#85 - Agile Recruiting: Hiring in a Complex and Uncertain World - Jens Olberding

 

 

“Today, employees want more autonomy, e.g. work-life balance and working from home, and at the same time, they want more social inclusion to get as many authentic insights into the company and the new job as possible."

Jens Olberding is the author of “Agile Recruiting” and an expert in agile HR management. In this episode, we opened our conversation discussing the great resignation trend and its underlying reasons. Jens then shared the concept of agile recruiting and explained how it is very much relevant to the latest changes in the current job landscape. He emphasized that recruiting should not only put focus just on the hiring departments’ needs but also equally on the candidates to understand better what they truly want from their career. Jens also shared a few recruiting best practices, such as getting the recruiting teams’ involvements in the recruitment process, building cross-functional teams, and the SuSiBOL interview technique that he shared towards the end to help in assessing candidates’ behaviors and competencies better.  

Listen out for:

  • Career Journey - [00:06:00]
  • The Great Resignation - [00:07:33]
  • Agile Recruiting - [00:11:10]
  • What the Candidate Wants - [00:14:12]
  • Recruiting Team Involvement - [00:15:55]
  • Hire for Talent, Train for Skills - [00:18:50]
  • Cross-Functional Team - [00:20:24]
  • Assessing Potentials - [00:22:52]
  • Communication Among Equals - [00:24:23]
  • Preselection - [00:26:22]
  • Diversity of Experience - [00:30:51]
  • SuSiBOL Technique - [00:34:21]
  • Onboarding - [00:39:14]
  • Tech Lead Wisdom - [00:42:48]

_____

Jens Olberding’s Bio
Jens Olberding is an expert in agile HR management and recruiting. He is a qualified organisational psychologist and has a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management. He is also a lecturer for diagnostics and recruitment and teaches methods for competence-based recruiting processes. His focus is on supporting agile transformations and the development of agile HR organisations in medium-sized companies. As a coach for leadership and transformation, he accompanies teams, leaders and organisations on their way to more agility.

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Quotes

The Great Resignation

  • I guess the great resignation has a lot to do with autonomy, competence and social inclusion, which when fully met, promote our wellbeing at work and positively influence our behavior. Today, employees want more autonomy, e.g. work life balance and working from home, and at the same time, they want more social inclusion.

  • For recruiting, this means that companies definitely need to offer flexible work hours and remote work. So that’s a must. Additionally, recruiting should provide as many authentic insights into the company as a new job as possible, for the social inclusion. So it’s important that candidates interact quickly with the new colleagues in order to feel socially integrated. Team-building process in the selection process.

  • For all work where remote work is possible, you have to find a way how you can fulfill the need for social inclusion.

  • You start to do more team events or bring people together and experience to be part of a team of a company. So you have to spend more time and more effort to connect people and bring them into a discussion to make them feel as a team, to make them feel welcome and successful in what they do.

  • It’s also helpful to integrate the team from the department who’s looking for a new employee, to advise this team in the recruiting process to connect with them. That’s a way for the candidate to know the colleagues of the future. How these people look like? How do I like them? How well do I fit in? Do they give me the feeling of being part of a team? So it’s more important to connect people on the same level.

  • It’s not so important that the HR guy is in the interview, cause normally it’s not the person you will work with. After the interview or after the recruiting process, normally you won’t see your recruiter again.

Agile Recruiting

  • I put “agile” in recruiting because it means that HR is aligning itself even more closely with the customer. For HR, it’s always a question: who’s the customer? Is it the department or is it the applicant?

  • First and foremost, it’s always a role of HR to support the department in all tasks. That’s why there’s an HR department. It’s a service department who support for the other departments. One of the biggest challenges for every department is finding new employees. So that’s one of the biggest tasks HR has to help their first, most important customer.

  • If you look at what applicants want today, it’s a transparent insight into the company and the task, what they have to do. But also into the type of the company and the team they are applying to.

  • HR has to help the department who’s looking for new employee and has to focus on the applicants. What do they want? What’s the big change in the great resignation? How can we connect the department and candidate in an easy way and a good way? How can we give a candidate a good insight of our company and be really authentic about the culture and the job tasks?

  • There’s another part where it’s agile in recruiting. It’s the point of flexibility and adaptability. So working environments are changing faster and faster due to COVID.

  • Employees are needed now who can keep up with these changes. So they have to be more flexible, more willing to learn and change. And this is the reason why technical skills are moving more into the background. It’s always good to have some technical skills, but in a very fast changing environment, every day you need new skills. Things you learn at your university will be outdated in a few years. So you have to be flexible, willingness to learn, change.

What the Candidate Wants

  • You have to focus on your candidates and their needs much more than maybe the needs of your real customers who are buying your products.

  • Most of the companies I talked with have a lot of customers, a lot to do, and no need to find new customers. But they can’t do their work or can’t do new things because of a lack of employees.

  • It’s one of the biggest things every company has, to find new employees to do more work, to grow, to make new stuff. So you really have to focus on candidates, on employees and their needs. It’s more important for the future of their company.

  • It’s necessary to find out how a candidate looks at the recruiting process. Everyone knows the candidate journey, which is related to a customer journey, you know, from a sales cycle or something like that. And you have to present some important information to the candidate at each step of the recruiting process.

  • The central question is, what information do your candidate need to make a decision to go on with you in your recruiting process? We started with flexible working hours, part of remote work, working from home, but also the insights of the company and to feel involved and to feel welcomed in the company.

Recruiting Team Involvement

  • The team should be involved in the recruitment process. For example, one big question, maybe every candidate will have is: what is my boss like? What kind of person is he or she is? This is a question you normally can’t ask in the job interview. Maybe you can ask your recruiter, what’s the boss like? But in the end, as the HR guy does not know how your future boss really is because he doesn’t report to this leader.

  • It’s more authentic and believable if a candidate can ask this question to future colleagues of his team. That’s a real authentic insight of the team and about what’s the leadership and also the opportunity to bond for the team.

Hire for Talent, Train for Skills

  • Because things are always changing, technology is always changing, we should hire for talent and train for the skills.

  • Steve Jobs says, “Don’t hire smart people and tell them what to do. Hire smart people and they can tell you what to do.”

