Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hiring for an Agile Team

To date, this presentation was one of the most useful and relevant hands-on workshops I have done. I can say right now that this can and will be applied directly for myself and hopefully others who partake in the process of hiring either interns or permanent employees.

A definition to begin with; Agile teams tend to:
  • Be more collaborative
  • Be cross-functional
  • Roles tend to be blurred
  • Work in an intense environment (short work iterations, continuous releases and integration)
When looking for a good candidate for an agile team you should look at both non-technical and technical skills. For example:

  • High collaboration skills such as working well across teams and being able to contribute to the ongoing product reviews cycles
  • Able to take initiative
  • Has respect for each team member
Technical (the first two are the most important):
  • Functional knowledge (how do you work)
  • Product domain expertise (problem space and solution space)
  • Technology
  • Industry expert
What is important when interviewing candidates is to first list the non-technical skills that are important to you and your team. This also applies for technical skills but since the talk focused more on non-technical, I'll keep it post within that subject. The following is a list of interview techniques that can be used for the interviewer to better know the candidate:

  1. Using behavior-description type questions for example: "Tell me about a time when..." or "Give an example of...". This type of question has the candidate reflect on past experiences and provide valuable information to the interviewer. The best way to handle an answer to this type of question is to target recent experiences first. As Johanna best put it, "the most recent behavior is a very good indicator of future behavior".
  2. The audition technique. This technique can be realized by submitting the candidate into a typical team scenario and have him act as if he where in the team. This allows the interviewer to see the candidate in action.
  3. Hypothetical questions such as "What would you do if ..." gets to the point and allows the interviewer to get very precise information.
  4. Closed questions should be used to establish facts
  5. Open ended questions should be used to allow the candidate to explain his story and give you certain detail that more direct questions cannot provide.
  6. Meta-question can yield VERY interesting answers such as asking "Is there something else I should be asking you?"
All of these techniques can be used and tailored to a particular organization and team however it is important to avoid certain pitfalls such as:
  • Asking puzzle or riddle type questions
  • Asking: "Why do you want to work here?"
The puzzle type questions have no relevance that would help you screen and good candidate for an agile team and if a candidate is really excited to work for your organization, he or she will tend to tell you without having been asked; Asking directly will most likely yield some generic answer having no useful content.

The above post is a summary of the information that has been presented and I would like to invite you to look at Johanna site at the following links:

Consulting site:

Useful templates:

Johanna's blog on hiring technical people:


Anonymous said...

very Informative and equally interesting content .Thanks

J said...

Hi, not sure exactly who has posted this but if you're from my team leave me an e-mail and I'll provide you with even more detailed information.