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Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants


Hiring employees who will set the table for a life well lived

A Lifestyle Restaurant Brand Entices an Exemplary Staff with a Great Hiring Experience

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants dishes up more than great food, it caters to a lifestyle.

Not only do each of the company’s 32 full-service restaurants tout a scratch kitchen, they also feature a Napa style wine tasting room where patrons can sample award-winning varietals from vineyards across the West Coast of the United States and around the world. Guests are also invited to join a community of over 300,000 – the largest wine club in the country to gain access to unique experiences, such as travel, special events, and access to food and wine celebrities.

Providing guests with this distinctive experience requires special employees. “Not only must employees bring to the table the right skills, abilities, and experiences, they must also be aligned with our values,” says Claire Domark, Director of Talent Acquisition for Cooper’s Hawk. “That is, we care about people. We’re different. We’re committed to being the best. And we have fun and celebrate.”

But with today’s tight labor market, hiring the right employees is a tall order.

The answer for Cooper’s Hawk has been to create a strong employment brand based not only on their values, but an engaging and enjoyable hiring processes. Cooper’s Hawk turned to a slate of technologies — Candidate Relationship Management tools, Online Assessment Tools, Applicant Tracking Systems and Electronic Offer tools — to help deliver that experience. SkillSurvey Reference® and SkillSurvey Source® have played key roles in this process since 2011.

“By helping us hire to our values, we’ve been able to bring on board people who really want to create a community among team members. And when employees are happy and engaged, they deliver a more positive experience to our guests.”

Claire Domark

Director of Talent Acquisition, Cooper’s Hawk

Enhancing the Reference Experience and Getting More Insights

“When I was going through the hiring process, I was asked to enter my references through SkillSurvey. I thought it spoke to their value of ‘we are different,’ so that was exciting to me to be able to join a company that really does look at doing things differently and is open to looking at things in a new way,” said Claire.

Candidates simply enter contact information for references into SkillSurvey Reference, and the system automatically sends the job-specific survey selected by the recruiter.

“The system is really easy for candidates to use, and it saves time for recruiters by automating the reference checking process,” says Claire. “Recruiters no longer spend time playing phone tag to track down references. And because SkillSurvey Reference automatically sends out reminder alerts if the reference doesn’t respond, the recruiter is freed up to spend more time speaking with candidates.”

The tool also improves response rates. Many companies restrict references or instruct employees to send requests directly to the HR department. But because SkillSurvey ensures confidentiality and has a legal waiver, it adds a level of comfort that allows references to be more open and provide honest feedback that is relevant to the job role.

Once references come back, SkillSurvey creates a report with overall feedback and verbatim quotes on the candidate’s strengths and where they could use improvement. “If we’re looking at two candidates, the reports give us all the data we need to make hiring decisions. The comments provide added insights from past co-workers and managers that give us a great picture of how they are to work with.”

The report also provides behavioral interview guides that allow managers to follow up on potential issues and makes for consistent interviews across candidates.

In one example, the system helped Cooper’s Hawk identify a candidate who gave fake references. “The person had a couple of different references with the same IP address, so SkillSurvey flagged that,” said Claire. “After investigating further, we ended up not moving forward with that candidate because they weren’t truthful with the references they were giving.”

57 unique surveys
utilized with Chef and Restaurant Manager being most used
4.5 reference responses
for each candidate on average
30% of references
opt-in to learn more about future position openings
61% of passive candidates
opting in to pipeline are at a manager level or higher

“About 30 percent of our references opt in to SkillSurvey Source. We’ve pulled 41 people in to become candidates and 11 were hired.”

Claire Domark

Director of Talent Acquisition, Cooper’s Hawk

Building a Community of Candidates

Cooper’s Hawk also uses SkillSurvey Source to ask references if they would like to be considered for future positions and takes advantage of its other marketing tools such as including links to SkillSurvey Source on their employee’s email signatures to reach other potential candidates.

“We get alerts in our email inbox when new candidates opt in,” Claire says. “We can then reach out to the ones we think have the right background for a particular opening. Even if we don’t have an opening, we keep them in our database, so we can reach out to them later.”

The response has been impressive. “About 30 percent of our references opt in; we’ve pulled 41 people in to become candidates and 11 were hired,” says Claire. “SkillSurvey Source works well for us because if someone that the reference used to work with is coming to Cooper’s Hawk, that gives them a level of comfort that this might be an interesting place to work for them. Also, not everyone in the restaurant industry has a LinkedIn profile; this is another way for us to find talent.”

“By helping us hire to our values, we’ve been able to bring on board people who really want to create a community among team members. And when employees are happy and engaged, they deliver a more positive experience to our guests.”

About Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants

Founded in 2005 by CEO Tim McEnery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants is built upon the belief that food and wine hold the power to forge lasting connections. A lifestyle brand focused on creating memorable moments that enrich lives, Cooper’s Hawk is the 34th largest winery in the U.S. and home to over 300,000 Wine Club Members. The concept is a fusion of familiar elements – winery, modern casual restaurant, Napa-style tasting room and artisanal retail market – that has combined to create an entirely new hospitality experience. Cooper’s Hawk has been recognized as one of the five fastest-growing restaurant chains (Nation’s Restaurant News and Kalinowski Equity Research), has won over 500 awards for its wine and has been named the Official Wine of the Screen Actors Guild® Awards through 2020. Cooper’s Hawk wines are sourced, blended, aged, bottled and distributed exclusively through Cooper’s Hawk.

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