Admittedly, I’m new to this. I have worked in several industries, but Cultura Technologies is my first stint in agriculture. Through past experience, I am no stranger to the challenge of recruiting great employees.  And one trend that I see as pervasive in the agricultural industry is the need to recruit and retain skilled, tech-saavy and capable employees.

As I peruse the LinkedIn profiles of our customers’ companies, I am struck by how many are hiring and the diversity of talent needed to fill the gaps. Ag industry job growth is up…even in California where farmers have been suffering through long-standing drought. And although the image of a farmer sitting atop his tractor in a sun-washed field may not be the reality, companies are looking for the best and brightest to fill openings from economics to engineering.

study released earlier this year by Purdue University says that almost 58,000 jobs will open annually across the United States in occupations involving food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment over the next five years. This is not surprising given that predictions indicate world population growth will build from seven billion people today to nine billion by 2050. So I’m guessing it’s time to think about what your company will do to fill this need in a competitive talent market.

Kenneth Foster from Purdue University has this tip: Because we’re entering an era of data-driven decision making, “the students who can position themselves to be strong from an analytical and problem-solving perspective are going to have an edge in the market.” Your company should be looking for proven skills in measuring and metrics. It is not only important to collect the data. This must be coupled with the ability to decipher, adapt and innovate from the findings.

Secondly, prospective employers should never underestimate the ability to rally a team. As work in every industry becomes more project based, your company will need to recruit individuals who work well with others. Strong communication and listening skills are important here. During the interview, listen for language that indicates the candidate knows what it is like to work on a team. For instance, does she say “My team accomplished this goal” or “I accomplished this goal”? Most work environments are collaborative, you want someone who will share the toys in the sandbox!

Thirdly, look for diversity in experience. Has this prospect worked in other industries? Just because someone has worked outside of the ag industry does not indicate that they cannot make meaningful contributions to your organization. If they were innovators in their last position, chances are they will have the experience and confidence to innovate for you. Look for someone who is a fast learner. They will still make mistakes but they will adapt faster than most. Fast learners are persistent at difficult tasks, ask a lot of questions to vet ideas and like to test theories.

“People are starting to discover this is a pretty good industry to be in,” said Mike Gaul, Career Services Director at Iowa State University. “They realize that this sector isn’t our traditional what we joke ‘cows, plows and sows’ industry anymore. It’s incredibly diverse.”

Have ideas on how to attract the best and brightest to the ag industry? Send us a tweet at @greenstonesys

Next: Positioning your company to attract the best talent.

To read more on this topic and learn more about recruiting for your business, visit our previous post: Help Wanted:  New Generation of Ag Needed to Fill Great Demand.