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What is an Agile Recruiting Process? 5 Steps to Implement

Posted on June 21, 2022

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Hiring teams are tired of drawn-out recruitment campaigns and manual job application management. These traditional recruitment processes have left hiring teams searching for a more efficient way to find top talent.

For recruiters, an agile approach could mean sourcing better candidates in a shorter period by splitting projects into targeted phases and driving projects forward with data insights.

According to McKinsey, successful agile transformations typically deliver around “30% gains in efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational performance.” Ready to streamline outdated practices, the recruitment industry is primed for an agile revolution.

In this article, we’ll introduce the agile methodology and teach you how to implement an agile recruitment methodology in your organization.

Table of contents

What is an agile recruiting process?

The agile recruiting process is a talent acquisition framework based on the principles of the agile methodology, a model first developed in 2001 by a team of software developers.

The Agile Manifesto laid out guidelines for developers who were tired of hitting walls in projects and delivering sub-par products. Each principle focused on elements like effective collaboration and continuous delivery by splitting projects into small batches.

Screenshot of Manifesto for Agile Software Development

It was a huge success, and over time, the methodology expanded beyond software. Now, it helps all types of teams rapidly adapt to market changes and demand, increase productivity—and gain that all-important competitive advantage.

For recruiters, adopting an agile framework means bringing greater flexibility to the hiring process. It breaks down recruitment campaigns into digestible phases, and then prioritizes and completes these phases by targeted deadlines.

The components of an agile recruitment process

You can break down an agile recruiting methodology into three core components. Apply the agile principles to your overall recruitment process, how you run your teams, and the technology you choose.

Let’s explore those three components in more detail and tie broader agile principles to recruitment.

1. Process

The agile process consists of splitting projects into tasks and milestones (often called “sprints”). Individual members of the team get assigned activities to complete, meeting at the end of each phase to address issues and keep the project on track.

This divide-and-conquer approach is fundamental to working agile. It prevents projects with issues from early on going ahead (those issues then taking deep root and ultimately leading to poor output).

For example, in recruiting, a traditional approach might result in a poor fit being interviewed and hired based on a misunderstanding of the job requirements. With regular meetings between departments at the end of each phase, an issue like this would be caught and fixed early.

The iterated agile process breaks up projects to allow for interventions like these, but also to keep staff motivated with quick and frequent wins (when tasks and milestones are completed).

For recruiters, agile process principles might look like this:

Priority number one is to satisfy stakeholders by providing high-quality new hires. Whether you’re a small team or a large organization, your goal is to deliver the best talent you can find. And every action you take should be with this in mind.

Recruiters should welcome changes, even at late stages. For example, if an extensive portfolio with references is more suitable for this candidate than a design test, recruiters should be willing to adapt (perhaps she’s a well-known designer in the industry). This allows hiring teams to deliver quality hires quickly, without sticking to rigid, arbitrary guidelines.

2. Teams

Team selection is super important for implementing successful agile frameworks. Sustainable employee development is one of the critical components of agile teams, so team members should be assigned to milestones that align with their skills and experience.

The idea is that, with the right support and environment, team members will be able and motivated to get the job done.

For example, it makes more sense to assign staff who are experienced in interviewing candidates to the interview process. You might include a team member to weigh in with their thoughts, but you wouldn’t assign them the task exclusively.

Interviewing takes a particular set of skills to come across as both warm and objective. The wrong employee could put off the candidate, make impulsive decisions, fail to note specific positives or negatives about the candidate, etc.

With that in mind, here are some potential agile team principles for recruiters:

  • Face-to-face conversations (in-person or virtual) are the best ways to communicate. Basically, you can only convey so much through email and lengthy handbooks. Book meetings or communicate via asynchronous voice communication (a rapidly growing communication method).
  • Match staff to the best-fit tasks. Align your jobs-to-be-done with your people’s talents and reflect often on whether they’re happy in their role. This helps keep up motivation for continuous, high-quality candidate delivery.
  • Keep developing your employees. Improve your output exponentially by investing in professional development. Focus on looking at gaps and improving your people’s hard and soft skills.
  • Put professionalism on a pedestal. Team leaders and team members alike should aim to be service-oriented and professional no matter whether they’re interviewing candidates or collecting hiring priorities from other departments.

3. Technology

Data drives an agile recruitment process. This data traditionally lived in spreadsheets or stored on a local computer. Comprehensive documentation slows down progress and outdated or siloed systems can add needless complexity.

Today, there are smarter ways to work, saving you, your candidates, and stakeholders a lot of headaches.

For example, recruitment and human resource teams can use an applicant tracking system (ATS), like Polymer, to access historical data.

By using an ATS, teams can generate accurate time-to-hire analyses, compliance reports, and referral and activity tracking. Backed with all of this data, it becomes much easier to observe what is and isn’t working during each hiring cycle.