  • Everything is changing and everything will be different in a month or in a year. So you need employees who are willing to do this change.

  • If you will survive on the market, you will always have to change to invent yourself, to become a better company, to focus on different problems of your customers. So you need people who are willing to learn, who are able to change, and who are more flexible. And it’s more important than 10 years ago to have employees who can do that.

Cross-Functional Team

  • To build a cross-functional team, you need more generalists versus a lot of more specialists.

  • That’s a part where the team takes part in a recruiting process and it’s a cross-functional team with different skills. So they can look for competencies which are missing in the team or which skills are more needed.

  • Use the cross-functional teams just to make clear that it’s more important to have the right soft skills, the right competencies. Maybe not a technical expert.

  • There are some personal skills and some social skills which are learned in the very first years of your life, maybe in your childhood or at school. And that’s the basement for the methodological skills, the way how you use your skills to get new language and new skills. The way how you learn new stuff, how you solve problems.

  • If you are able to put your competencies well together to become a fast learner or to become more flexible, you can adapt more things you learn to fulfill the new task. That’s more important than being a very deep expert in some part.

  • There’s always a place for experts, and I don’t like to bash them that hard. We will need them, but we also need people who are flexible, who can change, who can go with the future very fast.

Assessing Potentials

  • When you find people, you should focus on three things: the qualification characteristics, the competencies, and potential.

  • It is a hard task to figure out the potential of a person. So many psychological things building on. One of the most valid things is to make an intelligent test. It’s the most important thing.

  • Even if you are really trained in a recruiting, as a recruiter, it’s hard to get a way at the potential of some people. You need some really good interview techniques to figure it out, and one of the easiest way is to do a kind of test.

  • An easier way, and the other way, is to look at the grades at school. How boring it sounds, but good grades are a good indicator for an intelligent people.

Communication Among Equals

  • Communication among equals means that the team will be involved in the recruiting process, to be more authentic at the same level professionally. If you are a software developer, you will talk to your software developer team you will work with, for example.

  • If we involve the team in the recruitment process, we focus on self organization in the team, so they will be responsible for the hire.

  • Once we started with agile recruiting, I was surprised how honored a team was to be involved in the recruitment process. They really can influence the process and will be integrated into the decision-making process. That has a really big impact.

Preselection

  • Pre-selection of suitable candidates is hardly possible on the basis of applicant’s documents. It’s harder to find any valid selection criteria from the CV and from the web that are really valid, that really have an impact.

  • We all think if you do sports and if you do a team sport, you will be a good team player. No! There’s no valid research that it’s true. It’s in your head. It’s your personal bias, but it’s not science and science can’t prove that thinking.

  • Another point is that applicants know how to write resumes. There are countless books and coaching sessions on the subject of applying correctly. The credibility of application documents is so questionable since every applicant is likely to use some strategies to present himself or herself, and a really good lie to be the best one.

  • In the end, there are just a few things we really can read out of the resume. Maybe that it’s the years of profession. Good grades are always a sign for an intellectual employee.

  • Therefore, you do not have a lot of things you can read out of a resume. You have to talk to people. So you have to do telephone interviews or Zoom calls. The first step is to get a short impression of the real person behind the CV. That’s a part where the team, the recruiting team or the team of the department who’s looking for an employee can be involved just for a short interview to find some very important fix, like some profession or some very important soft skills.

  • If you talk about software developer, it’s really common to do a quick coding test, live coding on a Zoom call, or to do some bug fixes in the end. And that’s the very first part where the team can help HR, and it’s also a great opportunity to bond with the candidate. So the first contact the team that a candidate can have, so they can look if they fit, if they like it, if it’s a good match. So that’s the first part where the team can be integrated into the interview process.

  • If you’re one of the happy companies who have 100 applicants for a software developer position, you have to scan the CV for some important steps, like, how many experience you have? You can look at the grades from university. There’s some hard fact you can look at.

  • Even if you scan a hundred resumes, you will come in the end to 20 resumes. It’s a good decision to get in touch with a candidate in real person or a Zoom call to have a better view of what a person is really like.

  • HR owns the process. They really know how a good recruiting process looks like, and they improve this process every day to get better, and may customize on the needs of the department who’s looking for candidates. HR is also responsible for enabling the department to do some recruiting stuff. So the department has to learn how to make a good interview. What are the suitable questions? How to figure out if a candidate is a team player?

Diversity of Experience

  • In the case of work experience, diversity of the experience is significantly more predictive of the fit and job success, rather than just the experience alone.

  • It’s really important to have some different experience in your own job. It helps you to become more flexible or just to stay flexible in your thinking.

  • According to research and the science, it’s not important how often you change your job, the company or the department.

    • However, if you change every three months, I can’t believe that you are able to get more professional in a job because you are always in a change process, and never in a working phase in your life.
  • If you are a software developer, and changes every two years, the company you work for, and there’s a good story behind it because you develop yourself in every change, every step you made, that’s a great story. So if you come from a junior to professional, to a senior, just to get more deep in some special things you’d like to program, to work with, that’s fantastic. If you just do some random quits and go to new jobs and have no good story behind, maybe it’s a little questionable why you did that.

SuSiBOL Technique

  • You have to look at competencies. It’s harder to make questions which focus on competencies.

  • First of all, it’s about the unconscious bias. So you always have some thinking in your head about people, even when you look at the photo, the name, or the first impression. You have to be aware that this first impression of a photo, of a person, of a name is not valid for the final decision if it’s a good or a bad employee.

  • There’s never a bad employee. All employees are good. The question is good for which task? What are the good tasks for this candidate to work on?

  • Most recruiters and HR people learn how important it is to be aware of their own bias. You have to train it or train it to the department so that they are aware of their own biases.

  • There’s a technique I like called SuSiBOL. It’s a way how you can find more about some specific behavior and the competencies behind.

    • Su stands for suggestive statement. Maybe you will find out how a candidate deals with a critical situation with a customer.

      • So I start with a question like, I guess, there will always be some customers who are not as easy to satisfy. Do you know, such a situation? So I offer them a room. So I know as an interviewer, there will always be some customers are not satisfied that make it easier for the candidate to say, yes, I know the situation.
    • Si for Situation. When the candidate says, yeah, I know about such a situation. Now you can ask, oh, you know a situation. Please tell me something about this concrete situation of your past. So now the candidate has to tell you something about this situation. It’s a concrete situation.

