Five W’s of Agile Recruiting

Johanna.RothmanIn this series by organizational problem-solving expert Johanna Rothman, uncover the mystery behind agile project management.

What is it? How does it apply to your workplace each day? Why should you be looking for technology candidates with agile experience? See how separating decisions, prioritizing projects and tackling one thing at a time produces a smoother, more ‘agile’ process in tech.

Part 5 in Dice’s Agile Series

In part 4, Agile Culture and Recruiting -Hiring Geeks that Fit, we discussed how each team is unique. We talked a little about generalizing specialists and how each team has its own culture. Now, it’s time to explore in more detail in the final part of our series…

What is Agile Recruiting?

dice_wp_agile_pstntWhen you apply agile principles to recruiting, you get agile recruiting. The recruiter and the hiring manager work together to develop a clear picture of the requirements, which compares to the stage of story development in agile Software development.

Agile recruiting is doing a little recruiting and getting a little feedback, making more progress along the way. Every time you interact with the hiring manager, you make sure you learn more about the position and what the hiring manager does and does not want.

Agile recruiting is about creating a partnership and working towards a common goal quickly: filling the open position with the best possible candidate.

Why Recruit in an Agile Way?

You recruit in an agile way because the hiring manager discovers unknown requirements as he or she starts to review resumes. You want to catch those unknown requirements early.

Agile is all about fast feedback as a way of clarifying requirements. You want to catch problems in the analysis or the phone screens before you bring candidates in for an interview.

What’s in it for you, the Recruiter?

You have a chance to learn about the team, the team’s culture, the hiring manager, and the picture of this candidate. You will learn about the human behind the job description.

The more you know about the team’s culture, the faster you can recruit and fill the position.

In agile recruiting, you iterate on the job description once you’ve provided the hiring manager a few resumes. It is faster than assuming that you’re right from the beginning. Agile recruiting forces you and the hiring manager to be of one mind about the job. That, in itself, guarantees better results.

In an agile recruiting approach, you get feedback. You become a partner with the hiring manager and the hiring team.

You’ll Have to Practice to Discover Nirvana

I won’t tell you that you’ll approach this nirvana right away. This is a new way of working for all of you: the hiring manager, the hiring team, and you. You’re creating a new working relationship. But, if you’re willing to work this way, where you are open to feedback at the beginning of a search and the hiring manager and team are open to providing feedback, you can learn quickly which candidates will fit or not fit. You can become a trusted advisor to the manager and the team. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling?

What’s In It for the Hiring Manager?

Most hiring managers hire infrequently. They don’t know how to create a job description that offers an opportunity to a candidate. You can help them. As long as you do a job analysis with the manager and/or the team, you can guide them to do so. You can at least reflect the job’s reality with the job description. That helps the manager, the team and the candidate.

Next, you send a few resumes to the hiring manager. The hiring manager reviews the resumes alone, or (preferably) with the team the next day. The hiring manager can provide you feedback as soon as the next day on the candidates you sent.

If the hiring manager or the team doesn’t like any candidates, the hiring manager explains why not. But, it’s just the next day. You aren’t waiting weeks for feedback. Neither is the candidate.

Kanban Can Help Flow

Here is a possible kanban board. You might want to use it if you decide to use kanban to track the progress you make with the hiring manager. The kanban board helps remind the hiring manager to continue to work on this until he or she finds a viable candidate. And, the board helps you know where the candidates are in the queue.

What’s in it for the Candidate?

When you learn early about whether these candidates are good for this position, you can respond to the candidate early. Then, the candidate knows where he or she stands. To the candidate, you look like a rock-star organization. Whether you want the candidate or not, the candidate will refer others to you. Just because you let the candidate know within days where he or she stood, and because your job description offered an opportunity, not a long list of technical skills that don’t mean anything.

When a hiring manager offers an opportunity, not just a job, candidates can filter themselves in or out. Now, in this economy, you might not see candidates filtering as much, but the possibility exists.

When all jobs look alike, everyone applies.

Wrapping Things Up

Cultural fit is key. As you work with your hiring managers and teams, you’ll learn more about their implementation of agile and how that changes. That will help you understand the teams’ culture. Who knows, if you keep a kanban board of your open jobs, you might even influence their practices.

Make sure you look for feedback, early and often. As you practice, you’ll see opportunities to get feedback and make more progress. You’ll become a rock-star recruiter because you’ve incorporated agile approaches: do a little work, get a little feedback, make a little progress and repeat.

3 Responses to “Five W’s of Agile Recruiting”

  1. Great article about agile methodology in recruitment, This strategy is very helpful for consulting clients & vendors that uses their own delivery model, In order for them to satisfy their customer needs agile will simplify process of recruiting and will increase the chances of placing the right guy at the right place. Thank you so much for the great informative read.

  2. kdhalperin

    The series dovetails nicely with my February 2013 article:

    The Agile Recruiting Manifesto

    Keith Halperin
    Feb 4, 2013, 1:22 am ET

    While I recruit for almost anything, over the years I’ve done a lot of software engineering recruiting. I’ve learned that software engineers in startups typically have short time frames to develop, modify, and test their software, and to do it effectively, there is a formal method called “agile software development.”

    Since I usually like to understand what it is I’m recruiting for, I did some research about agile software development, and found out the principles behind it were formulated in 2001 in a document called The Agile Manifesto. There seemed to be a great deal that could also apply to recruiting. I decided to “sample” — aka, steal it — and substitute some appropriate recruiting terms for the software terms, and about three years ago I sent it out. Here it is again:

    Manifesto for Agile Recruiting

    We are uncovering better ways of hiring people by doing it and helping others do it.

    Through this work we have come to value:
    •Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    •Quick, quality hires over comprehensive documentation
    •Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    •Responding to change over following a plan

    Principles behind the Agile Recruiting Manifesto

    We follow these principles:
    •Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of quality hires.
    •Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
    •Deliver quality hires frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
    •Internal customers and recruiters must work together daily throughout the project.
    •Build projects around motivated individuals.
    •Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
    •The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a recruiting team is face-to-face conversation.
    •A quality hire which is on time and within budget is the primary measure of progress.
    •Agile processes promote sustainable employee development.
    •The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
    •Continuous attention to professional excellence and first-class service enhances agility.
    •Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
    •The best requirements, processes, and hires emerge from self-organizing teams.
    •At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

    I think it’s a pretty good statement of what we recruiters should strive for. What do you think about this? Does it reflect what you believe and want to strive for? Do these principles seem practical and achievable, or do the cold hard realities of corporate recruiting “bloatocracies” dominated by the “GAFI” Principles of Greed, Arrogance, Fear, and Ignorance/Incompetence prevent anything like this from being done?

  3. Hi Keith,

    I love the way you “sampled” the Agile Manifesto. That’s what it’s there for–to copy/use as an example, to steal from. Why reinvent the wheel when you have something you can use, right in front of you?

    If I may, I’ll highlight just two of your key ideas that resonated with me:

    * “Deliver quality hires frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” I have never understood having an open req for months. Never.

    * “A quality hire which is on time and within budget is the primary measure of progress.” Yes! Fist pump! You can find people who can do the job. You can! (Sorry, I got excited.)

    These principles seem practical and achievable. They do require that everyone involved learn how to define what they want in a job. (They can iterate, which is your point, “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.”)

    And, the greedier the company is, and the more ignorant managers are of what they have to do, the less likely this can happen.

    You, the recruiter, have to coach everyone on their roles. That can be difficult. But, it raises the level of the work environment, and makes it better for everyone.

    Thanks for your comment.