by Courtney Llewellyn

Her title says it all: Jami Armstrong is an impact search advisor with Nonprofit HR, and at this year’s NAFDMA Expo, she clued attendees in on hiring best practices – and just in time, before the busiest time of the year kicks off.

“The reality is it’s humans,” Armstrong said of the people you’ll be dealing with to fill positions, and to err is human. To ensure you make as few mistakes as possible in your hiring process, she outlined 10 steps you need to take.

The first is to identify your need. Don’t hire someone unless you really need to. Look at the number of jobs you need, their duties and responsibilities, whether they’re full-time or part-time, full year or seasonal, what kind of shifts they cover and where they actually take place.

Next, create a recruiting plan. Having a plan shows a well thought out process to a candidate. Consider your time to hire, a budget for ads, a marketing plan (using ads, social media, etc.), and your interview process. Armstrong suggested including some field time before an official hire is made to mitigate those who may leave early.

Then you’ll want a quality job description. It should include job title, location, status and pay rate; the overview of your farm business; the job summary; a list of duties and responsibilities; a list of required skills and qualifications; and the link to apply online (or other instructions).

“Many in this industry are often rewriting job descriptions,” Armstrong said. “They’re good for setting expectations and outlining duties, but they can also tie your hands. You can create the tone that you want staff willing to wear most of the hats. Don’t make ‘and other duties as required’ just an afterthought.”

She also suggested creating a tagline for the job, which will help explain the culture of the farm and the job. With the job description, highlight what’s in it for the applicants. Armstrong said you should build/break/build – explain why it’s fun, why it sucks and then again why it’s fun. “Explain what’s in it for you, what’s in it for me, what’s in it for us,” she added.

Consultant Jami Armstrong (far left) leads an exercise where “potential interviewers” ask “potential job candidates” good discovery questions. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

Next, you need to market the job. Post it on your website, include it in your blog/emails and select relevant job sites (Indeed, Monster, etc.). Post the job on all social media platforms and ask your networks to like and share the posting as well. Make sure you set aside money in the budget to market the job. Remember that good talent refers good talent – and that hiring is selling. “If you sell someone the job, you’re selling them the farm,” Armstrong reiterated.

Once you have interested potential employees, you need to evaluate applications. Qualified applicants have completed applications and any assessments, adhere to the qualifications listed in the job description and may have a similar work history or transferrable skills.

“Ask really good discovery questions. Don’t ask ‘yes or no’ questions,” Armstrong said. “And read the nonverbals when asking discovery questions.” Facial expressions and body language can say a lot. Ask about the candidate’s passions. And if you hear things you don’t like, ask yourself if that is something you can coach that person through. Remember, you’re not just managers, but also teachers and coaches, Armstrong added.

When interviewing applicants, start with a brief introduction of yourself, the business and why the position is important. Follow an interview script, ensuring you’re asking the same questions of each candidate. Use the STAR (situation, task, action, result) format to see how they would react to certain events. Take notes, and then assess the interview as soon as you are done while it’s fresh in your mind. “The market is tight; if you find someone you like, make a move,” Armstrong said.

Next, you’ll select your candidate(s). Top candidates will be timely, professional, polite, enthusiastic, thorough in their responses and ready to start. Be sure to check their references as well. If you still feel they’re the right person, extend them the job offer.

“If you have to hire less-than-productive staff, use your more-than-productive staff to bring them along,” Armstrong said. She also suggested making allowances for good candidates who can get the job done (seating, for example).

Once the candidate accepts the job offer, begin the onboarding and training process as quickly as possible.

To attract the right candidates, Armstrong said to review successful previous hires, list what worked well (division of labor, skills, attitude, etc.) and include those details in your job description and use relevant assessments.

If you need to hire in a hurry, continuously engage with your applicants. Consider consolidating interviews (through a virtual job fair or by setting aside specific days). Prepare interview questions and stick to your script. And create a referral program.

“You always want to have a pool of candidates to go to,” Armstrong said. “And realize times have changed. Pivot and adjust to the new norms.”