Build your tech team with remote hiring

by
Joanna Gittens
March 25, 2020

Amid lockdowns and social distancing policies to curb the #COVID19 — coronavirus outbreak, the tech ecosystem has to adapt to a situation where working remotely is the new norm. Hiring is the first topic in our series on talent.io’s best remote practices for anyone involved in tech team hiring and management to adopt.

Tech recruiters, remote work does not have to undermine your objectives. The tech industry is perhaps uniquely well-positioned to support distributed teams, and the current crisis can be the opportunity to get on board and ahead of the game on making remote hires. This alternative can turn out not only to be the present but also the future for tech teams and hiring in tech.

After reading this, you should feel comfortable in building your tech team remotely starting from today! Once COVID-19 is over, this capability will still be a very competitive advantage to have and to master.

Structured process & interview

Take the chance to clean up the structure of your hiring process and individual interviews. A clear structure makes a great traditional hiring process — it is all the more crucial for remote recruitments.

1. Structure your hiring process

  • Choose the stakeholders involved in the process in advance and make sure that they are comfortable with and ready for remote interviews. Ask team members with more prior experience of interviewing. Don’t be afraid of group calls — offer to join them!
  • As a recruiter, it’s critical to get everyone aligned. Get everyone involved in the hiring process in a video conference to define precisely the profile you are looking for (skills, experience)
  • Send a written recap ahead of any interview to your stakeholders about the profile of the candidate and the interview process.

2. Make the candidate feel even more comfortable:

  • Candidates might feel less in-touch interviewing remotely. Make the steps of your interview process more interactive than your usual face to face interviews — make sure you and your team keep in touch more regularly with your candidate. Do not hesitate to over-communicate.
  • Candidates will not be able to come to the office to get a feel for your company — help them get the vibe for it by highlighting more than usual your company purpose and culture.‍

3. Chose the right tools:

  • Use video calls as much as you can. It helps create the human connection you need to make a successful hire.
  • Make sure your video conference tool (hangouts, zoom.us, webex,…) can host enough users for the interview and that candidates can access it easily with no specific user access.

The biggest difference between in-person and a remote interview process is logistical.

So let’s take a look at preparing the interviews.

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Remote étiquette

Take special consideration of the candidate’s ease of access and expectations to avoid technical difficulties. Concrete actions to be prepared for your remote interviews include:

1. Provide your candidates with all the information they need in your email communication and the interview calendar invite:

  • Obviously the proper date and time of the interview
  • Instructions on how to join the call with a set-up link
  • Suggest finding a quiet place with sufficient lightning
  • A Plan B if internet connection is down
  • Set a clear time frame (and stick to it!)

2. Double check your tech beforehand: mic, headphones, wifi connection, etc.

3. Make sure the notes you take are accessible online for the next steps of the process.

4. Be the first to show up in the virtual room to make the candidate more comfortable.

This will put you in a good position to assess your candidate’s technical skills.

Technical interviews & assessments

It is important to be extra patient whilst testing your candidate’s technical skills remotely. Timelines can need to be readjusted to allow for tech hiccups, refreshes, etc. Our recommendations are:

  • Choose the coding tools that best match your needs (see our list below). Mo Brahim, CTO at Profile Pensions, recommends codebunk: “it is a very simple tool that allows you to input code and the candidate can then interact and change things. It highlights errors in the code and is great for interactive code assessments.”
  • Make sure the candidate understands what is expected and is comfortable with the deadlines you put in place.
  • Make yourself available for additional questions.‍Ask people to record themselves coding on your code challenge for 15 minutes in the environment they are familiar with. Screenflow and Camtasia are tools your candidates can use for recording screencasts, and here are some guidelines for how to do this which you can share with candidates‍

How about trying to mimic the autonomy of your tech team’s remote work environment with the coding challenge?


Sean Hynan, Talent Lead at Form3, suggests giving your candidate free reign to go away, build something and come back to you in their own timescale, to understand how they work. For this strategy “there are no deadlines on the project, some people come back within a week, others within a month, but we don’t mind that at all.”

