Remote hiring, in some ways, is not that much different from an in-person one – you just need to make sure that every step of your process is done online. To do so, you need to scan through your recruiting processes and tools and see what can be changed or improved for the best results in a remote scenario. Don’t forget to include spontaneous communication with your colleagues that would happen in the office naturally – this also needs to be reproduced when everyone is working from home.
The first step is to adjust your role descriptions. They need to give a potential candidate an idea about how the remote work environment works at your company. There are many question marks regarding location, legal setup, company culture, and communication that you should try to answer in your job listings.
'Set clear expectations from the start, set the bar for each job consciously, and refine it by learning from companies that you admire.'
~ Jan Hugenroth, Founder of Next Matter
First, be clear about geography. Working remotely allows us to work from anywhere in the world, but that can create some problems. For example, from a legal perspective, you need to specify if you’re looking just for people who are legally allowed to work in your country or you’re open to everyone, regardless what’s their passport. Another important thing to have in mind location-wise are time zones – specify a specific range that would still allow you to have efficient communication. Alternatively, if the time difference is not a problem, describe how your company overcomes it in communication.
Working remotely gives a lot of flexibility, but you can’t forget that for many, it will mean working from home with their family members next to them. Being clear regarding working hours is very important. Assure your employees that they can be flexible with planning their day. If that’s something that wouldn’t work well for your company, specify when you expect them to be available.
The key to being a successful remote company is effective communication. For example, Hotjar, besides having a relatively standard all-hands weekly meeting, uses a tool called Discourse to communicate any updates to the company on an hourly basis. If you have similar measures in place to ensure that everyone in the company is up-to-date, include that in the job description.
'Communication is the biggest challenge of working remotely. Pre-plan it and have a clear purpose for the messages and calls in mind.’
~ Marc von Brockdorff, Co-Founder & Director of Engineering at Hotjar
Keeping your employees engaged and involved in the company culture can be a significant challenge when working remotely, but there are some initiatives that you can offer to your team. Even something as simple as virtual coffees or connecting people from different teams using Slack add-ons like Donut can have a positive impact on your company’s remote culture.
'We are still learning and trying to figure it out. There are a lot of things that you can try. Play around with it.'
~ Vanessa Stock, VP of People at Pitch
You also need to be clear about the future of the role. Not only should you explain the role progression as you would in a standard job description, but also clarify the future of remote work in your company. Even though we see big companies like Microsoft and Slack, embracing the new normal, many companies would like their employees to go back to offices once things calm down.
‘You have to make the decision if you're going fully remote — there's not much in-between that works well.’
~ Jan Hugenroth, Founder of Next Matter
Last but not least, remember to include some remote work-related keywords in your descriptions. There are a lot of people out there who got used to working remotely and don’t want to go back to an office. By including phrases like ‘working from home’, ‘remote position’, ‘fully remote’, and so on, it’s more likely that you will attract talent looking for this kind of position.
Switching to hiring remotely is a great opportunity to optimise how you keep track of the process. You probably already have an Applicant Tracking System put in place, but you can take one step further and tackle communication with the rest of the hiring team.
'The current situation is a great chance to put in place a more professional, well-documented process that will work long term.'
You can create a document outlining the interview process (for example, a spreadsheet, Trello board, Notion page, or in ATS) for every role that includes some guidelines specific to remote interviewing. Many companies go a step further and create recruitment guidelines or playbooks that they can refer to any point. It might be a useful tool for your colleagues who have never done a remote interview. It’s also good to form a habit of summarising the interviews in a written form so that you can share them with your team afterwards.
Slack and similar communication tools became more critical during the pandemic than ever before, and it’s worth embracing them in a recruiting process. Set up a private channel dedicated to a specific role with all relevant stakeholders invited. It can be your go-to place for posting updates on the role, sharing notes, and for giving hiring managers some guidance. You can go even further by connecting your ATS to that channel, which will give everyone updates on the current status of the process.
Keeping your candidate on track with the process is as important as with your team. By doing so, you show them that you care about them applying to your company and they will notice that. How to achieve that?
You can start by sharing an outline of the whole interview process with them that will give them an overview of each step as well as provide them with topics that you want to cover. Be sure also to include team members involved in the interviews. You can even encourage them to introduce themselves to the candidate via email to make the outreach more personal.
'You need to guide the candidate through the process and keep your promises [...]. If you don't do that, [they] might think the application is not serious.'
Once you set the ground for how you will be tracking the recruiting process and keeping your team and the candidate up-to-date, you can prepare the hiring managers for interviews. The most important things to have in mind here is to walk them through every step of your remote interviewing process. Introduce them to the interview timeline and explain what each of the steps is for, what are the goals of the interviews, what are the ideal answers, and what are the deal-breakers.
The most significant difference from an onsite process is tools. Hiring managers will no longer greet candidates in the office. Instead, everything will take place on Zoom, Google Meet, or other video conferencing apps. Candidates are most likely used to the software at this point, but it might be worth sending simple instructions beforehand, such as how to turn on the webcam and how to mute yourself. You should also let the candidates know if the session will be recorded.
