A-B InBev New York Job Interviews Include, Yes, Happy Hour

Behind Brewer's Efforts to Staff Its Big Apple Marketing Office

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The Budweiser Brew House in St. Louis, Mo.
The Budweiser Brew House in St. Louis, Mo.
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Want to work for Anheuser-Busch InBev in New York City? Then you better be prepared for the happy hour test.

Friday evening socializing -- with plenty of Bud and Bud Light -- is part of a multistep interviewing process the brewer will conduct as it seeks to fill roughly 50 positions in its new marketing and sales office in the Big Apple. But candidates shouldn't relax too much: Saturday will be filled with so-called panel interviews in which they will be quizzed by several A-B InBev execs alongside other job applicants.

The mixture of business and pleasure is part of an unorthodox and aggressive recruitment effort aimed at attracting top talent to the office, which will soon open in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. The location will eventually house some 250 sales and marketing professionals, including many who will transfer from the brewer's U.S. headquarters in St. Louis. Plans include a beer garden on the ground floor that will be open to the public.

The move marks a significant cultural change for the brewer, whose U.S. operations have long been run from St. Louis, Mo., where it was founded in 1852. While A-B InBev will keep its U.S. headquarters there, the U.S. "commercial strategy" office in New York is meant to provide exposure to urban trends, according to an internal memo sent late last year when the decision was made. The move also gets marketing executives closer to key partners based in New York, including ad agencies, sports leagues and music and entertainment execs. And it provides for greater proximity to the brewer's global office, which opened in New York more than five years ago.

The city's attractive talent pool is a key part of the relocation equation. "Being in New York will allow us to recruit and develop great talent from outside of the organization," said U.S. Marketing VP Jorn Socquet, who described how A-B InBev is filling the jobs in an interview.

The brewer is casting a wide net, with plans to review some 600 candidates for between 40 and 50 positions. Recruitment ads on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are driving people to a microsite that lists job opportunities and describes New York as "a city that shares the heartbeat of our driven, meritocracy culture." The site seeks to position the large and iconic brewer as a fast-moving "start-up." One video is filled with younger-looking employees touting the company as a place where people get promoted based on results, not tenure.

Mr. Socquet said marketing experience is not a requirement, noting that one person he recently hired was a teacher. "If you have a set of brains and you have the guts to [make] bold and entrepreneurial decisions, those are the types of [people] I want on my team," he said.

The microsite solicits email addresses from interested candidates, who are then contacted by a recruiter. After some initial screening, roughly 100 people will be selected for the weekend interviews in New York. Three groups of candidates will be interviewed over three weekends in sessions that started in late March.

The Friday happy hours are meant to be relaxing. But that doesn't mean executives won't be watching. "Our team will know exactly who is in the room," Mr. Socquet said. On Saturday, candidates will be asked to respond to case studies sent in advance that are based on actual business problems.

Also, panel interviews will be conducted in which five A-B InBev execs hold discussions with five candidates -- all at once. The process is modeled after a program the brewer has used in Brazil to identify candidates for its global management training program. "We tend to be pretty aggressive in those interviews, meaning sometimes we pitch candidates against one another just to see how they stand up in our organization," Mr. Socquet said. "If you just have these one-on-one interviews, we don't know how you react in a social setting. And for us that is of such crucial importance."

Asked whether the move was motivated in part by any desire to encourage the exit of long-tenured St. Louis employees, Mr. Socquet said "absolutely not." He noted that "100%" of his direct reports would transfer to New York. And he added that, in total, "a very high percentage of people" were invited to make the move.

"But you are asking people to uproot their family and there are a lot of people, to be honest, who are not mobile, and they don't want to leave St. Louis," he said. For those people, he said, the company is trying to find other positions in St. Louis.

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