20 essential job-hunting tips for the agricultural sector

Getting a job is tough, especially if you’re coming out of school, college or uni. Here are 20 essential tips to help you tackle the task – whether it’s your first position or you’re looking to move on from your current role.

1. Be briefed
No, nothing to do with your underwear. But do your prep. Find out all you can about not only the person who is interviewing you but also the company or the farm. You don’t want to end up getting caught out when they realise you know none of the basics, such as what enterprises they own, when the firm was founded or the career background of the person interviewing you.

2. Door knocking
No, we’re not suggesting you sell dish cloths door-to-door. But be tenacious. You might know of somebody living locally who does the sort of job you are after. Have the confidence to ask their advice. If you find it difficult to do it face-to-face, get hold of their e-mail address and pick their brains that way. One thing’s for sure; it’s very rare a job finds you.

3. Skillage
No, not tillage – skillage. Look at what you’ve done – helping out over harvest, for example – and ask yourself: What skills did I use? Timekeeping, reliability, working under pressure, communication, following instructions. All that and much more before you’ve even got to the more technical stuff such as the valuable machinery you drove and operated.

4. Don’t lie
A bit of bluffing is fine, but an out-and-out lie is a distinct no-no and you’ll only get rumbled. Bosses have been the new kid on the block, they know it takes guts to say “Sorry, to be honest I don’t know what you mean”. Agriculture is also a small world. Somebody will know somebody who mentions you to somebody else and then it will all start to unravel. Start as you mean to go on. No looking over your shoulder or dreading the phone ringing.

5. Muck out 
If you’re going for an on-farm interview, clean your car out before you attend. The potential employer might want to jump in it and show you round the farm. Creates a bad impression if it’s a pigsty. Same goes for personal grooming. If you’re applying for hands-on farm work, they won’t be inspecting your finger nails – but a bit of a spruce-up won’t go amiss.

6. Mr/Ms/Miss/Mrs nice guy
Be nice to everyone you meet. Reception staff and PAs are often asked for their opinions about how people come across. So don’t just turn on the charm for your interviewer. You’ll be found out. Follow the old adage of treating everybody you meet how you’d like to be treated yourself and you won’t go far wrong.

7. Dedication
Don’t expect to walk into a job. Job hunting is hard work; it can be a full-time job in itself. There are going to be times when you feel like giving up and maybe would far prefer to slob out on the sofa. This is where planning comes in. You need an action list so you always have something else to be cracking on with. Don’t pin all your hopes on one job. Get yourself a backup plan.

8. Work experience
Do anything – climb over barbed wire, if you have to – to get work experience. You probably won’t get paid but if you do a good job you’ll get a reference and that’s priceless. Plus, that’s not to say you can’t do a bit of bartering – a hot meal goes a long way, as does the use of a car, or a roof over your head. Even a freebie boilersuit is better than nothing.

9. Contact details
Get a grown-up e-mail account; bouncybabe@xyz.com or bigboy@abc.co.uk aren’t going to impress potential employers. Also, make sure your voicemail message is professional-sounding and that your phone has plenty of credit. If you are not living at the postal address you have given, make sure you ask mum, dad or whoever to let you know as soon as mail arrives.

10. Triple check
Whether it’s your CV or an application letter, check it through a minimum of three times and then get somebody else to cast an eye over it as well. If you spell something wrong you may have blown it. Same goes for things like directions to the interview venue and getting the right time.

11. Google yourself
One of the first things that many employers will do is Google you. So before you start job hunting, Google yourself and clean up any questionable content or photos that may appear. A simple rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t be happy with your granny seeing what’s on there, don’t risk a potential employer getting a glimpse.

12. Network
Attend talks, demos, shows, launch evenings, discussion groups and look at Young Farmers again through grown-up eyes as a source of contacts rather than beer goggles. Concentrate more on creating a LinkedIn-type profile, adding any professionals you meet and asking them for advice and recommendations. Remember, a lot of jobs in agriculture are never advertised.

13. Clothes
Dress appropriately for your interview. Don’t turn up for a tractor-driving job wearing your Saturday night giong out clothes. Or for an office job in oily jeans. Do your research – Google for pictures of staff members so you can see the basics like whether or not they wear ties. If in any doubt at all, err on the side of smart rather than casual.

14. Thank you
We all hated writing them as children, but a nice touch can be to buy yourself some paper and a proper pen and send a handwritten thank-you letter. If somebody passes you on a job lead – even if it comes to nothing – write them a thank you note (at least they’ll know you are still looking) and if you get an interview but not the job, get the old Basildon Bond out and ask for any feedback they can give you.

15. Language
A basic rule is don’t use text messaging to talk to prospective employers. But if they’ve sent you one and you need to reply, keep it formal. No abbreviations or slang. Same with e-mails. Think of them as a formal letter, with no shortcuts or over-familiarity. And when you’re talking to a potential employer, mind your language. They’re not your mate. Talk to them as if they were a friend or colleague’s mother or father.

16. Money talks
Nothing gets a prospective employer’s back up more than someone who talks about nothing but the money. Yes, you want to know the going rate for the job and not sell yourself short – but to get a job these days you have to show that you are interested in more than the cash.

17. Covering letters
With online applications and application forms often the order of the day, the old-fashioned covering letter is less called for than it used to be. But it can be a nice, added touch, enabling you to convey additional information to that found in the “form”. Be concise, be enthusiastic (but not desperate) and really make the potential employer feel you want that job, not that it just happens to be one of 60 you’re applying for!

18. CVs
The internet is full of advice and examples of the perfect CV. The challenge is to make yours stand out from all this perfection. What about adding a photograph (relevant to the job or a bit off-the-wall such as undertaking a charity challenge that has, of course, given you so many new skills)? Something simple like using a different coloured sheet of paper can help make you stand out from the crowd. The basics obviously need to be right: all the relevant information has to be there, in an easy-to-follow way.

19. Recruitment agencies
Upload your CV with relevant recruitment agencies. There’s always the chance you might get a job out of it and, if not, at least you’ll be able to read all their handouts and e-mail postings about job hunting.

20. Farmers Weekly
Don’t forget to regularly check out FW’s fantastic jobs section (you can also see jobs every week in the magazine) and download our FW careers e-book for free (click on the ebook promotion at the top of the page). It’s well worth reading FW before you go for the interview too. Rattling out a fascinating fact you read on the website or in the current issue will show how well-informed you are…

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