    • B for Behavior. We ask a lot of questions about the behavior. How do you deal with this situation?

      • You don’t ask a lot what is the concrete situation. What kind of a customer was it? What did go wrong? What were the reasons? Nope, you ask about the behavior. How do you deal with it? How you fix the problem and so on. That’s the most important thing to ask some questions about the behavior. Because that gives you a clue about the competency. How a candidate deals with critical situations, critical customers.
    • O for outcome. What was the outcome? It’s just questions of how does the situation end?

    • L for learning. So what did you learn about the situation? What did you learn for the future? How will you handle this situation if you can start from the top?

  • The SuSiBOL is an acronym for a really easy loop to learn how to ask about competencies. It’s really easy to prepare for these questions before an interview. So you can write some questions down with the SuSiBOL technique and its logic, and ask the candidate about it.

Onboarding

  • Onboarding starts even from the first time you have a contact with the candidate.

  • If an applicant, or a candidate get in touch with the team, maybe in the pre-selection phase, or the interview, or maybe they only have a coffee for social interview or something like that, there’s a kind of team-building process going on. The team gets to know the candidate. The candidate gets to know the team, and the idea of each other.

  • It’s a really kind of onboarding or team building at the very beginning of a recruiting process. The whole process starts again when the candidate finally comes to the team on his first working day, but this process shortens.

  • The Tuckman model of team building, it’s about storming, forming, performing phases of a team. We get faster and productive employee because the team-building process shortens a lot. But it can shorten a lot depends on how well you involve a team.

  • If you involve the team in the recruitment process, the team shares responsibility for the selection decision. So the interest of the team in training the new colleague is many times higher than if the new employee is simply presented by the boss. Because it was my decision as a team to put Henry on my team, so I feel responsible that Henry will feel welcome, to be well trained, to become productive in a very short time. And so that’s also something that is good for the self organization of a team.

Tech Lead Wisdom

  • There’s one thing I really like to share with all leaders in my trainings. Something I try to get across in every one of my trainings is that no employee gets up in the morning to do a bad job. No one thinks, “Today, I’m going to do my worst. Today, I show my boss all things I can do wrong. So I’m really a bad guy today.”

  • Even if it feels different, sometimes you must not forget that everyone wants to give their best. Everyone wants to be part of something and feels that they’re effective. That’s something that’s in every human nature.

  • This is then also for me, the most important insights for managers. It’s my most leadership tip. The most central task for leaders to derive from this is to enabling others to perform. So, if you’re a leader, you have to enable them to perform without any boundaries. Any things you struggle with, you have to clarify the working environment to make others perform.

Transcript

[00:01:31] Episode Introduction

Henry Suryawirawan: Hello again to all of you, my friends and listeners. Welcome to the Tech Lead Journal podcast, the show where you can learn about technical leadership and excellence from my conversations with great thought leaders. Thank you for tuning in today listening to this episode. If this is your first time listening to Tech Lead Journal, subscribe and follow the show on your podcast app and social media on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. And if you are a regular listener and enjoy listening to the episodes, will you subscribe as a patron at techleadjournal.dev/patron, and support my journey to continue producing great Tech Lead Journal episodes every week.

Hiring people can be challenging, especially in a fast growing companies and startups. Finding the right talents who are suitable with the company culture and retaining them are some key areas that are always top of the mind for hiring managers and recruiters. After the pandemic, the hiring landscape also changes drastically, with more employees looking for remote work and flexible working arrangements. The great resignation is also an ongoing trend in some parts of the world with job dissatisfaction mentioned as one of the top reasons why people are quitting their jobs.

My guest for today’s episode is Jens Olberding. Jens is the author of “Agile Recruiting” and an expert in agile HR management. In this episode, we opened our conversation discussing the great resignation trend and some of its underlying reasons. Jens then shared the concept of agile recruiting and explained how it is very much relevant to the latest changes in the current job landscape. He emphasized that recruiting should not only put focus just on the hiring department’s needs, but also equally on the candidates to understand better what they truly want from their career. Jens also shared a few recruiting best practices, such as getting the recruiting team’s involvements in the recruitment process, building cross-functional teams, and an interesting SuSiBOL interview technique that he shared towards the end that we can use to assess candidate’s behaviors and competencies better.

I enjoyed my conversation with Jens, discussing about hiring best practices, latest hiring trends, and the concept of agile recruiting that can help us to hire in such a complex and uncertain world. If you also enjoy and find this episode useful, help me share it with your friends and colleagues who would also benefit from listening to this episode. Leave a rating and review on your podcast app and share some comments or feedback about this episode on your social media. It is my ultimate mission to make this podcast available to more people, and I need your help to support me towards fulfilling by mission. Before we continue to the conversation, let’s hear some words from our sponsor.

[00:05:14] Introduction

Henry Suryawirawan: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another new episode of the Tech Lead Journal podcast. Today, I have a different type of guest with me today. His name is Jens Olberding. He’s an actually an expert in agile HR management. So as you can guess, probably we are going to talk a lot more about recruiting today, which is probably one of the hottest topic in the engineering out there because we are always recruiting. Jens actually just released a book, and it’s all about Agile Recruiting. So again, today we’ll be covering a lot about what is agile recruiting. How can you actually use that concept to help you in hiring engineers? Welcome to the show, Jens. Really looking forward for this conversation.

Jens Olberding: Hi, Henry, thank you for having me, and I’m really excited to be at the Tech Lead Journal. So I’m happy to be here.

[00:06:00] Career Journey

Henry Suryawirawan: So, Jens, in the beginning, maybe if you can introduce yourself, tell us more about your career journey or highlights, turning points so that we can also understand where you are coming from.

