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Re-evaluate Your Hiring Process

Mar 26, 2012

Are you hiring the right people or leaving it up to chance?

By Dr. Gerald Higginbotham, University of California Cooperative Extension
Higgenbotham photo   CopyI was recently on a dairy farm where, in the two to three hours I was there, approximately three individuals came looking for work. The dairy producer took down their names and phone numbers with no application handed to them to fill out for describing their work history.
Hiring somebody when you have no history of how they performed at other dairies is a recipe for disaster. Very few businesses hire individuals without any background of their prior or current work history. Dairies should act no differently.
In the hiring process on dairies, Estrada and Simmonds, 2005, provide guidelines for recruiting and hiring personnel for dairies:
  1. Prepare a clear and concise description of the roles and responsibilities you are seeking an individual to fill. This will help you know which candidates might fit the role better, and it helps screen candidates.
  2. Prepare a summary that would fit an advertisement. Disseminate the information to your veterinarian, nutritionist, suppliers, etc., and place it in newspapers and publications that possible candidates would have access to.
  3. Have the applicants fill out an employee application, and ask for references. Note: Some applicants may not have writing or reading ability in English or Spanish.
  4. Review applications and select those who you might have an interest in interviewing.
  5. Consider performing an initial phone interview to ask some basic questions. Schedule an interview date.
  6. Prepare for interviews. Define the questions that can be asked for the particular job being applied for. Strongly consider a hands-on, practical interview, where the applicant has a chance to demonstrate abilities claimed in the application (i.e., have a milker applicant milk for one shift).
  7. Try to determine the talent, knowledge, skills and experience of the person, and establish a rank or grading scale, which you will use in determining who to hire.
  8. Thank the applicants and tell them they will be notified of your decision. Do follow-up with each one.
  9. Communicate your decision to the person you selected for the job, establish a date to show up for work, and explain what to expect in the first few days of employment.
One aspect of hiring quality dairy farm workers is to have specific job descriptions for each duty on the dairy. According to Erven, 2008, job descriptions help both the employer and employees by answering three questions: 
  1. What does the jobholder do? 
  2. How is it done?
  3. Under what conditions is it done? 
The job description has at least four parts:
  1. Job title
  2. A brief one or two sentence summary of the job
  3. A listing of the major tasks involved in the job, summarized under three to seven headlines
  4. A listing of the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do the job.
People who work on the dairy are an extremely important part of your dairy team. You reach success through your people. Poor screening of potential job applicants can be a stumbling block in reaching your goals as a herd owner or dairy manager. Are you hiring the right people or leaving it up to chance? Each dairy owner or manager needs to answer this question.
Erven, B. L. 2008.  Proceedings of the 2008 annual convention of the American Association of Bovine Practioners. 41:145-147.
Estrada, J. M. and C. M. Simmonds. 2005.  Selecting, training and developing personnel to deliver results.  Proceedings of the 7th Western Dairy Management Conference.  March 9-11.pp 41-48.
Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is a Dairy Advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service for Fresno and Madera Counties. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-675-7879, Ext 209 or
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