The recruiting industry has changed a lot over 16 years. When I began, LinkedIn wasn’t a thing, so I had to call into banks to build lists of talent to target. I couldn’t just ping someone on LinkedIn and have their resume at my fingertips. It was hard work in the beginning, but I freaking loved it. The challenge taught me how to hone my skills and develop relationships with not only my internal clients but also my candidates.
In 2017, I had to come to a very hard realization: What I wanted was a Recruiting Utopia, but what I found myself working in Recruiting Shit Show. Traditional recruiting is sometimes the very definition of insanity. You get a job, you search for candidates, conduct interviews, place the candidate, they quit, and the cycle repeats. As I began to do a deep dive to learn what was causing this chaos, I found there were four dysfunctions to how recruiting is normally done.
I’ll cover each of the dysfunctions but also suggest how the four disciplines of Sprint Recruiting allow recruiters to get out of the muck and into the Go Zone.
Not Aligned with our Client’s Needs
I frequently heard client feedback that recruiting could not meet their needs. When I would pull the numbers, I could see that in a selected month, we filled X number of positions, which seemed impressive as a solo data point. The client’s feedback tended to include that the roles filled were not aligned with the business’s needs. Without prioritization and a belabored feedback loop, it made sense why this was such a contention point with our clients.
I also noticed we had no way to stop and evaluate the process consistently. We would jump on the rat wheel of insanity day after day without stopping to identify what was working and what obstacles prevented success. Sometimes, we would have the one-off meeting as a team, but without client involvement. How would we know if the ideas we created were feasible?
When we tried to set up regular meetings with our clients, some would just blow them off or indicate they had more important meetings to attend. It was not as though we were not trying; it was more like we didn’t have their buy-in to the iterative process of success. Honestly, if their view of our process was that it prohibited them from meeting their goals and produced lackluster candidates, why would they want to waste their time meeting with us to enhance the process?
Solution: The Sprint Creates Efficiency
A sprint is defined as a short, time-boxed period when a scrum 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 team ship better software with fewer headaches.
Recruiting can be a rat wheel at times…well, most of the time. The sprints help leaders and their teams stop bi-weekly to discuss successes to find ways to scale them for future sprints. It could be a new sourcing tool, a new trick in your applicant tracking system that helped you bank more points. Regardless of the success, document these successes to implement and continue to evolve.
Before 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. The Sprint Recruiting method has allowed us to formalize this sharing to maximize our iterative growth every two weeks.
Lack of Prioritization
At the time, I supported a business executive who had a new priority job every week, sometimes twice a week. It was a “hair on fire” or “have to have this filled” scenario every week. This constant change in direction for the team created a ton of stress and drained our efficiency ratio. Rather than completing one job, we were consistently diverted to the latest dumpster fire at his direction. We lost credibility with our candidates, who got lost in the process while our morale began to tank, and we took the stress out on each other.
As our priorities kept changing, we missed out on many opportunities to add great talent to the firm. The forced multitasking created holes in our candidate experience. We were so unorganized that we often didn’t realize just how many candidates we lost in our chaos until it was too late. The definition of success was changing so often, it seemed pointless to attempt to please our client. Our client was essentially driving a bus to the looney bin once a week, and we willingly got on the bus with him. It was insanity, and just writing about it causes my anxiety levels to increase.
Solution: The Business Determines the Priority
In Sprint Recruiting, the first Principle is “The Business Determines the Priority”. We do this by forcing the clients to manage a budget of points and assign a point value to the roles that are most critical for the sprint. This puts the definition of success in the hands of your clients while also providing some prioritization for the recruiters. Learn more in this post: Applying the Point System of AGILE to Recruiting
Lack of Focus
When I dove into the data during the initial development phase of Sprint Recruiting, I noticed that we would often work on roles for weeks on end when we had already presented a slew of qualified candidates to the managers for review. This continuous chaos kept us from working on other positions that needed attention and created a bottleneck.
Managers would have over-analysis paralysis or the fear of missing out (FOMO) of another great candidate who may or may not exist. We were creating more work for ourselves and killing our efficiency in the process. It was as if we were trying to build a car but kept focusing on creating more doors when focusing on building out the engine or some other essential element would be more beneficial. We had no process identifying when to stop funneling candidates to the managers and moving on to different roles.
We called ourselves multitasking when we were creating more work for ourselves while also sabotaging our candidate experience. Nothing will kill team engagement like a client who continuously wants to badger you for more candidates when they potentially have a rockstar already in the pool. Without any rule or process to create a stop-gap, we continuously fell into the trap of just being busy.
