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Once again, Wegmans ranks high among USA’s best places to work

When Kiersten Shoring first visited Buffalo from Australia, one of the first things her Buffalonian boyfriend did was take her to Wegmans.

After she moved here permanently three years ago, she found herself at the supermarket again, this time as a bakery employee.

“I thought, ‘Everyone says this is a great place to work, let’s see if it’s true,’ ” Shoring said. “That was 2½ years ago. Now, everyone asks me, ‘Is it as good as everyone says it is?’ And, yes, it is.”

For the 19th year in a row, Wegmans was named Thursday by Fortune magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

The Rochester-based grocery chain was ranked fourth on the list, up from last year’s seventh-place finish.

The magazine noted that despite having 88 stores, the company has managed to maintain a “family feel.” It also cites Wegmans employees’ ability to write their own schedules and take time off with no notice and “without question” by logging on to a Wegmans website.

Among the perks that Wegmans offers employees are immunizations, yoga sessions, cooking classes, pharmacist health screenings and up to $2,200 in college tuition reimbursement. Full-time employees get 18 paid days off per year.

Hourly workers make an average of $34,884 per year. Salaried workers earn an average of $62,945.

Last year, Wegmans received 216,339 job applications, which certainly gives the company its pick of prime candidates. But Wegmans said there’s an art to choosing the best people, even from among the best.

“We interview for people who have a strong passion for helping people and helping each other,” said Michele Mehaffy, a Wegmans spokeswoman.

Wegmans looks for indications that employees share the company’s values: caring, high standards, making a difference in the community, respect and empowering people. Sometimes those values are “naturally portrayed” and easily observed, Mehaffy said. Other times, the values come out during “situational interviews,” where the company stages scenarios to see how employees might respond.

“We ask questions like ‘What would you do?’ Particularly around customer service and being part of a team,” Mehaffy said. “We use scenarios that would be likely in our environment.”

Wegmans was the only company on Fortune’s list that headquartered in Western New York, and was the highest-ranked retailer overall. The next grocer listed was Whole Foods at No. 75.

Wegmans has more than 44,000 employees and currently has about 2,000 jobs openings available companywide.

Its revenue was listed at $7.6 billion for 2015.

Google topped the Fortune list for the seventh time in 10 years. It was followed by Acuity Insurance, a Wisconsin financial services company, and the Boston Consulting Group, a Massachusetts professional services firm.

Michael C. Bush is CEO of Great Place to Work, the executive coaching firm that compiles the list. He said companies that land high on the list have a “high-trust, high-performing culture” that helps them attract the best talent.

Wegmans scores high with customers, too. Last week, the company topped the American Customer Satisfaction Index for 2015, besting all other retailers. It’s the only grocer and one of just three companies in the entire retail sector whose score improved over last year.