Learn 10 actionable tips for navigating the agriculture recruiting process and choosing the right farm workers.
On a surface level, recruiting is simply about finding someone to do some job. Looking at the bigger picture, however, the recruiting process has a significant impact on your business’s long-term goals. It’s important to approach your recruitment efforts with this in mind, so the ‘someone’ you hire is someone who will have a positive influence.
Farm managers often do not take this into consideration when hiring workers. With farm labor being so limited nowadays, it’s understandable why so many feel the need to go with the first option they find.
But in doing so, you could choose the wrong candidate and end up hiring someone that produces more problems than results.
Investing sufficient time and resources into the hiring process is key to effectively generating growth for your farm operation or agribusiness. We’ve put together a list of best practices and tips for recruiting to help you set yourself up for a successful hiring cycle.
The following is a list of tips from our ag recruiters for hiring farm labor.
1. Understand Your Long-term Goals
Before you go posting anything about your job opening, it is important to stop and make sure you have an understanding of your long-term goals for your operation. This will allow you to determine the key qualities and skill level potential hires will need for the present and any future projects coming down the pipeline.
We recommend outlining exactly what you’d like to achieve over the course of this new employee’s first year or two. Then determine how your new employee will contribute to making this happen. By doing so, you can set realistic goals for the hiring process and clear expectations for the candidate’s responsibilities.
2. Reassess Your Needs
The hiring process is truly a valuable time to step back and evaluate the grand scheme of your operation. Whether you’re searching for just another pair of hands to work the fields or an active contributor to your future business goals, you’re going to want to take some time to reassess your needs.
While you might think you have a clear understanding of what the job entails, it’s best to start from scratch. First, create a list of the tasks and responsibilities you know the job requires. Then, determine if there are any tasks on your own to-do list that could be easily taught and passed off to the new employee. That way you can free up time for yourself and focus on more important objectives.
This is also an ideal time to consider the status of your current staff. Is someone due for a promotion or ready for more responsibility? Bringing on new farm workers presents a great opportunity to rethink your existing team and shift their workload to increase productivity and efficiency. Doing so will also keep your employees happy and improve your farm culture.
3. Outline Desired Qualities and Requirements
With a clear understanding of your business goals and needs, you can then determine the essential qualities, skills, and experience needed. We recommend first outlining the “must-haves”, or basic technical skills and knowledge a potential hire must possess to be successful in the role.
But don’t base your decision on technical skills alone. Depending on the responsibilities of the job, you’ll want to list any soft skills that will help a candidate really thrive in the position.
Another requirement to consider is a candidate’s professional goals. Where do they see themselves in 5 years, 10 years? Do you need farm workers for a one-off season or are you looking for someone that has intentions of growing with your business? Decide what makes sense for you and be sure your expectations are clear.
4. Survey Your Current Employees
You’re missing out on a great deal of valuable insight if you skip this next tip. Your current employees can offer an incredibly relevant perspective on what the job entails and what specific skills are required to do it well.
Unless you’re a super hands-on manager that works alongside your farm workers, it’s likely there are aspects of the available position you don’t know. Your employees will be able to fill in the blanks and point out any prudent requirements you’re overlooking.
5. Set Clear Expectations
Farming is a job unlike any other, and it can get pretty stressful during certain parts of the year. You would be doing your farm workers a major disservice if you don’t set clear expectations from the start.
Make sure you’re completely transparent and straightforward about what the candidate’s daily responsibilities will be and how they will fluctuate throughout the year. Be extra clear about what they should expect for the especially busy weeks during the season.
This is where choosing a farm worker with previous experience really comes into play. If a candidate isn’t familiar with the lifestyle and isn’t prepared for the more intense work days, they might not be the right fit for the position.
6. Reevaluate the Existing Pay Rate for the Position
Has it been a long time since your last hiring cycle? If so, it’s likely you aren’t up to date with the current pay rates of the job market. Prior to advertising your available position, it is imperative to do some research to learn what is considered a competitive pay rate within the ag industry.
Keep in mind, however, that the agriculture industry is a little behind in regards to setting competitive wages. It’s important to note that the same job in other similar industries offers higher starting pay rates. For this reason, don’t limit your research to the ag industry only.
Setting the right pay rate is critical in hiring reliable farm workers. By doing the research and learning the pay rates your competition offers, you can set a realistic hourly wage or starting salary that will attract the right candidates.
To learn more on how to set a competitive pay rate, check out our Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Pay Competitive to Attract and Retain Employees.
7. Advertise the Job Properly
There are many ways to advertise a job these days. You no longer have to (or should) rely on word of mouth to find farm workers. Now you can utilize social media, third-party recruitment websites, and other outlets to reach as many candidates as possible.
In order to properly advertise for farm work, you’ll need to first write an attractive job description. Be sure your job posting clearly outlines the job responsibilities, required skills, benefits, and your company culture.
8. Consider Training on the Job
Sometimes the right farm workers are not who you would expect. Sure, years of hyper-relevant experience is definitely a valuable quality to look out for, but don’t be too narrow-minded in your search that you overlook high-quality candidates because they lack experience.
Candidates may have other work experience that requires the same resilient work ethic and physical competency as farm work. All they need is a little bit of training.
In this case, it’s important to consider what skills can be taught on the job. Decide whether or not you have the time and resources to develop a candidate in these skills.
9. Ask the Right Questions
When you reach the point of interviewing potential farm workers, you’ll want to be prepared with the right questions. Before meeting with a candidate, create a list of questions that you know will help you determine if a candidate is right for the job.
If you conducted a thorough pre-screening of the candidates, the candidates should possess a certain level of skill and knowledge. This means you shouldn’t have to spend too much time asking technical questions. Instead, you can focus more on questions that will speak to their communication skills, problem-solving skills, past work experiences, ability to work on a team, and professional goals for the near future.
Be sure to avoid any discriminatory or biased questions!
10. Ask for Referrals
Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Reaching out to friends and colleagues can often point you in the right direction. You never know who might have an awesome recommendation! Plus, they’ll likely be able to vouch for the candidate and speak to any traits the person possesses that will be relevant to the role.
Sending an email with the important details about the job and what you’re looking for takes only a few minutes of your time. Recipients can then simply forward your email with all the info to their own contacts and potential candidates.
The truth is, most people you reach out to will be happy to help both you and the person they’re recommending for the job!
Another way to acquire referrals is to look into a third-party hiring agency. Agriculture recruiters, such as AgHires, offer different recruiting packages that include sourcing candidates and other services, such as creating a customized job description. By working with experts, you can also gain strategic advice and tips for the recruiting process.
Connect with AgHires
Hiring for other agriculture jobs at your farm operation or agribusiness? Before you start the recruiting process for high-level positions, consider working with an agriculture recruitment firm.
When looking for the right agriculture recruiters, you want to look out for a team of experts that come from within the ag industry and have previous experience working with agriculture executives, employers, and managers.
Here at AgHires, we take a consultative approach so our clients think of us as an extension of their company. We take our time to understand your goals, needs, and what you’re looking for in a candidate, so together we can come up with the most effective game plan. With our years of experience and extensive network of agriculture job seekers, we’re confident we can help you find reliable employees for your operation.