How to Recruit and Hire for Agile Teams

Hiring people always involves a bit of risk and when hiring to fill a role on an Agile team the stakes are also very high. The nature of Agile requires the right team members. Hire the right person and you will see them make an immediate impact and they will gel naturally with the team. Hire the wrong person and you will be responsible for creating a toxic experience for your team.

If you are a hiring manager, taking the time to finding the right cultural fit for your organization and Agile team is the most important thing you can do.

So, how can we do as much due diligence as possible with the candidates applying for your position. Here are 5 steps to consider when hiring amazing team members for your Agile teams:

Ensure Alignment to Your Vision. How your job posting is crafted matters. Simon Sinek describes this perfectly in his book, Start With Why. He talks about how, in the early 20th century, Earnest Shackleton recruited people to join him as the first people to cross the continent of Antarctica via the South Pole. The ad he posted in the newspaper read:

 Men needed for Hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

27 crew members signed up! They knew what they were signing up for and were willing participants in making Shackleton’s vision a reality. The story of the journey is fascinating if you are interested.

People applying for your open positions should know exactly where your organization or group is heading and they should be fully aware of the Agile adventure they will be embarking on. I started changing our job posting for Scrum Master positions and I will post it soon.

Discover What They Value. Determine if what the candidate values are in alignment with your organizational and team values. Ask probing and open-ended questions to decide how they would respond and react in a variety of situations. You will begin to discover what motivates them to show up to work. Is it money? Challenging work? Outlet for creativity? Passion for your industry? Being innovative? Their values must align with the job you will be asking them to do. Those wanting to be on Shackleton’s crew valued adventure, challenge, and probably a little bravado. A perfect match!

Determine Compatibility with an Agile Environment. Continue to ask probing questions around how the candidate would do in a social, cross-functioning, iterative, fast-paced team. Would they perform well on a self-accountable team? Are they a natural “puller” for work instead of needing to be pushed? Would team success be more important than anything else? If you read the story of Shackleton’s adventure you will discover the challenges they encountered and you would expect everyone would have died. But no one did. They were compatible with the environment they were in.

Identify Core Competencies and Skill. You can now begin to assess their ability to do the job. You probably have standard or prepared questions to determine the level of experience and skill a candidate can bring to the position. I posted a few examples for Scrum Masters in an earlier post.

Don’t Settle. Ever. You may feel pressured to hire someone quickly for various reasons. Again, taking the time to find the right person for your Agile team is the most important thing you can do as a hiring manager. A close second would be removing a bad team member but bringing the right people in from the beginning makes everything else easier.

If the candidate does not understand and willingly sign up for your vision OR does not align with your values OR would not be compatible in an Agile environment, he or she would not be a good candidate for your organization regardless of how competent and skillful they are.

If a candidate has a strong alignment with your vision, values, and Agile compatibility but are a little low on skills, it may still be worth hiring them depending on the urgency of your need as it’s always harder finding the right cultural fit.

Would love to hear your thoughts and tips on hiring amazing Agile team members!


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “How to Recruit and Hire for Agile Teams

  1. Len, I’m curious to see what your scrum master posting includes. I’ve worked to create my own and would like to compare to yours. Thanks!