Main image of article Five W's of Agile Recruiting

In 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?

When 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.