I want to start by saying that I’m not a professional recruiter. I’m certain they have challenges I know nothing about. But I know the way recruiting works has to change if we’re going to see Agile methods take hold.

A key element of Agile work is a small team that develops a good working relationship. The team’s ability to interact replaces the heavyweight process that comes with traditional management. Changes in any team’s membership has an adverse effect on its performance. But this is compounded when the team is using established working relationships to keep the project flowing smoothly. This means we have to be able to find good replacements quickly. Current recruiting practice doesn’t seem to lend itself to that.

We found great difficulty getting past what people can talk about but can’t actually do. I believe our project worked on the leading edge of what the latest technologies offered. Since what we were doing was so new, we didn’t expect to find people who had already done it.  We were looking for people who understood the basics of the frameworks we were using. Then we could teach them what they needed to know to move forward.

I don’t know whether we were not finding people who really knew what they could speak to or we were not finding people with whom we could communicate. What I do know is we had to work through many new team members who required more time in instruction than they gave back in completed work. We finally wound up with a team that was able to succeed, but we wasted a lot of time getting there.

I’d be interested in your suggestions for improving the process of finding people. Is it better testing? Do people need trial exercises on-site, such as hack-a-thons? Should we bring people on part-way and only start paying them when they start delivering? In that case, what about the cost of on-boarding someone?

I’d love for this to be a post about what I know. Unfortunately, this is a post about what I know needs improvement. But I don’t know how to improve it. Feel free to make your suggestions in comments.

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