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3 January 2011
Topic: Recruiting, Agronomy

Welcome to the Career Solutions Blog

Thanks for stopping by our new blog. We're pretty excited to finally get this thing launched. We're also pretty new at blogging, so we're getting a bit of istance. However, what we ARE good at is finding some of the best agricultural positions out there, all over the country.

Why choose a career in the Ag world?

This is one of the number one questions we get asked. Did you know that over 1/4 of the United States GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is Agricultural-related? There are millions of people who don't know this. Here are some more benefits of choosing a career in the agriculture field:

  • Stability - When you think about it, people have to eat every year. Period. Farmers' will always be planting and harvesting product.
  • Diversity - the multiple sectors in agriculture field require varied ag backgrounds and skill sets.
  • The agriculture field is international in scope, which increases the number of job locations.
  • The United States is the world leader in agri-business. As mentioned above, 1/4 of the US GDP is from agriculture. People all over the world rely on this constantly evolving industry.
  • Cutting edge technology and new innovations are constantly being developed.
  • Compensation has steadily been increasing. We'll talk about salary negotiations soon.
  • The culture and people of agriculture make it a great place to work.

Most of us have grown up in this industry. You could call it a way of life. What we're here to do is give you the most current information, give you hot jobs of the week, and help you walk into your Ag career with your eyes wide open by giving strait-forward resume and interviewing tips.

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all things agriculture-related.

7 January 2011
Topic: Recruiting

Debunking any recruiting myths - How we do it

We know there can be scary stories out there on "headhunters" or "recruiters," so we've decided to just strait up let you know the way we do things here at Career Solutions: Here is our application process.

Career Solutions Applicant Process

How we are structured:
  • We never charge candidates a fee
  • All candidate information is strictly confidential
  • We never disclose your name or information without your authorization
  • Recruiters are industry and geographic specific
  • All candidates are shared internally within the recruiting team
What you should do initially:
  • Go to our website:
  • Search our data base of current job openings
  • Clink on our Application button
  • Complete the questions and attach your resume and references
What you should do long term:
  • Monitor our web site for open positions that you are interested in
  • Apply to other positions you are interested in and qualified for
  • Keep us informed of changes to your career needs
What we do initially:
  • We notify you via email that we received your application
  • We review you resume, qualifications and references
If you don't meet our clients requirements:
  • We keep your information on record
  • We search for other appropriate career openings and call when they turn up
If you DO have the necessary qualifications our clients are looking for:
  • We contact you to assess your career needs and goals
  • We arrange a time to interview you - on the phone or face to face
  • Internally we search all Ag industries for additional career opportunities
  • We contact your references and industry professionals with your approval
  • With your endorsement we present your resume and credentials to our clients
  • You are contacted to make arrangements for an initial interview with our client
  • After the interview we provide you with our clients evaluation
  • Further interviews are scheduled if needed
  • We help you review the offer and assure your needs are being met
  • After your new career starts we contact you to evaluate your position
  • We welcome referrals from other industry professionals in need of your services
That's it in a nutshell. We want to help you find a job you're secure with and want to help the companies that work with us find the most qualified candidates. Any questions?
17 January 2011
Topic: Interviewing

Interview tips: Stage 3 Follow-up letter

So, you’ve sent in your resume, made yourself available, and gotten the chance to either sit down with your interviewer(s) or have a phone interview. Now what?

By following the instructions in our last blog post on interviewing, you should already know the time frame in which your interviewer will be letting you know whether or not you’ve been hired for the position. ; Our advice is to send a follow-up letter or email as soon as you get home or to your next destination, thanking them for the opportunity to have been able to talk to them. ; So, check it, this is a good formula for the follow-up letter:

1st Paragraph - This paragraph should start off with “Thank you…” Avoid being general. Be as specific as possible here.

2nd Paragraph - Be sure to mention that you liked what the company had to offer. Be specific with this one too.