It can take a ton of time to compile that analyses manually across systems and spreadsheets. Agile is all about delivering high-quality at speed, so technology is key to success.

Let’s explore some potential agile technology principles for recruiters:

  • Use the best tools the industry has to offer within your budget. Help your recruitment team work their best with the tools they need to get the job done.
  • Don’t micromanage. Trust your teams will work within their milestones and review at the end of each phase instead of hovering or requesting daily updates.
  • Simplify processes wherever possible. Still using spreadsheets, manually messaging candidates, and emailing onboarding documentation (“Please sign, scan, and return the attached PDF”)? Agile is all about the art of maximizing the amount of work not done. And that means automating as many repetitive or time-consuming processes as possible.

Now that you’ve learned the core components of an agile recruiting process and explored its principles, let’s look at the benefits of adopting this system.

Why you should adopt the agile recruiting process

Hiring new employees has a lot of moving parts, and many hiring managers do not have a well-organized process in place to do this successfully. Going through resumes manually is time-consuming, and often, job requirements are unclear.

Common traditional hiring pitfalls include:

  • Failure to define performance criteria (only 40% of employers test candidates’ skills or general abilities)
  • Insufficient outreach during the talent acquisition phase
  • Ineffective job descriptions and interview questions (e.g., when interview questions do not relate to clear performance criteria)

The agile recruitment process overcomes these obstacles by creating a well-defined recruitment strategy supported by data insights, consistent feedback, and more effective team collaboration.

Let’s take a look at some benefits of agile recruiting.

A refined, data-driven approach to your recruiting strategy

Instead of spotting roadblocks when it’s too late, agile recruitment teams adjust their processes in real-time based on live feedback.

Base your recruitment efforts on continuous improvement by monitoring your data. With hard numbers to quantify what works and where you’re missing new opportunities, teams can see a complete view over their recruitment funnel.

For example, if a job listing consistently attracts unsuitable candidates, that tells us that something might be up with how that vacancy is advertised. If that’s the case, it’s time to pivot by redefining the job criteria and posting the vacancy on more industry-specific job boards.

Agile processes and tech remove inefficiencies and barriers

Agile recruitment works with your long-term talent acquisition strategy. Instead of scrambling to hire as the need comes up, it sets out organized action points to help you work toward talent acquisition goals.

One of the ways it does this is through predictive hiring, or using data and analytics to discover ideal candidates according to your goals. This process significantly reduces the time it takes to fill specific roles.

Agile also helps overcome bias, like emotional decision-making and stereotyping. People analytics flags up areas of bias in the hiring process (such as imbalances in gender hiring), giving teams the chance to address the problem.

Frequent feedback and “on-the-go” adjustments

As mentioned above, agile is about delivering high-quality at speed. When team members engage in regular feedback checkpoints, the whole process becomes faster and cheaper.

For example, if you realize that candidates are taking longer than expected to complete their skill-based screening tasks, you can simplify the task for future candidates.

An agile recruiting approach also means teams should meet with clients and stakeholders regularly. This real-time feedback is invaluable and should be used to make adaptive decisions that speed up the recruitment cycle, improve relationships, deliver top talent, and save resources.

Candidate experience improves as a result of faster, more transparent collaboration

Give candidates the best first impression. Top talent may drop out if your interview process is unfairly complex, very long, or needlessly difficult.

Show the best in your industry that your organization is efficient and streamlined with a top-tier interview experience (created through an agile process).

Improve your employer brand (for current and future candidates)

With an agile recruitment process, potential hires are kept informed at every touchpoint. These candidates are more likely to perceive your brand positively and spread the word to other potential hires.

In a world where word of mouth spreads quickly over the internet, having a good employer reputation is key to future top talent accepting your position.

5 steps to implement an agile recruiting process

Considering agile for your recruitment efforts? We’ve outlined five essential steps you’ll need to follow when implementing an agile recruitment methodology.

Step 1: Structure your team

The first thing you need to do is to structure your team. Before your next recruitment cycle, gather your team and organize them into small groups (this is sometimes called a sprint plan).

Try to keep numbers on the low side. Ideally, teams should be between three and ten employees. This helps keep processes efficient and improves the quality of communication.

The four key elements of this process are inspired by the Recruiting as a Service model (RaaS):

  1. A team (e.g., a scrum team). This is a cross-functional team working in predetermined weekly cycles.
  2. A team leader (e.g., a scrum master). This will be somebody to preside over the team and keep things on track.
  3. A project owner. This person is responsible for solving hiring backlogs and setting priorities based on conversations with hiring managers.
  4. Technology. These tools connect recruiters with candidates, conduct technical assessments, address backlogs, and share relevant info throughout the hiring process (like Polymer).

Step 2: Select KPIs to stay on track of your hiring

Next, select the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you stay on track of your hiring process.

