Be Active in your search for Employees

Finding employees is a challenge

Despite the high unemployment levels, locating employees is a struggle.  Finding qualified employees willing to work in agriculture, with longer hours and some weekends required, can be even more difficult.  On top of that, wage requirements are inching higher and higher.

The struggle is real.  Finding the right people to join your team is pertinent to your success.  Where are they?  No one is knocking on the door.  You put ads out and receive zero responses.   As thriving business owners, what can you do to hire the right people in a labor market where competition is fierce?

Why not consider a new approach?

You make changes on your farm to improve somatic cell, reduce death loss, and increase production.  In the same manner, you can improve your hiring process.   Take a look at how and where you look for new employees.

Think about it. All the good people have jobs.  You see them at the gas station, the feed store, and the implement dealer.  You meet people every day who could be a great asset to your team, but they might not be obvious. They probably don’t have high levels of experience, specifically in agriculture, but they are skilled, smart, and motivated.  Each time you interact with a great employee, think to yourself, “Wow, I would love to hire that person.”

Think of these people as ‘passive candidates.’

We call them passive because they are not actively seeking a new job. 

These passive candidates are the great folks who are already employed elsewhere. They have the internal qualities you need.

For example, a business does not need to focus on finding people with all the right cow-side experience or mechanical know-how.  What a farm really needs to focus on are the people with the right values, personality, work ethic, and desire to learn and grow.  Any good candidate can learn the skills necessary for the job, but not everyone will fit your culture or your team.  Hire for values that align with what you need and then train them for skills.

How do you find these sorts of candidates?

How can you build rapport to gain their interest?  Following are some tips to help you actively find passive candidates.

  • Your best employees know other quality people like themselves. Consider asking them for assistance in creating a “possible candidate” list.
  • Take a look at your Facebook pages. Do any people jump out as someone who would make a good team player?
  • Ask your vendors and customers for names of people they would recommend.
  • Seek out people whose values align with what you need. You can always train them for skills they lack. This way, you will not fall into the trap of “Hiring for what they know and firing them for who they are.”


Once you have created a list, begin reaching out with a soft approach

Your goal is to establish a relationship and open the door.  Most people, even though employed, are flattered that someone else notices their values, work ethic, and skills.

    • An option is sending a letter using your company letterhead asking them if they would be willing to chat about a potential career opportunity.
    • Or give them a call and schedule a “time to chat” about potential employment or a farm visit.
    • Or ask them to meet them for a cup of coffee or lunch to learn more about them.
    • Send them an email. Explain why you are interested in meeting them.
    • Continue reaching out over time. Most employed people are not going to switch jobs right away, but when the time is right for them, they will think of you.
    • Grow the relationship

Be ready to hire when your passive candidate is ready to make a change. If they meet your criteria, hire them immediately.  When the new hire is trained in, and things are going well, you can trim the employee who isn’t pulling their weight.

In a world where labor is hard to find, a new approach is needed.  Actively seeking passive candidates takes time.  It is not a “once and done” process.

Businesses that actively and continually search for new qualified employees will see less turnover, improved teams, and less stressful timelines because they have a steady stream of qualified candidates.

What’s not to like about that?

Want a inside look at how other successful farms face challenges?

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