Hiring the Right Person for the Job Can be Challenging for Farmers Who Have Little Experience in Human Resources

February 15, 2018

Successful hiring is extremely important, especially in farming where a small group of people are doing complicated stressful work in an outdoor setting.

Though not a comprehensive guide to hiring great employees, there are some key steps farmers can follow when hiring an employee.

Define the Job – Hiring the right employee starts with understanding the needs of the operation as a whole and of the specific position. Defining the job enables a farmer to collect information about the responsibilities, necessary skills, outcomes and work environment of the particular job. Putting those key pieces of information into a written job description is the first key to good documentation.

Follow a Checklist – Whether it’s a farm’s first employee or one of many being hired, a checklist for hiring an employee helps keep track of recruiting efforts. It also assures the employer is treating all hires similarly in the future and is refraining from any discriminatory hiring practices. Checklists often include instructions regarding what documents and forms are necessary for each applicant to complete, what type of identification is required, and the proper means of communication for both the applicant and employer.

Recruit the Right Candidates – A farmer can develop relationships with potential candidates long before needing to hire an employee. A farmer can engage local education institutions, volunteer to provide job-shadowing opportunities, and generally be active in the community. Those practices will help a farmer recruit from a large pool of candidates when a position opens.

Review Qualifications and Applications Carefully –The work of reviewing resumes, cover letters, job applications and job-application letters starts with a well-written job description. The job description created in the first step should help a farmer create a bulleted list of the most desired characteristics for the most qualified candidates. Screen all applicants against that bulleted list of qualifications, skills, experience and characteristics. This also protects against making assumptions during the interview process.

Ask the Right Interview Questions – Never forget the interview is fundamentally an opportunity to learn information about the applicant’s ability to perform the functions of the job. It is not an opportunity to learn about the applicant’s personal life or engagements outside the workplace. Learning about applicant characteristics unrelated to job duties only creates risk.

Check Backgrounds and References – An effective background check is one of the most important steps when hiring an employee. Verify that all the seemingly sterling credentials, skills and experience are actually possessed by the candidate. A background check must include work references — especially from former supervisors, educational credentials, employment references from actual jobs held and criminal history.

When hiring, other types of background checks — such as credit history — must be specifically related to the job for which the candidate is being hired. Additionally, if doing a criminal background check, in Wisconsin the Arrest and Conviction Record law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants based on their arrest and conviction records.

Extend the Job Offer in Writing – The job-offer letter is provided to the candidate selected for the position. Most frequently, candidate and employer have verbally negotiated the conditions of hire. The job-offer letter confirms verbal agreements about salary and benefits. The more senior the position, however, the more likely the job offer will turn into a protracted negotiation about salary, benefits, employment termination, bonus potential, severance pay, stock options and more. Putting items in writing provides clarity for all parties and supports any position challenged in the future.

Learn to be successful in hiring.

  • Analyze the job role that needs to be filled.
  • List characteristics and skills needed for the job description.
  • Review application materials carefully.
  • Ask the right interview questions.
  • Check backgrounds.
  • Document the job offer in writing.
  • Following those basic steps will not only assist a farmer in hiring qualified candidates and establishing basic guidelines, but will help comply with hiring laws and protect against wrongful hiring practices.

© 2018 Agri-ViewMadison, WI.  Reprinted with permission.

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