Remote hiring still gives companies an edge when attracting top talent. Many employees prefer to work remotely - 87% choose remote when given the chance. Reports show those choosing remote experienced steady or increased productivity and happier workers.
With these results, remote work is here to stay.
However, as many companies shift to a fully-remote or hybrid workforce, they’ve collectively struggled to overcome new challenges like collaborating on teamwork, building and maintaining company culture, and hiring remotely.
We’ve faced these challenges first-hand here at Streak after transitioning to a fully-remote company in 2020 and continuing to grow our team. Below, we’ll share some of the benefits and challenges of hiring remote employees, and how we’ve learned to successfully manage the hiring process.
<a href="#benefits-hiring" class="anchor-link">Benefits of hiring remote employees</a> <a href="#remote-hiring-challenges" class="anchor-link">Remote hiring challenges</a> <a href="#effective-remote-hiring" class="anchor-link">Effective remote hiring practices</a> <a href="#follow-up-remote-candidates" class="anchor-link">Following up with remote candidates throughout the hiring process</a>
<a href="#courting-candidate" class="anchor-link">Courting a good candidate</a> <a href="#always-be-improving" class="anchor-link">Always be improving</a>
Customer-facing roles like Sales, Support, and Customer Success often benefit from having team members across various time zones to speak with customers throughout the day. The distribution across time zones allows for continuous live support without introducing increased health risks to employees by running a night shift.
Employees are used to working remotely - 39% say they would quit their job if they were forced to commute. Employees also express generally increased happiness at their role since working remotely - often due to better work-life balance, increased feelings of productivity, eliminating long commute times, and being able to live where they choose.
A remote workforce can be just as productive and engaged, but hiring for your remote team comes with its own set of challenges.
Larger talent pool
That’s right – the massive talent pool is both a benefit and a challenge.
By hiring remote employees, you now have access to scores of candidates outside of your geographical area. This often comes with an overwhelming number of applicants for any job posting – and the need to effectively narrow down the field.
Having 24/ 7 live support makes life easier for customers. However, interacting with candidates in distributed time zones synchronously requires more careful planning and tracking. The distance can also introduce delays in conversation, people can’t answer emails or messages when they’re asleep!
The virtual interview
The virtual interview can be intimidating between coordinating schedules, avoiding technical difficulties, and ensuring you get a good feel for the candidate after only speaking with them in a video call.
We detail everything we’ve learned about running a successful virtual interview below.
There’s a lot to get right before you hire a great addition to your team - from writing the remote job posting, to vetting a huge number of applications, to having a “useful” virtual interview.
These tips will help you structure your interview and find great candidates.
Start with a clear and detailed job listing
A detailed job listing will help you connect with quality candidates from the start.
1. Make sure the listing is very clear that it’s a fully-remote job
You can do this by posting on remote job boards, and by putting “remote” in the job title or location. If you have any timezone or location needs – like wanting to make sure everybody is located within 4 time zones of each other, make sure you specify in the description.
Potential applicants are also likely interested in knowing if you plan on staying remote - 45% of remote workers experience stress around being forced into an office full-time. Put their minds at ease!
2. Write a detailed job description
Just like a non-remote role, you’ll want to be very specific about the skills you’re looking for and the role's responsibilities. This is also a good place to elaborate on how the role might manage remote work.
For example, what would their schedule look like? Do they need to be online during specific hours of the day?
3. Try a video introduction
We recently started including a Loom video by the hiring manager in our job listings. The manager will discuss the role, what type of candidate we’re looking for, and any frequently asked questions. It helps candidates understand if they’re a good fit for the role before applying, and allows them to “meet” the hiring manager before the interview.
4. Experiment with different job boards
This one may require a bit of trial and error. There are many online job boards specifically for remote work, like We Work Remotely. You may need to try a few and see which ones lead to quality applications.
Vet remote applicants to find quality candidates
We were inundated with applications when we started hiring for remote positions. We needed a way to vet applications while also making sure we didn’t pass over any great candidates.
We tried a number of things, including asking for some “homework” in the initial application. Ultimately, we landed on doing a quick 15 minute intro call or phone screen with candidates who could potentially be a good fit.
At this stage of the process, we’re looking for solid communication along with a logical and compelling resume. Do they have a history of increasing responsibility in previous jobs, school work, or volunteer work?
Design a successful virtual interview
It can feel like the stakes are high during a virtual interview. You’re making a big decision for your company based on a phone or video call, after all.
For a remote (or any) interview to be useful, you need to get a good feel for the candidate and make sure they get a good feel for the company and the role. A virtual interview adds the pressure of managing tech issues and time zones, but these tips will ensure you have a great conversation with your candidate.
