The Agile Recruitment Guide: Best Practices and Tips

Agile Recruiting: Top Tips and Best Practices For Recruiters in 2020

/blog/posts/agile-recruitment-guide - March 26, 2020 - 11 minute read -
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Coronavirus have disrupted the way we work, and may continue to do so in the next several months.

We’ve talked about the bad and the ugly: Possible upcoming recession, increasing business cost, health crisis. Now it’s time to talk about the good. There is always a silver lining in the time of crisis: Remote working may create a culture of empowerment and trust-based. High-performance remote work culture is formed. Opportunities to new organizational structure that will drive your company forward.

To enter these opening doors as a winner, flexibility is the key asset. This is when Agile Recruiting comes in handy. For recruiting, agile recruitment lay a foundation for a better approach to prioritize recruiting projects, better team collaboration and a more effective talent acquisition process.

I. What is Agile Recruitment?

From The Buzzing Word In Technology Industry

The idea of “agility” in business started with the Agile Manifesto, which was developed in 2001 for the technology development fields. Creators of this manifesto emphasized the philosophy of agility, which can be translated to creating better, more collaborative, and more dynamic approaches to getting things done at high quality with continuous improvements.

The Agile Manifesto and principles received huge support from not only technology developers but also business leaders all around the world. And thus, after nearly 20 years, the agile methodologies have been spreading across industries and adopting into many functions of businesses, including marketing, manufacturing, human resources… (Harvard Business Review)

On a broader perspective, agility in business or the agility of an organization can be translated as:

  • Adapt quickly to market changes - internally and externally
  • Respond rapidly and flexibly to customer demands
  • Adapt to and lead changes in a productive and cost-effective way without compromising quality
  • Getting more referrals.
  • Continuously be at a competitive advantage

Businesses’ leaders and professionals have paid great attention to adopting agility in organizations. Adopting agility principles and values is expected to enable businesses and individuals to be more adaptive and creative to deal with complexity and uncertainty in an ever-changing world. In a survey by Deloitte, 79% of global executives rated agile performance management as a high organizational priority while many respondents in all sectors said that they more of their employees undertake agile ways of working (McKinsey’s survey.)

To the next trend for modern recruiting professionals

In short, the agile principles are often associated with adaptive, collaborative and innovative. Roles are evolving, and modern recruiters also need to make changes to their recruitment process to be able to stay at a competitive edge. Agile Recruitment: In the recruitment context, adopting agile methodology and principles can be explained as slicing your hiring project into smaller pieces or a collection of smaller tasks, while structuring your work and process with short cycles. These short cycles are called sprints or blocks.

Agile Recruiting Benefits

So, instead of diving into the sea of a lengthy recruitment process, modern recruiters now are now having smaller tasks with clearer completion time. Short cycles also increase more opportunities for feedback, learning, and correction along the process. This approach encourages collaboration between stakeholders while increasing flexibility and efficiency to the recruiting team, and visibility to hiring managers. Depending on the situations of each company, how the HR Department applies agile recruiting principles into their workplace may be varied. The common approach for agile recruitment is using continuous planning, a predictive hiring process, and talent-focused design.

II. Benefits of Agile Recruitment

01. Speed up the recruitment process

When recruiters use the sprint methodology and structure their workflow around small tasks, they will have more control of the workflow and flexibility to shorten the recruitment procedures. Imagine that while the average number of days to fill an open position is 36, a sprint cycle is only available for a duration from 2-4 weeks. You may not have a long period to build a decent list of talents while sprinting, but you can optimize your time to focus on just the most suitable ones. After that, you can reflect on team performance and make timely adjustments to start the next sprint.

As a result, star candidates can have timely results. The star candidates may not be available on the market for too long. If it takes them too much time to process to the next step, these talents may give up on your recruitment process and pick other companies instead. As for recruiters who can not only reduce the average time-to-fill but successfully secure talented candidates, they will also experience positive feelings of task achievements.

In short, adaptive and speedy recruitment processes make everyone happy.

02. Instant Feedback

The idea of sprinting is to create more touch points between recruitment teams and other functions in the same period. More regular check-ins make it easier to engage with stakeholders in the process and receive real-time feedback to make proper adjustments on the go. For example, if something goes wrong or you are off target, you can examine and re-target your candidate search before wasting your time and your candidate’s time.

