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A Framework for Agile Recruiting Implementation

A Framework for Agile Recruiting Implementation

71% of organizations worldwide report using agile methodologies to manage projects.

It makes sense, as agile brings concrete, measurable improvements to the companies who use it: According to VisionOne’s 12th Annual State of Agile report, 71% of them are better able to manage changing priorities, for example, and 62% have improved their delivery speed or time to market.

For recruiting specifically, agile means a better way to prioritize hiring projects, improved visibility for both recruiters and hiring managers, and overall, a more efficient, iterative recruiting process.

Agile recruiting implementation : How do you do it?

First, a quick reminder of what agile means for recruiting:

Agile recruiting definition: A recruiting project management methodology using sprints, prioritization of tickets, and periodic feedback checkpoints to bring flexibility and efficiency to the recruiting team, and visibility to hiring managers.

So how do you implement this methodology in your team?

Understand the method

Agile recruiting process 2-week sprint

The first step is to identify how to structure your work around short cycles, or sprints. The goal of the sprint is not necessarily to fill the role in one go. Rather, it’s to make sure that if you’re not sourcing the right people, the hiring manager has an opportunity to fine-tune the job requirements earlier in the process.

The diagram above shows an example of a two-week sprint starting with a meeting with the hiring manager to draft a first version of the job requirements. The sourcer or recruiter can then focus on lining up a small number of likely candidates, and on scheduling a couple of interviews with the hiring manager as quickly as possible.

If the interviews are successful, then great! It is more likely, however, that the hiring manager will reject those first candidates, but this can then be an opportunity to go over the profiles sourced with the sourcer and recruiter, and fine-tune the job requirements.

As you can imagine, agile recruiting is especially helpful with newly opened roles for which your teams hasn’t hired before, or ones with hard-to-find requirements. Every sprint gives the team an opportunity to learn from the candidates they source, and to iterate on the job requirements with the hiring manager.

And that approach yields results: For instance, when Amber Grewal was at GE Digital, she reduced her average time to hire to 2 to 6 weeks, down from 10 to 15. She achieved that by implementing a fully agile recruiting methodology in her team.

Implement the tools and processes

We've covered before some of the most important tools and processes in agile recruiting. The most helpful one is probably the Kanban board, which enables teams to organize projects into smaller tasks that are easier to organize and prioritize.

For example, Deezer, an international music streaming company, uses Kanban boards where each ticket is an open position:

Agile recruiting Deezer Kanban board

When she was a Talent Acquisition Lead at Hewlett Packard, Yael Benado did daily stand ups, another common process in agile. They helped her team identify and resolve issues quickly, and prioritize tasks on a daily basis.

When does agile recruiting fail?

In their 11th annual State of Agile report, VersionOne mention that 63% of companies think that agile implementation fails because of a mismatch between company culture and the agile methodology.

The tools and processes are only part of the methodology. It’s important to understand the ideas behind them: creating opportunities for iteration early and often, clarifying priorities and scopes for both recruiters and hiring managers, and of course, moving fast and completing projects on budget.

If the recruiting team sets down a set of priorities for the sprint, but the hiring managers refuses to respect those priorities and reshuffles them endlessly, then all the planning that went into the sprint is useless.

If hiring managers are not willing to regularly meet with recruiters to adapt job requirements as needed, then they aren’t taking advantage of all the information collected during the sprint.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also possible to have too many processes. “People over process” gets a whole other layer of meaning in recruiting: do you actually need that 4-hour long application form? Do your daily standups need to take more than 10 minutes? Remove steps that are not absolutely vital; your candidate experience will thank you for it.


Agile recruiting implementation doesn’t need to be too complicated at the start. You can experiment with a single team, or a couple of hard-to-fill roles at first. This will let you easily figure out what flavour of agile works best for you.

Once that is done, you can move on to changing the way your whole organization works. You can shift to a purely agile way of working, to some blend of multiple methodologies, or you might find that agile doesn’t really suit the type of hiring you do. The important part is to make sure you’re always on the lookout for the best way to hire well, and hire fast.