The hiring process


10 min read

Step 1 - Recruit for the right role Step 2 - Advertise the role Step 3 - Shortlist applicants Step 4 - Application forms Step 5 - Interview process Step 6 - Check references Step 7 - Select the right person Step 8 - Make a job offer Step 9: Welcome your new staff member Who else can help? Talking Dairy podcasts Additional resources

Are you looking to hire a new employee? Having a well-planned recruitment process is critical to finding the right person for your team. Once you begin, it’s crucial to move forward quickly in this competitive job market to avoid losing your preferred applicant/s. It is equally important to make sure you follow all the steps to make an informed decision, as employing a new team member is a huge decision.

9 steps to successful recruitment

There are important things to consider before and during your search, so following this nine-step process for dairy recruitment can reduce your risk and improve outcomes. To manage expectations, keep the lines of communication open with potential candidates, ensure the process is transparent and they understand the timelines.

Step 1: Recruit for the right role

  • Think about the tasks that need to be done on your farm, and what kind of team you need to achieve them.
  • Confirm your budget covers the number of employees you need.
  • Decide what role you need to recruit for - take a look at this guide for standard role descriptions and associated tasks to help you decide, then download the relevant job description. You may want to edit or add some responsibilities to this job description, depending on your farm and system.

It’s also a good idea to think about what kind of person will fit into the culture of your team. What knowledge, experience, skills, values and attitudes are you looking for in an applicant? Make a list of the 'essential' vs 'preferred' characteristics you’re after - this can help you compare candidates.

Step 2: Advertise the role

Provide a clear description of the role in your advertisement. It helps to stand out from the crowd if you provide enough information to make the job sound appealing and clearly describe why someone would want to work for you.

If there is a chance your role will need to be filled by an international candidate, there are strict guidelines around advertising. Learn more about this in our immigration section.

We recommend including:

  • Role title.
  • Sales pitch - why someone should come and work for your farm business.
  • Property description - hectares, number of staff, number of cows, and location.
  • Description of the job - high-level roles and responsibilities.
  • Roster, hours of work, and a range for remuneration to be paid. People, particularly those not already in the diary sector like to know an hourly rate, so it's great if you can include that.
  • What type of accommodation is available, if any.
  • Type of person and skills preferred.
  • Your contact details.
  • Closing date of applications.

Qualified applicants are less likely to apply for vaguely-worded or ill-defined job opportunities, so spend time planning your advertisement and doing it well.

There are many ways to advertise the role available;

  • Word-of-mouth or referrals from other team members.
  • Direct approaches to a potential candidate.
  • Using websites such as Farm Source, Trade Me Jobs, or Seek.
  • Posting on social media pages, local notice boards, in the newspaper.
  • Using recruitment agencies or not-for-profit work placement services such as Work and Income or Student Job Search.

Prepare an Employer CV

This CV is so you can showcase the values and purpose of your business, which can make your job opportunity more appealing than others. It can be shared with shortlisted applicants and might include;

  • Your contact details.
  • Farm information.
  • Details of your work history.
  • History as an employer.
  • Type of training, skills and experience you have as an employer/manager.
  • Your vision.
  • Your values.
  • Your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Details about what past employees have gone on to do.
  • Testimonials from both current and past employees.
  • Links to any social media accounts or videos can also be valuable to share.

Step 3: Shortlist applicants

  • Review the CVs against the skills and experience you require and also note their motivations for applying.
  • Make a short list of your preferred 5 or 6 applicants.
  • Make a time with each of them for a phone call. This is an efficient way to narrow down your preferred candidates.
  • Use the phone screening guide to find out more about each applicant and their reasons for applying. Too often this screening step is overlooked or done poorly. Take the time to do this well to ensure you only need to spend time interviewing the best candidates.
    • Ask what the notice period is for their current role.
    • Ask what their salary range expectations would be for the role you are advertising.
  • Create a shortlist of 2-4 candidates to interview in person.
  • Notify those you have shortlisted and tell them you would now like them to complete an application form and attend an interview with you.
  • Also, notify those who were unsuccessful following the phone screening and those who applied but didn’t make any shortlist.

Step 4: Application forms

  • Send each person on your shortlist an application form and ask them to return it to you.
  • There are important legal reasons for getting your short-listed applicants to complete an application form e.g. it allows you to do a police check, and contact referees, so don't overlook this step.
  • The use of an application form is also a good way to compare applicants fairly, and it allows you to ask questions you might not be comfortable asking people face-to-face.

Step 5: Interview process

Interviews help you determine how someone might behave on farm and the skills and attributes they bring to your business. By giving all candidates the same structured questions, you will be testing their competence against the job description and ensuring a level playing field.

TIP: Conversational interviewing is easier for everyone. Try not to make the interview process seem like an interrogation. Take your time, smile, and talk about any relevant experiences of your own to put your candidate at ease.

Before the interview:

  • Contact the short-listed applicants with an interview date and time.
  • Inform applicants of any additional material you may like them to bring e.g. production records, evidence of qualifications or skills etc.
  • Provide a copy of your job description to each candidate. Email it or provide it on the interview day.
  • Be clear about key information the applicants will need to know such as rosters, hours of work, accommodation available, and the salary.
  • Have a copy of the relevant interview template to follow. You can print this from the list below.
  • Prepare answers to questions the applicant may ask e.g. farm values and business goals, work expectations, team size and members, training opportunities, accommodation, community etc.
  • Prepare any planned practical or personality test resources.
  • Practical work tests demonstrate candidates’ competence in a specific task e.g. in milking or completing a feed budget. Remember, you cannot legally ask candidates to come onto the farm for a trial, but you can ask them during an interview process to demonstrate their ability in a specific task - providing they are fully supervised, a prior warning to bring appropriate clothing is given and you are not benefiting financially from them doing so.

