Reliable Help Wanted

Whether you're looking to hire for a new position, add seasonal help or fill an existing opening, the hiring process can be daunting. Finding good help means being on your game to attract the best possible addition to your operation.

"Do a careful survey of what skills you need on your operation and come up with a list of where the holes are, then think about hiring someone who will plug those holes,” says Robert W. Taylor, Purdue University ag economist.  

Taylor advises taking time to get acquainted with interviewees through a farm tour and then giving them opportunities to ask questions. Personal interaction, as well as hands-on tests, are the best indicators of whether an applicant will successfully fill a position, says Gregorio Billikopf, an agricultural labor management farm adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

"It's good to conduct a formal interview, but if you're going to hire somebody to cowboy for you, you need to see them actually saddle and ride a horse,” Billikopf says. "Whatever the main duties that need to be filled are, they need to be demonstrated.” 

Check References. When it's time to check references, Tammy Jensen, co-owner of agricareers Inc., suggests contacting three to four work-related references.

"I would rather hear from colleagues, someone who knows the interviewee from a work-related area, than past employers,” Jensen says. "It's great to ask what kind of bottom-line impact this person had on the business.” 

Keep in mind that one bad reference should not throw a candidate out of the pool but instead should lead the employer to check more references and determine a pattern, whether good or bad.

Five Questions for a Potential Hire
Tammy Jensen, co-owner of agricareers Inc., recruits nationwide for all types of agricultural-related employers. She suggests these top five go-to questions when interviewing a potential hire.

1. What has been one of the greatest challenges in your current position or a previous position? Explain how you addressed the challenge, what the outcome was and what you would do differently in the future. 

2. What is one of the most exciting aspects of agriculture today, and why? 

3. Describe what skills you bring that will help us continue to be successful. 

4. Long-term employees are critical to our business. Should we hire you, what do we need to do to keep you as a long-term employee?

5. What kind of equipment are you familiar with?

Top Producer, March 2010