April 1 2019 04:25 PM

    Know how to seek the right person for the job.

    Attracting quality candidates for a job is a top complaint among those looking to hire employees. Lori Culler of AgHires presented a seminar at World Ag Expo to help employers improve their hiring strategies.

    The unemployment rate is quite low at this time, and the type of talent needed on your farm is changing. Most likely you need a thinker – someone with leadership skills who can be trained. The baby boomers are retiring and leaving the workforce, and a new generation will have to replace them. This adds up to a candidate-driven market, and they are in control of what work they want to do and for whom.

    Getting a job used to be more by word-of-mouth, but today’s job seekers use social media in their search. Not only to find the job, but to do background investigation on the company and its people. They want to feel like they belong or fit into the new dynamic.

    Here are some of the tidbits Culler shared:

    1. Three-quarters of people are open to a new job — even if they currently have one.

    That means that even if you have found a super employee, the great majority of the time they will still be looking for something better. Make sure you consider turnover during the entire hiring process as you could be searching for new team members more frequently.

    2. Don’t wait until you have a job opening

    Culler encouraged employers to be in constant recruitment mode. Think about who would replace a long-time employee when he or she retires. Someone that is well-versed in your operation will take more time to locate than a part-time staff member. It could take a year to find that integral person to join the operation and replace a valuable cog.

    3. Candidates look for:

    a. Cultural fit
    b. Seeing the impact of their work
    c. Work-life balance

    The reality is that production farming is not known for its work-life balance. The speaker was well aware of the time commitment struggles of farming as she was raised on a vegetable and crop farm. However, she offered a suggestion. When those crazy long workdays happen at the height of the season, know that they will not last forever. She encouraged employers to make compensations to allow for extra time off when the super busy season has concluded.

    Her data showed that to get one person hired, the job advertisement needs to reach 1,594 potential applicants. If you are looking for certain skill sets, your number may be higher. Weed through the applicants, dive deeper into their qualifications, and sort through those that remain. Then interview them (initially over the phone) to curtail the list. Those who make the cut after the initial personal contact should be invited for an interview over lunch so you can learn about their personality and habits. She encouraged employers to offer a walking tour of the operation to gauge the interest level of candidates in the surroundings.

    While salary is a key component of hiring someone, there are a few states that forbid asking what the candidate’s current salary or hourly rate is.

    Also, ask yourself if they are a good fit with other staff members. When you are getting ready to make your final choice, it is important that the leadership team of your company meet with the candidate, not just co-workers or direct reports.

    With the online employment service AgHires, Culler reported that companies that disclose the position’s salary on their website get twice the applicants. Meanwhile, some job descriptions can be vague. This frustrates potential hires, as 74 percent of them are disappointed in the lack of information provided in the job description.

    In a tight market, she suggested targeting other industries outside of mainstream agriculture. This may include construction or the military. Look for people skills and then teach them about your agricultural enterprise.

    Your position may be part-time only. There are some individuals who have other commitments but could be a good fit as a part-time employee. This does not just apply to general laborers; it could include technology or marketing staff as well.

    She also encouraged employers to draw on the benefits of the job. Being outdoors, rather than an office, is a huge benefit to some employees. Baring extreme heat and cold, fresh air is certainly a selling point.

    Finding new employees is rarely a favorite task among farm owners and operators, but it is a job that needs to be done if your business is to continue. Being skilled at it can net valuable additions to your team. Approaching it half-heartedly will just lead to a cycle of short-term, fill-in employees.


    Patti Hurtgen

    The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars, and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.