HOW TO HIRE FOR AGILE TEAMS

It can be quite hard to hire the right people. People expects you to do it right otherwise it will cost the company a lot of time and money. No pressure.

Companies usually hire for these reasons:

– To decrease time to market

– To solve a problem

– To increase revenue

And they often use a traditional approach to hiring: The interview.

This is how it usually goes:

Candidates will have an interview either in person or online and they will be asked about their experience and skills, the systems they have used in previous roles and the degrees or certifications they hold. They will also have to answer questions like ‘what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses’ or ‘how do you handle conflict’.

These questions are OK however they do not go deep enough. Traditional interviews often miss out key competencies like:

– What is this person’s communication style?

– Can we trust him? Is trust an important value for this candidate?

– How would the candidate fit into our company’s culture?

– How would this person fit in our current team dynamics?

So if you only ask traditional questions in your interview, you will most likely end up with someone who:

– Performs below average

– Doesn’t work well with the team

– Has a big ego

– Has a bad attitude towards collaboration

On top of that, a bad hire is also going to cost you money.

In 2014 Fast Company published that for 41% of the companies interviewed during their research, a bad hire had costed them at least $25k. That’s a lot.

But is not only an economical cost. Your team can reduce their productivity due to the fact that this new hire doesn’t fit into the company’s culture and it can also have a big impact on your team’s moral and motivation. Ultimately this could affect your product and customer services.

Companies end up on this scenario because they don’t take the time to hire properly.

They just hire fast, quickly, to fill the position, disregarding quality. And also they make predictions purely based on verbal communication. So they decide whether the person would be a good fit just from a conversation. Big mistake.

HOW TO AVOID THIS SITUATION

First of all you need to know WHY you are hiring. Why do you need a new team member?

Some companies hire new team members as a way to cover problems that need to be solved.  But bringing in a new person is not always the best solution to your problems. It’s better to solve the issue first and then decide if you still need a new employee.

Let’s look at some examples:

Complain number 1: I don’t have enough testers.
What to do: Before hiring more, have a look at your test automation. Can it be improved? Perhaps the problem is that the automation is poor, not that you need more people.

Complain number 2: I need more designers.
What to do: Look at how your design team collaborate between each other and with other teams. Can you improve this? Are they still collaborating or are they ignoring each other?

Complain number 3: I need another project manager.
What to do: The problem may be lack of team commitment and that’s why you are not hitting your deadlines.

Once you have analysed the WHY you will be on a much better position to make decisions.

If after working on solving your problems you still realize that you need another team member, let’s look at HOW we can determine if this person would be a good fit.

AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO THE TRADITIONAL INTERVIEW

Let’s imagine you need a Java developer. Traditionally you will interview candidates who know Java and decide who to hire based on their experience with Java.

However if you stop there, you will never find out whether this person REALLY is a good fit. You should go beyond that and evaluate your candidates’ competencies:

How they think, how they work, how they interact with others and what are their values. This will have a direct impact on how quickly they can learn a new skill and how they would fit into the company’s culture and teams.

The fact is that skills are easy to learn and can be picked up in a matter of months if the developer knows another programming language and if he pairs up with a team mate.

So how do you evaluate your candidate’s competencies?

One of the best techniques to find out whether a candidate would be a good fit is to test your candidate in real life.

One way to do that is to have your candidate pairing up with your team members and work together for a day. This way you can see how your candidate works, behaves, thinks and interact.

During that day your team will evaluate the candidate’s technical skills and whether he or she shares the company’s values.

To help your team you can prepare an assessment table.

Each team member will assign points from 1 to 10 to each of the items. So for example if Lucas thinks that Peter (the candidate) is a great team player, he will give a 10 to that value.

The team should not interview the candidate. They need to observe how the candidate’s fits into the company’s culture.

Once the day is over, the team should meet and use the data collected to talk about the candidate and share their findings. It’s very important to have this meeting in order to decide who to hire. Don’t use the table to make a hiring decision without having had a team discussion first. The team meeting is the key; the table is just here to help facilitate the conversation.

I hope this approach has given you a fresh perspective on how to hire for agile teams.

Always keep in mind that is better to hire for long-term fit, not for short-term quick fixes.

Let me know in the comments what’s your experience with hiring new team members? What lessons have you learned from your mistakes?

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