Agile Recruitment: Facing Volatile Talent Market

To recruit highly capable talent needed to run the business today, agility is no longer a just nice to have; it’s make-or-break capability for recruiting.

There are multiple reasons why we need to have agility behind recruitment, and they are primarily driven by business disruptions: public health emergency, digital transformation, strategy shift, mergers and acquisition, and so on. In the COVID-economic-lockdown era alone, we have seen these disruptions accelerated hiring freeze during beginning of lock down, and as economic restriction eases, hiring acceleration. This environment creates a highly volatile demand in terms of volume and skills requirements.

Recruiting functions must learn to embrace the increasing pace of change. There are two primary bottleneck with every recruiting function must face in any recruiting journey:

  • Rigid Recruitment Process – is probably the primary bottleneck as most organization fails to evolve with changing priorities throughout a hiring project.
  • Silo Team not allowing recruiting leaders to align resources in meeting ever-changing demand.

In facing continued volatility, recruiting functions would need a paradigm shift in it’s operating model : A shift from standardized process to flexibility and agility.

Agility itself does not refer to the mere speed of execution. Agility here refers to how quickly one can change direction without losing traction. Recruiting leader would want to create an operating model which would allow their recruiting functions to sense demand change, pivot and switch model of execution quickly.

Traditional Recruiting Models

Business InputOrganize InputInput to Execute
Gather Information from business to acquire a demand specification.Align with talent segments in market and business to build rapport and stable relationship.Standardized Process to minimize process-induced variability.
This is traditionally how most recruiting leaders optimize their recruiting model to sharpen their recruiting function.

This has been the predominantly the go-to recruiting models for most industry out there. By aligning their recruiting functions with business input, recruiting functions are able to plan ahead usually between 6 to 12 months ahead to stay ahead of the market. Make no mistake this approach is probably the most conventional in the market, and probably has been in use for decades.

Looking down the process, recruiting functions will then organize the input from the business. What this probably mean is to get recruiters to sit along with hiring managers, business unit, or geographical unit to contribute to their critical need. Finally, to minimize process-induced variability, one would need to follow a standardized template in workflow to carry out the recruiting activities.

Make no mistake, this has been the dominant practice within the industry, possibly spanning to decades. However, a dissection into this traditional process flow highlighted three process weakness during the business disruptions period:

  1. It does not sufficiently address the volatile demand throughout the year. Not one single business unit will be able to expect what further business disruption is down the line.
  2. Recruiters business partnering the business units are essentially, a silo. When recruiters are within a silo, they are unable to drive the next big thing outside of their silo.
  3. Decision making process in a fixed workflow template are creating unnecessary delay. Especially if the leader a recruiter is partnering with insists on incompatible demands.

Redefining the Recruiting Model

Business InputOrganize InputInput to Execute
Adaptive forecasts based on emerging shift of priorities.Organize fluid team structure and break the partnering wall.Responsive process to adopt to evolving demand.
A new model that organizations can consider to adopt in volatile market.

Create Adaptive Hiring Forecast

It is high time to break the conventional annual forecast for hiring, simply because this no longer works as an organization will have shifting priorities over the course of months. To thrive in uncertainty, recruiting leaders must address the main challenge of getting the buy-ins from the business unit to ditch the usual forecast, and have the business unit to review talent need on a shorter cyclical period.

Organizing a Fluid Team

Making structural changes to build fluid workforce allows recruiting function to quickly build around critical business need. This will require that recruiting leader to make dramatic changes to their talent management strategy including fluid assets into main stream capabilities, shift the recruitment and retention operating model towards make-or-buy principles and short-term/mid-term balance, and build a culture where permanent and fluid workers feel equally valued and can work as a blended team, leveraging their respective capabilities and skillsets effectively.

Executing Responsive Process

Processes that are not designed to respond to changing demands are better to just be renamed as bottlenecks. To be more responsive, recruiting leaders would want to be transparent and align with the changing demand as opposed to resisting them. From there, recruiting leader can take a page out of tech evolution of waterfall methodology to Agile methodology in deploying solution.

Source: Link

Agile methodology busts the traditional waterfall design of software rollout which quite frankly, sees bottleneck in every step of transition. To utilize Agile methodology into recruitment process, recruiting leader can utilize the daily Scrum in Agile to overcome any potential bottlenecks.

Scrum team would meet every morning to track any progress the team have made, and discuss what is to be done on that day. This will allow any bottlenecks to be quickly identified and addressed accordingly. One thing to note however, is that a Scrum should take no longer than 15 minutes and it is intended to be quick and easy for everyone.


Traditional model of recruiting is becoming obsolete in highly volatile environment. Isaac Song expects that the year 2022 would be even more volatile, uncertain and quite frankly, sees more demand in hiring critical skills that organization will be fighting over. One bottleneck will potentially costs organization a lot down the road. By sensing demand shifts early, execute plans responsively these can be mitigated.

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