Recruiting and Managing New Staff

by Sarah Gordon – DairyNZ


Just like any job on the farm recruitment requires some preparation

  • Write a Job Description so you are clear about the role and its requirements
  • This will help you to be clear around what you want
  • This will help the prospective employee know what the requirements of the job are
  • Write a good advertisement- this is the first ‘selling point’ that a potential employee will be exposed to

Places to advertise/look for applicants:

Resources to help with recruitment and compliance:


  • Write down questions to ask during phone interview e.g. previous experience, qualifications, goals
  • Short-list 2-3 applicants to interview
  • Write some questions to ask all applicants so that you can compare all interviewees


Set up a time, be punctual and have time set aside to give it your full attention – it’s a good idea to have a second person sit in on the interview. Write down some questions and write down the answers so that you can compare them afterwards. Allow plenty of time.

Use a range of question types to find out:

  • how they have behaved in certain situations in the past
  • what they are interested in
  • their strengths
  • areas they find challenging
  • their goals for the future.


  • Ask the same questions of all interviewees.
  • Don’t be side tracked by personality – have some structure, don’t just let the interviewee talk about random things.
  • You can ask for a practical demonstration as long as you ask each applicant to do the same thing, it won’t interfere with the 90 day trial.
  • Go for a walk round the farm, do they ask questions, how do they interact with the stock?

Always perform reference checks

  • Remember that legally you can only contact referees that the applicant has nominated.
  • False references – never take a written reference at face value, always phone the person.
  • Ask detailed questions about the role, such as: length of time in the job, what duties they performed – does this match the CV or what the person told you in the interview?
  • Some people have a look on Facebook to see what shows up.

Example questions to ask referees

  • What were their strong points on the job? What characteristics does the referee most admire about him/her?
  • Did they have any areas of weakness? How did they manage these? How did they try to improve in these areas?
  • Would you employ them again?

Starting off on the right foot

Orientation is introducing new staff to:

  • you
  • your farm
  • other staff
  • your systems
  • your rules and culture
  • their job and responsibilities
  • the community.

A good orientation process will set your staff up for success. It helps them to fit into your farming system if they know your values, what your expectations are around such things as: health and safety hazards, and rules around wearing of protective equipment.

Keeping timesheets

  • It’s the law (Employment Act 2000).
  • It is clear for both employer and employee how many hours are worked.
  • It can highlight inefficiencies in the workplace and highlight training gaps.

Calculating leave

Employees receive four weeks’ annual leave per year. This is four of their working weeks – the exact number of days and hours will depend on the individual’s working pattern. For examples of calculating leave for employees with different roster patterns go to:

Minimum wage

Is currently $14.75 an hour. To keep up with latest pay rates regularly check the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website

  • You can only average hours over a fortnight
  • You must pay at least the minimum wage for every hour worked

For further information about minimum wage calculations, Total Package Value and Accommodation information go to or

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