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Remote hiring: A complete guide
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Remote hiring: A complete guide

A modern guide to help you create a remote hiring process that works.

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Remote hiring – there's no way around it these days. More and more companies are going (semi)remote and the WFH movement is on the rise, partly thanks to this little pandemic we're all so familiar with.

Pandemic or no pandemic, it's clear that remote working is sticking around in some capacity or another. So naturally remote hiring is becoming a bigger part of our jobs. That's why we've created a guide to help you nail your remote hiring process.

Because the thing is, remote hiring has specific limitations and challenges that hiring in person simply does not. While it's great to be able to wear pyjama pants for a video interview, they can still be hugely awkward. This means you have to get creative to be able to get the most out of your interview and the rest of your hiring process.

We get into the nitty-gritty of creating a bespoke process for remote hiring that strives to overcome all of the challenges that come along with it. Let's get to it!

Employer Branding
Remote Hiring: A complete guide

What you'll learn in this remote hiring guide

Table of contents

Why

  • Why you can't rely on your IRL hiring process
  • Who stands to benefit from creating a remote hiring process

How

  • Job post: What to keep in mind for your job post when remote hiring
  • Application: Deciding how you want candidates to apply
  • Interviewing: What to keep in mind when interviewing remote
  • Reviewing: Evaluating candidates and avoiding bias

What

  • Tools for remote recruitment
Why

Why you can’t rely on your IRL hiring process when remote hiring

Hiring remote is simply a different ball game than IRL (in-real-life) hiring.

Your existing hiring process might be the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s not going to cut it when you’re not meeting candidates face-to-face. The differences between remote hiring and IRL hiring are too big not to make adjustments to your process:

Here's why:

  • You're missing out on a lot of non-tangible information like body language. Sure, you’ll get some idea of what’s going on in someone’s head on a video call, but it’s nowhere near as much information as you’d get in real life. Body language can play a huge role in whether you're able to click with someone. This goes both ways. Your candidate is also missing non-tangible information from you.
  • Awkwardness can stand in the way. It's normal for candidates to be a bit nervous when applying for jobs, but video calls can really ramp up the awkwardness. It’s all too easy to talk over each other due to a little bit of lag. We're all painfully familiar with the "oh - sorry you go", "no you go" dance. This can stand in the way of getting an authentic impression of each other.
  • You miss observations from team members around the office. If the first interaction your candidate has with your company is with you on a video call, you don’t get to see how they’ll interact with your team when being shown around the office.
  • Candidates don’t get the full experience. Your candidates are evaluating your company just as much as you’re evaluating them. You just don’t get the same opportunities to showcase your company culture when candidates can't get a close-up view like they do when coming to your office.
Why

Who stands to benefit from creating a remote hiring process.

What it means to 'hire remote' encompasses a number of different situations. It's not just the 100% remote companies that do remote hiring. Different types of companies can benefit from creating a remote hiring process that fits their specific situation:

  • Hiring remotely: Your company works on location but you're open to hiring candidates from different cities, states, or countries who are willing to relocate if they end up working for you.
  • Remote friendly: Your company has a very flexible working from home policy which means aspects of your hiring process can be remote, for example when you've scheduled interviews on your WFH day.
  • Remote first: Your company is (becoming) fully remote and you regularly hire remote workers for your team.
  • Temporarily remote: Your company was forced to go remote due to COVID-19 (yes, the dreaded C-word was bound to come up). As things are calming down, you may find yourself hiring more and more while still working remote for the time being.
How

Job post: What to keep in mind for your job post when remote hiring

Okay, first things first - you need a new team member, so you need to create a remote recruitment job post that gets the applications rolling in.

And, as you’ve probably guessed by now, your standard job posts that you've used for IRL hiring won't do the trick.

We’ve got a whole article on how to write job descriptions, but here we'll talk about how your job posts need to be adjusted when you’re remote hiring. Here’s what you need to bear in mind.


Add extra information for context

First off, include some extra info that helps candidates know exactly what your company's situation is.