Here are a few other coding tools you can use:

➡️ https://coderpad.io/: used by companies such as Quora, Yelp, YCombinator, Dropbox to conduct remote technical interviews.‍

➡️ https://codeinterview.io/: a cloud-based pair programming tool.‍

➡️ https://www.hackerrank.com/: allows you to create your own coding challenges and pair programs.‍

➡️ https://codeshare.io/: a free team coding resource, with video options for interviews.

https://codeshare.io/

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Assessing cultural fit

You will need more time to get to know your candidate remotely than you might take face-to-face. Which means having more calls than usual dedicated to cultural fit and personality.

Mo Brahim says, “increase the stages of interaction. You need more engagement with the candidate to ensure you are comfortable with the person.” You should look at:

  • Key attributes to join a distributed team: being a self-starter, autonomy, discipline and time management. Ask questions targeted at getting this information when interviewing (e.g. what are your working methods? how do you manage priorities and timelines?).‍
  • Adapting your workflow: build dedicated steps to focus on cultural fit, understanding the candidate’s personality and work ethic before going into the coding part.
  • Don’t be afraid of group meetings: to introduce a few members of the team and if you can, members in other departments too. It will help you understand the candidate’s ability to gel with the team.

If you take deliberate steps early on to get to know the candidate on a personal level and accept input from other members of the team, you’ll be able to get a good grasp of your candidate’s potential fit.

Flexibility

The good news is that some issues from traditional interviews might no longer be a problem (candidates getting lost trying to find the entrance?!). Remote interviews can also be far more accessible and encourage more diverse applicants, such as individuals with impaired mobility. Nonetheless to be fully inclusive and get the best candidates you need to exercise flexibility:

Offer to use the candidate’s preferred communication channel. WhatsApp video, Skype, FaceTime, other platforms.

Be willing to adapt to the candidate’s agenda. Often candidates who go fully remote have specific time constraints such as different time zones or childcare.

Make sure the candidate is within their comfort zone. As Tricia Philips, Director and Management Consultant at KPIM says, “remember for example that some people aren’t comfortable on camera” This is not a reflection of their technical skills or their fit as a team player, so take this into account when you are reviewing an interview.

The foundation to a great remote hiring process is empathy and compassion.

Many applicants might be experiencing remote work and hiring for the first time. It is vital to understand their uncertainties and make them feel at ease to get the best out of such interviews.

Remote isn’t for everyone

Working remotely is not something everyone appreciates or is comfortable with! That’s OK. To avoid any surprises, you should:

1. Be very clear about the scope of the job with your candidate as soon as you start conversations. Establishing their willingness to work remotely is essential.

2. Assess your candidate’s autonomy during the process. How do they communicate and time-manage as an applicant? Perhaps a chance to bring in Sean Hynan’s suggestions for a deadline-less coding test!

3. Explain in detail what the environment of the company is like. Christophe Popov, Entrepreneur, Technology Consultant and CTO, tells us it is “all about developing trust with the person.”

Others already do it!

Recruiting 100% remotely might be fairly new to you but some teams are already doing it successfully and have already shared resources on the topic. Here are two of our favourites:

➡️ https://www.remotestarterkit.com/‍

➡️ https://github.com/zenika-open-source/awesome-remote-work‍‍

We hope these tips will help you deal with your recruitment strategy in the short term, and also strengthen your hiring processes for the future.

The next step is onboarding remotely!

As Mo Brahim says “you could be expected to fall back on a remote onboarding process at any time”.

We’d like to thank our experts Tricia Phillips — Director and Management Consultant at KPIM, Aaron Asaro — CTO at Kopernio, Mo Brahim — CTO at Profile Pensions, Christophe Popov — Entrepreneur, Technology Consultant and CTO, and Sean Hynan — Talent Lead at Form3 for sharing their valuable insights!

We’ll focus on this topic in a future blog post. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to share your insights, please feel free to reach out to joanna.gittens@talent.io or contact us via LinkedIn / twitter!


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