Jens Olberding: Okay. Yeah, as mentioned, I’m an HR guy. I live in Germany, close to Swiss border. My whole career, I always worked as an HR guy. I started as a headhunter. Later on, I worked as an HR business partner and the very last year, I worked as agile transformation manager stuff. In 2017, I founded my own company called laeuft. It’s a German word, and it’s not so easy to explain the meaning in English, but it’s something like, don’t worry, everything is good or everything’s in a good way, laeuft. It works. One of my biggest projects so far is with a German automotive manufacturer, where I would do some transformation stuff from the classical way of engineering to the e-mobility as it’s a big topic. They also do the e-mobility part and in great agile cooperate culture thing, new leadership skills and so on.

That’s kind of a record of all things I do, identifying and developing people’s skills and competencies. And that’s how my book, Agile Recruiting, came about. It’s about empowering people to make a better selection process, and of course, about correctly identifying the skills of applicants. A more thriving organization and competence-based selection process.

Henry Suryawirawan: Thanks so much for your introduction. So, I don’t know how to pronounce the company name, but I like the meaning of it, like everything is going to be okay. That’s kind of like very assuring.

[00:07:33] The Great Resignation

Henry Suryawirawan: So before we move on to our actual topic, I want to discuss one phenomenon that is also quite widely published. It’s called the great resignation. Maybe predominantly happening in the Western side of the world. But I can also see some parts of Asia also kind of like following the trends somehow. Due to the pandemic maybe? Maybe can tell us more what do you think is happening here? Why there’re this phenomena of great resignation?

Jens Olberding: I guess The great resignation has a lot to do with autonomy, competence and social inclusion, which when fully met, promote our wellbeing at work and positively influence our behavior. Today, employees want more autonomy, e.g. work life balance and working from home, and at the same time, they want more social inclusion. So the best of the pre-COVID time to meet real people in real life with real coffee. And the part from working from home, have a better work life balance, which due to COVID, we are able to work more from home.

So for recruiting, this means that companies definitely needs to offer flexible work hours and remote work. So that’s a must. Additionally, recruiting should provide as many authentic insights into the company and the new job as possible, for the social inclusion. So it’s also important that candidates interact quickly with the new colleagues in order to feel socially integrated. Team-building process in the selection process.

Henry Suryawirawan: So you mentioned a couple of very interesting things, right? Because you mentioned all these attributes that probably people are looking like psychological safety or social inclusion, work life balance, working from home, flexible working hours. So all these seems to be quite a trend these days. Do you see this kind of change of what people really want from a job actually affecting the recruitment process? Or maybe from the company’s point of view, what do they need to think about now in order not to get affected by many people resigning from the company?

Jens Olberding: First of all, you have to offer flexible work hours and remote work. So you have to do that. If it’s possible in any way, you have to do. If you run a hotel, that will be hard to do remote work. You need your staff at your hotel. But for all work where remote work is possible, you have to find a way how you can fulfill the need of social inclusion. How can you manage the day working at home? Maybe you start to do more team events or bringing people together and a real experience to be part of a team of a company. So you have to spend more time and more effort to connect people and bring them in a discussion to make them feel as a team, to make them feel welcome and successful in what they do.

Henry Suryawirawan: How about in terms of the recruitment process itself? I know like these are the benefits that you will offer, but is there any significant difference in terms of recruitment process due to the great resignation?

Jens Olberding: Maybe that is more common to do video calls than interviews in person. That’s one part that’s easy to fix to do more Zoom calls than real interviews in person. But I guess it’s also helpful to integrate the team from the department who’s looking for a new employee to advise this team in the recruiting process to connect them. That’s a way for the candidate to know the colleagues of the future. How these people look like? How do I like them? How well do I fit in? Do they give me the feeling of being part of a team? So it’s more important to connect people on the same level. So it’s not so important that the HR guy is in the interview, cause normally it’s not the person you will work with. After the interview or after the recruiting process, normally you won’t see your recruiter again.

[00:11:10] Agile Recruiting

Henry Suryawirawan: So, it seems that when you say that the team themselves now needs to be involved in the process, maybe helping to interview. Those are like some of the concepts from the agile recruiting, because I had a chance to take a look at the book. But for people who are not yet familiar about this whole concept of agile recruiting, can you probably explain to us what is actually agile recruiting? Is it just recruitment traditionally plus agile process that it becomes agile recruiting or essentially there is something different underneath it?

Jens Olberding: I put agile in recruiting because it means that HR is aligning itself even more closely with the customer. That’s a typical agile thing to focus on the customer. For HR, it’s always a question: who’s the customer? Is it the department or is it the applicant? So maybe there are two customers. But first and foremost, it’s always a role of HR to supporting the department in all tasks. That’s why there’s an HR department. It’s a service department who support for the other departments. One of the biggest challenges for every department is finding new employees. So that’s one of the biggest tasks HR has to help their first, most important customer.

If you look at what applicants want today, it’s a transparent insight into the company and the task, what they have to do. But also into the type of the company and the team they are applying to. So, first of all, HR has to help the department who’s looking for new employee and has to focus on the applicants. What do they want? What’s the big change in the great resignation? How can we connect the department and candidate in an easy way and a good way? How can we give a candidate a good insight of our company and be really authentic about the culture and the job tasks?

There’s another part where it’s agile in recruiting. It’s the point of flexibility and adaptability. So working environments are changing faster and faster due to COVID. COVID is a great resignation. There was something before and there will be something after that. Employees are needed now who can keep up with these changes. So they have to be more flexible, more willing to learn and change. And this is the reason why technical skills are moving more into the background. It’s always good to have some technical skills, but in a very fast changing environment, every day you need new skills. Things you learn at your university will be outdated in a few years. So you have to be flexible, willingness to learn, change. A lot of parts why agile is important for recruiting.

Henry Suryawirawan: So, you mentioned about, you know, first of all, you need to align with the concept of customer, which is in this case is the department who is recruiting or the hiring manager, let’s put it this way, and also the applicant themselves or the candidate. I mean, it’s given traditionally we have been focusing a lot on the hiring manager or the team themselves who want to hire people. But at the same time, I think there are still a lot of variance in terms of focusing on the candidate. Not just another person to tick, okay, we just hire a bunch of people to our company.

[00:14:12] What the Candidate Wants

Henry Suryawirawan: So you mentioned the thing, what do the candidate want? What is the significance of this, actually? Like how should we actually start caring about what the applicants want? Because it seems like it’s going to be customized towards individuals rather than a generic approach.