Short cycles and instant feedback also allow modern recruiters to implement the latest initiatives into their recruitment plan to get the job done faster and more effectively.

Gartner Research about Agile Recruiting

03. Enhance team performance and collaboration

Agile recruitment values colleagues and candidates over process and tools. Recruiters are released from the fixed procedure and encouraged to design talent-focused hiring plans and optimize their workflow to achieve better results. Companies can also form cross-functional teams to work on new, complex or uncertain positions in a fast-evolving market. As a result, this process improves collaboration between related parties and encourages interdisciplinary problem-solving.

Better collaboration and a sense of empowerment fuel the motivation of everyone on the team.

III. Setting up agile recruitment

The first note on setting up agile recruitment: This is not the only way to adopt agility into your recruitment activities. While the common approach for agile recruitment is to use continuous planning, a predictive hiring process, and talent-focused design, agility is more like a philosophy to adapt and customize.

As mentioned in previous parts, designing agile recruitment should allow adaptation and flexibility for better results in an evolving market. For the starting point, we suggest a 5-step approach for agile recruitment. However, these steps can be customized based on each company’s situations and available resources.

Step 01: Define the needs

The first step for HR professional and business leaders is to review your resources, hiring strategy, and hiring plan.

These factors will affect the possibilities of adopting agile recruitment into your organization and how you can apply it. While GE introduced a new model of agile recruiting, which will be analyzed below, Hewlett Packard incorporated some agile principles into its recruiting process. Agile recruitment will be more useful with complex positions, where the requirements are not yet well understood, niche roles, or positions which have never been recruited before, than the traditional ones.

The next part of this step is to organize short meetings with related stakeholders to define the jobs and understand clearly hiring managers’ expectations. It’s advisable to focus on describing each job as a series of performance objectives and employee value proposition rather than just experience and qualification.

Step 02: Assemble the right team

One common approach of applying agile recruitment into your daily workflow is to adopt Scrum, the most popular agile framework. As Scrum is based on the empirical process control theory, the structure of your new recruiting scrum team is pretty different compared to the structure of the common recruitment team or HR function.

This Recruiting Scrum Team consist of three specific roles:

  • Scrum Master: This person is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum within the Recruitment Team and working on effective collaboration between the team and those outside. Scrum Masters monitor the rules of scrum and help people understand the Scrum theory, values and practices to maximize results of the scrum team.
  • Project Owner (or Product Owner in the Scrum guideline for developers): This person is responsible for maximizing the effectiveness of the Recruitment Team. The Project Owner works with Recruiting Scrum Team and other stakeholders to strategize the vision for the whole recruitment process and create a recruitment backlog. A recruitment Backlog is the ordered list of everything needed in the agile recruitment process.
  • Recruitment Team: They are professionals who do the work to reach companies’ recruiting needs. They may consist of cross-functional officers with specialized skill sets to ensure that the whole team has all the skills needed to perform.

Because the nature of the Scrum framework is agile, adaptive and interactive, smaller teams will perform better.

Step 03: Set a clear plan and Map the progress

After assembling your Recruiting Scrum Team, the next step is to start the Scrum process.

The process starts with listing the Recruitment Backlog, which was mentioned in the previous set, followed by a clear list of agile recruitment goals. The backlog is divided into different sprint cycles, based on the company’s hiring plan. Then, as a sprint cycle lasts only from 2 to 4 weeks, the Recruiting Scrum Team should develop plans for each sprint (sprint planning) to ensure that they can have the next few weeks working purposefully and effectively.

The next part of this step is to map or visualize the team’s process. This action ensures that people are on the same page, and the team’s performance is transparent and visible to not only the recruiting scrum team but also other stakeholders. Visualizing the process also makes it easier to track individual performance and allow team members to see what they can adjust.

Recruiting Scrum Team can create its scrum board using the Kanban model in their office with a board/a wall, markers, and post-its. Writing items and tasks on post-it notes is very useful because post-its can be tracked and moved easily, and moving them column to column is a positive signal of task progression. However, if your team works remotely, there are also a great number of Kanban-style task organization tools available.

Kanban board is a simple yet effective model to start building the recruiting team’s scrum board. But your team can make alterations after each sprint to create the most suitable one (check Deezer’s experiment of scrum boards below).

