A look at hiring remotely

I am used to working remotely. I am also used to onboarding new team members remotely. I know this is not yet the expected norm, but in a post-COVID world (and during), I expect more companies to have to go through the remote hire routine. Let’s talk a bit about how this process works.

I recently finished going through the process as the hiring manager for a high level developer position. This process took a couple of months from the first job posting to the offer letter to our top candidate. Nothing really unusual about that for the position being hired for. However, not once did I meet any of the candidates in person. In fact, I don’t think any of the candidates I interviewed were geographically close enough to even drive to my location for an in-person interview.

What we did was interviews over Zoom. I actually found this quite nice. The candidates had no awkward waiting in the other room to be let in. The rest of the office wasn’t disrupted by a lost individual trying to find their way around. And bad interviews could be wrapped up quickly and ended with a “Thank you” and a close of a computer window. You could still see the candidate’s body language when you asked questions, hear their inflections and pauses, see how they carry and present themselves, and if you’re hiring remotely it gives you experience communicating with them remotely (plus you also get to see their “home office” setup ... or lack thereof). It was also much easier to have other team members jump in and interact with the candidates. Aside from blocking off time, my co-workers’ schedules were barely interrupted and they could ask questions and size up the candidates themselves.

The biggest advantage of hiring this way is the talent pool you are pulling from. If you are hiring locally, you are going to get only candidates who are local or willing to relocate. I was overwhelmed by the volume of extremely qualified individuals. Of course I had a number of applications that seemed to be from candidates just throwing a resume out everywhere to see what sticks, but still I had a lot of good, high-quality candidates that I wasn’t afraid would be a waste of time to interview. To sort through them all, I sent out a screening questionnaire to those who checked all job description requirements. This questionnaire reinforced the working conditions (hours expected, pay, benefits, etc.) and also asked a few free form questions to get a better understanding of why the candidates applied. Their answers automatically populated a spreadsheet I was using to track the candidates and I was able to sort through and pick who I wanted to interview. Again, this was not an easy task because of the number of strong candidates I had and I couldn’t afford to spend every waking minute interviewing.

The interview order was fairly standard and there ended up being three rounds. First round was an introduction, second was a work sample problem, and the last was with the company’s owner. Of course there were some emails back and forth on questions but for the most part we got to talk face-to-face ... just via Zoom.

Hiring remotely doesn’t have to be intimidating. You may not always get the person you want but I have also experienced bad hires that were done in-person. Regardless, you may find many high-quality employees prefer to work remotely ... especially after getting a taste of it during COVID-19 lockdowns.