Solution: Work In Progress Limits (WIP)
In sprint recruiting, WIP limits keep the process moving. Once you’re at your limit for a role, you move on to the next one in priority. I’ve used the example of WIP limits serving like the beat in a song. Every beat keeps the process moving on to the next verse or measure. It’s consistent and almost predictable, which allows the listener to focus on the story the song is telling. WIP limits are the beating drum that helps your team quickly evaluate what needs to be done on each role in a priority format.
Essentially, you set limits to the number of candidates in each stage of the process. I typically focus on three:
- Recruiter Sourcing
- Hiring Manager Submitted
- Hiring Manager Interviewing
Let’s say you decide the max number of candidates in each lane is 5. The recruiters work on the role assigned the highest number of points and once they hit 5 candidates in submission, they stop working on the role and move on to the next one.
WIP limits prevent team members from starting tasks on multiple requisitions at the same time. They help your team manage capacity, focus on critical tasks, identify opportunities for continuous improvement, and introduce previously unseen capacity in your process. Read more about the key benefits of prioritization and WIP limits in recruiting.
The Feedback Loop is Broken
I noticed we had a one-sided feedback service level agreement (SLA). Clients could demand time limits on our team, but we didn’t do the same to them, adding to the over-analysis paralysis or FOMO mentioned above.
Candidates would go through the process with little or no feedback unless they were the chosen ones to receive an offer. As a result, we missed out on qualified candidates who may have been great for other roles in the organization. Was the candidate too inexperienced or not a culture fit? Most of the time, we only received minimal feedback, which would tell us the candidate just wasn’t the one for the role.
When I charted the candidate journey using data from our applicant tracking system, one of our departments took an average of 7 business days to tell us if a submitted candidate was worthy of an interview and another two weeks to get feedback after an interview. This added three weeks to the candidate process in a candidate-driven market. Without some time of requirement or time limit, we continued to suffer a bad reputation in the market for a belabored interview process and ghosting candidates who were not selected for the role.
Solution: 48 Hours to Give Feedback
In order for the process to work, the hiring managers need to have limits too. Sprint Recruiting implements a 48 hour turnaround time on feedback on candidates in both the submission and interview stages. This allows recruiters to create that rhythmic routine of working on key roles with the goal of hitting their WIPs, then moving on the next in priority. The managers who want to see or interview more candidates MUST give feedback on those already in their lane before receiving more.
This can be a tricky part of the implementation but it is by far one of the quickest ways to increase recruiting efficiency. I’ve written a lot about this particular step of the process! Read them all: Hiring Manager Feedback.
Sprint recruiting has allowed numerous teams to transform and evolve with their clients, the market, and candidates. They’ve learned to fall in love with the problem and not the solution. Instead of working for months on a new policy or procedure, they work on a framework and test it for one or two sprints. Based on feedback, the recruiting team and client determine to either continue to iterate the idea or kill it.
Sprint recruiting will allow you the time and focus on trying new things and aligning your success more closely with your client. If you’d like to learn more about the process, I’d encourage you to read the book. I promise, it isn’t long and doesn’t read like your typical HR book.
and Sprint Recruiting
Trent Cotton is a highly accomplished leader and strategist with extensive experience in organizational development, talent management, and business operations. With a strong background in HR leadership, he has a proven track record of designing and implementing innovative HR programs that drive employee engagement, retention, and business performance.
As an experienced executive, Trent has worked with some of the world’s leading companies, where he has led and supported HR initiatives across a broad range of functions, including talent acquisition, workforce planning, diversity and inclusion, performance management, and employee relations. He is also highly skilled in HR technology implementation, data analytics, and HR process improvement, helping organizations to optimize their HR operations and drive business results.
If you follow his blog http://www.sprintrecruiting.com or have read his book, Sprint Recruiting, you would experience his raw communication style, his ability to build and lead high-performing teams, and his strategic mindset. He is passionate about creating workplaces where employees can thrive and grow, and he is committed to helping organizations leverage the power of their people to achieve their business objectives.
In addition to his professional experience, Trent is actively involved in his community and has served on several boards and committees supporting education, workforce development, and diversity initiatives.
In his free time, Trent has written two books: “The 7 Deadly Sins of HR” and most recently, “Sprint Recruiting”. He will be releasing “The High Performing Recruiting Team” in the fall of 2023 and “FutHRist” in 2024.
He’s an active participant in the HR Industry and is asked to participate in roundtables or provide keynotes for many organizations. His blog Sprintrecruiting.com reaches thousands of readers and provides unique insights on a range of recruiting topics.