Benefits of Hiring Outside of the Agriculture Industry

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10 Minute Read
Posted by Lori Culler
Agriculture Industry

Consider thinking out of the box when it comes to agriculture recruiting!

It makes sense that when you’re in agriculture and looking to fill a spot on your team, your first thought is to hire someone already in the agriculture industry. In fact, you might even prefer it.

Someone who has experience in agriculture is already familiar with the industry. They might even know it like the back of their hand. They’ll be more familiar with the unspoken rules and feel like the safer, less risky pick for the job.

This is especially true if your current situation is not able to afford much risk.

However, relevant experience doesn’t always predict a good fit. By neglecting to consider options outside of the industry during your agribusiness executive search, you’re also closing yourself off to innovation and fresh perspectives.

In an industry with a tight talent pool that can feel exhausted, why are we limiting ourselves further?

In this guide, we’ll talk about the benefits of hiring outside of the agriculture industry and how these hires can add value to your team!

1. Hires from Other Industries Bring Fresh Perspectives

When you keep hiring candidates that fit in the same box in regards to job experience and background, you’re going to keep producing the same results.

Are you happy with how things are currently running, or do you think you could do better? If the way that your agribusiness is operating never changed, how would that sit with you?

You should always be striving for continuous quality improvement in everything from your workplace culture to your business’s output. Getting comfortable in your ways and staying there even though they are not serving you or your employees is a dangerous game.

If your talent pool is feeling especially tight and you feel like you’ve exhausted your agriculture recruiting options, maybe it’s time to start thinking outside the ag industry box.

Consider which skills and levels of experience are truly necessary for the job, and which are just convenient for someone to have because they then need less training and time to acclimate.

Aside from the hard skills necessary for the job, a candidate from another industry likely has transferable soft skills that would allow them to learn the job and thrive.

Soft skills that could make up for someone’s lack of specific experience in agriculture include:

  • Initiative
  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving
  • Priority management

These skills are not specific to agriculture and will be found in many other industries. For example, industries such as construction, the military, and logging all contain potential applicants that can thrive in farm work.

A candidate with any of these skills that is willing to learn your trade and apply themselves could prove to be a valuable member of your workforce. But if you close yourself off to candidates outside of the agriculture industry, you might never have the chance to meet them and see what kinds of outside perspectives they bring to your table.

An eagerness to learn and apply oneself is sometimes the most valuable trait a potential hire could have.

2. Sticking With the Safe Option Stifles Positive Change

If you want to grow, first you have to change. This change could include switching up your hiring approach to include recruiting for candidates that are outside of the agriculture industry.

Regardless, the most surefire way to make sure that you don’t grow is to keep doing things the same.

Someone with experience that is exclusively in the agriculture industry might be an expert in using the exact machinery you need and understand how to navigate social circles without much of a learning curve, but they’ll also be set in their ways. This person will be resistant to changing their methods or will at least have a harder time adapting to your preferred way of operating.

When you train someone who is new to the agriculture industry, you are presented with a blank slate. This person won’t have industry fatigue and will be open to your way of thinking. They might have a bit of a learning curve with successfully performing the tasks needed for the job, but once they learn, they’re set.

In that way, you can reframe the question of filling a job opening in terms of whether you are more willing to invest energy and resources in training upfront, or whether you’d rather invest energy and resources over time in re-training someone who was taught their ways somewhere else, in hopes that their ways won’t prove totally incompatible with your practices.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that in both of those decisions’ trajectories, the energy and resources required in hiring and training are held constant. Only one of those options introduces a new set of ideas and ways of thinking.

Where would you rather have that learning curve?

In exchange for the effort of training a person from another industry upfront, you get a fresh set of eyes that has a history of experiences and insights that are completely unfamiliar to you. There is an entire wealth of knowledge yet to be uncovered!

3. Outside Candidates Help Diversify Your Workforce

A commitment to workforce diversity is a commitment to innovation.

This diversity doesn’t just apply to demographic criteria, although the motivating factor is the same: avoiding cookie cutter team members that all think and operate the same.

Your dream team isn’t going to get very far if every single person has the same background, qualifications, and ways of thinking. In fact, things will probably get pretty stagnant pretty fast.

That’s not to say you should hire someone for the role purely because they have outside experience. Each hire should be able to perform baseline responsibilities with reasonable onboarding and training.

However, when you widen your hiring net to include qualified candidates without extensive agriculture experience, you prove that you are not rigid in your ways and are open to new ideas.

Ask yourself whether that is a priority for a successful agribusiness. If it isn’t, what are your priorities? Could these priorities be actualized through collaboration between team members with diverse backgrounds?

What to Look for in a Candidate

Think about your ideal candidate, aside from trainable qualities.

What are the skills in a candidate that truly need to be a prerequisite and could indicate the highest potential for success in this role? For success in your workplace?

