Agile teams: 5 signs of a great hire

What makes an agile team player a star? Hard skills like data literacy and security fluency are important - but these two soft skills signal a potential great hire
314 readers like this.
kubernetes interview questions

Companies seeking new hires to build out their agile teams need to look not just at the hard technical prowess of candidates but also their literal ability to be agile.

The agile workflow offers companies more flexibility for change and evolution. But in order to see benefits like these from agile, companies must ensure the candidates that they hire have a blend of both technical and core skills (also known as soft skills) in their repertoire.

[ Need to explain agile to others in plain terms? Read Agile project management, explained. ]

Here are five key traits to look for in hires for your agile team. (And if you're job hunting, be prepared to demonstrate these.)

Hard skills agile talent needs

1. Data literacy

Data experts need to know how to translate information into actionable change on agile teams.

This is becoming an invaluable skill for job candidates as companies are finally seeing the value of all the data they collect. In recent years, demand has increased for experts who not only can ensure the database doesn’t crash, but also bring a deeper understanding of the type of data collected and how best to translate that information into actionable change.

Organizations need employees with backgrounds in statistics and who can make data-driven decisions. It’s more than knowing how to read the numbers; it’s finding meaning within them.

2. Mastery of software tools

There’s a difference between being able to use a particular suite of software and mastering it, and in today’s job market just using it is not enough. It’s important to master certain software in such a way that optimizes workflow efficiencies. Some jobs today require 90-100 percent of their production to be performed at a computer. This means the work an employee produces will be a function of how effortlessly they can operate the tools they use every day. In other words, people who find the most efficient ways to use their tools (or find more efficient tools) will drastically outperform those who don’t.

[ What tools can help? Read also: Top 7 open source project management tools for agile teams. ]

3. Fluency in security policies

Security fluency is critical. With more technology and growth comes more regulation and policy from regulatory watchdogs. Professionals with in-depth knowledge of their industry will be needed to assess data sensitivity and regulations with which they must comply.

Look for candidates with a history of speaking on policy, or educating teammates on regulations.

Consider looking for candidates with a history of speaking on policy, educating teammates on regulations, or being the lead on updating their company’s compliance documentation. In agile development, making sure that developers are nimble and aware of changes in best practices and government policies is a huge advantage and allows your team an even greater level of adaptability.

Core skills agile talent needs

4. Understanding psychological biases

This will help you not only build a workforce that is thoughtful but also create stronger client relationships. All humans are prone to make poor decisions if they don’t think about the way they think. We have a tendency to over-generalize and focus too heavily on narratives, which means we’re not seeing information as clearly or objectively as we think we are.

To combat this, you need to leverage metacognition and interrogate your own biases on a regular basis. Agile encourages (and often requires) frequent communication between developers and those who will ultimately accept and use the product. Being able to communicate effectively and understand the different lenses through which others view you and through which you work is an often overlooked but critical skill.

5. Grit

Agile feedback loops can often be grueling.

The term “grit” was first coined by psychologist Angela Duckworth and is meant to represent a special blend of passion and persistence that is the secret to outstanding achievement. In her book on the topic, Duckworth examines everyone from teachers working in difficult schools to CEOs, coaches, and spelling bee finalists. She finds that what they all have in common is passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way.

Candidates with this kind of drive are among the rarest and most lucrative. A huge component of the agile methodology is feedback loops, and they can often be grueling. It takes a good amount of grit to see your work take feedback after the 5th, 10th, or 20th iteration and keep your spirits up, but people with that fire are indispensable.

The workplace is evolving. In order to be competitive, companies need to keep up with the times and ensure they have a vibrant workplace with varying points of view to make the business succeed. During your next round of interviews, I urge leaders to think beyond box-checking and challenge candidates to illustrate the more agile qualities they have to offer.

[ Want more advice on agile and DevOps hiring? Get our free eBooks: DevOps Hiring: The Ultimate Guide and IT job searching in 2019: A practical guide. ]

Ben Wald is the co-founder and VP of solutions implementation of Very. Before founding Very in 2011, Ben served as the executive director at Ashoka Changemakers, where he spearheaded the software development of a suite of products to connect social entrepreneurs with global resources.