Without a doubt, one of the most daunting challenges in agriculture is finding and hiring talent. It’s a highly specialized and technical industry – and one who’s complexity goes beyond the lab, all the way to the farm. Finding someone with the right skills and knowledge of how it all ‘works’ is tough.
Experts dived into how to find and attract good candidates in episode one of Seed Speaks, a new video series by Seed World Group. Host Sonja Begemann was joined by Jordan Moss, U.S.-based ag recruiter who specializes in ag tech, and Simon Leich, London-based ag recruiter who specializes in finding ag executives.
“Sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting someone to sit down and talk,” Moss says. It’s a busy time of year, and higher commodity prices only up the ante. The first conversation is sometimes the hardest to earn.
Find the Right Candidate
As agriculture expands into more technology and other less traditional ventures, do you have to keep going back to the same well of talent?
“When you look at broader talent outside of just straightforward ag, you can find individuals that have a different set of experiences to bring in,” Leich says. “And on the technology and science side there are best practices from other industries that translate well.”
Industrial, food systems, pharmaceutical are just a few of the industries Moss and Leich say translate well into agriculture positions. As ag expands, more people are gaining interest in this sector of the food system, which could present new opportunities for hiring managers.
However, there is a learning curve to account for when hiring someone without a traditional ag background. Be prepared to have conversations and explain concepts about production and farm practices.
“While you can hire people from other backgrounds, I’ve noticed when working with different parts of the supply chain like farmers or ag retailers that nothing beats an ag background,” Moss says. “But if the person hasn’t been around agriculture to know that background, surround them with people that have grown up in the industry.”
Research is Paramount
Whether you’re the candidate, or the hiring manager, due diligence is needed before accepting a position or hiring an individual. You’re not just looking for skeletons in closets, you’re looking for a good fit in the company culture and values.
Here are a few ideas on how to research:
- Candidate – Find recent articles and news reports about the company. Check them out on LinkedIn, Glass Door, Indeed, etc. Look for company reviews and comments from current and former employees. If you know someone who works or has worked there, ask them what they thought.
- Company – Ask them how they like to work. Open-ended questions during an interview can help you discover if they’re a complement to your current system. In addition, appropriate background checks are also valuable.
Taking the time to find out more about the company, or candidate, helps make sure the environment is right for everyone. This can help turn the position into a longer career within the company if they feel included, valued and comfortable.
Lead with Purpose
Today’s candidates don’t just want a fancy title or think only about salaries – many want the work they do to mean something.
“That has probably been one of the biggest trends that I’ve seen in the last few years,” Leich says. “It actually escalated a lot after COVID. People asked the question when they were sitting at home ‘what’s this all about?’”
The good news? In agriculture it’s easy to show people value of what they’re doing – after all – it’s literally feeding the world. When presenting offers or talking about a position, don’t just talk salary and title, tell them how what they’d be doing makes a difference.
Take a look at the first episode of Seed Speaks below for more details and information from Moss and Leich about finding and attracting candidates for agriculture positions. Tune in this Wednesday 6/16/21 at noon central standard time to learn more about employee retention and buy-in.