Hiring well

  • 4.5 min read

We asked three human resources experts: How do I hire the right person for the job? What do I need to include in an employee contract? How do I ensure expectations for the job are clear? 

Dana Gidge
Human Resources Consultant, RLB Chartered Professional Accountants, Guelph, Ontario

To hire the right person, start with a realistic job description. Evaluate your current and future needs. What skills and abilities are needed in the job right now, and what long-term soft skills are required? You can tailor your job posting, describe your farm or business in a favourable light and be truthful about what your culture is like.

Post in the places that provide the best exposure. You may want to pay for some postings on industry sites such as AgriRecruiting or AgCareers, but free sites can also be fruitful, including the Canadian Job Bank.  

Do pre-screens and interviews. Use the same interview guide, ask skills and behaviour-type questions and watch out for questions in areas that might be protected under human rights legislation.

Have employees sign and date any contract BEFORE they start work in order for it to be legally binding.

Expectations can vary. The first step in letting employees know what’s expected of them is a clearly written job description. Provide written vision, mission and strategy statements that a new employee can review to determine how they fit in.

If necessary, create key performance indicators for the role and discuss these with the team member. Consider creating a checklist to ensure duties and responsibilities are clear and work is performed consistently.

Have regular conversations so concerns can be addressed constructively. Team members can’t fix what they don’t know is broken.

Chris Hall
Human Resources Partner, YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo

Most poor hires are the result of a lack of some type of soft skills or “how” an employee goes about doing work – attitudes and behaviours. Think about the behaviours that are critical for success in the role and link your interview questions to those behaviours. For example, if you are hiring for a position that requires attention to detail, ask candidates how they have exhibited this in the past. I think author Jim Collins said it best when he said, “people are not your most important asset – the right people are.”

In the contract, include the title of the position and whether the position is full time, part time or contract. The annual salary or hourly rate should also be stated. Include start date, vacation day entitlements, sick days and other benefits.

If there’s a probationary period, reference that as well. A termination clause is a best practice and can help limit the employer’s obligation if there’s a parting of ways. It’s a good idea to have legal counsel review the wording of your templates from time to time to ensure they comply with legislation.

Making a job description available is a good first step in making the expectations of the role clear. Having regular check-in conversations can also go a long way to clarifying expectations and ensuring work is tracking in the right direction. These conversations don’t need to be very long if they happen regularly. In her book Dare to Lead, author Brené Brown says “to be clear is to be kind.” It may take courage to have the conversation, but at least that person will know where they stand and what is required to succeed.

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst
Executive Director, Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Council (CAHRC)

The most important thing in hiring the right people is to be organized and detailed around recruitment and selection. This means careful thought about the competencies and skills you’re looking for. Think about all the elements of the position and document these clearly. This makes it easier to spot the right person once you have job applicants in front of you.

A clear and detailed job description with tasks and sub-tasks is foundational and will help you develop the right interview questions. Since past behaviours are a good predictor of future behaviours, ask interview questions like “Tell me about a time when you…”. You’ll glean important insight and learn how that person might react in a similar situation.

Putting time into documenting job requirements up front does pay off in the long run. CAHRC has worked with farmers across Canada to develop job descriptions for over 70 positions that can be used as a starting place for your hiring activities.

If you’re looking for a contract template, our AgriHR Toolkit includes a draft you can customize. A contract should specify the job title, salary range, starting date, supervisor and role, hours of work, benefits, and probationary period. Make your offer letter clear about the job the person is expected to do and attach the job description. Throughout the process, reiterate expectations to help ensure your new recruit clearly understands them.

Being organized and showing clarity about what you want the person to do is the best way to share expectations with employees. The job description will help set clear expectations, is useful from a training perspective and provides a baseline for performance management. Always manage performance around clear and robust information about what you want the person to do.

From an AgriSuccess article by Lorraine Stevenson-Hall.