4 tips for recruiting farm labor

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Recruiting and selecting the right people for your farm is a challenge and every situation is unique. Time is always of the essence, but taking time to make sure you have a good hiring process in place will make sure the farm has good hardworking employees that help the farm be more efficient and profitable.

farming 101

1Consider the needs of the position
In a rush to fill a position, employers often overlook certain details of the job. In order to gain a better understanding of the candidate best suited for the job, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the position require the employee to have good written or verbal communication skills?
  • Will they need to understand mathematics (basic or more complex)?
  • Does this position require interaction with other farm employees?
  • Will the person have to read, drive, lift, see, talk, listen, weld, calculate, stand, instruct, etc.?

Having a clear and detailed job description prepared with these questions in mind can help you narrow down your applicant pull and draw in qualified help.

2Post a listing
Determining where you can get the most bang for your buck when it comes to advertising your job can be tricky. Often times, farmers find word of mouth to be the most efficient way to attract good labor. Take recommendations from current employees or even former employees that have worked well for you.

Knowing the type of individual you are recruiting can help you target a medium for your posting. The local paper itself may not be enough or even get to the right audience. Online classified sections of local papers and agriculture media sources may be more effective.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer free sources of advertising to attract a wider scope of people and job sites like Indeed and Monster may also be useful.

Consider who you are targeting and where they might seek out their information.

3Evaluate applicants
After receiving a pile of applicants, it can be easy to worry about making the right selections; overlooking a good applicant or being fooled by an impressive interviewer that cannot perform. Depending on the level of difficulty of the position, consider setting up a series “hurdles” or steps for the applicant to get through.

Written applications: Use this tool to gauge the applicant’s ability to read and write and provide you with a listing of skills.

Written test: Written tests are good for a job that requires technical knowledge. They can be multiple choice, short answer or essay style, and can be “open book” allowing the applicant to pull resources available on the job. These tests could be used for soil analysis, nutrition or even mechanical — knowing how to use tractors equipped with the latest technologies.

Interview: Meeting face-to-face is often the best way to get to know the applicant and have a conversation with them. Consider allowing other employees the applicant could potentially be working with in on the interview.

Practical tests: Sometimes the best way to know if an applicant will perform well is to let them perform a few tasks involved in the job. A shy applicant may find it easier to show you what they can do rather than tell you. These tests also demonstrate the applicant’s thought process: did he or she ask questions, prioritize tasks, and stay calm if something went wrong?

References: Look for past employers, but keep in mind they may hesitate to provide a negative review in fear of lawsuits or in hopes that employee will leave. People you know and trust are the only ones you can rely on to give an accurate review of the applicant..

4Making a decision
Now that each applicant has completed the evaluation process, it’s time to make a selection. If none of the applicants meet the expectations of the job, don’t hesitate to reopen the application process. You may also hire someone on a temporary basis with the intention of hiring them permanently if they perform well, but the employee must understand your intentions.

It’s important to feel like you have made the right decision and feel comfortable letting the new hire perform the task at hand.

Source: Penn State Extension.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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