Working as a Recruiter in AgriTech, naturally people often ask me what type of roles I find myself recruiting for. We also collaborate and provide advice to various academic bodies and institutions in this space and, in a similar vein, are also asked; what kind of career opportunities exist in this world? Is it a career route people should be actively looking to pursue? Do you need a farming background to build a career in this domain?
The truth is that, just like in other tech driven sectors, the nature of roles that arise can be highly varied, weird & wonderful. Some of course may require an agri / farming specific skillset, but there’s a plethora of others that don’t. Below is a (by no means exhaustive!) snapshot:
In summary, for anybody interested in this space and the opportunity to work in a sector that can have a genuinely positive impact on the world, there are career opportunities aplenty… whether you’re of an Agri background or not. Don’t let a lack of an Agri background deter you!
Doing something you love every day, earning enough to build up piles of disposable income, playing your part in changing the world for the better.
You’re lucky if your day job gives you two of these, let alone three – so, if you excel in a discipline that is in-demand across a variety of sectors (such as many tech, engineering, or scientific specialties), where would a career in AgriTech leave you?
AgriTech is a sector where you can see your work making a tangible positive impact across the world – you could be a Software Engineer using technology to improve food supply chain effectiveness, or a Scientist helping to create disease resistant seeds & crops. It’s a big tick in the ‘making a difference’ box, but does this inevitably mean taking a hit on your earnings?
The answer is ‘No’. Vast amounts of money are being pumped into the global AgriTech sector, with start-ups and leading companies in this world being as cutting edge, professional and well-funded as organisations across any other growth sector. Some of the AgTech offices I’ve seen are amongst the most high-tech and impressive I’ve witnessed across my recruitment career – with no need for a pair of wellies and not a cow or tractor in sight.
These companies need talented individuals with expertise in specialist disciplines as much (perhaps even more) as those in any other sector you can think of – and salaries on offer are generally commensurate with this.
This isn’t to say that AgriTech will ever be the highest paying sector out there and will compete with the tech powerhouses (your Googles, Amazons and Facebooks) and big financial institutions of this world – but the same is true for the vast majority or other sectors. Nor is it to say that there are not companies in the AgriTech space paying below market rates, but in the same breath there will be those paying above… again, the same as any other sector.
A possible downside to a career in AgTech is purely the lack of volume of opportunities compared to other more mature sectors – but expect this to change in the coming years.
It’s time AgriTech started to be seen as a credible technology sector in it’s own right, with a career offering technologists, engineers, scientists and the like an opportunity to change the world for the better. If you’re drawn to the AgriTech sector by the possibility to ‘make a difference’ then this is to be applauded, and anybody coming into this sector should be motivated by this… but there’s no reason not to expect to earn a decent crust and then some along the way!
Running an AgriTech specific recruitment business means that I spend my time working with companies in the AgriFood domain when it comes to recruiting for roles that are non-traditional for the sector. This sees me working on roles in Software Engineering, AI & Robotics, Data and various Engineering disciplines, as well as commercially oriented roles focused on a tech service.
For start-ups, or perhaps more established entities delving into the tech market for the first time, recruitment can mean stepping outside of the Agri world and into a wild-west where you’ll be fighting tooth and nail for the in-demand talent you need, against companies across the likes of Banking, Retail, Energy, Healthcare and any other sector you can think of.
This post focuses on elements that need consideration before you even dip your toe into the water and start engaging with candidates. Some may seem obvious, but hopefully, there’ll be one or two you hadn’t thought of which will help you on your way…
Does what you’re looking for exist? You may have 3-4 business needs that require addressing, varying from Sales through to Software Development – but, if you’re expecting one miracle worker to solve all of these, you might have to think again. With the odd exception, generally, people will specialise in one discipline; so you need to decide which of these is the most pressing, or work out if you can recruit for more than one post.
How challenging is the role to fill? You’ve decided that your requirements are feasible and it’s all systems go. Will it be straightforward though? Software Engineers and Data Scientists, for example, are established role types – but are still notoriously hard to find and attract. Are you looking for a skillset that is abundantly available, or is this a highly specialist role that could prove challenging?
Can you make life easier for yourself? If, based on the above point, you’ve deduced that this could be challenging, can you take measures to open up the pool of viable candidates? Some flexibility on aspects such as remote working or the role requirements (could elements be learned on the job?) can significantly facilitate your journey.
What do you have to offer? What is standout or unique about you and your proposition that will be enough to not only convince somebody that the upheaval of changing jobs is worthwhile, but also that you should be their first choice versus the other parties vying for their attention? How are you making your ‘USPs’ (Unique Selling Points) apparent to candidates?
Do you have an interview & selection plan? What type of interview(s) do you want to carry out and across how many stages? Are all decision-makers agreed on what is needed and reading from the same hymn-sheet? Will your process give people a chance? Of course, the barrier for entry can’t be set too low… but, on the other hand, a process that is overly arduous or drawn-out may result in great candidates being ruled out for minor imperfections or becoming disengaged.
Do you have the time? You doubtless have other tasks and responsibilities that require attention; do you have the time to make this a priority right now? Can you review CVs in good time? Do you have time to vet candidates on the basics (e.g. salary expectations, are they serious about looking or just ‘window shopping’, etc) before committing to interview? Are you and all other decisions makers available to move through the interview process at sufficient rapidity?
