Agile Hiring: Our New Way of Interviewing

Hello friends! I’m Melissa Boggs, Chief ScrumMaster at Scrum Alliance. Together with Howard Sublett, our Chief Product Owner, I am blazing a trail into new territory where we embrace the Scrum values deeply and widely, stepping into these new roles instead of the traditional CEO. Here at Scrum Alliance Unscripted, we want to share that journey with you. 

Impediment: Finding the Right People

One of the biggest impediments to our agile journey so far has been filling open positions. We needed to hire two ScrumMasters, a Product Owner, an HR Partner, and a couple more roles. Finding the right people for these roles was necessary for the teams to become whole and healthy, and to my ability to step fully into my own role. We had several criteria:

  • Find the right people, quickly
  • Hire with confidence and without red tape and bureaucracy
  • Involve the teams who were going to work with the new people
  • Minimize the impact on our potential team member lives
  • Create transparency for everyone
  • Lastly and most importantly… create community through the process

Solution: Agile Hiring Event

We invited guests (candidates) to come to our office for an Agile Hiring Event. We explained ahead of time that this was not going to be a traditional interview. We shared that they would be spending the day with other guests in an all-day interactive session. (We did experiment in the ScrumMaster session with doing a Round 1/Round 2 format, where some guests were invited back in the afternoon for Round 2 and others were not. We are still exploring whether we will continue to use that part of the format in the future. )

Each hiring team nominated volunteers to represent them in the process. These volunteers were empowered by their teams to make decisions and provide feedback on behalf of the team.

Agile Hiring Event: Sample Schedule

Here is an example Hiring Event Schedule that we used when hiring product owners. 

Time Topic Description
(20 min)
Introductions of team and guests, information on org and org structure
9:50 Backlog Activity
(30 min)
POs were invited to work together to refine a fictional backlog about a circus performance with the team volunteers acting as their “team.” The POs were told that their goal was to help the other guests look good. We were looking for skills here in sharing, caring, calling out tension, and working as a team.
10:20 Speed Chatting
(80 min: 6 rounds of 12 min)
2:1 conversations with two team volunteers meeting with one guests for 12 min rounds. The pairing of the team volunteers here proved to be helpful to keep the conversation flowing without feeling like a panel.
11:30 Break for lunch
Debrief with team volunteers
and PO Chapter
Team volunteers documented their feedback on a whiteboard while the PO chapter observed and asked questions, since they would be meeting the guests in the afternoon.
1:00 LeanCoffee with PO Chapter All existing Product Owners and all guests talking about Product Ownership topics. Some topics that came up: Saying No, Passionate Stakeholders, Defining Value, and making tradeoffs.
2:00 Q&A with Melissa
(45 mins)
General questions about the role, the org, and more.
3:00 Debrief with team volunteers
and PO Chapter
Similar to lunch, but a final debrief to document the feedback.

Names Matter

One important note: We avoided using the term candidate and instead called them our guests. We wanted to avoid the use of a hierarchical term that implies that we, as the organization, are somehow in a power position. We acknowledge that the guests were interviewing us just the same way we were interviewing them, and that we will all continue to be part of the same community long after these events were over. We wanted to make sure we were all on equal footing, and that we were opening doors for future conversations. 

Feedback Loop

At the end of the day, the feedback was incredibly positive from both the guests and hiring teams perspectives. The hiring teams felt that they got to know our guests better than they would have in a traditional interview. The guests appreciated the opportunity to showcase their talents rather than just sit and answer questions. While approaching the interview was more nerve wracking for guests, my observation was that the transparency of being in person with other guests removed the fear of unknown and made guests feel more comfortable as time went on. 

We have more hiring events on the horizon for people skilled in Customer/Team Support, Education, and IT. I pledge to return and share more as we move through these new experiences! 



Posted: 7/31/2019 10:14:52 AM by Melissa Boggs | with 0 comments

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