How We Hire People for Remote Team

This article is about our own experience of hiring people for remote team. Our project manager shares all the pitfalls which we’ve encountered and all ways to overcome them.

Remote work

Qualified people are the root of success of the whole team. But how to find a real diamond in the huddle of stones? In this post we’re trying to accumulate our positive (and negative) experience of searching for proper persons.

What are pros and cons of hiring remote workers?

Let’s start with the negative part of this.

— People which worked previously as freelancers sometimes are not quite reliable. We’ve collected a lot of excuses why task can’t be completed: from unstable internet connection to epidemic of flue. Of course not all former freelancers are the same and people which proved their reliability are still with us.

— You are not able to control their internet connection and working equipment (for example resolution of monitor, CPU details). Monitor settings are crucial for designer and front-end developer as they need to see results of their work on large monitor with good resolution. Characteristics of CPU are crucial for back-end developers as they need big volume of RAM. SSDs are recommended for all IT-specialists to provide them possibility of quick launch of their computers. If you hire people in office you buy proper assets, but it is not suitable for distributed team

— The same is for software. If in office you can install all necessary and allowed software, in distributed team you can just ask people to use it.

— It is quite hard to check what remote workers are doing during the working hours. Of course the main index it is result, but for some positions like account managers it is very important to be accessible within business hours. Of course most people are reliable and hard-working but even one rotten apple injures its neighbors.

— Meeting deadlines. This problem is also peculiar problem for ex-freelancers. For us meeting deadlines is a must as we respect our clients. But we have found that some ex-freelancers consider that time is flexible and there is no need to work hard in order to meet the deadline.

As for the pros here they are:

+  You are not limited while searching for new people. If there is a lack of qualified IT engineers in your hometown you can easily find necessary specialists from all over the world. Internet erases distance between people. Our team members live in different time zones and countries and it doesn’t impede them from being one team.

+  Remote workers more flexible about working hours. So if our client has some urgent task (like create landing page for promotion of new services) remote team is able to work in the evenings in order to get the work done.

+  We don’t need to have an office. Good office requires a lot of money and attention and still not everybody will be satisfied. Some people like cool air and twilight while working, some people like hot air and bright lights. But nobody likes office wars. So, no office – no wars.

+  As we don’t have office (really don’t have even our CEO works from home in pajamas) so we are more concentrated on delivering excellent service then on trying to create perfect first impression.

What are the main principles of hiring remote team?

  1. Good job description. Tell you future teammate what this job includes, what are the benefits and peculiarities. From our experience it is necessary to highlight that you are looking for person which will work full time, because in some cases remote work is associated with some kind of side job.
  2. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Ask as many questions as you can. You’re looking for the right teammate and you need more information about him or her. When you ask right questions you get right answers.
  3. Answer people’s questions. Hiring process is a two players’ game, so your future teammate may also have many questions. Even more if person doesn’t have questions it is a warning sign. Each and every person which is looking for long-term work has questions to ask.
  4. Be flexible about date and time of Skype conferences with candidates. People may search for work while being bound with other obligations like previous work or freelance project. Being flexible means that you have a chance to find reliable person for your team which is honest with previous employer and doesn’t spend working hours for communication with you.
  5. Listen to your intuition. Sounds strange, but it proved to be the right thing. If you don’t like candidate or he/she seems to be unreliable do not hire him.
  6. Check, check, check. We hire people without meeting them personally so sometimes we lack some necessary details about him. But you can check his accounts in social networks as well as sites of companies where he worked previously. Of course we trust people but check the facts anyway.
  7. No test tasks. Most candidates don’t want to do big test tasks. And we are ok with that as too many dishonest employers used test tasks for involving free workforce for their needs. But little simple test task says almost nothing about the candidate’s skills. So we’ve abandoned test tasks and nothing frightful happened.

