How to Write an Agile Job Ad

A note to hiring managers and HR departments.

Today I came across yet another job ad for a ScrumMaster—sadly posted to an Agile online group. Here it is, in its essence. I have bolded the terms that especially jarred, but the tone of the whole thing was seriously misguided. So here is an example of how not to write an Agile job ad.

Our Client is seeking a Program Manager/ScrumMaster within their Marketing team.

The contract Program Manager will drive timely execution of multiple projects. The team operates in an Agile environment utilizing Scrum methodology. The person will serve as the ScrumMaster and lead op mechs such as backlog grooming, sprint pre-planning, sprint planning, daily scrums, and retrospectives. The resource will also be a program manager, with activities such as providing portfolio metrics, such as burn down charts and utilization, communication, risks assessments, and resource planning. The person will need an ability to switch easily between different projects. This position will operate within a PMO which has program management standards and procedures, and where consistency and scalability of process is important.

• Well versed in a Scrum tool – Rally preferred 
• Microsoft Project, PowerPoint, Excel, and Word 

This ad, like so many others, describes an old-think, left-brain organization attempting to paste Agile on top of what appears to be a deeply embedded command and control culture. The sad thing, however, is not the job posting itself—we can forgive ignorance and misunderstanding—but rather that people calling themselves Agile Coaches (or similar), people claiming to understand the paradigm, will apply for this job. It is sad, and it is wrong. Each time a so-called Agilist applies for a job of this description we perpetuate the myth, and endorse the Agile-as-band-aid mindset.

If you are truly seeking an Agile solution, an ad of this kind will attract the wrong people. You will get exactly what you ask for: compliant people, mired in old-think, who use the term Agile to sell their services without understanding its core values and principles.

This is an example of how I’d like to see organizations in search of Agile solutions write job ads:

Help! We are struggling. We can’t get our software out in a timely fashion, and our workers are frustrated and demotivated. We think Agile may be able to offer some relief. If you understand how to listen, engage people, and reduce bureaucratic overhead, please get in touch so together we may explore possibilities of change.

More generally an Agile job ad would contain three elements:

  1. Admit failure
  2. Express the problem (as best you can)
  3. Invite dialog

That’s it. No specifics, no solutions, no directions, no assumptions, and no requirements for certifications, specific skills, or tools! Try it. You may be surprised at what occurs.

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