Recruitment agencies specializing in agriculture can help ag retailers find the right talent.

Finding just the right person to fill a job can be a trying process for any retail business, but when it comes to recruiting and retaining the right people for their company, ag retailers can face some unique challenges compared to big city companies.

That’s why Ed Danneberg says many now rely on specialized recruitment agencies for help. Danneberg is a search consultant for Grasslands Recruitment Specialists, a Saskatchewan-based agency that’s been helping agricultural employers in Western Canada connect with the right candidates since 1996.

“Our clients and candidates know that we know ag,” he says. “Our ability to understand what our client wants and needs, and how to find that out from potential candidates, goes a long way in finding the right match and the best fit.”

Fitting into the Company Culture

While skillsets, education, past employment and experience are all basic considerations, Danneberg says that finding someone who fits within a retailer’s culture and who possesses the right outlook to perform well within the specific circumstances of a job is just as, if not more, important.

For example, Danneberg says some retailers may need their employees to come in to the office at set times, or at regular intervals to assist in sales and service; others may need their people to be on the road, at the farmgate and meeting with producers in the field.

“A potential employee who loves to sell in a storefront setting may not want to be in the truck all day visiting clients, and vice versa,” he says. “We need to assess these preferences and inclinations that are not on a typical resume, to ensure their type fits with our client’s needs.”

When an ag retailer approaches Grasslands to find candidates, Danneberg says the process begins with an in-depth job analysis that includes discussions with the business owner, hiring manager and/or human resources lead to find out exactly what kind of person they’re looking for.

“We assess what a ‘perfect hire’ would look like, and what range of applicants the client would like to see us put onto their desks,” says Danneberg. “Oftentimes, these parameters can be refined after initial candidates are submitted and reviewed, to include or exclude the traits that the retail may not have initially considered.”

He says that for ag retailers, it’s especially important to find people who are comfortable with a rural lifestyle and who are undaunted by the prospect of living in the small towns where most ag retails do business.

Along with the rural setting, as Danneberg points out, for most people working in the ag retail sector, it’s not a nine to five job.

“Agribusiness on the Prairies necessitates long, seasonal hours, which can sometimes be 12 to 14 hours per day during pre-seeding and the same at harvest,” he says.

Danneberg notes that many ag retailers prefer to hire someone with a farming background who may have a deeper understanding of the job and be able to relate to customers on both a personal and professional level. However, he acknowledges that these days, this is getting harder to do.

“Let’s face it, there are not a lot of rural Canadian farm kids anymore,” Danneberg says.

The Other Half of the Equation

Finding the right people for your company is significant, but it is only one half of the equation. Making sure your company is appealing to those people is the other.

Melissa Brinn is a custom talent solutions specialist for the Canadian arm of, a leading online job board for the North American agricultural industry, based in Guelph, Ont. Part of Brinn’s role at is assisting employers with their recruitment efforts by reviewing job postings and making suggestions when needed to help attract as many candidates as possible.

“Job seekers today are looking for room to grow, work-life balance, flexibility and to be actively engaged in their jobs,” says Brinn. “Employers really need to make sure their job posting is attractive and stands out to job seekers, and this means selling your company.”

Brinn says that the ag businesses she works with have different approaches to recruiting new staff.

Job seekers today are looking for room to grow, work-life balance, flexibility and to be actively engaged
in their jobs.
Melissa Brinn

“We have long-standing relationships with clients who post every job opportunity with us and other clients who will use us after they have tried other avenues with no luck,” she says. “My finger is on the pulse every day; staying in touch with employers and being familiar with their business and recruitment strategy.”

The more proactive approaches to working with a recruitment agency can save retailers time in the long run, says Denneberg, as a common mistake for ag retailers is to contact a recruiting agency only when their backs are against the wall.

“The best time for a retail business to contact us is early, either well in advance of a departure, in the growth and planning stages, or on an annual retainer basis,” he says. If this relationship is established, he says the recruitment agency can identify candidates and have conversations well ahead of time, so they already have potential candidates in mind when the client company has a position to fill.

Like any business decision, Danneberg says that planning and forethought can go a long way, alleviating the pain of a panic hire and helping retailers recruit talented team members who will work and grow with the company for the long haul.

“Oftentimes, recruiters will be contacted when an employer is in pain – meaning they have been looking and cannot find someone and now are desperate,” he says. “While we specialize in this scenario, because it unfortunately happens more often than not, there are better ways of approaching the inevitable need to hire.”

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