hiring decisionThere is perhaps nothing more important in business success than hiring the right people to get a job done. I recently read that having a business strategy without having the right talent is like a chef starting to cook a meal without the proper ingredients. You know the outcome. Repeatedly I have seen the difference between success and failure directly related to making the right "fit" when hiring employees. Whether you're hiring someone from the outside, or working to maximize existing resources, there are two premises I have found to be invaluable in making hiring decisions.

History Repeats Itself, Ask the Right Questions

First is the premise that the best judge of future performance is past performance. Now this seems pretty obvious, but I'm amazed at how many managers do not interview to truly expose a candidate's past performance. Typically, interview questions lean toward asking one to discuss their skills or asking the candidate what he or she "would do" in a certain situation. Frankly, neither of these angles reveals anything about what that the individual "has actually done" in similar situations.

To get to the heart of predicting future behavior, it's important to ask questions that implore the candidate to step you through what they have done in scenarios that mirror the work you would have for them. While it takes a little practice to perfect this interview style, it's amazing how much information you will get if you ask a candidate to "Tell me a time when you had to manage a very chaotic situation that required juggling priorities. Tell me how you handled it." With some probing, candidates will usually explain step by step what they did in that particular example as well as the outcome - either good or bad - and how they handled it. This gives you priceless insight as to how they would likely handle the job for you.

Passion Dictates Performance

The second premise is one I call motivational fit. This simply means you want to hire or engage the person most motivated and passionate about the job itself. It's absolutely true that a happy worker is a productive worker. Someone who does not enjoy their job is not usually fully productive or engaged. To determine motivational fit, simply ask a candidate what they love to do and ask them for details. If they report that they love to rise early and smell the earth as they climb on the combine, you will see the sparkle in their eyes.

Conversely, also ask them what they prefer NOT to do. If someone tells you they hate having to manage people issues and constantly explain things to laborers, you know they are likely not interested in nor good at directing others. It's important to watch body language when a potential employee talks about what they love to do or what they dislike. If the dislikes stack up against many of the tasks  in the open job, it's not likely to be a good fit. On the other hand, if you see dancing eyes and smiling when they talk about things they love to do that closely mirror the job for which they are applying, chances are good you'll both be happy with the hire.

Hiring Farm Employees Is A Family Affair

I realize that hiring farm employees is often a matter of dividing chores among family members and there may be little real hiring. However, I think these two premises still apply. With family members, you know what past performance looks like, so try to be objective and think about how it clearly predicts future performance. This will secure future personal satisfaction for that family member. You likely already know or can quickly determine what that son, daughter, brother, or nephew loves and hates to do. Sometimes there is just the expectation that the next generation will want to stay on the farm. What an amazing opportunity to get to carry on the family legacy as a career. What a challenge if that's the expectation!

Taking time to step back and deliberately make a good fit could make all the difference in future success of the farm, not to mention the long-term happiness of that family member or new hire. Isn't that the best of both worlds?

Ann Broome

Ann is appointed Director for the AgStar Board and a self-employed Human Resources Consultant for the Seinna Group in Austin, Texas. With 25 years of experience under her belt in every aspect of HR, corporate governance, policies and systems, and general management. She hopes to share why it is important to have role models and mentors and how following your heart and staying true to your values can lead you to your ideal career. 

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