Will you need help? If you’ve exhausted your own network and your job ad isn’t yielding results, you may need to enlist help and look at going down the Recruitment Agency route. It will need to be a sufficiently attractive proposition for an agency to invest time & resources into. Surprisingly to many, the fee % you’re willing to pay is not the most important thing here; experienced Recruiters are more likely to prioritise the prospect of a healthy working relationship and partnership. To aid this, consider whether you’d be happy to work with one agency exclusively, or will there likely be further assignments to come should they deliver for you?
All the above points could lead to a blog post on their own, but hopefully, this is enough to help make your life easier and start to maximise your chances of success. We are passionate about building further relationships in the AgriTech space and lending a helping hand where possible to growing companies in this domain, so will always be happy to provide advice and guidance for free on the topics mentioned here. Happy hunting!
A little while ago I put together a blog post regarding where to start and things to consider for any company in the AgriTech domain looking to recruit for tech talent.
Whilst many of the points raised are hopefully easy enough to take on board, one point, in particular, struck me as perhaps needing further attention & elaboration…
What do you have to offer?
In other words, what are your unique selling points (‘USPs’), why should somebody want to work for you? How do you attract people and, furthermore, convince them that they should be choosing your role above the job that they’re already in and the other hiring companies vying for their attention?
If you’re lucky, you might not have to think too hard about this… perhaps the answer is as simple as being willing to pay way above market rates, you’ll gazump everyone else if required.
Or maybe, people are already desperate to work for you; if you’re a destination employer such as Google or Microsoft, just stick your name brightly and boldly on the job ad and high-quality people will apply in their droves.
Unfortunately, however, most companies don’t have these luxuries – especially if you’re a smaller and/or less established entity. So you might have to dig deeper…
If you’re in AgriTech, it’s likely that you’re automatically sat on selling points that don’t apply to companies in most other domains; you’re in a sector that affects every single person on the planet!
Are you working on solutions that could help farmers become more efficient & productive, or contribute towards a greener more environmentally friendly society?
OK, you might not be able to claim that you’re single-handedly going to solve world hunger… but if you’re playing a small part in contributing to something like this, shout about it!
Whilst you may not be a global brand name or have an endless pot of money to reach into, there is another benefit that many companies can offer which makes a huge difference; a flexible working culture.
This is becoming increasingly common, so offering Flexi hours and some home-working may not on its own help you secure somebody – but, for certain professions, it may stunt your recruitment efforts if you don’t.
Please, please, please avoid relying on the same generic claims that are being made by every other company out there. These include “it’s a really nice environment”, “everyone here is lovely and friendly”, etc – sorry to be a party pooper, but opinion-based and unsubstantiated statements such as these often fall flat when somebody is weighing up their next career move.
Don’t get me wrong, these things should be applauded and it will likely lead to your staff retention and happiness levels being consistently high… but to attract people in the first place and convince them to uproot, you’ll need something more tangible to hook them in.
Are you going places? Throwing around generic cliched claims can be dangerous… but, if you are on the up and can actually substantiate this it can be a huge draw.
Have you just raised significant funding for example to build a new team, or launch a new groundbreaking product? Is your solution set to take the market by storm?
Is this an unmissable and rare opportunity to join a small company that’s likely to triple in size in the next 2 years, offering massive potential for role and career growth in the process?
The role itself. Purely describing and listing daily duties and responsibilities in a job spec is not likely to get a candidate excited.
A Data Scientist generally knows what a Data Science position will entail at a granular level and has probably seen hundreds of other job specs regurgitating this (incidentally, you may have experienced this same frustration when sifting through role descriptions on candidate CVs!).
What’s the bigger picture of the role, what does it exist for? Perhaps it’s a brand-new role that’s been created to spearhead the building of a new cutting edge solution.
Or maybe you’re looking for someone who can be groomed to become a future leader in the business as it grows. If you’re skimming over all this, then you’re missing a trick.
How do you convey your selling points? It’s no use saving all of this until giving a big glamourous pitch to your star candidate at the end – you may have lost them by then. It has to be apparent throughout all of your communications – from the initial spec, into the interview process.
Yes, you need to put candidates through their paces to ensure they cut the mustard, but candidates will need to be motivated in the first place and throughout to jump through these hoops for you; this comes from being engaged in and excited about the opportunity.
The points raised above avoid one glaring issue – what if your job just isn’t the best out there, or isn’t even close to being so?
How do you dress up a position that you know deep down is a dead-end position, perhaps a small cog in a big machine? The likelihood is, you can’t, and it’s probably unfair on candidates to do so.
This is where realistic expectations are imperative. Perhaps you’re seeking a Software Developer to work on an application that, whilst critical to the business, is made up of clunky, dated software and tech, with no plans to update this any time soon.
Does this person, therefore, really need to be the cream of the crop or just a capable and safe pair of hands who can get the job done?
This can be quite a complex topic but it’s imperative to properly consider, and any recruiter you work with who’s worth their salt will expect tangible selling points provided by you that they can use to attract candidates.
Honesty is also vital – over-sell your role, and you’ll only find yourself back at square one when the candidate you hired realises it was all gobbledygook and jumps ship!
We are passionate about building further relationships in the AgriTech space and lending a helping hand where possible to growing companies in this domain, so will always be happy to provide advice and guidance for free on the topics mentioned here.
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