Jens Olberding: So it’s always the war for talent and everyone is looking for new employees. The job market is empty. So you have to focus on your candidates and their needs much more than maybe the needs of your real customers who are buying your products. Most of the companies I talked with have a lot of customers, a lot to do, and no need to find new customers. But they can’t do their work or can’t do new things because of a lack of employees. They couldn’t find new employees. It’s one of the biggest things every company has, to find new employees to do more work, to grow, to make new stuff. So you really have to focus on candidates, on employees and their needs. It’s more important for the future of their company.

If you do so, it’s necessary to find out how a candidate looks at the recruiting process. Everyone knows the candidate journey, which is related to a customer journey, you know, from a sales cycle or something like that. And you have to present some important information to the candidate at each step of the recruiting process. So the central question is, what information do your candidate need to make a decision to go on with you in your recruiting process? We started with flexible working hours, part of remote work, working from home, but also the insights of the company and to feel involved and to feel welcomed in the company. So how you can manage the whole recruiting process and then comfortable way for both sides?

[00:15:55] Recruiting Team Involvement

Henry Suryawirawan: So it seems like if I understand correctly, you also need to understand what are the things that can actually help candidate to make decision to join you. So maybe giving more insights about the company, the kind of work that they will do, and also the team that they will work with, not just the manager. You mentioned about it in the very beginning, right? The team should be involved in the recruitment process. Tell us more about it. How does this new dynamic play into the agile recruiting?

Jens Olberding: For example, one big question, maybe every candidate will have is: what is my boss like? What kind of person is he or she is? This is a question you normally can’t ask in the job interview. Maybe you can ask your recruiter, what’s the boss like? If you have a good interview and some trust in the things that go on, maybe you can ask with the HR guy. But in the end, as the HR guy does not know how your future boss really is because he doesn’t report to this leader. He has another boss he has to report to. Maybe you can ask the boss himself. Hey, what are you a kind of leader? And he will always say, “I’m a good one”. And maybe he is. Maybe he’s a really fine guy. But how believable will this answer be?

It’s more authentic and believable if a candidate can ask this question to future colleagues of his team. Maybe the team says something like, “Oh, our boss. Yeah. He can be a little loud sometimes, but in the end, he’s always in the back of us, and he’s a real good boss.” So that’s authentic. It’s believable. The candidate knows. Okay. My boss is also a human being and not a holy person. So that’s a real authentic insight of the team and about what’s the leadership and also opportunity to bond for the team. Cause everyone knows the person can be a little loud, or to be not that nice all the time. That’s normal. That helps to connect, which is really important for the next step. So if I can bond with a team and get a sense of, it’s nice people I like to work with, and I’m happy to see you again in the next round of interview process, or maybe I get a contract from you. So I’m happy to work with you. Yeah, it’s a kind of team building in a very, very few phase in the recruiting process. It makes it harder to quit, to say, so sorry, you’re not the right company. I don’t like guys.

Henry Suryawirawan: You actually brought up a very good question, which I’m sure everyone who has gone through the journey of switching career or switching company. The first is always like, you want to understand the culture and especially the boss that you’ll be working with. I myself will never ask probably to the HR, or even the team, how is the boss like? But I think you brought up a good point. Like you mentioned a couple of times about authenticity and believability. So being able to share fully, transparently, what is the working culture and the people like in the company. So I think that’s one thing that probably, we can also try to learn. How to be more authentic? And share something about the real life in the day-to-day situation.

[00:18:50] Hire for Talent, Train for Skills

Henry Suryawirawan: Another thing that you mentioned, right? Since this is tailored to skills as well. In the beginning, you mentioned that the technical skills now becoming more and more challenging in terms of getting it right. Because things are always changing, technology is always changing. And you mentioned in the book that we should hire for talent and train for the skills. So tell us more about this concept.

Jens Olberding: I guess it’s about something Steve Jobs says, “Don’t hire smart people and tell them what to do. Hire smart people and they can tell you what to do.” Or something like that. Everything is changing and everything will be different in a month or in a year. So you need employees who are willing to do this change. I’m not sure if you still work with all technology or there’s always some people in the company who can’t go with the change, with the speed that comes, but you have to. If you will survive on the market, you will always have to change to invent yourself, to become a better company, to focus on different problems of your customers. So you need people who are willing to learn, who are able to change, and who are more flexible. And it’s more important than 10 years ago to have employees who can do that.

Due to COVID, there are some companies who were very successful in going to the working from home stuff. They can manage their working process in a very easy way. Or maybe it’s not that easy, but they are willing to learn it. There are some companies who couldn’t handle the thing where we were, and not sure how that will end for them if there will be an after COVID time some time in the future.

[00:20:24] Cross-Functional Team

Henry Suryawirawan: So you mentioned a point where due to like pandemic situation, so working norms change and also technical skills, again as mentioned, it keeps changing, especially in the technology industry. New technologies are being introduced almost like every few weeks. This actually comes to a concept where you also mentioned in the book, or what in an agile world is also widely known, which is called cross-functional team. So to build a cross-functional team, you need more generalists versus a lot of more specialists. Tell us, how do you actually adapt this cross-functional team into agile recruiting?

Jens Olberding: That’s a part where the team takes part in a recruiting process and it’s a cross-functional team with different skills. So they can look for competencies which are missing in the team or which skills are more needed. I use the cross-functional teams just to make clear that it’s more important to have the right soft skills, the right competencies. Maybe not a technical expert. So if you’re looking for an expert for something which is really new on the developer market with a very cool language or kind of development stuff, which is just the thing for now, maybe it’s outdated when the colleague joins the team finally after two or three months. Because nobody cares about this technology anymore. So what will you do with this expert in the technology you don’t use anymore?

Henry Suryawirawan: So yeah, this brings a point to the generalist, right? We should hire more towards generalists. Although, yeah, there are times where you need specialists, for sure. Tell us more about the importance of these soft skills now in the company these days. Why are soft skills becoming more and more important versus the actual technical skills?