3rd Paragraph - Sell yourself again. What we mean by this…remind us again why you’re qualified for the job and what you’ll bring to the table as far as experience and expertise. ; Let us know why we should hire you.

4th Paragraph - Ask for action or next step. Now, you probably already know the next step, but instead of leaving this alone, you could write, “I know we discussed a decision being made by Wednesday of next week. If for some reason we don’t connect, I will give you a follow-up call by Thursday…” ; This shows that you’re also willing to take action and that the position is important to you.

Follow up letters have the potential to be a deciding factor in who actually winds up with the position, especially if the company is having a hard time choosing between candidates. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Next blog post, we’ll be discussing the “offer” stage.
21 February 2011
Topic: Job Offers

The Truth About Counter Offers

Picture this scenario: You have just accepted a job offer from a company and find yourself walking into work on Monday with resignation letter in hand and butterflies in your stomach.

Upon arrival, you schedule a meeting with your supervisor. To your surprise, the meeting goes surprisingly well, you announce your intentions and the manager is very supportive and understanding, he even wishes you the best of luck! What a relief, right? Then out of nowhere the manager and his boss, a VP, swing by your office in the afternoon and present you with a lucrative counter-offer. Then confusion sets in. What do you do? How could you not accept a 20% raise?

Yes, that is an option, but let me provide you some "food for thought" with three perspectives on counter-offers.

First, consider the general principle of the matter. What was it that drove you to seek out a new position? Obliviously you were dissatisfied with something or you would have not shot out the ole' resume. Were you not being treated well? Is the culture or work environment toxic? Did you desire a new responsibility/position? If the answer is yes, then no increase in salary will change these problems.

Second, if money was the primary driver, then why now are they suddenly opening up the pocketbook and giving you that big pay raise? Before you had another offer you weren't worth the money and now you are? What has changed since then? Possibly leverage? Remember, good quality companies don't
wait to reward an employee until they are about to lose them. At quality companies, pay raises are the result of hard work, not threats to leave.

Let's say that you do accept this counter offer with a 20% raise, what do you think your raise will be at the upcoming review? Absolutely correct...nada!!! This was your raise, it just came early!!! Do you know what also came with this raise? A special reserved spot at the front of the downsizing line the next time sales drop. You say how can this be……they just told me how much my work was valued? It is valued, until they need to chop out the highly paid employees in order to keep their own jobs.

When a downsizing occurs, you have two strikes against you: Disloyalty and price. Accepting more money simply means that you can be bought. Others in the office will take note and remember.

Thirdly, in order to accept a counter-offer, you have to call up the company that you just accepted an offer from and explain to them that your word is no longer any good. Isn't this a more gut-wrenching experience than resigning? There is no good advice on how to do this, because no matter how it is done, a bridge will be burned and if you work in a small industry, the word will get out on what happened.

Fast-forward ahead to that time you are downsized, wouldn't it be nice to have the option of reopening discussions, but oh if only I hadn't closed that door. What if that hiring manager now works for another company? Well, cross them off the list too.

The truth of accepting counter-offers is that your risk is maximized, your reputation is soiled, and your reward is limited.

8 March 2011
Topic: Recruiting

Don't let the wrong recruiter bring you down


Recruiters are just one of the multiple avenues available to you while taking that next step along your career path. A good recruiter can launch your career to the next level, whereas a poor recruiter can move you back to down the ladder.

Think of it from a carpenter's perspective. When they're on the jobsite, reaching into the toolbox and pulling out a dull screwdriver or a broken hammer costs them time and money, not to mention frustration!!! Therefore, it is critical that only high quality and dependable tools make it into their toolbox. In order to accomplish this, carpenter's tend to buy tools referred to them by their counterparts. However, referrals are not always available, so occasionally these skilled tradesmen have to test out a tool by the old trial and error method. I think this thought process applies well to the job search and selecting a recruiter.

