How to Improve Your Hiring Process With Project Management Tactics

4 min read
Jan 7, 2016

post-it notesA lot hinges on the hiring process and recruitment strategies. Do it right, and you’ll add a valuable member to your team — someone who can help your company meet goals and grow. Do it wrong, and you’ll lose time, money, and competitive advantage.  

Faced with this pressure, many companies are upping the ante. According to figures from Bersin by Deloitte, the average new hire now costs about $4,000, representing a 7% rise between 2013 and 2014.

With such high costs, you must find ways to constantly improve your company’s recruitment efforts. But simply throwing more money at your hiring process won’t necessarily make it better. Having clear goals and a foolproof process, on the other hand, will certainly improve your chances of success. Deep down, every hiring manager knows this, but confined to outmoded workflows and ways of thinking, many find it impossible to change. They settle for a 20% job turnover rate and for hiring the best candidate most of the time.

It’s clear the old ways of hiring aren’t working.


Maybe it’s time to look outside of HR for insight about the hiring process

The project management discipline is built around structure and planning. It’s also broad and versatile enough to include recruiting as a type of project. The Project Management Institute defines a project as a “temporary, unique set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.”

Scrum project methodology, in particular, is well suited to the hiring process. The same way a product development team pulls items from a backlog, moves them through a repeatable process, and works toward a PSI (potentially shippable product increment), your recruiting team can draw candidates from a database of applicants, move them through distinct stages of the hiring process, and deliver an initial offer as a PSI.

As with Scrum development, creating an effective, repeatable project workflow is half the battle. Yours might look something like this:

  • Application (candidate enters the workflow)
  • Screening
  • Phone Interview
  • Skills Assessment (give candidates a small project to complete)
  • In-Person Interview
  • Background/Reference check
  • Initial Offer
  • Onboarding

You may even benefit from a Kanban-type system (a subset of Scrum) to move candidates through the recruitment workflow. Kanban is a visual tool that uses movable cards to track work in progress (WIP) through a series of predetermined steps.

kanbanHere’s a basic example of Kanban-managed recruiting from The Social Tester

Scrum aside, if you’re looking to revamp your hiring process, you can start by treating it like a project. As such, there are a few project management principles you’ll need to know and follow. Let’s examine each one.


Goal and Timeline

With a traditional project, you set a goal and timeline to guide smaller decisions during the project and to measure success after completion. With recruiting, you should begin by clearly defining the role you need to fill, the type of candidate you want to bring on board, and your vision for their future relationship with the company.


Product Ownership

A product owner is responsible for ensuring the final product meets stakeholder expectations and delivers value to the business. In the hiring process, the final product is obviously a new hire. Hiring committees should assign a key stakeholder who shapes the job requirements and has an executive role in the final decision. This “product owner” will typically be the candidate’s future supervisor.



Just as diverse groups of stakeholders must work together to meet project goals, your hiring decision — or, at least, the hiring process — should be a group effort. Decide which parties should be privy to candidate information, share the assets in a central repository (such as an applicant tracking system), and bring in at least two stakeholders for each interview.


Risk Management

Risk management is about identifying threats to the success of your project — i.e., your ability to meet project objectives. Your main objective for the recruiting process should be to hire a candidate who will become a valuable, long-term employee. Finding someone with the right skill set is the obvious approach, but many employers forget to look for cultural fit and signs of longevity.

Employee turnover is a risk, and it can cost a lot of money when it happens. Some analysts suggest it costs up to 30-50% of their annual salary to replace an entry-level worker, so don’t forget to account for risk management during the hiring process.



Finally, it’s important to stay flexible. In the project management world, there’s an entire subgenre called “Agile” (of which Scrum is one example). Agile project management relies on cross-functional teams, adaptive planning (rather than predictive), and progress made through short, repeatable iterations. As a recruiter, staying agile gives you the ability to accommodate last-minute hiring needs (unexpected turnover, seasonal positions) and react to unexpected variables, like when a desirable candidate receives a better offer from one of your competitors.


Maybe you’ve never thought of hiring a new employee as a project before. Sure, it’s nothing like adding a new east wing onto your office or expanding into a new market, but it’s certainly a “unique set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.” No process will be without its drawbacks, but these time-tested project management principles can help you revamp your recruitment program and develop a fresh perspective on hiring workflows.


Describe your image

Get Email Notifications