These will be unique to every business, but there are a few common examples that are particularly relevant to recruiters:

  • Job offer acceptance rate (OAR). Percentage of candidates that accept your job offer.
  • Source of hire (SOH). Percentage of overall hires from a particular referral.
  • Cost per hire. Total resource spending for recruiting a single employee in your business.
  • Time to hire. Time from initial candidate contact to an accepted offer of employment.
  • Selection ratio. Ratio of candidates chosen for interview vs. total number of applicants.
  • Interview-to-offer ratio. Number of candidates interviewed vs. number of job offers.

Step 3: Break the process into stages

Once you’ve assembled your team and set your metrics, it’s time to break the hiring process into smaller tasks. This is an essential part of executing the agile methodology as it helps with delegating different tasks to the right teams.

A typical agile recruitment process will be broken up into around four stages. Here’s an example:

  • Stage one. Source candidates and get feedback from the hiring manager.
  • Stage two. After initial feedback from the hiring manager, retarget candidate sourcing (if needs be), and reach out to applicants.
  • Stage three. Screen candidates with skills tests or initial interviews (make sure to decide on your format, for example, via Zoom).
  • Stage four. Face-to-face or remote interviews with final decision-makers and sending offer letters.

Step 4: Evaluate your hiring tech stack

The final piece of the puzzle is the tech. The best way for startups and small businesses to kick off an agile recruiting process is to use a hiring tool. There are a variety of popular tools out there, like Polymer, that help streamline the hiring process.

Recruitment software will help you keep track of applicants, reduce administrative burden, and streamline communications within the company and with potential hires.

These tools help to automate the recruitment process and achieve the efficiency, transparency, and open communication that is essential to the agile recruitment processes.

Screenshot of Wrk or Polymer Job Board

Instead of hiring ad-hoc, your instant Polymer job board provides a centralized place where you can display open positions each with its own dedicated page and application form.

Screenshot of Polymer’s Candiate Management Dashboard

Your candidate management dashboard displays new candidates automatically as they apply making it easy for your team to review and track each candidate efficiently.

Screenshot of Polymer Create User Role Page

You can then create user roles and assign teammates to jobs to facilitate real-time agile collaboration across each touchpoint in the hiring process.

Step 5: Observe, iterate, and improve your agile recruiting process

The agile framework revolves around a process of continuous observation and adjustment. Once you’re up and running, it’s important to continue observing and generating feedback on your recruitment process.

This is what allows teams to make quick adjustments that, in turn, speed up the recruitment process overall. Plus, practicing consistent observation also encourages transparency in team and candidate communication and data-sharing.

What to do before adopting the agile recruiting process

Perhaps you’re ready to dive in with both feet. Here are some additional general recruitment tips to keep in mind as you transition your hiring process to be more agile.

Take stock of your need for skills

The first thing you should do before starting any hiring process is to assess your recruitment goals and take stock of your need for skills. In other words, identify those skills that already exist in people at your organization and those that don’t. People with these skills will need to be sourced externally.

Once you’ve done this, you can adapt your recruitment criteria accordingly to ensure that candidates with those specific skill sets are targeted for hire. Create or collect skills assessments and surveys based on these criteria.

Hold fire before you hire

The agile methodology is firmly grounded in internal employee development. Because of this, it’s important to audit your current teams regularly. Give current employees the opportunity to develop new skills and take on other responsibilities. Essentially, see if anyone wants the job on your current team before looking externally.

Perhaps a part-time employee is ready to take on more responsibility and has the skills needed to tackle the job. Or maybe a junior employee wants the opportunity and is willing to train to fill the skills gaps.

When we factor in everything from recruitment drives to interviewing, onboarding, and training, it costs about $4,000 and 24 days to hire an employee. By contrast, the average CPD course is much more cost-effective. On average, learning and development training costs $1,308 per worker.

Internal opportunities may present themselves, so look there before firing up the job board. You may need to search for a candidate to replace your internal promotion instead of hiring for the initial position.

Keep an open mind

Lastly, as you transition towards an agile framework, try to keep an open mind. Today’s recruitment priorities are changing rapidly. Recruitment in 2022 has moved beyond simply requiring “15 years of experience in the position.”

Instead, in today’s hyper-competitive job market, recruitment drives are informed more by identifying candidates with the most relevant skills to succeed in your organization.

Furthermore, don’t overlook candidates that lack certain expertise after the first glance. Rather, see this as an opportunity to train employees in the skills most relevant to your organization’s needs.

Implementing an agile recruiting process of your own

Traditional hiring processes are riddled with problems, from inefficiency to departmental silos and ineffective interview questions. The agile methodology offers hiring teams a way to overcome these longstanding obstacles and achieve greater efficiency and improved communication throughout the hiring process.

By splitting the hiring process into clear phases and prioritizing feedback, obstacles can be overcome quickly to ensure that the best candidates are found in no time at all.

Make your next round of hiring agile, and simplify processes with Polymer.

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