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Ranch management: UW seminar welcomes presenters to further the Human Resources conversation

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Sheridan – The University of Wyoming (UW) College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources held its second seminar in a five-part series on Feb. 19 at Sheridan College. 

In the March 11 edition of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, panelists discussed challenges associated with the hiring process, how to implement best practices and what to do when something goes wrong. 

In the second portion of the seminar, Ranch Management and Agricultural Leadership Program (RMALP) Coordinator Anne DeMersseman, a leadership coach and former corporate consultant with years of experience in human resources and Cody Sinclair, chief development officer at Sheridan Memorial Hospital, facilitate a discussion and share suggestions on how to navigate difficult situations. 

Giving an accurate job description 

“The job description an employer writes down is really the expectations they have for future employees,” says Sinclair. “It’s clearly communicating what they want or need out of the job.” 

He notes it’s important to include other duties, as assigned, in the job description because the job description is not an all-inclusive list, it’s just a snapshot. 

“Depending on the size of a business or operation, when writing a job description for a job an employer hasn’t necessarily done themselves, it doesn’t hurt to run the job description by somebody else who’s been doing the job to ensure they haven’t missed anything important,” shares DeMersseman. 

Sinclair recalls one of his former bosses telling him, “Every job is someone’s dream job.” 

“When advertising a job, think about what makes it somebody’s dream job,” he says. “Keep an open mind, and even though it might not be a person’s favorite thing to do, it might be someone else’s.” 

Interview process 

From a consistency standpoint, Sinclair shares it’s important to ask every candidate the same question. Additionally, when it comes to certain job tasks, employers can also give potential candidates simple job tasks to ensure they have the skill set to complete the job. 

“As an employer, I’d also suggest getting the potential hire around their team,” he says. “People skills are important. I like to get them around my team, because my team also has a good gut feeling. If they have a gut feeling, and it doesn’t feel right, it may mean the employer needs to go back and ask more questions – our gut feelings are pretty good.” 

DeMersseman adds it’s important to ask scenario-based questions, as it allows the candidate to think and apply their own experience, education and/or skills. 

“Employers will want to know how they think through problem solving or a mid-level crisis situation,” she says. “Sometimes, they might hear an answer they may never would have thought of, so by asking these scenario-based questions, it really allows employers to pick up on those type of potential hires out of an interview process.” 

In addition, she mentions the importance of calling and getting feedback from a former supervisor or professional or personal reference.  

Sinclair says by conducting 10- to 15-minute phone calls with potential hires can really help give someone an idea if it’s an individual they want to spend the time to interview. 

They both share the importance of being consistent, using the same questions for each interview and following a structured interview or conversation process for the candidate and reference, respectively.  

At the end of an interview, DeMerrseman encourages employers to ask if the interviewee has anything else to add.

“This is a great question to get some important feedback an interviewer wouldn’t have known to ask about,” she says. 

Background checks 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act has several guidelines employers should follow in terms of conducting background checks. 

The three main steps of a background check include authorization by the applicant, pre-adverse action notice and adverse action notice. 

A pre-adverse action letter or notice is a written document informing a candidate an organization discovered questionable information as a result of their background check, whereas the adverse action notice informs the candidate the employer has gone with another candidate. 

According to DeMerrseman, pre-adverse action notices are important because she has found, in her experience sometimes the information on a background check can be incorrect. 

Closing points

“In the interview process, the candidate is interviewing the employer as much as the employer is interviewing the candidate,” mentions DeMerrseman. “An interview is just as much a chance to share what makes a company unique and a great place to work.” 

She adds it’s important to communicate with new employees and potential candidates about things one might forget to share, such as pay periods. 

“The more surprises that occur when somebody starts in a new position, the worse off the overall experience will be,” she explains. 

Sinclair notes the importance of understanding what is keeping people at an organization and what is causing them to leave. An exit interview can be really helpful in trying to understand an employee’s perspective, although in some cases, some employees won’t be open to share.

In attempt to resolve issues as they arise, employers can do regular check-ins with employees to see how things are going and to try to fix concerns before an employee looks to leave. 

The pair notes it is really expensive to replace an employee. 

As an employer, employees want to be able to have trust, compassion, stability and hope in their workplace, mentions DeMerrseman. 

“If employees get these four things from their employer, it can increase the chance of them staying longer,” she mentions. “It doesn’t cost money, but it can provide really big dividends for employers.” 

She adds it’s important to develop connection and communication with positive feedback on a regular basis. It will make it easier on both the employee and employer when negative or constructive feedback needs to be given. 

“Employees need to know their work matters,” she says. 

The next RMALP seminar on revenue diversification is scheduled for March 30 at Northwest College in Powell, and the Leadership Symposium and Luncheon is scheduled for April 20 at UW’s campus in Laramie. 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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