Make sure that everybody and all of the leaders has the toolkit to go remote. Get the toolkit right and then cascade it to the rest of the company.
~ Jan Hugenroth, Founder of Next Matter
If your colleagues don’t feel comfortable with interviewing just yet, feel free to join the call and guide the conversation. With time, you can push them to ask more questions and give them some advice afterwards.
If you give your candidates assignments during the recruitment process, you were most likely to do it remotely already. Still, some companies ask their potential employees to come to the office for a few hours. If that’s how it used to work in your case, you will need to change that.
The easiest way to give them a challenge is to simply email it to them. Try to make the explanation of the task as detailed as possible to avoid confusion from their side. You should also put time constraints. Give them enough time to come up with a good solution, but not too much, both to make sure that they work efficiently but also to respect their private time. Be sure to mention that they can reach out to you if they need clarification.
Make sure to set a deadline for the candidate to deliver the assignment and specify how you want them to present it. It can be as simple as sending a document via email or scheduling a call for a presentation.
Interviewing candidates remotely and making a decision without meeting them could be a challenge for your hiring managers. Understanding why they want to move forward or reject a candidate becomes very important here. Sometimes, they tend to make decisions based off of a gut feeling, and this is not advisable.
A good practice here would be to ask a lot of why and why-not questions. Another solution could be to create scorecards and facilitate a discussion among different hiring managers based off of that. This will give you a clear idea of the strengths of the candidate and allow you to evaluate their performance in interviews and during the challenge based on the required skills.
Employer branding serves the need that current or future employees feel connected to your company and understand its culture and values. Internal communication becomes key in a remote setup. There are a few things that you can do to get your remote employer branding right. In a remote setup it might be hard for candidates to get a feel of the company, so more information is needed to help them make a choice!
The best way to show your remote work culture is to share stories of your employees. Ask them to take photos of their home office and make them answer a few questions about their approach to working from home. Maybe they have a specific morning routine that helps them focus? Or maybe they got a tech gadget that makes their work much easier? Your candidates might find this type of content very useful.
‘Humanness really matters, and people want to see human stories and the humans behind organisations. That is what Employer Branding has been fighting for all along.'
~ Nate Guggia, Brand Marketing at Job Portraits
A very common practice among companies that worked remotely even before the pandemic is to share their values, for example, on their careers page, like Grover. You can even come up with a series of social media posts that highlight your values, which is something that we did on our Instagram page.
Another great thing to do is to praise your colleagues’ work publicly. LinkedIn even offers a kudos feature that allows you to post something nice about your peers at ease. Tell your connections how working with that person helped in your work.
To make remote work as efficient as possible, you need to embrace a variety of communication and productivity tools that will make it much easier for you. The same thing, of course, applies to recruiters working from home.
At this point, Slack is a default communication tool for startups, and you most likely had a chance to use if before the pandemic. It’s worth embracing your recruiting process and regularly updating your hiring managers on the process, for example, using a private channel.
‘Have Slack always on and use its Status feature to let your colleagues know what you are doing.’
~ Boris Krastev, Co-Founder of RemoteMore
Of course, Slack is not the only tool out there. Its biggest competitor, Microsoft Teams, also thrived due to the pandemic and many institutions using it as it comes with the Office 365 subscription. Similarly to Slack, it also doubles as a video-conferencing app. If your organisation runs on Google Workplace suite, you can use their Google Chat free of charge. There are also alternatives built by smaller developers, like Twist from the creators of the Todoist app. Don’t get lost in the sea of options and choose what’s most convenient for you.
There are many tools out there that allow you to create documents and share them with your colleagues, which is a great idea for documenting your hiring process. For companies using Google Workplace, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides is an envious choice – same for Office 365 users and Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. If you share a lot of presentations, but you’re not happy with the way they look, you should give Pitch a try. It makes the collaboration of slides much easier than with Slides and Powerpoint.
There’s also a relatively new category of knowledge databases like Notion and Guru. The first one is especially interesting, as it allows you to replace document and spreadsheet sharing apps. It’s also great as a productivity tool, similar to apps like Todoist or Trello. The level of customisability that Notion offers is truly impressive, and the tool can be useful for every type of company.
Pitch is using a knowledge base tool Notion to organise the company's processes and document decisions.
Knowledge-sharing tools like Notion and Google Docs are also a great way of storing candidate scorecards. Alternatively, you can use a scorecard feature included in your ATS, which makes it much easier to keep track of the whole recruiting process. Once you create a document, simply share it with the hiring managers to fill it after an interview.
If you haven’t discovered call-scheduling tools yet, this is going to be a game-changer for how you schedule calls with candidates. Tools like Calendly allow you to create a link that displays all free calendar slots that a candidate can choose from. Some email clients like Polymail and calendar apps like Fantastical offer similar solutions. Check your ATS as well – some also have a similar feature.
