The job interview

The man management professionals tell me that farmers don’t do this well, writes John Gadd. Too hurried and unstructured, they say. Too much concentration on discovering if the candidate is up to the firm’s expectations and insufficient in persuading the applicant that the company is worth joining.

I must say that this second point rather surprised me, but a bad first impression of the company in a successful candidate will delay or damage his induction process. Anyway, a hurried, blunt, tending-to-dogmatise interviewer gives the impression that people aren’t that important.

A single sheet sent to the applicant when confirming the date, time and place of the interview, briefly describing the farm’s size, activities and objectives, creates a good image in the candidate’s eyes, will relax him/her and provide an opportunity for the brighter ones to ask questions at interview – from which much can be discovered and comparisons made.

A vital document, as I described in my last blog, is the Application Form. This must be scrutinised before the interview and any notes or queries logged to be asked on the day. Much can be learned from comparing each application side by side so as to assist and speed up the decision-making process.

In addition to the eight requirements I have suggested for the candidate to complete on the Application Form, the interviewer (where pig staff are concerned) should write out an aide-memoire for him/herself to cover the following important topics:

Physical health – Pig stockmanship is a strenuous job. Less so than in my early days, but it’s still demanding on muscles, limbs, back and eventually for most of us, even today, lungs. I have third level Farmers Lung from my youthful days as a pig stockman – even after a lifetime’s mountaineering out in the fresh air I couldn’t go higher than 16,000ft. Ask about hay fever, general fitness, deafness (feeding-time can make it far worse) and whether glasses are needed. Ask about past illnesses and compare them to the written answers on the Application Form.

Mental health – Sounds odd, doesn’t it. But a reasonably placid outlook on life and the correct attitude to people are two important planks in the job satisfaction platform. Too many staff in any job quit because of the difficulty in getting on with the people they work with, and pig workers are no different. It’s not necessarily other people’s fault. As that stockmanship expert Dr Peter English wrote, “Prepare questions to draw out, if they exist, positive personality characteristics like patience, attention to detail, perseverance, considerate when handling animals, being easy-going and sociable”.

Particular jobs in mind – Farrowing demands very different skills to growout pigs. Outdoors to indoors. Breeding and AI to feed manufacture, and so on. Or a higher degree of numeracy may be required for certain jobs. If the post you’re trying to fill entails specific skills, then appropriate questioning to detect the candidate’s suitability is needed.

The interviewer should also prepare several other questions to ask each candidate in the same way, again so that comparisons can be made.

The successful interview not only selects the best person for the job, but also sends away the unsuccessful thinking “Well, they’re not a bad crowd after all!” And that sort of message doesn’t do any harm if it gets around.

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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)