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Writing a book on Hiring - A Community Project

| by Ben Linders Follow 29 Followers on Jun 18, 2015. Estimated reading time: 7 minutes |

Yves Hanoulle started a community project to write a book on hiring. InfoQ interviewed Hanoulle about this project, the differences between hiring contractors and "fixed" employees and ongoing trends in hiring. InfoQ also interviewed some of the members of this project about why they joined and their views on effective hiring.

InfoQ: Why have you started this community project?

Hanoulle: As a collaboration agent, I care about creating teams that work well together, and one of the things that have a huge impact on a team are the people they hire. So logically I started helping my clients with selecting people. Over the years I have gathered a small collection of questions and techniques. And then a few month ago, I was inspired by Jimmy Janlén visualisation book, where he was asking the agile community in feedback while writing the book. After a few weeks of engaging with his book, I got so much energy that I looked for things I could turn into a community book myself. And the rest is history as they say....

InfoQ: What is the audience that the book is intended for?

Hanoulle: It’s very tempting to say everyone that works in a team, I know that is ego, no book is really suitable for everyone, yet a lot of people that work in teams, don’t have a lot of experience in selecting people. By grouping the experience of a larger community, I hope we all (including or should I say especially myself) can learn a lot.

InfoQ: What in your opinion are the major differences between hiring contractors and "fixed" employees?

Hanoulle: Although from a legal point of view there are many differences, for me from a selecting perspective, they are not many. It’s easier when you are not happy about someone to not renew the contract of a contractor, yet we also have a 3 to 6 month period with employees. A contractor should fit in a team as much as an employee. That is one of the problems I see when companies are more careless about hiring contractors. That is a big risk as a bad contractor can also easily destroy the atmosphere in your team. It’s our intention to make some of the difference clear in the book. So far, we did not find any.

Maybe I’m biased because I started my own company in 1998, yet I have always treated my clients as if they where my employer. (Or maybe it’s better to say that I treated my older employers as if they where my customers? )

InfoQ: Can you name some of the ongoing trends in hiring?

Hanoulle: One of the trends I’m seeing in hiring people for many different roles, is that we look for ways we want to see the people in action. And there are multiple reasons for it, developers are not the most communicative people. So when we select a developer based on how good they talk, we will miss out a lot of great developers.

And the opposite is true also, I have seen people who ace an interview, yet turn out to be really great at selling themselves, yet are not able to perform the task they are hired for. In our book we intend to give examples of exercises for many different roles.

InfoQ: Can you give us an update on the current status of this community project?

Hanoulle: After about a month, we had 18 people have joined the project. Together we have written 50 pages already. Although some chapters are nearly finished, others are really only stubs with a few ideas.

Personally I would love to write this book with a lot more people. From the moment a company tries to grow beyond the founders, they need to think about hiring people, while cultivating and growing their culture.

I want this book to help them in all possible ways. And the more people we have, the more ways we can mention.If people are interested to join the community project they can contact me.

InfoQ asked some of the early members of this community project why they joined this community project and what they think is the most important thing that organizations should do to do effective hiring.

InfoQ: What made you decide to join this community project for writing a book about hiring?

Jurgen de Smet: I was asked by Yves and I have no idea why but I was immediately interested to join in as I hate how the majority of companies organize their employee interviews, to use stronger words: I find them a fraud! As such I would love to inspire people around the world to do things differently and mainly to let participants DO things instead of "Selling" things.

Anna Royzman: As a test lead and manager for many years, hiring good candidates was my responsibility. With joining the agile team several years ago, hiring took on a new direction: I started looking for testers who would also fit well into the cross-functional team. I have years of positive experience in this field, and love to share it with our community. Also, I enjoy collaborative work!

Mohammed Nafees Sharif Butt: I have had experience interviewing lots of people in last 8 years and I wanted to chime in with my contribution for the community in any way possible, no matter how small.

Bart Coelus: I’m a strong believer of teamwork - from management empowerment to self-organization. I’ve been hiring people for projects for over 15 years now and I must admit I’m frustrated to see how many times the wrong people get assigned to the wrong job just because the hiring process is simply outdated and a complete mismatch with the Agile & Lean management philosophy.

InfoQ: What in your opinion is the most important thing that organizations should do to do effective hiring?

Chuck Durfee: While skills are important, I think the human side of the equation is the most important. In most hiring situations, you are going to be spending a third of your life with this person. Pick people that you can get along with yet will challenge you. Ideally, you can help each other grow.

Anna Royzman: There are two parts of effective hiring: attracting the right candidates, and making them stay. In order to attract the right candidates, organizations need to change how they do candidates search. For example, in my field (testing/QA), searching resumes by keywords is the worst practice that could be applied to hiring. I suggest using networking resources of your own people. Nowadays, a lot of networking happens through social media and professional events like conferences. That’s where you meet other passionate professionals who could be a good fit for your team.

The second part of effective hiring is making the right candidate stay. For this, the organizations have to create a productive, nourishing environment, where professionals can grow and innovate. Money is not the attraction anymore; people want to have fulfillment at their job. Good organizations make that happen.

Mohammed Nafees Sharif Butt: Teams should hire their mates (or managers, for that matter) themselves, instead of delegating the entire job to HR. Not only this will result in welcoming and collaborative approach from existing employees, a sense of ownership, an excellent mentoring, etc. but also it will trim down the negative effect that usually happens when an awesome candidate doesn’t cross the HR bureaucracy.

If hiring is something that is done mostly (or entirely) by HR, then the first scrutiny should be applied on how are the HR people hired. Just like hiring traditional testers won’t necessarily fit in an Agile team, similarly, an HR personnel, educated and trained in traditional HR practices, won’t let go hiring in traditional way and is less likely to hire using modern approaches.

Thirdly, we can’t put enough emphasis on quality of work, motivation, empowerment, work-life balance, a leader-like-manager as traits of a good working environment as oppose to old-school thinking of pay-more-to-attract-more mentality. However, organizations need to restrain from offering only one of them at a time. I’ve seen organizations say, "hey, our culture is great, the environment is good, but dude, we won’t pay as much as others", or "The money is good, if you want culture, go work elsewhere". In this modern age, the knowledge worker is the driving force of economy. Mix the good culture with good incentives.

Bart Coelus: Invest in time to decide on the right criteria. Learn to know the solicitor and involve future colleagues in the hiring process. Use Agile techniques in all their aspects to hire great people for great teams.

Next to that I thing the way companies and employment is organized should be improved and go beyond ’the contract’. It should be possible to just go and work somewhere else for 6 months without loosing your job. I strongly believe this is a win-win for everybody, the employee and the companies.

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