Jens Olberding: There are some personal skills and some social skills which are learned in the very first years of your life, maybe in your childhood or at school. And that’s the basement for the methodological skills, the way how you use your skills to get new language and new skills. The way how you learn new stuff, how you solve problems. If you are able to put your competencies well together to become a fast learner or to become more flexible, you can adapt more things you learn before to fulfill the new task. That’s more important than to be a very deep expert in some part. I guess, I have to agree that there’ll always be the experts in some things. There’s always a place for them, and I don’t like to bash them that hard. We will need them, but we also need people who are flexible, who can change, who can go with the future very fast.

[00:22:52] Assessing Potentials

Henry Suryawirawan: So these days, actually, especially in the technology world, hiring is especially challenging. There are so many demands, but not enough good supply, so to speak. Let’s say, even worse if you are challenging with the big boys, those big tech giants, where they can offer you, not just in terms of challenging work and good working culture, but also a lot of things, benefits and all that. And you mentioned when you find people, you should probably focus on three things. The qualification characteristics, the competencies, and which I would like to ask more is about potential. The third aspect that you mentioned is about potential. First of all, how do you think we can actually assess more on the potential versus thinking too much about competencies and qualifications?

Jens Olberding: Yeah, that’s a really good question and a hard task to figure out the potential of a person. So many psychological things building on. One of the most valid things is to make an intelligent test. It’s the most important thing. How you can know how to get something about the potential of a person. So you need a test. Can’t recommend that you do an interview on itself. Even if you are really trained in a recruiting, as a recruiter, as a profiler, it’s hard to get a way at the potential of some people. You need some really good interview techniques to figure it out, and one of the easiest way is to do a kind of test. Intelligence of the people is the most predictable thing to find out about the potential of some. An easier way, and the other way, is to look at the grades at school. How boring it sounds, but yeah, good grades are a good indicator for an intelligent people.

[00:24:23] Communication Among Equals Henry Suryawirawan: You mentioned a couple of times about social inclusion, and in the book you mentioned something called communication among equals. It seems like there’s an equality that you want to put as a message across. What kind of equality that you’re talking about? Is it related to how people are being treated the same across all candidates? Or is it something different? What do you mean by among equals here?

Jens Olberding: Communication among equals means that the team will be involved in the recruiting process. So yeah, as I mentioned, it was the question what will my boss look like? What kind of person he or she is? So to be more authentic on the same level of professionality. If you are a software developer, you will talk to your software developer team you will work with, for example.

Henry Suryawirawan: So, again, the concept of getting the team involved and seeing eye to eye. I think a lot of times I see also recruitment process is kind of like lopsided. Especially for companies who are probably bigger. They seem to just, I want to hire and I want to hire. But not necessarily focusing a lot on candidate’s experience throughout the interview journey. I think the equality here is more about also treating people as if like an employee as well, probably, and give them the best experience that they can in order to know what is the culture inside the company. Is that the right interpretation?

Jens Olberding: Totally agree. I’d like to add another point. I guess we missed it a few minutes before. If we involve the team in the recruitment process, we focus on self organization in the team, so they will be responsible for the hire. They will do later. It’s a big thing in the agile community to be more self organization in the team, to be responsible for such a big, important thing to hire a new employee. It’s my normal work. Things I do every day. Once we started with agile recruiting, I was surprised how honored a team was, let’s say, be involved in the recruitment process. They really can influence the process and will be integrated into the decision-making process. That has a really big impact.

[00:26:22] Preselection

Henry Suryawirawan: Maybe if we can go through the common traditional hiring process, just go through the journey one by one. It starts with the pre-selection right where the candidates submit resumes or profiles, or even head hunter looking for candidates that they can approach. Maybe tell us more in the agile recruiting, how this pre-selection process differs from traditional approach of recruiting?

Jens Olberding: First of all, though, that’s for all recruiting processes, not only for the agile one. Pre-selection of suitable candidates is hardly possible on the basis of applicant’s documents. It’s harder to find any valid selection criteria from the CV and from the web that are really valid, that really have an impact. We all think if you do sports and if you do a team sport, you will be a good team player. No! There’s no valid research that it’s true. It’s in your head. It’s your personal bias, but it’s not science and science can’t prove that thinking. So there’s just a few things you can really read out of a resume.

Another point is that applicants know how to write resumes. There are countless books and coaching sessions on the subject of applying correctly. The credibility of application documents is so questionable since every applicant is likely to use some strategies to present himself or herself and a really good lie to be the best one. In the end, there are just a few things we really can read out of her resume. Maybe that it’s the years of profession, if you’re doing your job very long, it’s valid to think that he is professional in this part. Good grades are always a sign for an intellectual employee. Therefore, you have not a lot of things you can read out of a resume. You have to talk to people. So you have to do telephone interviews or Zoom calls. The first step to get a short impression of the real person behind the CV. That’s a part where the team, the recruiting team or the team of the department who’s looking for an employee can be involved just for a short interview to find some very important fix, like some profession or some very important soft skills.

If you talk about software developer, I guess it’s really common to do a quick coding test, live coding on a Zoom call, or to do some bug fixes in the end. And that’s the very first part where the team can help HR, and it’s also a great opportunity to bond with the candidate. So the first contact the team that a candidate can have, so they can look if they fit, if they like it, if it’s a good match. So that’s the first part where the team can be integrated in the interview process.

Henry Suryawirawan: You mentioned a very important thing, right? Because now candidates have a lot of resources how to improve their CVs, how they improve their profiles. Not necessarily sometimes all truth, probably, sometimes like it’s a lie, so to speak. And also, it’s very difficult probably to judge from a resume whether this person is really legitimately great, or it’s just like they know how to polish the resume. Talking to the candidate, probably, is still one of the best indicator.

What about if you have hundreds and thousands of applicants? When you reach such a scale where you are top employers, and people just want to work with you, how can you do this? Getting a call with everyone, I think, it’s just impossible sometimes.

Jens Olberding: So if you’re one of the happy companies who have 100 applicants for a software developer position, you have to scan the CV for some important steps, like, how many experience you have? You can look at the grades from university. There’s some hard fact you can look at. But even if you scan a hundred resumes, you will come in the end to 20 resumes. It’s a good decision to get in touch with a candidate in real person or a Zoom call to become a better view what’s a person really like. You can’t do that with a hundred, but maybe you can do it with a 20. If you integrate the team, you don’t need 10 recruiters who can bring this task to the team.

