Recruiting the right stockperson – practical advice from industry

I hear it everywhere, “It’s so difficult to get good labour these days”, followed by “Industry and commerce seem to get the best in my area”, writes John Gadd.

It’s not always true, but often can be. Armed with this premise (true or not), I’ve tried to find out what industry does to snaffle these people ahead of us. This blog is based on what I’ve been told by recruitment staff and some personnel managers of large and successful European companies.

What’s certainly true is that people make or break businesses. So, getting the right people to work for you, or rather your business, is very much up to you.

When advertising, you should start by describing the appeal of the job. If the farm, its location and the job itself have attractions, then make them crystal clear. Industry does this well.

Make a list and shout them out. Claim that caring for animals is a very satisfying job compared to many in industry. With pigs, new challenges and experiences lie just around every corner and you’ll certainly never get bored working with them. And stress job flexibility.

And don’t forget that pigs are popular with the public? They’re very human-like animals – only horses come close in my opinion, and the rest of the farm animals – pah, no contest!

Many employees in industry and commerce admit to boring and repetitive work, so stress the variety of work involved in the pig sector. In my opinion, current job ads for pig persons aren’t enthusiastic enough, so push the boat out.

You also need to make sure there are prospects for training and promotion, which is a big plank in industry’s platform. The current popularity of the apprentice concept is well worth thinking about – it’s another thing industry does well.

Wages largely depend on local competition, and are a big bone of contention. If you complain that you can’t compete with industry, is that possibly because we pay pig stock people too little? Here in the South-west I believe that pushing the stockpersons’ wage up towards local industry would only add 3% to the cost of producing a finished pig – not the end of the world.

Whatever the gap may be, say that you reward success and be prepared to say how: bonuses, extra time off, family benefits, free pork, an annual “treat” and so on. One Eastern Bloc producer “lends” a sow to each of the three breeding staff and they can keep the income from the progeny. Use your imagination to compete with industry.

A job application form is essential, say the big companies. This must be submitted before any interviews as this gives a valuable comparison of the applicants so you don’t waste money on interviewing “unlikelies”.

The minimum information on the application should include:

> Name, sex, address and personal details

> Standard of education/qualifications if any

> Previous employment (past five years)

> Reasons for leaving present job

> Experience with pigs

> Details of present and past health

> Names of two referees

You can also request any other information reasonably needed by an employer, such as family size (if you’re providing housing), travel arrangements to get to work and so on.

If you want to give candidates to write a statement in support of their application, it’s essential to restrict the verbiage. Why not insert a strict instruction that any applications exceeding 300 words will not be considered!

Next time, I’ll discuss the interview itself.

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About The Author

John Gadd, who has spent 60 years' involvement in pig production, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots' Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultancy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)