At the interview:

  • Introduce yourself and any others present.
  • Make them feel comfortable – ask casual questions about their journey to the interview, how they are feeling, what they'd most like to see today (if you're interviewing on-farm), and their hobbies or interests.
  • Give an outline of the interview process.
  • Let them know you will be taking notes.
  • Go through interview questions from the questionnaire you have prepared.
  • Make sure you get a feel for their attitude to work and how they would fit in your team and on your farm.
  • It's a good idea to ask how they have behaved in specific situations in the past, what they are interested in, their strengths, areas they find challenging, and any goals they have for the future. These are also good questions to focus on if they have no experience in dairy.
  • Make sure any farm accommodation you are providing meets their needs and they can meet tenancy agreement requirements.
  • Carry out any interview activities or tests.
  • Let the candidate know what the process from here is and when they can expect to hear from you.

At the end of your interview, you could leave the person with the rest of your team so they can ask questions and get a feel for how they might fit with the team.

There are legal requirements around discrimination and privacy that you need to be aware of when conducting an interview and reference checking. For more information see the discrimination when hiring section of the Employment New Zealand website.

Step 6: Check references

  • Check the references of any applicants you are particularly interested in.
  • You can print and follow the reference-checking questionnaire as a guide for asking questions in the best way to understand candidate strengths, weaknesses, and their past performance. Remember, you can only contact the nominated referees.
  • Too often, employers do not check references. It is extremely important to do this as past behaviours are usually the best indicator of future performance (regardless of how well, or poorly, someone interviews).
  • Use the opportunity when you are talking to the referee to clarify any details or unclear areas from your interview with the applicant. This can also help you understand the kind of work environment the applicant has previously worked in, and whether your work environment and farm system will suit the applicant or meet their needs.
  • Always ask if the referee would employ the person again, and if yes, in what capacity. If no, then why not.
  • You may choose to complete a criminal conviction check. More information on this can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

Step 7: Select the right person

  • Decide which person, if any, is right for your role.
  • Candidates will have a range of skills, personalities, and philosophies that may make it difficult to decide on the right person. This is where the information gathered in your notes is critical. Make sure you're considering the evidence you have from your interview and selection process, and that you're not making assumptions.
  • If there is nobody that matches your criteria closely enough, you may decide to:
    • re-advertise.
    • go back to the job description and alter the role to suit one of the candidates.
    • or consider employing casual staff to give yourself more time to find 'the one'.
  • Be sure to consider how your decisions will affect the overall staffing plan, other people's jobs and budget.

Step 8: Make a job offer

  • Prepare an employment agreement and a letter of offer to the successful applicant. To attract and retain talented staff, offering a competitive package for a role is important.
  • Include key information such as the:
    • Role.
    • Remuneration - calculate a competitive job offer using our Farm Assistant Job Competitiveness Calculator.
    • Confirm when the employee will be paid (e.g. fortnightly or monthly).
    • Roster.
    • Hours of work.
    • Accommodation, the rent to be paid for this and how it will be paid. A separate tenancy agreement should also be provided.
    • Consider cash items such as salary/wages and bonuses/incentives. Also consider non-cash items such as rostering and time-off, training and development opportunities, meat, electricity, firewood etc.
  • Remember they must be allowed time to seek independent advice before signing and you should write this in the letter of offer. Be prepared for the applicant to come back and negotiate terms and conditions.
  • Contact those who were not successful once your chosen candidate has accepted the role.

Step 9: Get ready to welcome your new staff member

Once both parties have agreed to the offer it is important to talk through and sign the employment agreement and job description with your employee BEFORE they start work. Even 5 minutes after starting has been held by the courts to be too late and may make any trial period invalid. (Note: for any trial period to be valid, the employee must also be ‘new’ - meaning they have never worked for you (or any business you have ownership in) before, even on a casual basis).

If you are providing accommodation, arranging a tour through the proposed accommodation can be helpful to the new employee in being able to arrange appliances and their belongings.

The time between signing the job offer to the first day of work can vary, but it’s always a crucial period. Use the time to get prepared, build your relationship with the new team member, increase their knowledge of the local community and generally getting them excited. A minimum of fortnightly contact is recommended. See more in our onboarding section.

Who else can help?

Rural recruitment specialists: Various recruitment providers focus on recruiting for rural communities. Farmers can shop around for a recruitment provider that suits their needs. Local knowledge and Google can help.

Federated Farmers: Employment agreements can be purchased here. They offer significant discounts for members. There is also the option of advertising your job vacancy on their site.

Talking Dairy podcasts

How do we find skilled, capable and enthusiastic farm staff when they just don’t seem to be available? In this episode, Lee Astridge, a leading agriculture recruitment and HR specialist, shares actionable tips to help you navigate the recruiting process and make your farming business an attractive option in a tight labour market.

Listen on:

Looking for ideas on how to recruit and retain good staff for your farm? We sat down with Jane Muir, DairyNZ’s lead advisor – people, to discuss this topic in our latest Talking Dairy podcast.

Listen on:

Last updated: Feb 2024
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