Ag's HR Coach

Pandemic Pushes Talent Availability to New Highs

Lori Culler
By  Lori Culler , DTN Farm Business Adviser
The pandemic has changed the way most businesses are doing interviews. Fortunately for farms, having your interview outside has always been an option. (Progressive Farmer photo by Getty Images)

Believe it or not, now is a great time to hire. The agricultural supply chain has been experiencing a talent shortage for years. The good news to come out of this pandemic is the pool of available talent has expanded, and we need to capitalize on this opportunity.

Many talented technicians, operators, managers, engineers and more are being furloughed or permanently laid off. Candidates who haven't been furloughed are working from home with lighter schedules. Furloughed or not, candidates can interview in the privacy of their homes and can interview when it may have been previously too challenging. If there is ever a time talent availability is peaking in the market, it is now.

One outcome from the pandemic is candidates are analyzing the industries they work for and are deciding whether to stay or look for a new industry. Ultimately, they are searching for stability. On several occasions this week we've spoken to candidates who are looking to enter the agriculture industry because they view it as offering more long-term job stability. We've seen a trend in recent years of candidates who are looking to transition to companies where they can see the impact of their work along with a desire to work for a family-owned business. The pandemic has taken this trend and pushed it further into our favor.

If you want to attract top talent, you need to start by developing your job description. One of the biggest mistakes we see in job postings is it becomes a list of tasks for the role, but it doesn't answer the most basic question: Why would someone want to work for your company? A job description should showcase more detail about the company, the culture and what you have to offer. If you are willing to take candidates from a variety of backgrounds, state which backgrounds might fit.

The best job descriptions are transparent and help the candidate decide if the job is a fit for them. A good rule of thumb is to keep your job description from a half-page to a full-page. Any shorter, you probably aren't giving enough detail. Any longer, candidates will not read it.

Wherever your state is on the reopening spectrum, companies are adjusting their hiring practices. For the initial interview, more employers are starting with a video interview. The second interview is typically on-site and can be adjusted to everyone's comfort level for face-to-face interactions. Given that everyone has different comfort levels, it's easy for on-farm interviews to be conducted outside or in an open shop versus the office.

In addition to full-time hires, this is a great time to add to your part-time, seasonal and/or contract employees. You could advertise to attract part-time evening/weekend operators or a great on-the-side mechanic. If you're looking to create a new website or complete a project, now is the time. Ad agencies and marketing firms have been laying off employees. You can hire someone on a project basis to develop your website. Because freelancers are less in demand, you may be able to negotiate on the cost of the project.

Whether you are looking for guidance on a job description, assistance in building your talent pool or want help recruiting, AgHires can help. While this is a very trying time, the silver lining is now more top talent is available to bring into the industry, and we should capitalize on the opportunity.


Editor's Note: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm and is the founder of AgHires (…), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email and find other labor management tips under Resources at

Lori Culler