6 steps to implementing agile recruiting

Last updated:
February 26, 2021
May 20, 2022
min read
Brendan McConnell
Agile recruiting
Table of contents

Two items on every recruiter’s wishlist are more efficient processes, and the ability to hire the right fit consistently. To accomplish those goals, it’s important to have the right workflows, teams, and tools to make that wish list a reality. Implementing and maintaining those three key pillars of recruitment can be tricky. That’s where agile recruiting can help.

What is agile recruiting?

Agile is a methodology originally used in software development. It focuses on the exchange of regular feedback from and between key project stakeholders to identify changes in the process, make business decisions, and produce better outcomes.

Agile recruiting aims to make recruitment more responsive to the needs of the business, and make the overall process less risky and more efficient. In the context of recruitment, risk refers to the quality of hire and the associated resources and costs. Agile recruitment accomplishes these goals by creating a cyclical framework for hiring that includes regular feedback, communication, and refinement of the process and outcomes.

The three key components of agile are:

  • Processes;
  • Teams; and
  • Technology.

When completing a project using agile methodologies, tasks, and milestones are broken into “sprint” intervals. Team members work on their assigned tasks within incremental sprints, which comprise the overall project. As sprints are completed, the team holds retrospective meetings, stand-ups, and reviews of progress. This process allows teams to continuously progress through the project, learn, iterate, and correct based on incremental outcomes.

Team selection in agile is equally important as the process. Team members are assigned specific roles and responsibilities that help drive the process forward. In agile recruiting, these roles might include:

  • The hiring manager or the head of HR (product/project owner) who represents the user’s needs. In the context of recruitment, this would be the company.
  • Recruitment manager (scrum/agile master) who designs the work process, and keeps everyone on track.
  • Recruiters, sourcers, and recruitment assistants execute the process, refine the workflows, and achieve the desired outcomes.

At each stage of the agile recruiting process, the team will hold regular check-ins to review outcomes and revise workflows with the goal of achieving greater efficiency and hiring outcomes.

Technology is the last core piece of the puzzle that drives greater efficiency and data-driven decisions.

Using an ATS, HRIS, or CRM as part of your agile recruiting solution will give you access to a treasure trove of historical data and analytics around what worked and what didn’t work in previous hiring cycles.

Kanban boards can be used to assign and track task progress, and video interviews can help you achieve wider outreach more efficiently. Finally, collaborative hiring tools enable continuous communication, even with a dispersed team.

The benefits of agile recruiting

Agile recruiting, when executed properly and regularly, can have benefits for efficiency, quality of hire, candidate experience, and team alignment.

Here are some of the most common benefits of agile recruiting:

  • It continuously improves your overall recruiting strategy by creating a culture of reflection, refinement, and data-driven decision-making.
  • It overcomes common problems that cause inefficiencies by systematically identifying and removing barriers and waste points in the hiring process.
  • It can lower the cost per hire and enable more efficient use of resources and teams.
  • It provides a better candidate experience by making the process faster, more cohesive, and fairer.
  • It enables greater flexibility in how you manage to hire projects and how you pivot to and from certain tactics and strategies.
  • It provides greater transparency by enabling regular visibility and two-way communication around the progress, goals, outcomes, and processes used to hire new candidates.
  • It enables a clearer prioritization of effort by empowering team members to work on only the tactics and strategies that achieve the desired outcomes.
  • It unlocks deeper collaboration by enabling regular, real-time feedback and a culture of open communication.

Before adopting agile recruiting, it’s important to understand the “why” behind this type of workflow. Most companies will adopt agile hiring to address one, or multiple, challenges they’re having with an existing team or process.

Challenges that agile recruitment addresses

Agile recruiting is typically adopted to overcome the following challenges:

  1. Talent shortages
  2. Lengthy hiring processes
  3. Lack of collaboration
  4. Lack of data-driven strategies
  5. Misaligned or inadequate technology

Any of these challenges can create problems for filling talent gaps and can put stress on the resources available to a recruiting team. Agile helps to overcome these challenges by creating a communication and project management framework that maximizes output, minimizes resource waste, and enables continuous improvement.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what an agile recruitment process or cycle would look like in practice. Let’s jump into that now.

