How to Conduct a Job Interview: Advice from Ag Recruiters

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12 Minute Read
Posted by Lori Culler


Learn actionable tips to conducting an effective job interview that leads to the perfect hire for your agribusiness.

When hiring season comes around, it’s important to be prepared. Finding that perfect person to become a valuable team player for your agribusiness might not be as simple as you’re expecting.

There are several steps that make up the ag recruiting process – from getting the word out there by creating an effective job description to rigorously pre-screening applicants. If you don’t handle each step with careful attention to detail, it’s likely you won’t attract or meet the highest quality candidates.

One of the most critical parts of agriculture recruitment, however, comes after the resumes and cover letters have been received. The job interview.

After you’ve narrowed down your search and it’s finally time to meet the potential hires face to face, you want to be fully prepared with the right, qualifying questions to help you make your ultimate decision.

In this guide, we’ll share with you the best practices and ag recruiting tips for conducting an effective interview.

1-on-1 Interviews v.s. Group Interviews

As farming recruiters, one of the common questions we receive from employers is whether or not to conduct interviews one-on-one or in a group setting. And the answer to the question is...it depends.

There are benefits of both interviewing styles. On one hand, group interviewing takes less time, can potentially cost less, and gives you a sense of how a candidate interacts with other people. It also ensures every candidate is hearing the same information.

However, group interviews are ideal for more out-spoken personalities, but might not be the best way for a less outgoing candidate to adequately present themselves. Not all agriculture jobs require a larger-than-life personality. By choosing to do a group interview, you could misread or overlook an otherwise highly qualified candidate because the less qualified loudmouth took up the majority of the interview time.

One-on-one interviews are typically the best way to fully gauge whether or not a candidate is right for the role. This gives all candidates an equal opportunity to present themselves with enough time to share and zero influence from others.

The remainder of this blog post will be geared around the steps of conducting a one-on-one job interview (although many of these practices can also be applied to group interviews as well).

The Two Objectives of a Job Interview

Before we discuss the steps of an effective interview process, you need to have a clear understanding of the two main objectives of a job interview. While the obvious goal is finding your next employee of the month, this shouldn’t be your only intention.

Job interviewing is a two-way road. Though you might be the one asking the majority of the questions, the interviewee is also getting a feel for you, your company, and what it's like to work for your business.

In other words, a successful interview not only involves evaluating the candidate to see if they’ll be a good fit to join your team, but also positively representing your company and accurately communicating the role.

The two primary objectives are as follows:

  1. Carefully evaluate the candidate to see if they’re the right fit
  2. Accurately communicate the details of the position and your company

As an experienced agriculture recruitment firm, we’ve witnessed many interviews fail due to the disregard of one of these two objectives. Some employers take the time to describe the position, but fail to ask the right questions to really gauge each candidate’s skill level, experience and personality.

On the other hand, some employers do a great job at learning about the candidate, but a poor job at illustrating exactly why they would want to work for their company. When dealing with high level career seekers, you might not be the only interview they have. You don’t want to lose your next star employee to your competition because you didn’t express just how great it is to work for you!

A poorly executed interview can lead to an unsuccessful hire. By not understanding how to truly determine if a candidate is right for a position, you could end up recruiting someone under-qualified. This could not only cause damage to your business, but hurt your rapport with other employees.

Likewise, falsely representing the requirements, responsibilities, or any other critical information about the job can cause problems and lead to a hire’s early resignation. Both of these scenarios will send you right back to the start of the agriculture recruiting process.

10 Tips for Conducting a Job Interview

With that being said and both of those crucial objectives in mind, here is a list of 10 tips for how to facilitate an interview. We’ve broken down the steps into three parts: before the interview, during the interview and making your decision.

Before the Interview

Never go into an interview without taking the time to prepare beforehand. Winging it is a waste of time, energy and can result in a poor agriculture recruiting decision. Preparation conveys professionalism, organization and sets the interview up for success.

Here are the tips for how to prepare for a job interview.