Checklist: Info to add to a remote job post

  • Make clear whether you’re looking for people who can work within a certain time zone
  • Specify if the role is fully remote, or if you have a flexible work from home policy
  • Make clear whether the job is permanently remote, or whether this will change in the future
  • If the job is permanently remote, include information about how many times a year (if any) the team gets together in the office or for a team trip
  • Add a bit to the 'about the company' section about how you work well remote and how you maintain a good company culture

To whatever extent your company is remote, be sure to explain in your 'about the company' section how you manage it. Include something about how your teams stay organized as well as how they stay connected.

You could even consider publishing an article about how your team does remote. Have a look at Buffer's article, Everything We Know About Remote Work for inspiration.

Add remote working skills to the 'about you' section

Working remotely comes with its own set of challenges, and you’re going to get both experienced remote workers and people new to this way of working reading your job description. So, you need to make it clear what skills you’re looking for in your remote candidates, including things that might be obvious to you.

Possible skills to add to a remote recruitment job post:

  • You are easily self-motivated – you don't need someone looking over your shoulder to get things done.
  • You have the ability to communicate well through writing – since we're (partly) remote written communication is a big part of how the team interacts.
  • You are able to pro-actively ask your fellow team members for what you need – whether it's information, help or a quick brainstorm chat to get the juices flowing.

Add remote working perks

Remote working is an ideal situation for many however, it has challenges. Perks that help your team with those challenges can make all the difference and they can help to attract great candidates.

Here are some examples of the perks that leading remote companies showcase on their remote job posts:

  • Live and work wherever you like – go spend a month in Spain, Japan, Morocco, you name it.
  • We’ll set you up with all the best equipment for your home office.
  • Flexible hours – if you want to go swimming in the middle of the day go for it!
  • Work in a truly global team.
  • Remote stipend that you can use for a co-working space or a coffee shop to work at. Good coffee is important.
  • Join us for company get-togethers twice per year!
How

Application: What to keep in mind when deciding how you want candidates to apply

It's vital to hire collaboratively with your team which is extra challenging when hiring remote. It's even more challenging if you're receiving all your applications in a shared email inbox.

To keep applications more organized we suggest using a Homerun application form so you can easily compare candidates and avoid losing CVs and email exchanges in a bottomless email inbox.

Questions to add to your application form when remote hiring

Finding the right candidate for your team starts off with asking the right candidate application questions. Consider including these questions when hiring remote:

  • What is your ideal (virtual) working environment?
  • Are you comfortable working remote (for the time being)?
  • What time-zone will you be working from?
  • Are you willing to relocate to where our office is located?
How

Interviewing: What to keep in mind when interviewing remote

Now we’ve reached the interview stage, it’s understandable if you’re feeling more apprehensive than usual. We get it - remote interviewing can be weird especially if you're used to face-to-face interviews.

Face-to-face interviews can offer you and your candidates things that remote interviews can't – a handshake, small talk in the elevator, a tour of the office, introduction to other team members, body language, eye contact...all this is intangible information that helps you develop a click and makes you and the candidate feel at ease. Your remote interview has to make up for these things. Here are our tips on how to do that.👇

Overshare about company culture

Devote a significant portion of your interview process to telling the candidate about the company culture. Talk their ear off about the atmosphere in the team, what lunch is like (if you have an office), team rituals, events etc. It’s extremely important to give concrete examples here and provide proof. You can always make a career page packed with pertinent information and photos and point candidates to it.

You might also choose to organize meet-and-greets with other team members. This could be with people they will work with directly or someone in a completely different department. This will give candidates a feel for the broader culture that they would otherwise get when visiting your office. It’s also good way to get the input from other team members about whether they think the candidate is a value fit.

Ask the Right Questions

It might not matter to you if your candidate has had remote working experience before, but you should still ask about how they’d cope with it. Remote working can come with its own pitfalls, and you want to make sure candidates know they’ll be supported with this.