Sample agile recruitment cycle

As mentioned before, agile recruiting is a cyclical process. The goal is to establish, and then refine workflows so that you incrementally improve the outcome.

The specific steps and tasks involved in your agile recruitment process will depend on your organization’s goals, resources, and desired outcomes. The following cycle should be used as a guideline that can be adapted to your own needs.

Here’s what a typical agile recruitment process might look like.

1. Define the job requirements

Consider step one to be the project kickoff or planning phase of your recruitment cycle. This is where your project leaders (i.e., the hiring manager, recruitment manager, or HR leader) meet to identify a talent need within the organization.

In this stage, you should clearly identify the job you’re looking to fill and what the requirements are for a successful hire. Outline job requirements, and set clear expectations around what success looks like.

2. Assemble your agile recruiting team

Once you’ve established the goal, now it’s time to assemble your team. Assign a project owner and leader. These will be the people responsible for executing the project and determining whether or not it was successful.

Your project leader should then select their team who will execute the project. This will usually include a recruiter, sourcer, recruitment assistant, and any other support staff needed.

Once your team is assembled and your recruitment strategy defined, you should hold a formal project kickoff meeting with the whole team that outlines the goal, expectations, task assignments, and workflows. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and provide a reference point when reviewing incremental outcomes.

3. Source candidates

Consider this phase to be your first series of sprints. Break down this overarching activity into individual tasks, which might include:

  • Writing a job description
  • Writing and deploying recruitment ads
  • Writing and sending emails to passive candidates
  • Collecting inbound and existing contacts

As tasks are completed, hold stand up meetings to reflect on your progress. For example, after writing and deploying recruitment ads, you could hold a review session to review the inbound applicants you’ve received, and whether or not they reflect your ideal candidates. If they don’t, this is an opportunity to refine your outreach strategy.

In addition to inbound applicants, agile recruiting often leverages pre-built talent pools containing qualified candidates. These are pre-screened candidates who your recruitment team has connected with through their previous networking and outreach. Talent pipelines are a great way to enable “Just In Time” recruitment that gives you access to candidates when needed.

4. Screen candidates and schedule calls

This phase of the agile recruiting cycle is where you can review some hard data around how well your sourcing strategy performed. As a team, review and shortlist candidates to get a clear picture of how well the outcome aligns with your recruitment goal.

Shortlisting, screening, and scheduling preliminary interviews with your candidates will give your team a good idea of how well their outreach strategy performed if your talent pool aligns with your goals, great. If not, now is a good time to adapt your strategy and pivot to new messaging or sourcing platforms.

5. Accept or reject candidates

This stage is a continuation of the above step and gives your team another opportunity to review the sourcing and screening processes.

Interview candidates who fit your criteria and continue to shortlist and refine your list.

Again, reflect on the outcomes of your interviews with the agile team to get a benchmark of how well, or poorly, your strategy is performing.

If you’re in a position to extend an offer to a candidate, then you can consider this the end of the selection portion of the project. If you’re not, then it’s likely time to cycle back to step three and refine your strategy further.

6. Review your hiring outcome, adapt the process if needed

The work isn’t done after you’ve hired the candidate. To close out the agile recruiting process, it’s important to review how well that candidate performs and fits with your original organizational goal over time. It’s also important to review your key performance metrics to determine if your hiring process was as efficient as intended.

The goal here is to continuously analyze and reflect on your hiring process and outcomes to find areas of improvement.

In an agile recruiting environment, all of the above steps would be completed using a sprint framework. Each would be considered an incremental, micro-project that contains kickoff, execution, and reflection via stand-ups and post-mortems.

As a result of this commitment to feedback and incremental improvement, agile recruiting provides a wide range of benefits for hiring teams.

As mentioned earlier, agile recruiting can and will be deployed differently depending on your organizational goals and available resources. If you’re interested in finding ways to adapt the agile recruiting methodology to your company, there are online courses and resources that can provide valuable guidance.

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