1. Plan the Structure of the Interview

Each interview should follow the same basic structure. Here is an example of an efficient way to structure your job interview:

  • Describe your Company, Culture and Open Position
  • Ask questions about experience, skills, and more
  • Give the candidate a tour of facilities
  • Allow time for final questions and comments
  • Conclude the interview

When you come prepared with an organized plan, you’ll stay on track and maintain control of the interview. While you want to leave space for the conversation to flow naturally, you don’t want to go off on too many tangents that might distract you from getting to know the right things about the candidate.

2. Organize a List of Questions

It’s best to come with a list of questions. The right questions can tell you exactly what you want to know about a potential hire.

Focus your questions on the areas that matter most to you. For example – skills, experience, career goals, and personality. Then, a general rule is to organize them by those different areas, starting with the simpler yes-or-no questions and moving on to ones that require more in depth responses, such as the following

Skills Questions

Skills questions are going to be dependent on the job position. For many agriculture jobs, there is specific equipment or technology the candidate must be familiar with or capable of selling. You want to ask the right questions to find out upfront how experienced they are with these tools.

Aside from technical skills, it is also important to ask questions about the candidate’s soft, problem solving skills:

  • If (describe situation) happened, how would you handle it?
  • Have you ever been part of a team that didn’t work well together? How did you handle it?
  • (For ag sales positions) How would you sell me this piece of paper?
  • What unique skills can you contribute to this company?
Experience Questions

When asking about experience, it’s important to avoid just aimlessly going over a candidate’s resume with them. Instead, ask direct questions about their past work experiences to gauge their ability to do the job, as well as how they present themselves.

The following questions will allow the candidate to walk you through their resume naturally and highlight the experiences that are most relevant to the available position.

  • What past work experience makes you the best candidate for this position?
  • What is a negative experience you’ve had with a client or customer, how did you handle it and what did you learn from it?
  • Describe a time you’ve changed someone’s opinion.
  • What would you consider your biggest professional accomplishment?
  • What’s your biggest strength and how will it help you perform?
  • How would you describe your current or most recent job?
Career Goals Questions

The agriculture recruitment process is complex, time-consuming and something you don’t want to do often. This means an ideal candidate is one with intentions to stay with your business long-term.

For this reason, it is important to ask questions about a candidate’s career goals to understand whether or not they intend to contribute to your business goals and grow with your company.

  • What are your short-term career goals?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What challenges are you seeking in this position?
  • Why do you want to work for this business?
Personality Questions

You want to be sure the candidate not only possesses the necessary skills to do the job, but also the qualities to mesh with the company culture.

  • How do you work under pressure?
  • How would you describe your personality? Your work ethic?
  • What motivates you? What are you passionate about?
  • What tries your patience when working with others?

3. Create a Checklist

Job interviews can be a little nerve-wracking for candidates. This is especially true if an employer is constantly looking down to take notes as the candidate answers questions.

An effective checklist will include the technical skills, experience, availability, and other essential traits. While some items on the list can simply have a box for you to check or space to jot down a note, other items might be best recorded with a scale from 1 to 10.

Checklists can help you listen better, stay more engaged and compare candidates more easily. When you’re able to see the same checklist for the different candidates instead of several pages of scattered notes, it allows you to see clearly which candidate is well-qualified across all areas.

4. Revisit Each Candidate’s Resume

Always review each candidate’s resume briefly before the interview so you can use this information to plan one or two unique questions on their past experiences and skills. By doing so, you’ll demonstrate your professionalism, respect and show you value their time.

As you revisit the resumes, be sure to go through your checklist simultaneously so you can check off anything you’ve already learned from the resume. That way you can focus the interview on evaluating ‘off-paper’ qualities, like charisma, presentation, professionalism and so on.

5. Share Discussion Topics with Candidate

As we mentioned above, employment interviews aren’t exactly a walk in the park for job seekers. Searching for a job in general is quite stressful, so when a candidate finally lands an interview, the pressure only gets more intense.