Having a colleague or coworker direct you towards a recruiter that they have prior experience with is ideal, but not always reality, so there will be times where you have to go in cold turkey!!! With that in mind, here are some tips that may help:

  • Seek out a recruiter who specializes in your industry or concentrates in your profession. This will keep you away from the recruiter who tries to be everything to everybody.
  • Reference checking the recruiter with either candidates who have worked with them or clients who have hired from them is something to consider.
  • Ask them why the got into recruiting and then probe around this topic with some follow up questions. Don't be afraid to engage them in this topic. Your goal is to uncover their intention. Are they in it for the placement or do the genuinely want to help the candidate/client.
  • Find out how they work. Do they keep your information confidential or are they resume blasters? What type of career planning approach will they take with you? How do they handle the interview and negotiation process?

If you currently have a job but are seriously considering switching companies, I would suggest only using one or two recruiters in order to safeguard confidentially and to keep from over-extending yourself. Should you find yourself out of work, then turning up the heat by using three or four recruiters might make more sense. It is important to understand that your initial impressions may be wrong after a couple of test runs and in a couple weeks your portfolio may need some reorganizing!!!

Once you have completed this selection stage, you are prepared to move into the search stage. In my next blog, I'll discuss how to properly interact with recruiters and how to let them help you.
1 April 2011
Topic: Interviewing

Interviewing Do's and Don'ts from Career Solutions

Interviewing can be tough. Let's be honest. I've had interviews where I've walked in completely confident, but once in the seat for the actual deed, hello sweaty palms. Here are some interview do's and don'ts that we thought we'd share with you from Career Solutions to help make your interview process as sweaty-palm-free as possible.

The Do's

  • Do take a practice run to the location where you are having the interview or be sure you know exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there.
  • Do your research and know the type of job interview you will be encountering. And do prepare and practice for the interview, but don't memorize or over-rehearse your answers.
  • Do dress the part for the job, the company, the industry. And do err on the side of conservatism. Do plan to arrive about 10 minutes early. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable. If you are running late, do phone the company.
  • Do greet the receptionist or assistant with courtesy and respect. This is where you make your first impression.
  • Do bring extra resumes to the interview. (Even better, if you have a job skills portfolio, do bring that with you to the interview.)
  • Do make good eye contact with your interviewer(s).
  • Do show enthusiasm in the position and the company. Do show off the research you have done on the company and industry when responding to questions.
  • Do ask intelligent questions about the job, company, or industry. Don't ever not ask any questions -- it shows a lack of interest.
  • Do close the interview by telling the interviewer(s) that you want the job and asking about the next step in the process. (Some experts even say you should close the interview by asking for the job.)
  • Do try and get business cards from each person you interviewed with -- or at least the correct spelling of their first and last names. And don't make assumptions about simple names -- was it Jon or John -- get the spelling.
  • Do immediately take down notes after the interview concludes so you don't forget crucial details.
  • Do write thank you letters within 24 hours to each person who interviewed you. And do know all the rules of following up after the interview.

The Don'ts

  • Don't rely on your application or resume to do the selling for you. No matter how qualified you are for the position, you will need to sell yourself to the interviewer. Don't smoke, even if the interviewer does and offers you a cigarette. And don't smoke beforehand so that you smell like smoke. And do brush your teeth, use mouthwash, or have a breath mint before the interview.
  • Don't be soft-spoken. A forceful voice projects confidence.
  • Don't act as though you would take any job or are desperate for employment.
  • Don't inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, or other benefits until after you've received an offer. Be prepared for a question about your salary requirements, but do try and delay salary talk until you have an offer.
  • Don't bring up or discuss personal issues or family problems.
  • Don't answer cell phone calls during the interview, and do turn off (or set to silent ring) your cell phone and/or pager.
  • Don't answer questions with a simple "yes" or "no." Explain whenever possible. Describe those things about yourself that showcase your talents, skills, and determination. Give examples.
  • Don't ever lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and succinctly. And don't over-answer questions.
We hope these tips can help. The biggest thing….RELAX. Confidence shows when you have a perfect fusion of confidence and curiosity. What are some interview tips you could throw onto this list?

