WIll GemmillWill Gemmill © Richard Stanton

So your goal is to be a farm manager. But what will the people interviewing you expect to see on your CV and how should you present yourself to them?

Getting a first job as a farm manager is a dream for many who want to run a farm business, but are not in a position to farm in their own right.

But how do you put yourself in the best possible position if you spot an advert in the Farmers Weekly and decide you want to apply?

Will Gemmill, head of farming at Strutt & Parker, who regularly interviews for farm manager jobs on behalf of clients, says in addition to a decent level of practical experience, a key requirement is the drive to succeed.

See also: Meet the 2014 Farmers Weekly Farm Manager of the Year winner

“I am looking for someone who wants to get on and makes things happen, so I want to see how much of a self-starter they are,” he says.

“Qualifications aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. I want to know what someone has done in their career. For example, what have they done since college to show self-development and progress their learning?

“In terms of experience I’ll be looking at where they work, have they stayed in the job for a reasonable amount of time, what experience that has offered and the pedigree of the business they have worked for.

“Qualifications aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. I want to know what someone has done in their career.”
Will Gemmill, Strutt & Parker

“If you know someone has had good training that will help their career.”

Mr Gemmill says while someone with three or four years of good experience working on a farm might not be suitable for a farm manager’s job on a large estate, people should not be afraid of putting themselves forward for more appropriate roles.

The number of candidates coming forward has fallen, so employers will look at people with potential.

“Don’t think you have to be some super colossus. You may be more qualified than you think.”

At interview, the best candidates are confident in their own abilities, but humble with it, he says. They are able to prove they can show initiative and have paid attention to the lifecycle of a farm business. “But never lie. Occasionally, people embellish things – it will come back to haunt you.”

Richard Sanders of Fisher German agrees that the demand for good farm managers exceeds the supply, so the good ones are becoming more and more important.

There is also a big difference between the requirements for a working farm manager’s role and a full-time manager’s role. However, for those at the start of their management career, at interview he is looking for candidates with good practical experience, backed by qualifications such as Basis and Facts, as well as a clear understanding of the business implications of the activities on a farm, he says.

While many farm managers might find themselves working alongside a consultant who could be in charge of the business management side of the enterprise, they also need to have a good grip on the financial side.

“I’m not necessarily looking for financial experience, but the ability to understand how fixed and other costs work into profitability.

“Prepare to have an understanding of that, where incomes come from, and what the fixed costs are. There are a lot of people who stumble at that.”

Dos and don’ts

Do

  • Listen to the person who is interviewing you and answer the questions they have asked you.
  • Show you are eager to work as part of a team – the days of a farm manager turning up in the morning, if they ever existed, to tell the workers what to do and then leave are gone.
  • Think about examples you can use that demonstrate that you are able to work under pressure and that you are independently robust.
  • Turn up to your interview 15 minutes early and dressed appropriately. It is better to be too smart, than scruffy, but you also want to look like you are used to working hard.
  • Send a decent covering letter with your CV where you spell out why you are applying. If you just send a CV it will put you at the bottom of the pile.
  • Keep on learning. Qualifications such as Basis and Facts are beneficial on an application. They increase your skill set, but also demonstrate your commitment to self-development.
  • Remember that while you may be interviewed by a consultant, ultimately your boss will the landowner and you will need to meet their expectations of you.

Don’ts

  • Don’t fall into the trap of rubbishing your current or a previous employer – it’s not a clever thing to do as your interviewer might know them.
  • Don’t lie about what you have done in the past as you will be found out.
  • Watch your body language. People like dealing with people who are honest, open and polite. Make sure you remember to smile and avoid crossing your arms in front of you, as it looks defensive.
  • Don’t make assumptions that you aren’t qualified. Three or four years of really good practical experience is a good start.