To ease the stress of the job interview, employers often choose to share some or all of the discussion topics with the candidates beforehand. This gives them time to prepare their answers and put their best foot forward.

When a candidate can walk into the interview prepared, they can speak with more confidence and feel comfortable enough to act true to themselves.

During the Interview

With your list of prepared questions, checklist and game plan for the interview, you’re now ready to meet with the candidates to find your next star employee. Remember, the interview isn’t an interrogation for you to find out what you want to know.

Certain high level candidates might still be deciding whether or not they’ll accept the position if offered. That’s why it is important to represent yourself and your company in the best way possible from the moment you shake their hand.

Here is a list of tips for what to do during the interview.

6. How to Begin an Interview

After introductions are made and the ice is broken, you don’t want to immediately whip out the candidate’s resume and start drilling him or her with questions. To lighten the pressure of the situation and set a comfortable tone for the remainder of the meeting, take the first moments to explain how the interview will go, and talk about the position and your company.

Start by briefly explaining your company, what sets it apart from others, and your company goals, values and mission. Next, describe the position, how this role will contribute to the company’s short-term and long-term goals and the benefits of the job. By leading with this, you give the candidate time to settle into the conversation and get inspired by the opportunity to join the team.

7. Give the Candidate a Tour

When hiring for a farm or other agribusiness, especially for on-site roles, we recommend either conducting the interview while touring the facilities or provide a tour at some point. This will allow the candidate to really demonstrate their knowledge and experience as you show them certain tools, machinery or equipment they’ll be working with on the job.

8. Allow Time for the Candidate to Ask Questions

Before you end the interview, it is always critical to open up the floor for any questions or comments the candidate might have. Many times the candidates will save questions for the end, so as to not interrupt. Candidate questions can also shine a light on someone’s true expertise and experience in the job.

9. How to End an Interview

After you’ve allowed time for the candidate to ask their questions and share any comments, it is time to conclude the interview. When doing so, be sure to thank the candidate for their time, interest in the position and explain to them how and when they will be contacted with information on the next steps.

Many employers make the mistake of offering someone the job right on the spot before they’ve interviewed other candidates. While this has the potential of working out, it is always wiser to give yourself time to mull things over once you have met all potential hires. After all, hiring a new employee is a big decision that will directly affect your business.

What if the next candidate is an even better fit for the role? What if the candidate you choose sleeps on their decision and changes their mind the next day? You’ll be sorry you canceled your other interviews.

Making Your Final Decision

By following the steps above, it should be easy to come to a final decision about who to hire. You should have a clear understanding of who possesses the right qualities, skill set, and experience to take on the role and become a positive contributor to your business.

Here is one last tip to help you make your final decision.

10. Consult with Others

Sometimes the decision on who to hire isn’t so obvious. Maybe you’re lucky and you’ve found yourself with more than one highly qualified candidate for the role. Or maybe you’re having a hard time deciding between a candidate who possesses all of the technical skills, but lacks the charisma and another that has plenty of charisma, but not as much experience on the technical side.

When you’re struggling to make your final decision, reach out to your team – particularly the employees that will be regularly working alongside the person you hire. These employees will have unique insight into the role and be able to bring up certain points you might be overlooking. With their help, you’ll be able to talk it out while reviewing the checklists and come to an informed decision together.

Work with Agriculture Executive Recruiters

At the end of the day, the success of a job interview boils down to one thing: the quality of the candidates. By working with experienced ag recruiters, you’re guaranteed only the highest qualified talent for your role.

AgHires comes from within the agriculture industry providing an extensive network of high level ag professionals. We help our clients find the perfect candidate within a short period of time and on budget. Connect with us to discover if we’re the right partner for your agriculture recruiting needs.

Lori Culler

Lori Culler

Lori Culler (Lennard), founder and owner of AgHires, grew up in and around the Agricultural Industry on her family's 3rd generation potato, tomato, and grain operation in Southeast Michigan and Northern Indiana.