This book presents a fresh approach that is tested by fire: developed by the author in over twenty years of experience hiring software professionals at both small companies and large. Drawing on principles from the "agile" software development movement, this book offers a different way to think about hiring.
This book offers specific and practical techniques to help you hire better now. It also gives your hiring staff a model for continuously improving individual and organizational hiring skills. As you become more skilled in hiring, you will appreciate this book in new ways. Get your hiring team on the same page when it comes to hiring. This book is a must have reference for anyone involved in hiring software professionals.
Review By: Robert Stahly 02/28/2012In Agile Hiring, Sean Landis proposes that hiring is one of the most important activities in any company. His main premise is that "very few companies hire well." Both statements are true, and the book is loaded with good advice for screening resumes and interviewing and hiring people. Landis has done an admirable job of collecting and succinctly explaining effective hiring concepts and processes, and there is very little in the book that applies exclusively to hiring software professionals for agile environments. Rather, the book is a roadmap to help companies to develop processes and interview structures for better hiring in any professional environment.
After a brief foundational overview, the book is organized as a chronology. The process starts with defining a job (e.g., writing the job description) and progresses all the way through negotiating the offer with a candidate. The appendices offer useful lists of behaviors to seek in candidates, examples of hiring principals, and a resume review checklist. The result is a comprehensive and very accessible guide to traditional hiring practices. Complements to fundamental hiring processes, such as aptitude assessments and employee development approaches, are beyond the scope of this book.
The author obviously has a lot of experience hiring people and has clear opinions. His brief arguments usually support his observations effectively. For example, he makes a good case that "leadership aversion is often associated with other problems, so regardless of how you feel about hiring developers with leadership potential, you should care." Some of his opinions, however, are not well defended. His warning to "be very concerned by any candidate that has no college degree of any kind" is overstated and under-supported. Nevertheless, I usually found myself nodding in agreement as I read the book. I particularly appreciate his emphasis on respect for people involved in the hiring process—both candidates and employees.
The chief challenge in writing a book like this is engaging readers with different levels of real-world experience. Very little in the hiring process is black and white. Therefore, it is difficult to provide clear-cut examples of concepts that are helpful to new managers while being insightful enough to satisfy seasoned mangers. As a result, Landis often identifies important and legitimate issues that, practically speaking, only an experienced manager would detect during the hiring process. Even so, Agile Hiring presents important and sometimes subtle issues that can help any manager improve his hiring decisions.
The book is thorough, easy to read, and will continue to be relevant for years to come. There are many practices that readers can apply immediately, and I would recommend it to anyone who needs to get better results from hiring practices.
Review By: Matt Gelbwaks 02/28/2012Sean Landis’s Agile Hiring is a mixed bag. It has great advice on résumé assessment, phone screens, and interviewing. However, he does not explore the concept of agile as much as I wanted him to and takes a very cynical view on organizational management that gets in the way of his valuable messages. Even with these deficiencies, this is a fine book and a great reference for those necessary steps to hiring.
First, let’s focus on the gems within the book. Landis does a great job of taking the reader though résumé review and interviewing. He dedicates three-quarters of the book to these two topics (actually three, because he divides interviews into phone and in-person interviews). This is the area that he has identified as the true need for focus and that in which people usually need the most practice developing their artistry. He invokes the aikido principles of Shu Ha Ri early in the book and sets the frame that great teams result from great hiring and great hiring results from great interviewing. He goes into quite a bit of depth and detail in each of the three key topics and includes templates to follow so that readers can start down the mastery path with a guide.
In the section on résumé assessment, Landis walks readers through the various clues and triggers for classifying what résumés represent and winnowing the pile of résumés to those which may represent individuals who will fit well within your organization and meet the objectives of your hiring. In the phone screening and interviewing sections, he covers most of the common techniques designed to help organizations continue to refine their choices and ultimately settle on a final candidate (or candidates) to whom to make an offer. The patterns that Landis offers within the book are nicely augmented by callouts and quick editorial comments. The callouts offer examples in areas that can be ambiguous or abstract, and the comments increase the readability by offering the reader direction and emphasis.
Landis starts the book with a comment that if your organization is outsourcing development, rather than implementing what his book suggests, you should use the techniques to find yourself a better job. I found that unfortunate because it recommends that the reader jump to a conclusion rather than understand the rationale for his corporation’s decision. Certainly, the decision may be a poor one, but the reader ought to at least investigate what is behind that position before reacting rashly.
Lastly, the title of the book is Agile Hiring. Though Landis has a quick section in the introduction about why he called it such, I did not find anything in his recommendations that are either specific to agile or would be different if you were hiring developers or other professional employees for a different development methodology. It certainly does not take anything away from the book’s mission, but it would have been interesting to see the agile concepts explored in more detail. Having helped companies hire people to work in more agile environments, I seen great differences in the cultures between organizations that have internalized agility and those that remain prescriptive. Regardless of the flaws, I found this a great book on how to help your team make better hires.