Mixing it up at MWG

After-hours social event spices up recruiting

By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun

MyWebGrocer has been recruiting technology employees from the same Chittenden County talent pool for over a decade. To stave off staleness, it infused beer, food and free-form socializing into its efforts with a first-of-its-kind after-hours job fair last week

The company that inhabits the top floors of the Winooski Mill building is expanding internationally, and as a result has about 20 software-development positions to fill. For three hours last Wednesday night, it opened its doors to 100 invite-only candidates for some quick face time with hiring managers and mingling with fellow job-seekers and current MWG employees.

“It does sort of feel like we see the same faces,” said the company’s vice president of human resources, Heather Adams. “So we’re really trying to come up with a way to stir up some new interest, and maybe talk to some people we haven’t talked to in the past.

Marlon Branicki, left, senior vice president of research and development, talks with job candidate Ido Lanuel last Wednesday night at MyWebGrocer in Winooski. PHOTO | JASON STARR

Marlon Branicki, left, senior vice president of research and development, talks with job candidate Ido Lanuel last Wednesday night at MyWebGrocer in Winooski.
PHOTO | JASON STARR

“We want it to be social and get people to hang out, not just do an interview and get out the door.”

Despite the inviting atmosphere, a job candidate currently working for IBM in Essex who wished to remain anonymous said the stress of performing in a job interview was not diminished. What was different was the chance to network with other candidates both before and after interviewing with a company manager.

“In a typical interview, you don’t have an idea of how competitive it is,” the candidate said. “For all you know, there could be 10, 20 or 100 other candidates. Here, you do know. That can be a bit scary, too.”

MyWebGrocer was founded in 1999 by Colchester native Rich Tarrant to develop online sale solutions for grocery stores. It is on the verge of picking up an account in the country of Chile, according to Adams. The Chile contract would be the company’s second piece of international business, she said; in 2012 it expanded its reach to New Zealand.

Also contributing to MyWebGrocer’s growth is its 2014 acquisition of a company in Dublin, Ireland called Buy4Now. The acquisition marked a evolution from the company’s founding focus on grocery stores into the general retail market.

Openings at the Winooski headquarters include software engineers, software developers, systems analysts and software architects. One aspect of last week’s event was that interviews were capped at 10 minutes.

“This is a neat way for our managers to meet a lot of candidates in a short period of time,” Adams said. “Managers know in the first 10 minutes of an interview whether they like someone.”

The event was for local candidates, but with constant competition from other Burlington technology companies like Dealer.com, Adams said the company has found it necessary to start recruiting in bigger cities like Boston and New York City and offer work-from-home options.

“The preference is to fill our tech positions locally,” she said. “We are very collaborative and it’s easer to manage a team on site. But we’re more open to considering telecommuting than we ever have been before.”