5 April 2011
Topic: Recruiting

How To Work With Recruiters AND Be Successful With Them

A few weeks ago, I discussed the keys to selecting a good recruiter. Today, I want to follow up on that discussion by reviewing how to effectively utilize a recruiter's services. Before doing that, I think it is critical to note that most recruiters work on contingency searches, meaning they only get paid when one of their candidates is hired by a client. Therefore, the two most important commodities to this type of recruiter are time and reputation. That being said, being respectful of these points will help greatly in understanding how to work your selected recruiter.

1) Don't play games, be honest - trust me, recruiters have seen it all and heard every sugar-coated excuse, so don't try to fool them……this will only get you dropped from their list of candidates (recruiters won't risk their reputation or time on someone who tells half-truths). Just be up front about everything. If you won't relocate, tell them. If there is a certain dollar amount required, tell them. If you have a non-compete, tell them. If you don't like a job they present, tell them. Don't string them along if you aren't serious about taking a new job, because you will be the boy who cried wolf!

2) Ask for their opinion - good recruiters won't judge you, and they have a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Ask them about your situation, your career path…...ask them about the company, the position, the interview…..pick their brain, but don't waste their time. This is also a good gauge on whether they are going to help you - a recruiter who spends the time doing this, probably actually cares about you. One disclaimer on this: Be prepared...some of the answers given may not be what you want to hear!

3) Give the recruiter an opportunity to work for you - things don't always happen overnight, so don't get mad if the results aren't immediate or in your time frame. Sometimes it takes me six months to place a candidate due to various restrictions or objections. Trust me, recruiters are always trying to move the process forward. It's okay to check in with the recruiter weekly (in fact this shows good follow-up skills and proves your interest), however, don't become a pest. Never go around the recruiters back direct to the hiring company. This only makes you look bad in front of the hiring manager and makes the recruiter mad!

4) Give the recruiter as much detail as possible - the more we know, the more we can help. Detailed information helps us sell you to our clients better. It helps us better understand your needs, so we don't present job opportunities that you wouldn't have interest in. Sometimes this may take two or three conversations or a face-to-face meeting. I am always better at helping those I have seen in person!

5) Handle your discussions with the hiring company professionally - recruiters can do some buffering of relationships, but if you torch a bridge, often you can take the recruiter down with you, so be professional. As I have stated before, making the recruiter mad by hurting their reputation is not a good idea, especially if you expect future assistance from them. The common example I see is when a candidate turns down a job offer…..instead of going off on the company as to the reasoning behind declining the position, handle it tactfully, so the door is left open. Things may change in a year (new hiring manager, new ownership) and you may need a job. Recruiters always appreciate and respect those candidates who make them look good if front of the client, even if they don't take the job.

When working with a recruiter, you have to remember that it is just like building any other relationship…..there is give and take. Once the relationship is built it needs to be maintained, as a good recruiter can not only be one of your best assets to a successful career, but a trusted colleague and friend. Please let me know if you have any questions.
2 June 2011
Topic: Recruiting

What a Recruiter Can Do For You

Over the last couple of months, I've written a couple of blogs discussing how to select the right recruiter and then how to work with that recruiter. In thinking about the next blog post, it dawned on me that I might have gotten the cart ahead of the horse!!! While both of those topics are important, neither does much good unless you understand the value a recruiter brings to the table. Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss my thoughts on what a good recruiter should be doing for you……

Assuming you have selected the right recruiter, this individual will fill two different roles for you: First as a job center, then secondly as a career counselor.

As a job center, a recruiter provides you with exposure to specific or hidden jobs (ones that are not advertised). Good recruiters will have strong relationships with the hiring managers of their clientele and are often privileged to human resource needs that even the HR department is not aware of. In addition, even if there is no job currently open and a recruiter believes you would be a good fit, they can market you in and often a job is created for you.

