Whether you have two employees or twenty you probably share the same ill feeling when it comes to hiring people. As farmers we are innovative, determined, hardworking and we pride ourselves on our family values and we are simply looking for individuals like us. So why is hiring so painful? Working closely with farms across the states from Washington to Florida and all the Corn Belt states in between we have identified common hiring mistakes farms make.
Yes, it would be great if your new all-star employee came walking through the door with five plus years of combine operating experience, strong mechanical ability and lived within a few miles of the farm. Although that sounds perfect, it’s just not the case. The best farms look at transferrable skills hiring from within agriculture and outside of the industry. We’ve seen excellent hires with military, construction and forestry backgrounds coming to the table with heavy equipment operation, mechanical ability and work ethic. One of the worst hiring mistakes we see from job postings on AgHires is making the job qualifications too restrictive. If you are open to other backgrounds that are relatable let it be known in your job advertisement. We don’t want quality candidates not applying just because they don’t meet one of the qualifications listed that in your mind was only a wish list item.
Some of the ag companies have taken transferrable skills to a whole new level. We’ve seen Budweiser reps become sales agronomists and sergeants become farm managers. Be open to what traits you are looking for and what types of individuals might have those traits.
Listen to Your Gut
Early on in my human resources career I relied way too much on the experience and skills someone had on their resume. Now, fifteen years later, I’m relying heavily on personality traits, demeanor and behavioral tendencies along with prior experience to screen potential hires. Because most farms do not hire all the time, they don’t often trust their own gut when hiring. From your own human interactions over your lifetime you have developed an instinct in reading people. If you’re interviewing a guy in the shop and his responses are a little slower and his movements are a little slower, he is not going to start on the farm and all of a sudden pick up the pace. Have your eyes wide open when hiring and watch for how they are wording responses and what their body language is saying. It’s the minor details and one-line comments that show the full picture. Make sure to ask plenty of follow-up questions and explore all areas with the candidate. If you’re hesitant on someone there is typically a reason even if you don’t know it yet. Explore until you do.
A friend of ours recently took a new position. He was told they typically don’t work on Saturdays. His first week on the job he was asked to work Saturday which is not a big deal until he spoke with a few others that said they have been working Saturdays every weekend for the past six weeks. That doesn’t start off the employment relationship well. You need to work hard to be transparent with candidates on what to expect when working on your farm. Walk them through the hours required by season. Discuss what your work culture is and what values the team shares. If it makes sense, give your final candidate some time with one or two of your current employees so they can ask questions and get to know the team. It’s worth the time investment to ensure there is full transparency before an offer is made. This will significantly improve the chances the new hire will be a long-term employee.
If you only leave this article with one take-away, interview the candidate you are interested in hiring at least twice. During the second interview you will confirm how strongly you feel they are a great fit or be pleasantly pleased you dodged a bullet you almost didn’t see coming. Candidates are typically much more comfortable during the second interview and more of their true personality will show.
At AgHires we’d be glad to help you with the recruiting and interview process. If you have questions or want to share your own story please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Lori Culler, AgHires Founder/Owner
See more from the AG’s HR Coach here.
Lori Culler (Lennard), founder and owner of AgHires, grew up in and around the Agricultural Industry on her families 3rd generation potato, tomato and grain operation in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana.