Making Remote Hiring Work

Hiring the right people has never been easy - many factors impact both sides (employer and candidate), regardless of whether you are remote or in a traditional office setup.

The world has changed in 2020, there is a new reality shaped by how we leverage Technology (Automation, AI, IoT), the fact that for the first time we have 5 generations working together, the rise of the Gig economy and the concept of Remote work and of course rapid change in the face of COVID-19.

These factors are driving companies, to conduct more of their hiring process remotely and even to hire new people that will work entirely remotely.

In our virtual interview we (Radina and Vincent) discussed both cases, we shared our recent experience, and what lessons we learned. This post summarizes that discussion (recording of the interview below).

Remote Hiring Process or Hiring a Remote Team?

If you are hiring for a position where someone has to work remotely, you have to look for different qualities in a candidate. That affects the way you design your interview process.

By comparison, an online hiring process for an office-based role may look for traditional skills but can still enable a huge amount of creativity (more on that below).

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Why did Swyg become a remote-first company?

Vincent: People are more than a job and the traditional office-based model of work does not fit every individual. This is why we were really supportive from day one of people wanting to work entirely remotely.

Automation alone will not solve hiring

What are the benefits of a remote hiring process?

Even for positions that are ultimately office-based, it’s still beneficial to conduct much of the hiring process online.

Radina: A traditional process follows the same steps in most of the cases: CV review, phone screen, followed by a number of interviews which is not necessarily exciting for the candidates. These processes were designed in a time without all the communication technology we have today.

In an online hiring process it is possible to implement a much more engaging and diverse range of activities: video interviews, recordings from the candidate and the companies, tests and trials.

Showing a virtual tour of the office as the first touch point with a candidate was previously impossible or unheard of. Having dynamic job descriptions in a 2-min video (“A day in the life of …” for example) and incorporating some fun and innovative exercises can go a long way and it will boost the candidates engagement.

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Vincent: Another example is the peer-to-peer interviewing process developed by Swyg. When we started Swyg, we wanted to reinvent the hiring process without the assumptions that stem from traditional in-person processes.

We wanted to build a great candidate experience, that also helps companies make better decisions faster.

How is hiring different in a remote-first company?

In addition to what we spoke about above, when hiring for remote positions it is important to make sure candidates have the right personality and skills to thrive in a remote setting.

Radina: Communicating clearly and with empathy, collaboration, coachability, being autonomous are some of the core skills we prioritize in a remote setup. And these are exactly the skills we can only determine during an interview process (not based on someone’s CV).

Vincent: The benefits are huge:

  • You get a bigger talent pool. The right people might be outside your country, why should this prevent you from expanding your search?
  • The concept of “remote-first” is appealing to a big portion of candidates (even those based locally)
  • You get interest from more diverse candidates,

It is not about reducing cost, nor outsourcing. We simply want to hire the best people.

There are also challenges:

  • A large candidate pool can be hard to manage
  • Candidates from really diverse backgrounds are harder to judge based on CVs. You lack context, there are lots of cultural differences, as well as limitations of our own previous experience. This means you have to interview more people.
  • Communication is pretty critical in a remote environment - we want to see how people take the initiative, how they use technology to express their standpoint. It takes time to determine this for each candidate.

I really want to understand who our candidates are, so I took a lot of time to speak with them directly, instead of only looking at CVs and ticking boxes. The first hires are critical for the future of the company.

Are there legal implications in hiring in a country other than your own?

Make sure you get local advice for the country where you’re hiring. There are some great companies that can help you manage compliance with local employment laws across the globe. (see resources below).

If you had to give companies contemplating hiring a remote team any advice, what would it be?

Radina: Being transparent, talking about your values and culture, the compensation/benefits and interview process are really crucial to build trust. And trust is incredibly important in a remote organisation.

Vincent: Be open minded. Subconsciously we all have a comfort zone when it comes to being willing to take a chance on someone that is different from ourselves. Hiring people in regions that you’re unfamiliar with can feel risky, but it’s important not to let bias creep in.

You need to ask yourself: Are you willing to move forward with an applicant who is completely different from what you know and have seen? Just remember that limiting your hiring to people that are similar to you is also very risky.

Ultimately the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in the world unbounded by geographic restrictions makes it worth the risk.

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