That’s something, the agile recruiting thing, that’s a world of HR change. So it’s not that HR don’t have to work anymore. HR owns the process. They really know how a good recruiting process look like, and they improve this process every day to get better, and may customize on the needs of the department who’s looking for candidates. HR is also responsible to enable the department to do some recruiting stuff. So department has to learn how to make a good interview. What are suitable questions? How to figure out if a candidate is a team player? Is good in discussion with critical customers and so on.

[00:30:51] Diversity of Experience

Henry Suryawirawan: So there’s an important statistics, or maybe research in the book that you mentioned, you said that it is interesting to note that in the case of work experience, diversity of the experience itself is significantly more predictive of the fit and job success, rather than just the experience alone. Maybe can you tell us more? What do you mean and what do you actually see from research in terms of diversity of experience?

Jens Olberding: If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious. If you work as an accountant for the last 20 years in the same department, with the same task, you are very expert in this specific thing you do. This accountant thing in this company, in this department, this team with this task, as if you can do one thing or maybe two things very, very good. As I mentioned, my resume before I worked in 8, 9, 10 different HR positions. So I’m an HR professional, so I guess I can say that after 20 years. But my profession comes from very different positions, very different tasks and the whole HR stuff. So I started with some operational things like writing job performances, job ads and so on, and in the end I do some transformation stuff.

So my range of HR is much bigger, or the range of things I can do with my profession are much, much bigger than the accountant I mentioned before, who worked 15 years in the same department, the same task and the same team. So it’s really important to have some different experience in your own job. It helps you to become more flexible or just to stay flexible in your thinking. 20 years ago, as I started with my HR career, I had no idea that I will write someday a book about agile recruiting, or I have to be a Scrum Master.

Henry Suryawirawan: But at the same time also, like some people have the opinion that if you change too much, obviously like within a year, you change too much, that’s also not a good thing. Is that still the case where you want to assess people, at least at minimum, they should stay within a company for X number of months or years?

Jens Olberding: I guess how often you change your job, the company or the department, research and the science, it’s not important how often you change. Okay, if you change every three months, I can’t believe that you are able to get more professional in a job because you are always in a change process, and never in a working phase in your life. But this part of, “Oh, that’s not a good candidate. He or she changed his position every two years, every 18 months.” It’s something in the head of the recruiter. They think so, and I don’t know why. Or maybe they ’re afraid of if I hire this guy, he will leave me in 12 months. Maybe it’s where it comes from, but there’s no evidence that he’s not a good person.

So if you will fulfill the need and the thinking and all things of the people who do the selection process, you can think about how long you stay in the job. But if you are lucky, there will be some HR people who are more educated in the things, and know that it’s not important how long someone stays at the same company. So if you are a software developer, and change every two years, the company you work for, and there’s a good story behind it because you develop yourself in every change, every step you made, that’s a great story. So if you come from a junior to professional, to a senior, just to get more deep in some special things you’d like to program, to work with, that’s fantastic. If you just do some random quits and go to new jobs and have no good story behind, maybe it’s a little questionable why you did that. Maybe you are really not a good employee and every company knows that 10 months after hiring you, that you are not that good, so you have to quit.

[00:34:21] SuSiBOL Technique

Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah, I know. It’s very tough to actually gauge a candidate, their potential or their true quality attributes from just a few rounds of interactions. But nevertheless, after the preselection, we have to do the interviews. So do you have any tips what agile recruiting probably advises how we do the interview process itself?

Jens Olberding: As I mentioned before, you have to look at competencies. It’s harder to make questions which focus on competencies. And in my book, you will find some questions, technique, which are easy to learn and really helpful. It’s an easy one with a low hanging fruits and you get to make big progress and running. Also, it’s always a good practice how HR can train the skills to a team who is not used to make interviews. Yeah, I’m not sure if you talk about some specific techniques or just good to know that it has some easy things to learn.

Henry Suryawirawan: Maybe we can go through some of the techniques that you mentioned that HR can actually train people for all of us here, recruiters or people who need to do interviews. Maybe few techniques, what they can experiment? Maybe how they do interviews in order to assess candidates' competencies better?

Jens Olberding: Okay. First of all, it’s about the unconscious bias. So you always have some thinking in your head about people, even when you look at the photo, the name, or the first impression. You have to be aware that this first impression of a photo, of a person, of a name is not valid for the final decision if it’s a good or a bad employee. There’s never be a bad employee. All employees are good. The question is good for which task? What are the good task for this candidate to work on? That’s something, I guess, most of recruiters and HR people learn at university and their life, how important it is to be aware of their own bias. You have to train it or train it to the department that they be aware about their own biases.

And then there’s a technique I like because it sounds much better in English than German. It’s a SuSiBOL. It sounds kind of funny. It’s a way how you can find more about some specific behavior and the competencies behind. It’s an acronym, SuSiBOL, it starts with an S-U, Su. Su stands for suggestive statement. Maybe you will find out how a candidate deals with a critical situation with a customer. That’s the topic that’s not easy to ask because if I’m a good applicant, I will never have a critical situation with a customer. I have only happy customers. The happiest customers alive only with my work. So I start with a question like, I guess, there will always be some customers who are not as easy to satisfy. Do you know, such a situation? So I offer them a room. So I know as an interviewer, there will always be some customers are not satisfied that make it easier for the candidate to say, yes, I know the situation. And it’s pretty obvious. Everyone was in such a situation. That’s the entrance and the real technique. So when the candidate says, yeah, I know such a situation. Now you can ask, oh, you know a situation. Please tell me something about this concrete situation of your past. So now the candidate has to tell you something about this situation. It’s a concrete situation. S-I, Situation.

We are going to the really important part. We ask a lot of questions about the behavior. How do you deal with this situation? You don’t ask a lot what is the concrete situation. What kind of a customer was it? What did go wrong? What were the reasons? Nope, you ask about the behavior. How do you deal with it? How you fix the problem and so on. That’s the most important thing to ask some questions about the behavior. Because that gives you a clue about the competency. How a candidate deals with critical situations, critical customers. So it’s a B for Behavior.

