Job Hunters

7 essential job hunting steps.

There are 7 essential steps you will need to make to successfully navigate your way through the process of finding the right job in the dairy industry for you.

Remember: It will be better for you to choose the RIGHT job rather than the FIRST job.

Step 1 - Getting started

dairycareers_gettingstartedThere are opportunities on dairy farms throughout the country.

The type of position you apply for will depend on your knowledge and skill levels and the experience you can bring to the job.

Previous experience does not need to be in dairy farming. It could be anything from mechanical skills to management, engineering to electronics. If you are motivated, positive and willing to learn you will quickly grasp the basics.

Your starting point in dairy farming will depend on your knowledge of dairying, skill level and amount of equity. Find out as much as you can.

The following steps can be used as a guide:
There is considerable help and support available in the industry, so don’t be afraid to ask.

  • The New Zealand dairy season begins on 1 June each year so most new jobs start on this date. Farm employment vacancies are advertised in the lead up to the start of the season from December to May.
  • Talk to friends and other people who know the dairy industry. Gather as much information as possible about dairy farming and what your expectations should be. Ask them about the type of work they do, their hours and their rewards.
  • If you can it’s also a good idea to spend a day or a week on a farm to get to know whether being a dairy farmer is really for you.

Step 2 - Create a fantastic CV

Once you understand what a career in the dairy industry might entail and before you start applying for jobs, you need to take some time and plan how you want to present yourself to future employers.

What do bosses look for? dairycareers_createafantastic_cv

Most farm employers want two simple things - the right attitude and good skills. Check out the careers explorer to identify skills that fit with what you could offer a new employer.

Often a farm employer will take on a person with a good attitude, who is willing to learn even if they don’t have the right experience. Like all employers, farm employers want an individual who:

  • Is honest, reliabile and is an individual who can work on their own
  • Is interested and enthusiastic
  • Takes pride in their work and workplace.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Reading your Curriculum Vitae (or CV) is probably the first opportunity a potential new employer will have to find out who you are and what your background is. You may have an old CV lying around at home. It is important to update this and make it relevant to each job you are applying for. Using a CV template can be the easiest way to create a good one.

Prepare your CV carefully. Start with your current role and go no further back than 5 years.

Your CV should:

  • Be a true record of your skills and experience
  • Summarise your relevant achievements
  • Be easy to read and clear
  • Ideally be two or three pages and no more.
Cover Letter

A cover letter should always be sent to an employer attached to the front of your CV. The aim of the cover letter is to raise the potential employer’s interest in you enough for him/her to thoroughly go through your CV and hopefully invite you for an interview. A poor covering letter can ruin a great CV - but a good letter can get you the interview you want.

There are examples of cover letters at CareersNZ or at Seek. You can also create your CV and cover letter at the CareersNZ website.

Step 3 - What does your ideal job look like?

dairycareers_step3The next step ... is to work out what you really want or need in a job.

Use the following prompts to clarify your expectations. Build a clear picture of the job you seek, but try and keep it simple. Add any other factors you consider important.

  • Can the employer supply you with a clear written position description that accurately reflects the job as you understand it?
  • Are you confident the employer has a reputation for looking after their staff and being fair?
  • Is there a chance to learn new and relevant skills?
  • Is the job in a location that meets the needs of you and your family?
  • Will you be living in a suitable standard of accommodation?
  • Will you have adequate time off?
  • Are the working hours realistic?
  • Is a fair remuneration package included?
  • Will you be in a friendly working environment?

Remember: Not every job will meet all your expectations but knowing what you need and want is the first step to finding it.

How does this fit in your career plan?

The Career Pathways tool has a career planning function which enables you to map your goals over the short and long-term. Order your Career Pathways USB from DairyNZ.

Step 4 - Start looking

Now that you have your CV and Job Profile written, it’s time to start looking for vacant positions.

Fencepost jobs

Fencepost is the premier source of on-farm jobs, so make sure you keep an eye on the latest listings! Check it out on the fencepost jobs section of

You can also:

  • Talk with your friends who work on-farm, they may know of a good job
  • Check daily, local and industry-related newspapers for advertised positions (e.g. The New Zealand Farmers Weekly)
  • Place a work wanted advertisement in the paper
  • Check or register with recruitment agencies.

As you search for jobs you should have a couple of live applications going at the same time. Unlike other industries recruitment tends to happen in a concentrated period in the industry. As a result things can get a bit confusing - who you have talked with and who you haven't, farm locations, herd sizes, salary and the list goes on ... so its good to have a system for keeping track of the jobs you have been looking at.

Keeping track

Use these useful templates at DairyNZ.

Step 5 - Which jobs should I apply for?

