma County and Mendoza, Argentina, and an assistant winemaker, Julian Gonzalez, who accompanies him overseas from time to time. Mr. Hobbs’s focus is always the vineyard—and that’s where he spends most of his time. “I make four visits [a year] to every client—except Europe, where I visit three times a year,” he said. Beyond that, Mr. Hobbs is willing to “jump on a plane” to visit a client, even if it’s just for one day and even if the client is located in France.

If some wine drinkers are critical of wines produced by consultants, aspiring young winemakers hold them in high regard. According to Napa-based winemaking consultant Aaron Pott, whenever he talks to students at the oenology school of the University of California, Davis, “I meet a kid who wants to be Michel Rolland.”

Mr. Pott consults to 10 Napa estates and also makes his own wine. He said he believes that one of the chief benefits of hiring a winemaking consultant is having someone with wide-ranging experience—especially when circumstances are dire. For example, Mr. Pott said his years of working in Europe enabled him to know what to do during the cold, rainy 2011 vintage in California’s Napa Valley. “Consultants who had that kind of experience were able to make good wines in Napa in 2011,” Mr. Potts asserted. “That’s when consultants pay off.”

Philippe Melka, a Bordeaux native turned Napa winemaking consultant, told me that “extreme involvement” with clients is a hallmark of his work. That’s one of the reasons he doesn’t really work outside Napa (and he also likes to go home at night). He has one client in Sonoma and one Washington state, but the rest are in Napa. How many was that? “Between 16 and 20. I’m trying not to know so I don’t panic,” he said.

There are weaknesses to the consulting profession, Mr. Melka conceded, but mostly they have to do with “the level of service” and lack of information made available to clients. Too many winery owners are left in the dark about the day-to-day realities of winemaking. Mr. Melka created a comprehensive database that his clients can use to find out the exact dates of harvest or blending, or the type of barrels purchased. He even hired a full-time data-entry employee.

A winemaking consultant also needs to know how to talk to his clients, said Mr. Melka, and to “understand the personality of the owner and incorporate it into the wine.” David Ramey, a Healdsburg, Calif.-based winemaker and winemaking consultant, compared it to an architect-client relationship. “One is paying the architect for their inspiration but one also [ideally] has an idea of what one wants,” he said.

Off Duty’s Half Full

How much does it cost to hire one of these consultants to interpret an idea or a vision? No one wanted to give exact numbers, and there is quite a range, but Mr. Rolland’s annual retainer can run as high as $100,000 or even $250,000 a year. However, he noted he has clients for whom he works for free. “Those are all the pretty women,” joked Mr. Pott when I told him this. (Mr. Pott and Mr. Rolland are working together on a project in Napa.) Mr. Pott charges a retainer of $10,000 a month, while Mr. Melka’s fees average $8,000 a month.
Winemaking consultants have been known to receive bonuses if their wines receive high scores from critics, though Mr. Melka said that doesn’t really happen anymore. In fact, he has only one longtime client who still pays him a bonus. What was the minimum score? “Ninety-two,” replied Mr. Melka. “But today, it would probably be at least 95.”
How much power does a winemaking consultant actually possess? Certainly all of these consultants have earned some impressively high scores. And they’re all paid very well for their work. But a wine consultant’s power and influence is ultimately determined by the wine drinker—and how much he or she enjoys the wine in the glass.

See wine videos and more from Off Duty at Email Lettie

About Lettie Teague

Lettie Teague

Before joining The Wall Street Journal in 2010, Lettie Teague was the executive wine editor at Food & Wine magazine, where she wrote the monthly column Wine Matters. She received the James Beard Foundation’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award in 2003, won a 2005 James Beard Award for magazine columns and a 2012 James Beard Award for this On Wine column. She is the author of “Educating Peter: How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert” published by Scribner in 2007, and the illustrator and co-author of “Fear of Wine: An Introductory Guide to the Grape,” published by Bantam in 1995.


The Right Keywords Are Essential When Applying for Jobs Online

Make the most of any opportunity by using these tips and tricks to be sure your resume goes to the top of the list

Applying for a job online can be a lot like a guessing game.

