Agile is one of the major trends just now being applied to the hiring process.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, agile entails using short projects or sprints to validate the task and getting agreement from all of the stakeholders to move forward on a bigger task. In many ways agile can be considered a feedback control process with the checkpoints being a form of group feedback. For recruiting the idea is to validate that the recruiter is finding enough good candidates and the hiring manager is in agreement by testing each step rather than waiting until it’s too late to start over.
And, underlying this approach is the concept that rather than searching for lots of candidates looking for a perfect fit, find the “perfect fits” first and then recruit them.
This “perfect fit” first approach increases the odds a recruiter will be able to achieve the hiring utopia of high quality candidates, low cost, minimal time to fill, and extremely accurate interviewing. And for the candidate, a great job providing high satisfaction and significant growth.
Using an agile approach means having checkpoints and sprints in order to ensure you’re on track throughout the process. Here’s how you can do it:
Sprint 1: Define the job, not the skills needed to do the job.
The goal of the intake meeting is to get everyone who will interview the candidate to agree to the actual job requirements before sourcing for candidates. This is easy when the job is described as a series of performance objectives, rather than a list of skills and experiences. Making the shift starts with a simple question: “What does the person in the job need to do to be successful?” Once you have 4-5 objectives or tasks that are reasonably measurable, ask: “Why would a top person want this job?” This is the employee value proposition or EVP.
This sprint is over when everyone agrees on the job requirements, the priority of the performance objectives, and the EVP is tangible not pie-in-the-sky malarkey.
Sprint 2: Write job posts and emails to attract passive candidates.
Minimize the skills and experiences in your emails and postings. Start by adding a compelling tagline to your title, capture the ideal candidate’s primary reason for considering the job in the first line with the EVP and list the two or three biggest challenges in the job.
If the person is interested, have him or her submit a two paragraph write-up of something comparable he or she has accomplished. This will reduce the number of people applying to only the interested and qualified. If they can do the work, they obviously have the skills, and the fit and personality traits can be assessed during the interview.
You know this sprint is working if you find 5-6 “interesting” candidates in a day or two after the job is posted.
Sprint 3: Within a few days, find a few “perfect fit” passive candidates to test out.
Forget traditional Boolean searching for fully-qualified candidates. Instead, your goal is to find 6-8 outstanding candidates using LinkedIn Recruiter who would see the job as a career move. Next, review their profiles with the hiring manager to get his/her agreement to have an exploratory call with those you can get interested in your opening.
For example, for director level spots, find senior managers at bigger companies who would see the bigger title as a career move. By talking with high potential prospects and getting hiring managers to agree to talk with them, you’ve passed some major hurdles: You know the job has been spec’d properly, you’ve got your hiring manager engaged in the process very early and you can attract and recruit some high quality candidates.
Sprint 4: Find enough high potential prospects to get close to closing.
In addition to the sourcing techniques mentioned above, you’ll need to expand your networking efforts to identify at least 15-20 high potential prospects to yield 3-4 finalists.
Since you’re working with such a small pool, you’ll need to use a variety of guerrilla marketing techniques (multiple emails, phone calls and interventions) to get at least 75% of these pre-selected prospects to talk with you.
Of course, talking with these people is only half the effort; you still need to convince them to engage in a conversation and be willing to proceed to a conversation with the hiring manager. I could write a book on how to do this, but overcoming concerns and objections is the key to this step in the agile recruiting process.
Sprint 5: Conduct a two week review.
If you’re on track with the search by the second week, the hiring manager should be talking with viable passive candidates, the guerilla marketing efforts are clearly working and the strongest candidates are interested in what you have to offer. While you’re only half-way there at this point, you know you’re well on your way to closing this search project within budget.
Of course, there’s more to agile recruiting than what’s described here, but the big idea is that using constant feedback and by setting up sprints and checkpoints every 2-3 days you can determine if the search project is on track or not. If not, stop and figure out what’s wrong before proceeding. At its core, constant feedback and starting with “perfect fits” first is what the agile process is all about.
About the author
Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007). Adler holds an MBA from the University of California in Los Angeles and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University in New York.