When deciding which jobs to apply for, take a look at whether it matches your job ideals.

  • Are they a reputable employer?
  • Is there a chance to learn new and relevant skills?
  • Will you be living in a suitable standard of accommodation?
  • Will you be in a friendly working environment?

If you have been invited to attend an interview, it is important to gather some more information about the job before you decide to accept that invitation. diarycareers_step5

You should know the:

  • Location of the farm;
  • Size of the farm (how many cows will be milked);
  • Nature of the job;
  • Type and standard of accommodation (e.g. three-bedroom cottage);
  • Day, time and place for the interview.

Use this information and your job profile from step 3 - develop your job profile - to ensure that this job fits with your wants and needs. If it does, then accept the interview and move on to step 6. If not, then you need to politely decline the opportunity of an interview.

Step 6 - Interviewing like a pro

Use the interview to present yourself, your strengths and qualities to the employer. It is also the opportunity for you to find out more about the position and the employer.

Like all employers, farm employers want an individual who: dairycareers_step6

  • Is honesty and reliabile
  • Is an individual who can work on their own
  • Is interested and enthusiastic
  • Takes pride in their work and workplace.

Here are some tips of what to remember before and during an interview.

Before you leave home
  • Before you go, check that you know the location precisely and how long it will take you to get there, so you are not late;
  • Dress to project the right image for the role - remember the first impression counts for a lot;
  • Be prepared, ensure that you cover everything you need to know;
  • Make sure you have clear directions of where to go and what time you need to be there;
  • Have a checklist of what you want to cover during the interview to enable you to check this position against your job profile.
  • Include your partner as much as you can, to check if the job also fits with his/her wants and needs;
  • Be prepared to go on a farm walk, so ensure you have suitable footwear!
At the interview
  • Arrive at the appointed time;
  • Make a good first impression;
  • Ask quality questions;
  • Give honest and complete answers;
  • Find out about the farm’s employment history;
  • Ask to speak with existing or previous employees;
  • Ask to see the position description;
  • Ensure there will be an appropriate employment agreement for the role;
  • Do everything listed on your checklist;
  • Look and see how tidy the farm is;
  • Do not leave until you are clear about what the role entails;
  • Assess how well you would communicate with the potential employer;
  • Do not accept a position if offered either verbally or written, before seeking advice.

Note: A job description or position description should always be available at interview. However, it is not always possible to sight an employment agreement at an interview. Our recommendation is that before it is signed you must get it checked by an independent person.


Be prepared before you go to your interview. Doing some homework shows commitment and a genuine interest in the role.

Have a list of questions to ask, preferably written down and ready, such as:

  • Who else works on the farm and what they do;
  • Your precise role and responsibilities, the expectations around you;
  • The level of contact you’ll have with the boss and other staff;
  • Opportunities for training;
  • Details of accommodation, time off, expected hours and seasonal fluctuations;
  • The social life in the community - show that you are keen to fit in.

Step 7 - Making the decision: which job is right for me?

No-one can make this decision for you. This is something you must take responsibility for. We suggest you use the Decision Check List below to help you decide if this is the right job for you.

dairycareers_step7Decision Checklist:
  • Do you have enough information to compare this job to your job profile?
  • Does this position match your job profile?
  • Have any variations against the profile been considered and are they understood?
  • Are these variations against your job profile acceptable to you?
  • Is there an employment agreement and position description that clearly explains the position as you understand it?
  • Has a credible independent party viewed the agreement and agreed with the question above?
  • Have you spoken with previous or current employees who give you confidence in the employer’s commitment to his/her people?
  • Does this job genuinely meet your needs?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, this job fits with your wants and needs. If you have decided to accept the offer, inform the employer in a timely manner.

  • Get advice on your legal rights and responsibilities here;
  • Find advice on starting your new job here.
Declining a job

Not all positions applied for will be right for you. It is important you realise that this frequently happens and you should not get discouraged.

Be clear about how you will handle declining a position and, if you decide not to accept the offer, let the employer know in a timely fashion. Not doing this promptly could have long-term effects on your reputation. It is a relatively small industry and it is amazing ‘who knows who’.

Dealing with being turned down

Most people have to deal with this from time to time. It is important to deal with these emotions and not to get disheartened. It is better to look at each job application as a learning process. Just move on and look for the next opportunity. When one door closes, another one opens - it is often a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Once you have got your first job on a dairy farm you are on your way. From then on it is up to you to prove your worth to the employer and to plan your own career. Your performance should be reviewed by your employer on a regular basis and you will get to know your strengths and weaknesses.

As you progress you will get to know more clearly what opportunities are available for you to progress in the way you want to.

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