If you are done with the behavior, you come to the O for outcome. What was the outcome? It’s just questions of how does the situation end? To close this really great big range of questions you had before, and to make a conversation more on point in the end, before you go to the L for Learning. So what did you learn about the situation? What did you learn for the future? How will you handle this situation if you can start from the top? So that’s the L. The SuSiBOL or SuSiBOL is an acronym for really easy loop to learn how to ask about competencies. It’s really easy to prepare these questions before an interview. So you can write some questions down with the SuSiBOL technique and its logic, and ask the candidate about it.

Henry Suryawirawan: Thanks for sharing this. First of all, I’ve never heard about it before. It’s SUSIBOL, right? It starts with a Su, which is Suggestive and then Si, which is the Situation itself. B-O-L, BOL, starts with the Behavior and then Outcome, and then the Learning from the candidate out of that situation.

[00:39:14] Onboarding

Henry Suryawirawan: So after we’ve done the interview, of course, the important process in the recruitment is actually onboarding when the candidate actually joins the company and starts. But actually that’s what our interpretation about onboarding, right, when the employee starts. But you brought a point in your book that, actually, onboarding starts even from the first contact between the applicant and the company. So tell us this interesting perspective from you that actually onboarding starts from the first time you had a contact with the candidate.

Jens Olberding: If an applicant, or a candidate get in touch with the team, maybe in the pre-selection phase, or the interview, or maybe they only have a coffee for social interview or something like that, there’s a kind of team-building process going on. The team gets to know the candidate. The candidate gets to know the team, and the idea of each other. General feeling, if I like each other? It’s a good fit or not? What things the new guy could do? Which things the new guy shouldn’t do? Something in that started in the head of a team, and also the candidate, because the candidate also thinks about how well will I fit in this team? What task will I be really good at? And what tasks maybe will be ended at colleague and not on my table?

So it’s a really kind of onboarding or team building in the very beginning of a recruiting process. The whole process starts, again, when the candidate finally comes to the team on his first working day, for sure. But this process shortens. I’m not sure if you know the Tuckman model of team building. It’s about storming, forming, performing phases of a team. We get faster and productive employee because the team-building process shortens a lot. But it can shorten a lot depends on how well you involve a team.

And there’s also another point. I guess I mentioned it a little bit before. If you involve the team in the recruitment process, the team shares responsibility for the selection decision. So the interest of the team in training the new colleague is many times higher than if the new employee is simply presented by the boss. Because it was my decision as a team to put Henry on my team, so I feel responsible that Henry will feel welcome, to be well trained, to become productive in a very short time. And so that’s also something that is good for the self organization of a team. So the onboarding starts from the very first contact between applicant and company. Maybe you do something like in a mentor program, or just presentation in most of the companies.

Henry Suryawirawan: And you also brought a point where even after the candidate signs and they said, okay, this will be my joining date, you should not lose contact with them in between that transition period after they sign and their start of the new company. You should probably keep them warm, maybe? What would be some of your tips in order to keep this engagement continue?

Jens Olberding: It depends on the team and maybe on your company, what’s suitable. It can be a very long time from signing the contract to the first date. In Germany, it’s often three months or something like that, because that’s the normal period of time. Stay in touch with your candidate. So maybe you can invite him to team events, to some important things that will happen the time before he starts where he or she can be involved with. Could start with a beer, coffee and the after hours, or some job events. Figure out what things are possible in your company, and don’t leave your new colleague alone for three months. That’s not good.

Henry Suryawirawan: Thanks for all this overview of the process. From pre-selection, interview, and up to the onboarding. So hopefully everything’s going to be okay once the candidate joins.

[00:42:48] Tech Lead Wisdom

Henry Suryawirawan: Unfortunately, due to time, we need to end this conversation. But before I let you go, I have one last question, which I always ask to all my guests, which is to share what I call three technical leadership wisdom. So probably, since you don’t come from technical background, it’s also okay to have three recruitment leadership wisdom. So maybe if you can share some for us to learn from.

Jens Olberding: I’m not sure if I have three. But there’s one thing I really like to share with all leaders in my trainings. Something I try to get across in every one of my trainings is that no employee gets up in the morning to do a bad job. No one thinks, “Today, I’m going to do my worst. Today, I show my boss all things I can do wrong. So I’m really bad guy today.” None of your employees thinks like that. Nobody! Even if it sometimes feels different, I know maybe all leaders will have some guy. Maybe he gets up every morning to be a pain in the ass. But even if it feels different, sometimes you must not forget that everyone wants to give their best. Everyone wants to be part of something and feels that they’re effective. That’s something that’s in every human nature.

This is then also for me, the most important insights for managers. So that’s my most leadership tip. The most central task for leaders to derive from this is to enabling others to perform. So if you’re a leader, you have to enable them to perform without any boundaries. Any things you struggle with, you have to clarify the working environment to make others perform. That’s my most important leadership tip.

Henry Suryawirawan: So thanks so much for reminding us again about this importance that nobody within your company or in your team wakes up just to screw you, so to speak, right? Like wakes up and decide, “Okay, I’ll do a bad job today.” Everyone will have this conscious mind to say that I want to perform and do something good. But yeah, circumstances could happen that they somehow did not perform. But that doesn’t mean that person itself is not a good employee for you. Thanks for reminding us that.

So Jens, it’s been a pleasant conversation. If people want to learn more about your agile recruiting or even buy your book or want to continue the conversation with you, where can they find you online?

Jens Olberding: The most important thing will be LinkedIn. So, even in German, my last name is unique enough. Maybe there are two Jens Olberding, but I guess there’s only one related to HR. So I guess you will find that. And my book is available on Amazon and all other online dealers where you can buy books. So I guess it’s pretty easy to find me on the internet. Feel free to contact me. Unfortunately, my website, www.laeuft.io–it’s with an umlaut– which is in German. So, feel free to have a look at it, but there’s no English version for now available. But if you’d like to contact me, feel free and maybe you can share my contact details in your podcast description or something like that.

Henry Suryawirawan: I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes. Thank you so much for explaining to us what this concept of agile recruiting. And I wish you good luck in all your trainings to the companies who need to know about this incredible techniques. So thanks again, Jens, for your time.

Jens Olberding: Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure. Thank you, Henry.

– End –