What are the challenges of hiring for a remote company and how do you overcome them?
Nowadays, a lot of companies are allowing their employees to work remotely on a regular basis, for example, every Friday, but there is a growing number of companies that go even further and build their teams with a remote-first approach. Due to the efforts of many countries in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, many companies were forced to try the fully-remote approach for the first time. What does that mean for hiring?
At ACELR8, we already experienced working for remote clients. NextMatter, a product that automates cross-team collaboration, has a small office in Berlin’s Mitte, but they operate fully remote. We also work with Hotjar, which makes a popular tool for analysing the behaviour of a website’s users using tools such as heatmaps. The headquarters of the company is located in Malta, but most of the 100 of its employees are spread across the EMEA region. Some of our other clients are also not remote-first but do offer working remotely as an option. One of them is Prisma that makes a set of tools for developing modern applications.
We talked to our recruiters working with the companies, Isabel at NextMatter, Daniel at Hotjar, and Martin at Prisma, as well as Paris Kolios, an Engineering Lead at NextMatter, to learn more about overcoming the challenges that come with a remote hiring process.
Hiring remotely vs. onsite
One of the biggest differences in remote hiring is that it’s just less personal: ‘As you do not get to meet the person face-to-face you need to rely a lot more on spoken communication. Building trust and relationship with the candidate is slower, so you will need to add some extra steps in the process.’ — said Isabel. Martin expanded on that: ‘You have to place your faith in someone that you have never met in person, which can feel counterintuitive. You have to make hiring decisions with much less social cues and information than you would normally have.’
Daniel pointed out how important it is to streamline the internal processes: ‘One of the main things that you need to be aware of is the need to have everything well-documented and clearly-defined. When working in an office, it can be quite easy to ask somebody a question, but when working remotely, it is not as simple as walking over to somebody's desk. It is obvious, but that is the case’. Martin has a similar experience: ‘Hiring remotely should require more effort, not less. It should have more stakeholders involved and the process should be designed to figure out if someone can not only do the work but do it remotely.’
Remote hiring comes with quite a few advantages in comparison to onsite recruitment. Here are some highlighted by Martin:
Significantly larger talent pool and a more diverse talent pool as you are able to tap into various different markets
Cost and time savings — less travel, calls are quicker than meetings
More objective — refer to my earlier point, because you are less able to rely on social cues, you will probably be more objective in your judgments
Paris from NextMatter also mentioned the greater talent pool: ‘There are now multiple new channels to post your job openings that target remote candidates. They have a broader reach, which directly translates to more applications.’ That also creates a challenge — how to find the right candidates when you get so many applicants in your process? ‘[...] you need to be more rigorous with the initial screening and filtering. What I found really helpful in working with a recruiter like Isabel that really understands our requirements for the positions and efficiently takes care of that initial filtering.’
The biggest challenges of hiring remotely
Accountability is always a topic of discussion when it comes to working remotely. Hiring for remote roles is no exception. ‘[...] you have to hold yourself accountable for every minute of the day. Whether that is sticking to your structure or not getting easily distracted or even not overworking. The last part is so crucial, it is so easy to start working the first thing in the morning and then continue working into the evening, which sounds like it would be amazing for the company, but it isn't, it can quickly cause burnout or frustration in your environment.’ — said Daniel. Isabel agrees with him, raising the importance of being autonomous: ‘Everybody should work autonomously and be responsible for their own work. NextMatter decided to hire employees with a few years of working experience, to make it easier for the employees to manage themselves.’
Remote companies overcome the challenges of their work-style in many different ways. In hiring, they often give the new-joiners an opportunity to meet the rest of the team, like at NextMatter: ‘We make sure that they get to meet many different team members and talk about fields outside of the candidate’s expertise. In that way, you get to know the candidate from different perspectives.’
Daniel also tackled the topic of a company’s culture: ‘Another challenge is working out how to get your company culture and personality across to the candidate when they will not meet anyone in person during the process.’; and continued with a solution: ‘[...] It’s definitely a challenge, which is why each interview, you need to really make sure that each one has a strong personal touch. Having a detailed website about your team, the company and what it is like working there is also crucial.’
Martin goes further on the topic of a company’s culture saying that’s the most important part of a remote hiring process: ‘It can seem awkward gathering three people in a call to ask more questions to figure out culture fit, but it is more important than ever because it is much harder to socialise someone remotely. Fit is therefore much more important than usual.’
Paris from NextMatter puts an emphasis on the candidates’ communication skills: ‘When working remotely, efficient communication is key. Seeing a candidate navigating their way through your hiring process with minimal friction [...] is a good sign that they would be a good addition to your team.’
Tips on remote recruitment for recruiters
If you are hiring remotely for the first time ever — no worries! Yes, it’s different than what you may be used to, but it may be a great chance for you to learn how to approach hiring in a new way. Here’s what Isabel learnt when working with NextMatter: ‘Keeping close to candidates and over-communication is more important than ever in remote hiring. As it is a way to build trust with candidates. You can do this, by sharing timelines, repeating steps in the process, explaining the steps, sharing the profiles of interviewers beforehand, etc.’
Daniel recommends giving people who are new into remote working a better idea on what it actually means for their work: ‘remote work is such an attractive option now and is the new buzz, so you will receive a lot of interest, but if somebody has never worked remotely before, you need to fully educate them on of both the positives and negatives of remote working. On one hand, you almost have complete freedom to pick your hours and create the work-life balance that you crave, but on the other hand, you can feel completely isolated and may go days without leaving your home or even talking to somebody in person.’
Hiring remotely may seem hard, but it’s not impossible. The right attitude and holding yourself accountable will make it much easier for you, maybe even easier than working onsite. Be sure to embrace the new position that you found yourself in, and if you need some help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We have recruiters ready to jump into a fully-remote project.
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