1. Scheduling virtual interviews
We like to have several team members meet each candidate, but coordinating everyone's schedules is a challenging feat in the best of times.
We use Calendly to ensure the candidate gets time on everyone’s calendars. We offer four hour blocks to the candidate on different days, and then arrange our schedules internally to fit each interview segment into the scheduled block.
2. Make sure everybody is prepared
Letting the applicant know what to expect with a video message, links, or instructions to download software beforehand ensures that you can get right to the good stuff once the interview starts. It’s also a good indicator to see if they used all of the available resources to prepare for the interview.
If you’re just starting your virtual interviews, you may want your team to do a dry run, too. For example, how will each team member let the next one know when the candidate is ready to meet with them? We use Slack to drop a quick chat when we’re wrapping up a segment with the candidate so the next interviewer can get ready to hop on the call.
3. Design useful interview segments
We had a pretty hands-on interview even before transitioning to a fully remote company. Now that we’re hiring remotely, we’ve adapted our interview to be conducted via video calls and screen shares so we can still get a sense of how the candidate thinks, works, and communicates.
We try to design the interview to require less direct knowledge of the product (things we can teach) but rather to demonstrate skills like problem solving, prioritization, and communication.
For example, somebody applying for our Support team will work through some sample support questions and explain how they go about answering them, even if they don't know the exact answer. Somebody on our Customer Success team will be tasked with completing a portion of a business review for a demo account.
4. Starting off the interview
Interviewers too often waste time by reviewing the candidate's resume in the actual interview. This should be done ahead of time so you can spend valuable interview time discussing the candidate's future and the open position.
Unless you have a specific question about something on their resume, start off by telling the candidate “I’ve read your resume and have it in front of me right now. I’d like to learn more about what you’re looking to do next?”. Try to understand their story and where it’s taking them next, then get into determining if they’re a good fit for the role.
5. Try to avoid tech snafus, but be flexible if (when) they happen
Tech snafus can be frustrating and nerve-wracking in a virtual interview, but they happen.
The best way to avoid them is with preparation. Make sure you provide the candidate with links to any software they should download or login credentials well in advance. Do a dry run with your team to practice dialing into the call, sharing relevant docs, and accessing the candidate’s information.
When a tech snafu happens – and it will – remain calm and realize that nobody expects perfection here. You’ll get better with each interview.
6. Make sure each interviewer takes notes
Details about each interview can start to get blurry when you’re speaking with multiple candidates. Make sure your team of interviewers takes notes in a shared doc or a Streak meeting note.
This will help you remember what you discussed with each candidate when you need to start making decisions.
Following up with remote candidates throughout the hiring process
While this isn’t remote-specific, we found that we had to be really on top of our follow-up because of the large number of remote applicants. Here are some tips and tools that helped us.
Track your applications
Make sure your applications aren’t ending up in a black hole or worse, a folder you have to sift through.
A tool to track your applications will help you review each one and understand how you want to proceed. Of course, we use a pipeline to keep track of each candidate we receive. We can add attachments, comments, and meeting notes in Gmail and share them with our hiring team.
Pipelines also allow you to filter and sort your applicants based on data like interview scores, timezones, or a certain stage in the remote hiring process.
Scale your email follow-up with mail merges in Gmail
We make it a goal to follow-up with each application we receive, but reaching out to hundreds of applicants would be a full-time job if not for mail merge in Gmail.
Each message sent with a mail merge is an individual email from your email address. You can create and reuse templates and include variables to customize your message. Some helpful times to use a mail merge in your hiring process include:
Passing on applications you’ve received
Asking an applicant to schedule an introductory phone screen
Letting applicants know you enjoyed the phone screen and would like to set up an interview
If you’ve made it this far – congratulations! Finding a great match in a candidate is often a long but worthwhile process.
Now you need to court your candidate and close the deal. Courting a candidate is all about continuing to build a relationship and make connections with them. Some great ways to do that are putting them in touch with a team member who can have a more candid conversation to answer any questions about the team, role, or company culture.
For some roles, you may want to fly a candidate somewhere to meet team members in person.
Remote hiring and virtual interviews require iteration. Each round of interviews we do, we find something we can improve on whether it’s how we vet applications, the amount of time allotted for each segment, or the projects we ask a candidate to do in an interview.
Make sure you communicate with your team not only about how the candidates did, but how you’re doing as an interview panel. Although virtual interviews can feel awkward at first, improving slightly on each one will help you get in a good rhythm and find great candidates to continue building your remote team.