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Need top talent fast? Try agile recruiting

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Yael Benado, Talent Acquisition, Radware

As an HR recruiter in a large enterprise, I work at a company that doesn't just make products—the company is the product. The candidates that I must recruit are my customers, and I need to sell them on the positions I badly need to fill. Between competing with well-financed enterprises and the latest startups that have pioneering, breakthrough technology, it's difficult—and costly— to attract top talent. I've seen how agile has helped improve the quality of code while shortening release cycles, so I adopted agile for my recruiting team. Here are five methods I use and recommend for agile recruiting.

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Do a daily stand-up

One of the 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto states that "The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation." The daily stand-up meeting, used in scrum, supports that principle, and I apply it with my recruiting team.

Every morning we meet at the same time and place. We take the description of a position that needs to be staffed and ask ourselves what works, where we're stuck, and what needs an extra push. The answers to those questions determine what we'll focus on that day. For example, a manager who hasn't given us feedback on a batch of resumes we sent for review quickly becomes a bottleneck. We may need to remind him and use gentle persuasion ("You're going to lose this candidate if you don't get back to me today") to get a response.

Another insight that arises from our daily stand-ups is the realization that a position is difficult to fill because it requires highly specialized knowledge, and we don't have candidates in the pipeline with that knowledge. For example, we recently had an open software architect position for work on an identity detection system. We managed to staff the position eventually, but the stand-up meeting identified the need for the recruiter to learn about the special requirements of the position and the skill sets the candidates needed.

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Use a recruiting Kanban board

As a large enterprise, we always have many positions to fill, and tracking progress can get difficult at times. The situation is somewhat analogous to a large software project that has many user stories concurrently in process.

As an agile recruiting tool, a Kanban board is used to track progress of each open position, which we treat like user stories. As each recruiting team member recounts the activities of the previous day in the daily stand-up, we move open positions around on the board to reflect the current status. We gradually move candidates from "pipeline" status through the first, second, and third interview, and finally to the job offer. That process has helped keep me sane when I've had ten concurrent full stack developer positions to fill in six different departments.

Leverage social media to shorten recruitment cycles

Social media is a particularly important recruiting channel for our business, and the top talent is certain to have profiles on LinkedIn and often on Facebook and Twitter as well. Unfortunately, before you can interact with a potential candidate, you need to go through a connection request process.

One way to shorten the cycle is to use your company's social media accounts. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but consider extending your reach through other social media as well, such as Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube. Post pictures of company events showing what a great work environment you have and what a fun place your company is. Add a hashtag announcing to open positions, and you'll see instant responses. Once I upload a picture I start getting inquiries very quickly.

To keep the momentum going, be sure to respond immediately and set up initial interviews. To boost the reach of your pictures and posts, engage all of your company's employees to like and share them. This not only helps spread the word but also shows that the employees stand behind the company. They're effectively saying, "This is a great place to work; come and join me." Participating in all of these social networks helps kickstart the process and shorten the overall recruitment cycle.

Be a subject matter expert

Another principle of the Agile Manifesto is "Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility." In the domain of recruiting, technical excellence means having detailed knowledge of the candidate market to get a good product/market fit (or rather, candidate/position fit).

We conduct face-to-face meetings with each manager looking for a new team member, and help to define the requirements of the position to match market conditions. For example, if a manager wants a JavaScript expert for server-side development with five years of experience, we tell them up front that this will be a difficult position to fill. But if the manager can make do with a candidate with just one year of experience, we can sign an employment contract within a couple of weeks.

"Value individuals and interactions over processes and tools"

In my world, that first tenet listed in the Agile Manifesto means referrals, and getting referrals is one of the best ways to fill positions. The monetary incentive for an employee to bring friends on board is obvious, but you can take it beyond a dollar amount. Consider running campaigns emphasizing people and interactions, engaging employees to shape their own work environment by bringing in the people they would like to work with.

Most companies, whether they're enterprises or early-stage startups, will proudly proclaim that their most valuable resources are their employees. There are many great companies out there, and to get the best people on board, you have to compete fiercely. To achieve that, the hiring manager first needs to create an attractive work environment and culture. Then, on the recruiting end, it's important to do away with lengthy recruitment processes and shorten your recruitment cycles to a minimum. Otherwise, that candidate you worked so hard to attract will be stolen away by someone else while you were busy trying to schedule that fifth interview.

There's no reason why agile recruiting can't be as successful as agile software development. With some adaptation to this different domain, you can shorten your recruitment cycles and attract top talent to fill even your most difficult positions. "Done" is only done once you've signed the right person for the job.

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