Interview questions to ask when hiring remote workers:

  • What do you need to be able to do your best work remotely?
  • How do you stay self-motivated when working remote?
  • What issues do you think you’ll face with remote working, and how will you deal with those?
  • Do you have any questions or concerns about how we work?

    Have a look here for more remote job interview questions like these.

Prepare more than you otherwise would

Remote interviews require a bit more preparation than you might be used to. Take time to gather all of the information about the company culture you'd like to share, schedule meet-and-greets with other team members and prepare your questions.

Also prepare the candidate by introducing them to the video call tool in advance and letting them know who they will be talking to. This will put them at ease which leads to a more authentic impression of the candidate. More on that in the next tip!

Remove the awkwardness where you can

You’ve got to go the extra mile to put candidates (and yourself) at ease in video interviews. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Acknowledge the potential awkwardness: It can really lighten the mood just to acknowledge any lag or other problems. Simply point out that it's no problem if you accidentally talk over each other. It happens!
  • Schedule extra time for troubleshooting: Both you and the candidate should have the time to make sure you can hear and see each other so that any technical difficulties won't eat into interview time.
  • Take physical notes: Using a good old-fashioned notebook and pen shows candidates you’re interested in what they have to say. It makes things feel a lot more normal, and your candidate isn’t worried about you being distracted while typing. If you do end up typing your notes, let the candidate know that's what you're doing.
  • Take time for some small talk: There's no need to over optimize the interview. Taking the time for some chit chat can put you and candidates at ease and help them get used to talking via video. You could even prepare a few questions for small talk if that's your jam.
  • Avoid username and screen sharing embarrassment: Ahead of time, remind candidates to check their usernames on the video platform you’re using, just in case. That goes for you too. Ya know, if you're using the same platform for your weekly Dungeons & Dragons session and your default username is set to: Nakhtur the Beholder. We don't judge. Also a little heads up to tidy up your desktop and tabs before sharing screens can be useful.

✉️  Example email to prepare your candidate

Hi Yasmin,

I'm looking forward to talking again during your assignment interview on Friday! Our content lead, Joey will join the call as well. I just wanted to give you a little information about what to prepare for this:

We'd love you to showcase two previous writing projects:
- One that you are especially proud of
- One that you learned a lot from.
You can showcase it however you want. Words, decks, presentations, etc.

A few things to keep in mind:
- We're using Whereby for the video call (no need to download any software), but if you've used it in the past be sure to check your username ahead of time because it will use  a default.
- Here's the link for if you'd like to check out how it works ahead of time: Whereby.com/meeting.
- A little reminder that if you'd like to share your screen during the interview, to check your desktop or tabs ahead of time. Just in case there's something you don't want us to see. It happens sometimes!
- Be yourself – no need to be formal, make sure to show us your personality and passion.
- Feel comfortable to showcase your skills and strengths.
- It is a peer conversation with someone who speaks your professional language - feel free to exchange ideas and ask questions.

Have a good week!

Cheers,
Parvati

How

Reviewing candidates: How to avoid remote hiring bias

As you work through the steps above you'll be continuously evaluating candidates. Avoiding bias always has its challenges, but remote hiring has its own unique set.

The good news is that some aspects of remote hiring actually lead to less bias:

  • A more diverse talent pool: Since you're open to candidates from around the world, your talent pool (and team) has the opportunity to be much more diverse. You're a lot less likely to hire people exactly like you as long as you're open to candidates from different cultures and backgrounds.
  • Easily avoid group-think: Remote hiring makes it a lot easier to evaluate independently from your team and thereby avoid group-think bias. Group think is when you allow the opinions of others — good or bad — to affect your feedback or decision. When video interviews end, you hang up and you're on your own, so you can take the time to form your own opinion without immediately being influenced by your team member's opinion.
  • Remote means more structure: Remote hiring requires a more organized and structured interviewing process. The more structured your process is, the less bias can creep in. You're more likely to wing aspects of an on-location interview which makes it very hard to objectively compare candidates' answers.
  • The advantage of limited body language: With remote interviews your ability to read someone's body language is limited. We previously mentioned that this can make it hard to develop a click with candidates, but it also has an advantage. Some body language can be misinterpreted as unprofessional. This can disadvantage candidates with specific types of neurodiversity that cause them to fidget like ADHD and autism. Remote interviews can help you to focus more on the content of what candidates are saying and less on how they are sitting and moving.

