Last Saturday my wife and I shopped for linens to upgrade our towel and wash cloth supply. We had passed the store on Friday but chose not to stop as were had not prepared. On Saturday, we spent at least an hour reviewing what we had in the linen closet and deciding what we needed. Our shopping trip was short and we left with exactly what we wanted. I suspect if we had stopped on Friday evening, our time in the store would have been much longer and very frustrating, and we, likely, would not have gotten what we really needed.

I believe the same is true for recruiting. Preparation is needed and makes the whole process easier and more effective. Whether you have an opening because someone is leaving or you are expanding your staff, two steps are needed prior to initiating recruiting:

  1. Develop a job description. This may be revising the job description of the person who left, but you never should just use the previous job description. Others on your staff may have interest and strengths in responsibilities currently in the job description. The needs of your farm likely have changed as well. In the job description, focus on responsibilities of the position, not just the tasks.
  2. Using the responsibilities in the job description, think about what is needed to succeed in the position. We call these competencies. Identify the 3-5 observable and measurable skills, knowledge, performance behaviors, and personal attributes that will most contribute to success in the position. The following is an example competency set for a milker position: reliability, loves animals, precision.

Recruiting has changed greatly over the last several decades. First, it must be a continuous activity; not something you do only when you have an open position. Many, maybe most, open positions are no longer filled using a traditional recruitment process of developing recruitment materials and using different media to reach potential candidates.

Increasingly successful recruitment uses the owners’, employees’, and farms’ network. Many positions are filled with candidates who have already had contact with the farm or other business either by actually being at the farm, such as during a visit or an internship, or by connecting with the owners or other employees at events external to the farm.

It is increasingly important that you identify external opportunities to connect with potential candidates. You can fulfill this responsibility by attending events that future employees attend or are a participant. Examples could include school activities, FFA functions, job fairs, etc.

The increasing importance of networking plus the explosion in the use of the internet and social media are greatly increasing the importance of being a great employer – a preferred employer! When you want a new piece of equipment, you first check it out on the internet. When you are concerned you are ill, you first check the internet. Similarly, when a potential candidate hears about your farm or your position, they research the farm and its workforce on the internet and social media. Your greatest recruiting assets is a healthy farm business culture leading to a happy, passionate workforce.

Even with your network, the internet, and social media; there will be times when you need to use the traditional recruitment method of creating recruitment material and sending it to multiple venues. The goal of traditional recruiting is to reach and persuade a large number of qualified candidates to apply for the open position. Recruiting includes 1) promoting the positive attributes of the farm and the available position and 2) providing information about what will enable a potential candidate to succeed in the position – the competencies.

The positive attributes are often sadly lacking in most recruitment materials I read. Recently, I was teaching a seminar for managers. They had a very difficult time moving past their concerns about offering competitive compensation. Compensation is important but not nearly as important as most think. Did you become a farmer for the money? Take the time to brainstorm positives.

Your recruitment plan to reach great candidates AND entice them to apply for your position can include informal word of mouth communications, want ads, job announcements, internet job announcements, and formal job services. The following ad for a milker position incorporates the competencies defined above for this position:

EXCELLENCE, TRAINING, TEAM ATMOSPHERE!!!! We are seeking reliable, gentle workers to milk our prized herd of dairy cows. Top of the Hill Dairy Farm is a progressive family business producing wholesome, nutritious milk for families like yours. We are committed to producing superior quality milk for consumers and to providing outstanding job satisfaction for our employees. The new employees will be responsible for all tasks required to milk our herd of cows in a timely and professional manner. The position requires gentleness with the animals and precision in the milking process. We provide initial and continuing training. Weekday and weekend regular hours are available. Are you looking for a change? Apply to help serve consumers like you!! Applications available at:

Great recruitment – marketing – materials can be developed using the following seven steps:

  1. Lead with a positive statement or job characteristic that attracts attention
  2. Give the job title
  3. Say something positive about the business
  4. Describe the job
  5. Explain qualifications necessary for success in the position including the competencies
  6. Provide information on wages and benefits, as appropriate
  7. Say how to apply for the job.

The resulting recruitment materials can go on the internet – (craigslist, internet job postings), in newspapers, and in flyers that can be handed out and posted.

Recruitment is marketing! Today the greatest recruitment tool you have is the job satisfaction of your workforce. You also must “get out there” by making recruitment a continuous process and using and expanding your network.

This article appeared in the February 2016 edition of ‘LearningEdge Monthly.’ To subscribe to the newsletter, please visit http://www.theedgecoach.com/subscribe.html.