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Find, Hire the Best

Posted May 1, 2001

Recently I was visiting with a rancher regarding his employee hiring process. He indicated that he has significant personnel turnover and wants to reverse this trend. He said his practice is to hire the cheapest farm laborer who lives in the nearby town of 400 people. His hiring strategy needs to be reviewed so he can attract competent individuals for the positions on his ranch.

The average age of the farmer or rancher is near sixty. Some farm owners and operators have indicated a desire to hire an employee to assist them in the daily operations on the farm or ranch. You need to pay a lot of attention to identifying the need for hiring your first employee, replacing an employee, or expanding your labor force. The needs analysis should include a detailed job description that outlines the major job responsibilities, amount of time to be dedicated to each category, job title, and minimum qualifications.

Prepare a list of job accountabilities once the job description is completed. The accountabilities document provides more detail for each component of the job description. The primary function of the accountabilities document is to set standards of performance and outline methods, such as timeliness, efficiency, and compliance, for measuring each standard. An important benefit of preparing the job description and the list of accountabilities is improved communication between the employee and employer, which leads to enhanced productivity for the business. Employees can use the job description to determine what they are being paid to do, and the accountabilities list tells them how they will be evaluated.

Once you complete the job description and accountabilities documents, you can continue the recruiting process by identifying sources to announce the open position. The level of skills required for performing the job influences where you will send the position announcements. If a position requires many skills, advertise it more widely than a position requiring fewer skills. You can advertise on the Internet; in newspapers, personnel agencies, high schools, vocational schools, and colleges; and by word of mouth. It is important to gear the announcement toward the audience you intend to recruit. Properly placed announcements are an important step in creating a large pool of applicants interested in applying for the job.

Before sending out the job announcement, formulate your policy on the following issues: compensation, work hours, vacation and sick leave, performance incentive program, promotion, training, benefits such as insurance, health, life, disability, and retirement, paid utilities, hunting and fishing privileges, dress code, substance abuse, overtime, and termination.

Once you have addressed the above issues and have received applications for the open position(s), it is time to evaluate the applicants. It is acceptable for you to conduct a telephone interview to determine which applicants to invite to an on-site interview. Prescreening provides you insight into the applicant's ability to communicate and an opportunity to discuss the applicant's skills. Arrange on-site interviews for applicants who pass the telephone interview and are the most promising candidates.

Remain flexible when scheduling interviews with applicants, since most are gainfully employed. The interview is an information-gathering event for both parties. The prospective employee is evaluating the strengths of the position, and you are determining whether the applicant is the best individual for the position. A tour of the farm or ranch is normally included for farming and ranching positions. Before they extend an offer, some producers give a tour to the finalist only.

After the interviews, review the applicant's responses to each question. The first skill to evaluate is communication. If that skill is acceptable, evaluate technical skills necessary to function on the job. Normally, two or three candidates will rise to the top if the pool of applicants is large enough. Occasionally, you may have to reinterview one of the candidates to ask more questions.

Checking references is an important step in the recruiting process. References provide opinions that are often valuable in selecting the best candidate, which should be the final step in the recruiting process. This step may be difficult, since more than one candidate may fit your needs. Respond to all candidates within a reasonable period, preferably one week. Candidates appreciate this quick response time.

Salary is important to prospective employees. However, it is job satisfaction and oftentimes nonsalary benefits that retain employees. Hiring the best employee requires implementing a hiring strategy, such as providing exceptional housing and offering compensation at 5 percent above the market for the position. This strategy will be successful for an individual who desires good housing and isn't earning 5 percent above market pay. The key is to discover what prospective candidates desire most and customize a compensation package, if possible.

Personnel are the most important asset of the farm or ranch business and should be viewed as investments, not expenses. Only people can use physical assets to meet business goals. Farm personnel are productive when they feel that they are justly compensated, their work makes a difference and is valued, and they are personally contributing, growing, and developing. Finding and hiring competent employees can be a long and arduous process, but it's extremely rewarding.