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6 steps to hiring the right employee

Gil Gullickson 09/04/2013 @ 3:05pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Farm employee recruitment has come a long way from the personnel department one dairy farmer used years ago. “It was the county sheriff,” said the farmer to Bernie Erven, a retired Ohio State University Extension agricultural economist, who now heads Erven Human Resources Services. “Whenever I needed a milker, I called the sheriff and asked who was getting out of jail that day.”

That may have worked a generation or two ago. Today, though, placing untrained or unqualified employees in charge of high-tech agricultural equipment or strategies risks your farm’s future. Time spent undoing mistakes also hurts your farm’s efficiency. Following are six steps that Erven recommends to help ensure you make the right hires.

1. Be proactive

Anticipating labor needs well in advance allows ample time to hire the right person.

“You cannot hire successfully in the middle of a crisis,” says Erven. “Some people who do the best job may take six months or more to find. Commit to hiring the right person.”

Always be open to potential job candidates, even if your farm currently has no openings. Erven says several corporations have a waiting list of people who want to work for them. Strive to make your farm’s reputation similar to these firms.

“Your reputation is the most useful tool you have,” he says. “If people come in your driveway and ask if you are hiring, you may say no, but tell them to fill out an application anyway to learn more about them.”

If an opening surfaces that matches their skills, you may have a built-in job candidate already in your system.

2. Delegate hiring to one person

Hiring the right person requires knowledge, skills, and special abilities.  

“A hiring leader driven by a passion for finding the right person is best,” explains Erven. “The person doesn’t necessarily have to be the person’s supervisor. It should be the person who is dedicated to hiring.”

It’s important to still involve the supervisor in the interviewing process. A dedicated hiring manager, though, will likely be more in tune with the hiring process.

“Remember that the supervisor may never have been at the other side of the table,” he says. “That supervisor may never have been a job applicant, may never have had to answer questions in an interview, and never has had to go looking for a job.”

3. Define the job and expectations

Employees want to know duties and expectations. A written one-page job description is an excellent way to explain this and to eliminate any confusion.

“Recently, I talked to an applicant who turned down a job at a farm,” says Erven. “He said he talked to four different people on the farm, and they all described four different jobs. If four people didn’t know what the job was, he didn’t want it.

“A written and detailed hiring plan will help everyone involved,” he adds. “Tell them about the job, too, and what a typical week is like.”

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