Let me get straight to the point:  When recruiting for an Agile Development team, if you don’t have the right recruitment and interview process in place, your search will likely end in failure.

Does failure seem like a harsh outcome?  I have no doubt that you’ll be able to recruit, interview, offer and hire a candidate that checks off all the bullets in your job description.  Does this mean your recruitment efforts were a success? Well… you won’t know until your new hire has spent a few weeks to a few months as part of your Agile Development team.

As you may well know, there are numerous variations of Agile methodologies adapted for different types of companies, teams and software projects.  What they all have in common is that teamwork, speed, collaboration and flexibility with respect to the life and pace of a project.     So what does a top notch Agile Development recruit look like?  They would not only need to be skilled developers but they’d need to disciplined, strong communicators with the ability to adapt quickly and be accepting of constructive feedback as well as rapid changes in the direction of the project.   In short, a top-notch recruit requires the ability and willingness to lift the team by promoting the development of team competence instead of simply displaying their own individual skills.

The risks of making a bad hire for your Agile Team could result in: 

  • Possibly the worst-case scenario would be the creation of a dysfunctional team.  Effectively reducing your Hero’s ability to develop the team’s competence.  Otherwise known as “Death of the Hero”.
  • Potential hiring “individual contributor” that is not a team player when what you really need is individual contributors that can lift the team and produce more team oriented contributors.
  • Hiring a candidate that is not a self-starter that requires a high amount of your management time, distracting from your high priority projects.  In other words, someone who needs a lot of management is compromising the self-direction of the entire team.
  • A team member that lacks the ability to learn and hone specialist skills while improving the Agile Team’s process.
  • Worst of all, could be your loss of time, team effort, productivity, team morale and financial exposure related to your HR and product delivery budgets.

What does a good Agile recruitment process look like?

Firstly, we believe you should recruit using this process, or a variation of it, for any type of role you’re looking fill.  If this recruiting process does not suit your needs, we feel it’s necessary to implement this type of process when recruiting new team members for your Agile team in order to ensure the success or your recruitment project.

Our Agile Team Recruitment Process.

  1. Recruitment, sourcing and screening:  You need to make certain that your HR department and in-house or outsources recruiting partner understands the importance of the recruitment process to the success of your Agile development teams.  Recruited candidates can come from many different sources but it’s important to keep in mind that most of the top developers aren’t looking for a new role.  Once you’ve identified your top recruits you’ll need to do your pre-screening.  This should involve some pre-determined technical questions supplied by your development managers.  These questions should include details about the recruit’s knowledge of Agile development and any other technical skills that are relevant to your team and company.
  2. Meet the Team:  This is likely the most important part of the recruiting and hiring process for your Agile team.  Chances are that the members of the team will know more about the skills sets that are needed than the managers may know.  This is your opportunity to assess your recruit’s fit within the team.  It’s not always the most skilled recruit that gets selected for the role, it’s often the recruit who’s personality and skill set best complements the existing team.  In other words this helps you determine whether your recruit with be a disruptive force within the team or someone that fit in like they’ve been there for years.
  3. Test’em again: If your recruit has passed the team test it’s time to put their development skills to the test.  I don’t mean supplying them with a number of generic technical questions you could source from a textbook.  I mean an actual real-world scenario your team may have encountered at some point in the development process.  Provide your recruit with a take home development test that closely resembles they type of work and challenges your team currently faces.  Supply them with the resources your team would have available to them and that include access to your staff and their expertise.  This will provide you the opportunity to see how the recruit will interact with your team and determine just how resourceful they are.
  4. Meet the team again:  Assuming the programming test has been completed by your recruit and the results are satisfactory, it’s time to bring them in to review the their assignment with their potential team members and managers.  This interview doesn’t need to be a “smartest person in the room” type of interview.  It should be a quick review of the code, it’s functionality and feedback as how it could be changed or improved to better suit the needs of the team.  This interview will be an important measure of your recruits ability and ability to be a team player, assimilate new ideas and willingness to changes his/her coding ways for the greater good of the team and company.

If the recruited candidate has passed the tests, meshed with the team and has expressed interest in joining your Agile Development team, it’s time to provide them with your offer.  Let your HR group, if you have one, work the negotiation process and move your new recruit through to your on-boarding process.