By : Don Tyler


When asked about the biggest challenges in feeding cattle for a living, markets and marketing decisions are almost always at the top of that list. With a booming economy, low unemployment and a lack of available workers, most would say the second toughest challenge is finding and keeping good people. This will not change for quite some time, if ever, so our best strategy is to develop a complete plan for hiring and managing labor.

Let’s assume that we already have essential documents including an employee handbook, job descriptions, a standard job application form, disciplinary reports and standard operating procedures. If we don’t have them, we need to develop them very soon. In today’s litigious environment, they are legally essential as well as a key part of a professional and thorough employee management program.

Providing a professional, streamlined and thorough hiring process ensures efficiency and effectiveness, as well as a welcoming and thoughtful experience for candidates. Developing a Hiring Manual and using it consistently is a great way to accomplish these objectives.

Here are some of the essential elements of a Hiring  Manual:

• Your profile of the “Ideal” candidate based on the traits of the best employees you have had over the years.

• A list of the items that are essential for the best skills fit, job fit and company fit. These are the items that are unique to your operation that ensure that the eventual employee will have the appropriate skills, work effectively with their coworkers and be a good match for your overall company culture.

• A detailed listing of your recruiting strategy, where you need to advertise, the wording of the ads, who will respond to contacts initially via the phone or e-mail, your main objectives during the  first contact with candidates, etc.

• Your strategy for reviewing potential candidates such as a thorough review of their job application form and resume, questions to ask their references, what factors or information makes them eligible for an interview, etc.

• The strategy for interviewing. This should include a list of the specific questions you will ask, who will be involved in the interviews, the number of interviews you will do, where they will occur,  and a reminder about the questions that cannot be asked during this process.

• Pre-hire testing. This testing can be as simple as asking a mechanic candidate to explain how they would repair something that you are currently working on in the shop or having them weld a couple pieces of scrap metal together. You could have a potential office assistant type a standard paragraph, create a basic spreadsheet with some data fields and numbers you provide, do some  simple math for a close-out sheet or compare some invoices for inconsistencies. Equipment operators can back a truck into a dock, use a loader to move some hay bales around, or run other  equipment that they say they have extensive experience. The key is to have them do things they would actually do in their job.

• Your selection criteria. What skills or traits are essential for them to be hired? Which elements of their job application form, résumé, interview, and pre-hire testing have the greatest influence on your final decision? How will you quantify company fit? What intangibles do you see that make a difference for some candidates?

• Onboarding. What are the initial steps that you will take with a new employee from the moment you let them know they are hired? How will you help them get acquainted with the workplace before their first day of work? Who will train them and what are the first stages of that process?

These are all essential elements of a thorough Hiring Manual that will provide great benefits for  everyone involved in the process.

For more specific information about creating a Hiring Manual, go to to download a document that includes more details on each area, additional advice and suggestions.

Don Tyler is founder of Tyler & Associates Management Coaching. For additional assistance in your employee management and family business   challenges, Don can be reached at or by calling 765-490-0353.

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