Ways to avoid bias when remote hiring:

  • Keep in mind that different cultures apply in different ways: If you're open to candidates from around the world, keep in mind that people have different standards and norms for applying to jobs in different cultures. For example, in some cultures it's normal to give personal details in a job application and other cultures will tend to be more formal. Using an application form with customized questions will help to standardize the applications you get. This way objectively comparing candidates is easier.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt about disturbances: Be forgiving about any technical difficulties or interrupting family life that a candidate may have during a video call. Interruptions happen and they can't always be helped. Don't make assumptions about what working with them will be like based on these moments that may not happen often.
  • Make video calls accessible for candidates who have a disability: When scheduling a video call be sure to give candidates the opportunity to let you know if they have any specific needs for the call. For example, if they're hard of hearing it might be important for the interviewer to be seated in a well-lit area so that the candidate can lip-read.
  • Don't let anyone's background influence your judgment: In this case we don't mean cultural background, but their actual physical background. Some people have messy houses, or small houses, or a very extreme interior style. Challenge yourself not to let this influence your judgment in any way. A good guideline to follow when evaluating candidates is: if you can't back up a judgment with something the candidate did or said, then it shouldn't count or even be shared at all.
  • Evaluate candidates in multiple contexts: Don't just do a video call but also allow candidates to do a small assignment so that you can evaluate your candidate in multiple contexts. This is a great way to avoid first-impression bias. You want to make sure you're giving candidates the chance to give you a second, a third, or more impressions resulting in an overall authentic impression of them.
What

Tools for remote recruitment

You weren’t expecting to hire remote workers with nothing but your optimism, an Excel spreadsheet, and a free Zoom account were you?

Not that it's impossible, but why make life so hard for yourself? We've listed the tools that we think will lighten the load when remote hiring:

  • Homerun: That's us! We've built a hiring tool that has everything you need to organize your hiring, make a great impression on candidates and collaborate on hiring with your (remote) team. Start a 15-day free trial to see just how organized your remote hiring can be.
  • Remote.io: A job board for remote workers and people who wish to work from home. Post your job post here to help reach remote talent.
  • Whereby: We really like this tool for video calls due to its simplicity. With no need to download any software, it’s the perfect way to set up interviews without needing to guide candidates through a new tool. Its look and feel is also a lot friendlier than your typical video call tool like Zoom or Google Meets.
  • Calendly: This is a handy scheduling tool that you can use for planning interviews. What's great about it for remote hiring, is that you don't have to rack your brain calculating time-zone differences since it will auto-detect your invitee's time zone and adjust the times of your availability accordingly.
  • Miro: A visual collaboration platform that can be useful when giving a candidate an assignment related to teamwork or brainstorming.
  • HiPeople: A great tool to help automate and gather reference checks for candidates.
  • SignRequest: When the time comes to send out an offer letter that needs to be signed, it's great to bypass any need for a printer or scanner. You and your candidates can easily sign digitally with this tool.
  • Any other tools you use on a day-to-day basis: The more you can help candidates gleam what it's like to work at your company the better. So try to integrate tools you often use into your interview and assignment process.

    For a more extensive list, check out our advice for the go-to remote hiring tools.

That's it!

That's all you need to know about remote hiring. It's a lot to process so take the time to experiment with these tips and tricks and see what works for you. In the end it's all about, finding a candidate who is a great match for your company without letting the challenges of remote hiring get in the way.

Even if you use just a few of the tips in this guide, you're bound to more easily find that great match! After which your remote onboarding process begins. Don't worry, we have tips on that too!

Download this guide

No time to read it all at once? Read our remote hiring guide in your own time, at your own pace.