Also, the use of a recruiter will save you great amounts of time (especially if they pre-screen you to uncover your needs & goals) Instead of wasting time searching for jobs, you can apply this time to your current job. Furthermore, recruiters can operate in a confidential manner to ensure that your current employer isn't aware of your search. This is more of a short-term function.

Then from the career counselor perspective, you can expect a recruiter to look at your career strategically and offer up options based on your needs and goals. For example, they should be able to outline the advantages/disadvantages of different positions or explain which companies are known to have good/bad cultures. They can offer resume suggestions, give advice on whom to use for references, enlighten you to the current salary ranges, or instruct you on what types of questions to ask during the interview process. These are more long-term functions.

The key to this is simple honest communication. Once a recruiter understands how to help you, they can, and most often will. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Those who don't ask, don't get. Career Solutions is here if you have any questions at all.

1 February 2011
Topic: Job Offers

Rate your pay - Guest post by Lisa Heacox

The following is a guest post by Lisa Heacox, which she originally wrote for Croplife. I was interviewed for it, and it has some great information. This is the first post in the series we'll be talking about this. Let me know if you have any questions.

See how your company compares in this snapshot of current retailer salaries and benefits.


LATER this year, CropLife will conduct its first-ever ag retailer compensation survey. But we wanted to talk to a few agriculture placement specialists to get an initial lay of the land. The scenery is, in fact, especially interesting this season in light of the economic challenges facing not only dealers but also the entire country.

Six months ago, search firms were working with a large number of ag companies seeking employees" and demand was not being met. But at presstime, the tables had turned dramatically. As farmers hold off on input purchases, so employers have been waiting on hiring. "The pre-pay market is way, way off this year, down around 40%, and some more than that," says Gary Weilbaker, recruiter, Eastern Cornbelt with Career Solutions Co. "A lot of companies are on hold mode. They're not really cutting positions,
but I've not heard of any adding or back-filling jobs that have become available. Or, they may have initially made plans to add head count, but they're not doing it."

So the pool of ag job seekers has swelled, and perhaps in an unexpected way. Weilbaker says many of these applicants worked in agriculture earlier in their careers, then left to go into manufacturing. They've lost those jobs or are looking to get back into agriculture.

In fact, "There's also a large pool of non-agricultural professionals trying to get in," says Weilbaker. "That's a little unusual. Normally, people not involved with ag don't want to have anything to do with it." And he says it's tough for these workers to break into our industry without a farm background or ag degree.

About The Money

Melinda Mullinex, HR services manager with, emphasizes that
top talent will always be highly desired, and managers are faced with the challenge of meeting the demands of a more experienced job seeker pool" plus a talented group of current employees. She notes current staff hold valuable job knowledge or even a "trade secret," plus the investment of time and money wrapped up in their training and development.

Several factors are key in keeping good employees, not the least of which is fair pay. Unfortunately for retailers, compensation levels in 2007 and 2008 appreciated a lot. "We were on a real steep climb," describes Weilbaker. That created challenges for established agribusinesses who had to pay talented new hires more than what current employees were earning" to the tune of $5,000 to $10,000 more. "It upset the whole compensation structure of the company, and there's had to be some readjusting
companywide," he says. The situation has flattened out just recently, he says.

When managers do get to talking about compensation, they reveal a wide
variation in what employees are paid. Weilbaker is amazed how often salaries don't correlate to the value a staff member brings to a company. "There are guys that are way, way underpaid" and some that are way, way overpaid," he says. Mullinex adds that dealers need to be creative if they don't have the money to pay more competitively. She has heard of companies offering retention bonuses, years of service awards, employee referral programs, additional paid time incentives, and gym membership reimbursements.

Bring On The Benefits

What do benefit packages look like these days? Here's a rundown.