Sometimes the things that we look for in a candidate are actually just a preference, and not necessary. We would rather not have to train someone in a particular learnable skill, so we put blinders on and only look for someone with very specific experience because it feels like the smarter option for our business.

This short-sighted attempt to make things easier for ourselves and our workplace actually just shoots ourselves in the foot and stifles long term growth. All because we were closed off to other, less traditional candidates that don’t fit exactly the way we want into the box we created, but could actually thrive in one, or many, ag careers if you gave them a chance.

When we stick within this box, we end up creating an echo chamber of people with the same beliefs and systems of operations that reinforce old, tired behaviors and ways of thinking. Nothing grows in this box.

Look beyond strict background and experience. Each candidate is a whole person, with their own values, belief systems, motivations, and career potentials.

  • Does this candidate believe in your core mission? 

Someone who truly wants your organization to succeed because they believe in the big picture and finds a personal motivation to make it happen can be an invaluable asset to your workforce, even though they don’t have *insert years of experience in said job function.*

  • Does this candidate want to learn?

A high drive to learn and do well can make up for a lack of experience in the industry.

  • Does this candidate have transferable skills from another industry?

These skills are in addition to fitting the personality profile and being a good potential cultural fit, and will still apply even though the explicit job functions are different.

  • Can this candidate offer outsider insights that are relevant to your organization?

Maybe they were in a sister industry that can offer insights into competitor operations or were at a company that performed really well in something you struggle in. There is a chance that industry fatigue is preventing you from seeing answers to problems that aren’t that complicated after all.

How to Find Outside Candidates

When you feel like you’ve exhausted your resources and talent pool in finding the right candidate, “just looking elsewhere” for the right hire might be easier said than done.

Here are some ideas to help shake off the cobwebs and inspire you to look outside the agriculture box for great candidates.

  • Look for industries that have similar values and working environments.

These industries will create people with similar soft skills necessary to adapt quickly to and thrive in your workplace. Advertise in their industry magazines and job boards.

  • Look for industries with similar cultures.

These hires are more likely to fit right in and are less likely to be rejected by members of your team who are more resistant to outsiders and change.

  • Remove unnecessary experience requirements from the job description.

If a particular experience is actually required, keep it. If it’s more of a preference, and even a strong one at that, distinguish it from hard requirements so that potential candidates don’t turn around thinking that they’ll automatically be ruled out on the basis of not having the experience.

  • Spruce up those job postings.

When you’re hiring to fill a position, you don’t want to waste hiring resources and time on applications that just don’t fit the bill. Take the time to carefully curate your job postings so that you are attracting the kind of candidate that you actually want to work with, instead of just throwing the post out there and hoping for the best.

Investing this time upfront saves you time and resources down the line in dealing with applicants that you just aren’t interested in, while candidates that would have been a good fit were just never attracted to your job posting to begin with and apply elsewhere.

  • Consider professional help.

An ag recruiting company like AgHires can help you attract the right talent for your job openings when you feel stuck in a rut. AgHires is your expert HR consultant in agriculture, with a thorough understanding and passion for the industry.

  • Evaluate your workplace.

You might have to do a little extra work to dazzle recruits outside of the agriculture industry to join your workforce. Consider employee perks, your company culture, work-life balance and other factors that would attract (or scare off) people who aren’t familiar with your kind of workplace.

Create an environment that not only keeps your best employees but tempts people from other industries to leave what they know and join yours.

Concluding Thoughts

When you are resistant to change, you end up putting yourself in a rigid box and miss out on opportunities for growth. Sticking with the safe option in your agriculture executive search might seem smarter when you don’t feel like you can afford much risk, but can actually be counterproductive.

While new hires outside of the agriculture industry might not be front of mind when you’re trying to expand your team, automatically ruling these candidates out on the basis of experience and not their potential could end up hurting your business.

The bottom line is that when progress grows stale, sometimes the same old song and dance just doesn’t work as well as it used to. And if you’re feeling stuck in a rut, why not try something new?

Breathe fresh air into your business by hiring recruits outside of the agriculture industry. Create an environment that is open to change and adapts well when this inevitable change occurs.

You might be surprised what answers to problems were right in front of you, but just needed an outsider’s help to point out.

Regardless, opening yourself and your workplace up to different possibilities is always an invaluable exercise.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box. Learn why hiring outside the agribusiness industry might be right for you.
Lori Culler

Lori Culler

Lori (Lennard) Culler is the founder of AgHires, providing recruiting services and job advertising for the agriculture industry across the US. Lori grew up on her family's 3rd generation potato, tomato, and grain farm operating in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana. Her work in human resources began outside of agriculture and while hiring for her family’s own operation quickly realized the lack of resources in our industry to find and attract talent which inspired her to launch AgHires. In addition to running AgHires, she works to provide education to both employers hiring and candidates looking for jobs.