For all the effort you put into marketing your experience and qualifications, the deciding factor that gets your resume into the hands of an actual person often comes down to using the right keywords.

Most companies rely on computer software programs to review thousands of resumes and select the ones with particular keywords — not necessarily impressive accomplishments — so they can then be reviewed by a recruiter and, eventually, a hiring manager.

Unfortunately for job seekers, these all-powerful keywords aren’t revealed in the job description — at least not overtly.

Abby Kohut, a former human resources executive and founder, said the best way to crack the code of theseapplicant tracking systems (ATS) is to put yourself in the mind of the recruiter and take your best guess at what phrases they would use to search for the best applicants for the position.

“You look at the job description, read it word by word and say ‘would the recruiter use it to search for resumes?’ ” said Kohut, who recruited for 16 years at companies in a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, health care, publishing and education. Now, she helps job seekers and is launching a nationwide tour to teach the tricks of the modern job search.

One of the many challenges that she says her clients face is conquering these robotic searches.

“When it comes to the automated systems, the problem you have is that the only way a recruiter is going to actually find you is if you have keywords in your resume that they have in their brain at the time,” Kohut said. “The person who shoots to the top is the person who has more than one keyword.”

But the journey to the human recruiter doesn’t stop there. Once the keywords are identified, Kohut says they need to be used early and often within the resume, possibly in multiple forms.

For example, she said if an aspiring accountant is applying for a job that cites “deep knowledge of Sarbanes-Oxley” in the job description, the phrases “Sarbanes-Oxley” and its common acronym “SOX” should each be referenced in that resume several times so it will be noticed and given priority by the ATS.

Of course, you don’t want to repeat the same sentence either, so Kohut recommends changing the context each time.

If a job description stresses a “high proficiency with Microsoft PowerPoint,” for example, she said that can be reflected in three parts: having made PowerPointpresentations, having taken PowerPoint classes, and havingedited PowerPoint presentations of senior executives. It won’t win you any literary awards, but at least the strategy will get your resume in front of some eyeballs.

“It’s really just a big game now,” Kohut said. “You have to get the computer to find you instead of getting a human to find you.”

Experts have taken to calling this the “recruiting black hole” because so many resumes — good resumes — fall in, seemingly never to be seen again. But keeping in mind these tips on getting your resume through applicant tracking systems and the rules about e-mailing your resume to a recruiter will help you optimize your chances for getting noticed and moving on to the next step, snaring an interview.

Six Tips for Crafting a Professional Resume

professional resume will make a significant difference in the time spent searching for a job and the amount of interviews secured. In the 21st century, when the majority of the application process is online, your resume is the first impression you’ll make on a future employer. Take the time and invest the money to ensure your resume is accurate, professional and thoroughly proofread.  It’s worth the investment to ensure you’re remembered for all the right reasons.

1) Tailor your resume to match the position you’re applying for: Slight variations in the descriptions of your previous jobs and the wording of your professional skills will make your resume stand out to different employers. Ensure accuracy, you obviously must be able to deliver on everything promised and take the time to briefly explain how your skills will benefit the employer’s company.

2) Use effective titles and bullet points: Clearly divide your resume into sections including contact information, education and job history. Use bullet points to list schools, positions and job descriptions for easy reference and reading.

3) Keep it short: Your resume should not exceed two pages. Avoid irrelevant information such as your religion, political party or high school work experience (unless it’s applicable to the position you’re applying for). Focus on the job you’re applying for, all relevant experience and reasons why you’ll benefit the company.

4) Paper/Ink: Keep your resume professional by avoiding graphics, bright colored ink and cheap paper. Invest in quality resume paper and standard blue or black ink. Keep a few copies on hand at all times.

5) Include all relevant contact information: Your name, address, phone number and email should be clearly and prominently displayed at the top of the page. This note on emails: if you’ve had yours since high school and it included nicknames or slang – upgrade it to something professional and simple. Include your contact information on both pages of your resume in case they’re separated when the prospective employer prints or copies them.

6) Keep it current: Ensure your resume is regularly updated with new information, job experiences, internships and opportunities. Present your best self.

Contact us for more helpful tips. We’re here to assist you.