Kaban Style Scrum board

Step 04: Set up metrics and implement technology

The next step is to set up metrics to evaluate each task of sprint planning. These metrics will help the recruiting scrum teams evaluate their performance, gauge the health and progress of their recruitment process, and make proper alternation or changes along the way if it is possible.

Maximize the use of HR technology and tools is advisable to modern recruiters who are adopting agile methodology and Scrum framework. They can help HR professionals with standardization and automation, erasing the burden of administrative tasks and allowing space for adaptation and creativity. Recruiters should also keep their eyes on the latest recruitment trends and implement new initiatives if it’s possible.

Step 05: Keep on sprinting, adapting and repeat

As your team finished the set-up steps, there are also several activities should be organized during each sprint: Daily Standup Meetings: A short daily meeting organized at the beginning of each day to ensure team alignment, give team members opportunities to update their progress, get feedback, and adapt quickly.

Sprint review and retrospective: These actions are held at the end of each sprint cycle. This is the time for the Recruiting Scrum Team to discuss outcomes of the sprint cycle, what their learning is, and what they can prepare or improve in the next sprint. The Recruitment Backlog is also adjusted based on the change of business priorities during these meetings.

IV. Agile Recruitment Success Stories

01. GE - Reinvent in HR with Recruiting as a Service

With a long history of nearly 130 years, GE has continuously made bold moves to stay relevant in an ever-changing market. It started its journey of reinventing in Human Resources with the introduction of RaaS, a new agile model for recruiting.

GE’s RaaS framework for agile recruitment was built based on the Scrum framework mentioned earlier with four key elements:

  • The Recruiting Scrum Team: GE’s team is built as a cross-functional team, which is focused on the execution and delivery of 2 to 5-week sprint cycles. They have all the needed skills to complete any backlog item.
  • The Recruiting Scrum Master: A new role in the recruiting industry to facilitate scrum in the organization and shield the team from interruptions.
  • The Headcount Owner: This person represents the voice of all hiring managers to organize the hiring backlogs and set priorities for each job order.
  • Technology: A one-stop talent platform connecting talent pipelines, skills, technical assessments, and headcount backlogs. It also feeds a Kanban board to visualize the working process and enable progress visibility to all stakeholders.

This Agile Recruiting model allows GE to enable an fully immersive experience for candidate.

Talented people don’t get lost and confused in the process, especially when not matched to a specific position. Plus, coordination between team members also got a lot better since information flows fluidly so that members can share information about candidates who may fit in more than one role.

By adapting to this agile model, GE continues to drive innovation and maintains their industry leader position.

02. Deezer - Applying agile recruitment with Kanban Board

Deezer‘s problem: Its recruitment process was not harmonized between business units. As its team doubled after one year, many positions were opened, which resulted in too much back-and-forth communication and not good candidates’ experience.

Deezer’s Action: The recruitment and engineering teams teamed up to change the situation. Their application of Kanban for HR is a part of a series of initiatives to enhance the collaboration between the HR/Recruitment team and engineering teams.

Agile Recruiting Success Stories

So what did Deezer’s HR team do:

  • Step 01: Setting the goals Deezer’s team goals were assembling the right team and addressing candidates’ pain points, including creating explicit processes, measurable metrics, and better reporting.
  • Step 02: Preparation They asked for support from the HR Director to implement new initiatives. They also mapped a clear picture of the current recruitment process, which they would analyze to make proper changes.
  • Step 03: Applying Kanban board At the first cycle, Deezer had two 2 specific Kanban boards called Job board and Candidate board. The job-based board gave them an overview of the situation of all opened jobs while the candidate-based board was to track candidates through the recruitment process.
  • Step 04: Testing and improving after each iteration After each iteration, they reflected on their setup, identified improving points, and moved to the next iteration.


Agile Recruiting methodology is not perfect and not an ex-machina that works in every recruiting situation.

Recruiters also need to understand that agile recruitment is not about taking shortcuts, despite that how by-the-book it can be. Agile recruitment is not an excuse to skip building quality relationships with candidates; on the contrary, it’s a way to approach the mission differently, by splitting the overall big goals into approachable tickets and tackling them efficiently, with plenty of space for setbacks, iterations, collaboration and improvements along the way.

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