Health coverage: Group plans are the norm, with a monthly premium of $150
for an individual and $300 for a family. Annual deductible for one person would be $500, $1000 for a family. Above-normal packages will lower the deductible to $250 for the individual and $500 for families" with no monthly out-of-pocket premium for one person and $150 for a family. While many Americans find themselves without health insurance, Weilbaker says 95% of the companies he works with offer coverage.

As a general rule, Mullinex would say that competitive employers pay between 60% to 75% of health premiums and higher than this figure would be "above scale."

Vacation: Two weeks is standard, though for more experienced employees, say
30-plus years old, three weeks is common.

Retirement plans: Companies usually offer 401K plans, with the employer
typically matching dollar for dollar 3% of an employee's contribution. In higher-end benefit packages, employers match 4% to 5% or more.

Profit sharing: More companies are creating profit-sharing pools. The plans
encourage longevity with a firm, since any money employees have invested for them returns to the pool if they leave before the 5-year mark. These programs are in offered in addition to 401K plans.

Incentive pay: Here, companies reward employees based on the value their sales bring to the company. The reward goes beyond a straight commission percentage. "It's not only the volume of product you're selling, but at what price you're selling it and what is the gross or net margin of that product or service to the company," explains Weilbaker. "If somebody is selling a higher value or higher margin product they get paid more than someone selling a lower profit product."

"We have heard from employers that have delivered bonuses and not base pay, or merit, increases," Mullinex says. "This is one way to reward strong performers without increasing your salary budget for the time being."

Commissions: In's survey, Mullinex says that approximately 41% of the 46 agribusinesses polled in their survey paid commissions. Solid and top performers can be rewarded with anywhere from 2% to 3.5% of their sales.

Company vehicles: For sales people on up, company vehicles" or at least car allowances" are provided. Mobile phone plans are also offered.

Education reimbursement: This benefit is particularly in demand by "our
Millennial generation of employees," notes Mullinex. It's not often offered, but can have a significant impact on an employee's job satisfaction: the message is that the employer is investing and building value into an employee's career, says Weilbaker. In fact, workers' ages play a role in the benefits they want most. Generally, employees under 30 years old look for compensation, perks, and job titles. In the 30- to 40-year-old age range, compensation, job location, and job stability are important. For employees in their 40s and above, health insurance, 401K plans, vacation time, company stability, and work load are valued. At this age, preferences often get more involved because workers have children, says Weilbaker.

"Job seekers and employees alike are looking for the reinforced message from your organization that their job will be secure and your organization is stable," emphasizes Mullinex.

Stay tuned for more this week on this topic! Thanks for reading!

14 November 2011
Posted by Vicki Yoder | Topic: Resumes

In Pursuit of the Perfect Resume?

Resume Writing

Some excellent advice on how the words you use in your resume matter.

Final Cut: Words to Strike from Your Resume
25 February 2011
Topic: Job Tips, Agronomy

Agricultural Jobs and Resources

When a person goes off to college and has to answer that one question that everyone asks, "What do you want to do with your life?" or "What do you want to declare as your major?" It can be completely overwhelming. Seven years ago, up to 80% of college freshman did not declare a major. With so many areas of study and so many different fields, it's hard to make a decision. So, since we know agriculture, we're going to fill you in on what we know about that.

In one of the first blog posts we ever wrote, we talked about agriculture and why choosing a job in this field was worth it because over 1/4 of the United States GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is Agricultural-related. This translates to jobs. And Career Solutions is one of the best places to find these jobs.

But to answer that question on what type of jobs a degree in agriculture can get you, I've done some research and here's a couple of good resources I found.

1. Georgia Agricultural Education - This site lists dozens of agricultural positions and explains them all. It's a great tool resource to

2. The University of Phoenix has a good list of agricultural careers by positions too.

3. Another excellent resource is Purdue University. One of their specialties is in agronomy. Their website can help answer any questions regarding agriculture and education.

4. There is also the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA. Their website is full of current statistics, budgets, and laws and regulations and more.

There are so many areas you could explore. Have a look. What are your thoughts?

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