 

Here are the main stages of hiring remote teammate:

  1. Sharing information about open position in your team. We use all channels that are available.
  • For the first it is word of mouth. Just tell your friends that you are looking for some kind of specialist and ask to spread the word. It really works as sometimes person may feel dissatisfied with his/her actual position but a bit afraid to look for new job. And your open position will be just in time to make the right decision.
  • Also we use social networks to make our vacancies visible for all our followers. Even if nobody of them is interested they can share our post and it may reach necessary person.
  • As for job boards we also use them as there you can also find a good teammate. Yes, on job boards there are too many low-qualified people (even not specialists), but qualitied specialists also happen.
  • Search people on freelancers’ sites. This variant is a quite controversial one as people which used to work without any schedule and with less involvement sometimes are suitable for working in time limits and with a stable team. But it worth to try.
  1. Primary analysis of all responses. Every response must be answered. It’s a strict rule. Even if you received totally irrelevant CV you must write polite rejection e-mail in response. It will take 5 minutes but somebody will receive a proper feedback from you. We collect all CVs which seem suitable in Google Docs and ask our colleagues to revise and evaluate them. Of course designer revises designers, front-end developer revises front-end developers.
  2. First e-mail. If we like the CV we write first e-mail where highlight all crucial points (like the fact that you offer full time remote job, but not the kind of side work) and ask some questions about resume (if any). If the candidate seems ok, you can go with him to the next stage.
  3. “Chain letter”. We call so an e-mail from our SEO where our core values and main requirements are stated. The main goal of it is to share the idea that we are hard-working team which constantly obtains new skills and lazy people are not accepted. If candidate is ok with that we make an appointment for a Skype interview in format of videoconference.
  4. Skype interview. It is the most important stage of hiring process. Usually in Skype interview takes part our project manager, our CEO, and the head of proper team (person which be responsible for accommodating new teammate).

We start our interview with some general questions like does candidate have proper conditions for effective remote work. It seems strange, but we had sad experience with front-end developer which used to work from children’s room. So sometimes he refused to accept incoming calls because his daughter was sleeping. Of course it is not acceptable as constant communication is a key of successful work. We also ask about technical characteristics of candidate’s PC as sometimes people used to work on really old machines which are not suitable for modern design and web-development.

After general questions we ask candidate about his or her professional experience. It is the funniest and the most informative part as people sometimes can tell really interesting things about their previous experience of work.

After general questions we ask professional questions. No mercy! If we hire front-end developer, we’ll ask a lot of questions about his professional level, tricks and hints he’s using. Sometimes we even ask to write some code, just a few lines. In most cases it’s enough to define level of competencies.

  1. Final decision. After all candidates were interviewed, we discuss them and their chances to get the work. After discussion we range our preferences from the most preferred candidate to the least preferred candidate and then choose the best.
  2. Job offer. Right after we’ve selected the best candidate we send him an e-mail with detailed job offer asking to read it thoroughly and reply. If candidate accepts offer, we appoint the date of his first working day with us.

What the possible pitfalls which may wait for you during this process?

  • It is ok to share information about open position among your friends, but sometimes it may cause troubles when you reject candidates which were recommended by one of your friends. So it is necessary to be as opened and straightforward as possible and don’t accept any attempts of nepotism.
  • Too much irrelevant CVs. While we were looking for front-end developer we’ve got 329 CV’s, but only 27 were relevant (from candidates which had all obligatory skills). So just correct your schedule and find some free hours to look through all CVs.
  • You need to spend your working hours for reading CVs and holding interviews. It takes from project manager 2-3 hours a day to perform primary selection of CVs and to send first e-mail. On later stages it takes 2-4 hours a day to hold 1-2 interviews.
  • Dishonest candidates. It is the thing which is quite painful to admit. But forewarned is forearmed. We had a sad practice when candidate accepted our offer, we agreed all details and the date of his first working day. Then we sent e-mails with polite rejects to all other candidates. At his first working day he sent us an e-mail that he decided to change his mind. It was quite painful as we had to start all from the scratch, but such things happened so it is better to be prepared.

Nevertheless, we like to hire new people in our remote team. While searching we meet a lot interesting people and real professionals with unique experiences.

Anna Kalmius
Remote work
11.07.2016

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