Why Sprints work in Sprint Recruiting

One of the key drivers of Sprint Recruiting is the sprint itself. It is also one of the major mindshifts both recruiters and clients have to address when adopting the Sprint Recruiting methodology. Why do sprints work in Sprint Recruiting? One word-efficiency!

“With Scrum, a product is built in a series of iterations called sprints that break down big, complex projects into bite-sized pieces,” said Megan Cook, Group Product Manager for Jira Software at Atlassian.

First, let’s define what a sprint is. According to the AGILE methodology, a sprint is a short, time-boxed period when a team works to complete a set amount of work. Sprints are at the very heart of scrum and agile methodologies, and getting sprints right will help your agile produce better results with fewer headaches.

Agile also uses the pull versus pull methodology to create efficiency.

The push/pull terminology is commonly associated with logistics or operations management. Neither process is more right than the other but in sprint recruiting, we employ the pull method.

Imagine a factory with a line of workers assembling a product. Every time one station gets through with their portion of the assembly, they push it to the next and begin the process again. It’s not a bad method necessarily, but it takes longer for a push-based supply chain to respond to changes in demand, which can result in overstocking or bottlenecks and delays. This creates a ton of inefficiency in the process which directly affects your profit line.

Imagine the same scenario but this time, your station only begins working on a new assembly once your partnering station pulls your completed product to theirs. This is the pull method where production and distribution are demand-driven rather than to forecast.

To demonstrate the power of sprint in increasing efficiency, I usually have groups go through my “Paper Airplane Factory” session. The teams usually laugh and ask how hard could making airplanes be but once they get into the process, they learn how complicated it can be.

I recently conducted this training in our Texas locations with team members new to the Sprint Recruiting process. The goal is pretty simple- each completed airplane is a profit of $100 and they will have five minutes to see how many they can make.

Each team member has one to two tasks to complete in the contruction of the plane. Once they are completed with their step, they are to move on to produce as many as they can in the time allotted. At the end of the session, we will measure the profitability, waste, and backlogs. We would also break down their profit by minute to create our baseline to compare with future sessions.

There are usually three iterations in this training I like to use.

First-no sprint process: It’s fairly straightforward in this session. I simply time the group to see how many airplanes they can make using the push method.

Second1 Sprint Iteration:We will stop the clocks at the middle mark to allow the team to assess what’s working and what isn’t to make necessary adjustments. In this iteration, the team has to use the pull method.

Third2 Sprint Iterations -We stop every minute and a half for 30 seconds to make changes and continue. Nothing is off the table. The teams are allowed to completely redesign the process in any way they feel to be more efficient.

Measuring Efficiency in Sprint Recruiting

I always enjoy facilitating this session and watching the teams work to streamline or enhance their process. I’ve seen multiple variations of this excercise and no two methods have been alike. That’s the power of sprint process-iterative learning.

Iteration 1: Push Method

• 10 planes completed

• Average of 3.33 planes per minute

• Total profit of $1,000

Iteration 2: With 1 Sprint Iteration

• Profit per minute of $333.33

• 13 planes completed

• Average of 4.33 planes per minute

• Total profit of $1,300

• Profit per minute of $433.33

• 19 planes completed

Iteration 3: With 3 Sprint Iterations

• Average of 6.33 planes per minute

• Total profit of $1,900

• Profit per minute of $633.33

The idea of stopping in the middle of the process to discuss ways to increase production or deliberate on what method works better sounds counterintuitive to the participants at first. Once I show them the difference in the profitability per minute, they are almost always astounded by the increase in production and profitability.

In the above example, profitablity increased 200 dollars per minute or 90% from the first to third iteration. Only having one sprint iteration increased the profitability per minute by 30%. Without the ability for production teams to stop, evaluate and decide on better processes, these efficiencies would not have been found.

Sprint Recruiting Efficiency

Recruiting can be a rat wheel at times…well, most of the time. The sprints help me and the team stop bi-weekly to discuss our successes in ord to find ways to scale them for future sprints. It could be a new sourcing tool we discovered or a new trick in our applicant tracking system that helped us bank more points. Regardless of the success, we document these successes to implement and continue to evolve.

Prior to Sprint Recruiting, this success sharing was limited. We usually continued doing the same old thing the same old way, expecting better results week over week. Our Sprint Recruiting method has allowed us to formalize this sharing to maximize our iterative growth every two weeks.

The same holds true for identifying and discussing what went wrong. What are the obstacles? Is it a process or people? How do we overcome or avoid it next sprint? This process helps us not only scale our good but deal with our bad! (Sorry for the Facts of Life allusion!)

Similar to the airplane making exercise, our team has become better with each sprint. Sure, we still have some sprints when we wonder what the hell went wrong but those have become fewer over time.

We’ve also become closer as a team because we actually pause to celebrate our wins. This is important in any type of recruiting but especially in corporate, in-house recruiting. Unlike working for a firm, we do not have the big “pay-day” celebration for big wins. The Sprint Recruiting methodology allows us to celebrate the wins we do get.

Implementing Sprints in Recruiting

The Houston Team Celebrating after the Airplane activity.

If you’re curious about how to start with sprints in recruiting, you should be. It’s a fantastic way to tackle large recruiting projects or high volume targets.

You’ll first need to identify a business unit that is open to innovation. Our first couple of clients who were in our beta version of Sprint Recruiting were great partners not only because they embraced innovation but also because they gave great feedback. You will want to design your sprint around the needs of your client so it’s critically important to have a solid partner who will tell you the good and the bad as you begin your journey.

Second, you’ll want to select the jobs to be included in the sprint. The easiest way is to have the entire business unit’s roles in the sprint but that may not always be the best scenario your first time into it. Talk with your client to garner their buyin on which route works best for them.

Finally, you’ll need to develop a point target to strive towards in your sprint with each position being awarded a point value by the client. This will help you measure your efficiency sprint to sprint. (More on the point system coming in a future post.)


The adage, “it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon”, is good in some situations, but not when you want to increase efficiency in recruiting. The sprint is a powerful tool used to help drive innovation, bust down obstacles, and drive client experience. If you find yourself struggling and in a rut, give Sprint Recruiting a test drive with recruiting in sprints. It doesn’t have to be a two week sprint, maybe start with a four week sprint.

Find what works for you and keep iterating! I think you’ll become addicted to the quick successes you’ll achieve as a team. Be sure to comment below and let me know your experience goes and if you need my help!

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Published by Trent Cotton

I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. My passion to lead, innovate and engage the HR industry. I use my blog at NakedHR.me to reach thousands of readers and provides unique insights into a range of HR and business topics. I currently write for NakedHR.me and SprintRecruiting.com. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive. Connect with me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/trentcotton or on Twitter @TrentCotton.

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