Probably the most important tool in a remote recruiter’s toolset are video calling apps. If your company uses Google Meet or Zoom for calls, you can easily integrate them with your calendar so that every appointment has a link to a video conference. Of course, if your organisation relies on Microsoft’s suite, Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business are a great option too. There are also less-known alternatives, such as BlueJeans and Whereby.
‘[At Pitch], every step of the interviewing process is happening via Zoom.'
~ Vanessa Stock, VP of People at Pitch
For the phone screen, you can stick to a much simpler solution – a phone call. Just remember to ask your candidate about their phone number and an alternative way to reach out to them in case something goes wrong.
The most challenging part of a remote hiring process is interviewing. It requires you to assess not only the soft and the hard skills of the candidates but also their ability to work remotely and to communicate mostly online.
You want the interviews somewhat to mirror the typical working experience of your company. If you're used to hosting the candidates in the office, think about what would be the best way to reproduce the experience remotely. If your company mostly communicates via Slack, you should consider conducting the interviews in a written form, for example via Slack, to test the candidate’s written communication skills.
The biggest concern that you might have when conducting a remote interview is about the cultural fit. To make sure that the person will feel good working at your company, you should put much more effort into explaining the company's culture than you would do it during an onsite interview. Adding an extra informal step in the interview can be great, such as having a casual, remote chat over coffee.
'Candidates have a harder time imagining how all this is done remotely, so you need to guide them through the details'
Explain to them how the collaboration and the communication work in the company, especially in a fully-remote scenario that we all found ourselves in. Preparing by answering these questions for your company will make it easier:
Be sure to add some questions to the list that are specific for your company and its style of work. Also, don’t forget to mention the regular remote setup, as this time of remote hiring and home office will be over one day.
Even if you're planning to hire the candidate to start working onsite as soon as it is possible again, it's likely that for a while they will be remote-based. Having that in mind, you will have to assess their communication skills and overall productivity.
First of all, ask them if they worked remotely in the past. If they didn't, ask them how they adjusted because of the outbreak — how did it change their workday, if they are struggling with this style of work, and so on.
'[Ask them] what's the reason for joining a remote company. You want to avoid people trying out this set up for the first time, and then it doesn't suit them. The role of the recruiter is to dig deeper.'
As for the communication skills, ask them how they would keep in touch with their colleagues:
For productivity, let them explain to you how they manage their time and tasks.
Congratulations! You hired your perfect candidate, and you did it fully remotely. The last part of the remote hiring process is to onboard your new employee and make them feel at home… from home.
A common practice among remote-first companies that have a physical location is to have the new, remote employee coming onsite for the first week so that they get a proper onboarding and get to know the team. Of course, it may not be an option in the current situation; therefore, you won't be able to do that.
Usually, at some point in the hiring process, the candidate would be invited to come over to the office in Berlin. Now, this part of the process is happening via Slack.
~ Vanessa Stock, VP of People at Pitch
If your company doesn't have a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy, then you will have to send a work laptop to the employee. If that’s a case for you, remember to ask them about their preferences, like Windows or Mac, keyboard layout, etc. You can include some gifts in the box, such as a company t-shirt, a coffee mug, or another piece of swag.
Onboarding processes tend to feature a lot of steps that are easy to miss. To avoid that, give your new employee a checklist. It can be a physical piece of paper you send to them in the welcome package or just a list in a tool like Google Docs or Notion. Some things that are worth featuring on such a checklist:
'It’s your responsibility that you’re operational after the first week.'
~ Jan Hugenroth, Founder of Next Matter
Give the new employee a good overview of your culture and all of the employees. Be sure to give them a presentation explaining the history of the company, its mission and values, the organisational chart, and everything that will provide them with a good overview of the company. A great way to do so is to include informal team meetings that replace water-cooler talks.
Book 1-on-1’s with all stakeholders they would be working with in the future and beyond. To make the talks go smooth, you can give them a schedule.
Once they are familiar with the organisational stuff as well as your culture, make them jump into training sessions and learn how your company works. If you have a knowledge-base such as Notion or Guru that we mentioned before, ask them to read every piece of information stored there.
You should also schedule regular check-ins with them, for example, after two weeks, a month, etc. This way, you will be able to make sure that they understand everything and are not lost in the onboarding process.
Set up a buddy system or use Slack add-ons like Donut to connect new employees with the existing ones
The first weeks can be quite hectic and more focused on just making the new employee feel good working with you, but it's important to set expectations and goals so that, once they are ready, they can start working on making their job happen.
If you're just starting with remote hiring, ask your newly employed teammates to share their feedback on the onboarding process. It will be precious for onboarding any person to join your company in the future.
Hiring remotely is very challenging, especially if you're doing it for the first time. We hope that with the tips above it will be easier for you. You're also welcome to check our previous article on remote hiring for even more tips from our recruiters. And if you need some help in hiring, we are happy to help your company! Learn more about ACELR8’s services on our website.