By mid-2020, most companies that fantasized going remote were forced into it. For pure survival, teams were cut down, made leaner. But as of late September 2020, employers still need employees — especially those who can keep up with the multi-disciplinary needs of remote working and can do more with less.
Most of the founders are still trying to figure out remote hiring. The process of building a remote working team is different from the conventional team building process.
People who are new to remote hiring have questions like these in mind:
“If we can’t meet them in person, how can we trust them?”
“How do we identify if someone is good without meeting them?”
“How can we have a smooth transfer of knowledge?”
“First step for anyone to learn and adapt to remote working — is to become aware of the advantages in remote work. It’s like picking up any other skill, be ready to unlearn.” - Sahiba Sethi
HelloMeets interviewed 3 founders who head remote teams, to understand how they bring in new people to their teams efficiently and with the least amount of friction.
Before we begin with the interview, here is who they are:
Vishal Chandra- Founder of Glue Labs. They build solutions for communities.
Kuman Tanmay- Founder of Inkredo. A Fintech startup, building infrastructure for credit risk assessment that helps institutions (FIs) streamline their risk assessment capabilities.
Sahiba Sethi- Founder of HelloMeets. A startup community, enabling professionals to learn & bringing like-minded people together through live meetups.
There are 2 things common in all these founders who regularly hire remote employees.
- They have 1 test that gives a sneak peek of the job and of the role that candidates would perform if they got hired. This test helps in validating seriousness and capability of the candidates.
- They kept things informal to have deeper connection and understanding — this helps in making sure the founders get to know as much as they can about the true attitude of candidates.
So we asked these founders some questions about their interview process. What does it look like, how do they select a candidate and finally how do they onboard. Here’s an account of our conversation.
What key skills do you look for, while hiring remote working candidates?
Vishal: In addition to skills they need to do the job, it’s important for them to be responsive and organised in their work.
Tanmay: We look at their life after work, side gigs and how self driven they are. We want to see if they focus on mental health. Once we rejected a good candidate because their relaxation activity was playing video games.
Sahiba: There is one compulsory skill you should know. It’s Writing. Why writing? It helps you think, sell, market and build relationships better & sooner. We will definitely give you blogs to write. And if you are a book reader, it’s a ++. The candidate should be curious and willing to pick up new skills, and do so fast.
I think remote work is like learning any new skill — like copywriting & coding. You need to unlearn, read blogs, follow masters of remote work & practice.
What’s your interview process like?
Tanmay: It is a 3 step long process.
Step 1 is scanning the application, share our blog where we have listed down everything about the company and job description.
Step 2 is where we give them an 8 hour Inkredo challenge. This is for programming job only. It gives us an idea about the candidate’s ability and drive.
Step 3 is a 1:1 interview. We want to understand their motivations and ambitions. To understand this, we ask them about their past successes and failures. In remote work, self appraisal is important. The interview also tells us if the task was done by the candidate as we ask him a lot of questions around Inkredo challenge. “Remote work is for self driven people. Not for people who need to be micro managed.”
Sahiba - We do a quick 10-30 mins introductory call with the best people. This is to figure out if it’s worth taking the process ahead with them.
The things I check in this call are:
- Do they know enough about us? Did they research about us?
- Are they comfortable with a small team and remote work?
- And are they ambitious?
Also, we tell them clearly on this call that we won’t take less than 7 days to hire you. It can be anywhere between 7 to 30 days. If we hire them after just 7 days, it’d be a very exceptional scenario.
We go ahead after this call if we are on the same track and want to know more about each other and our work to make the most important decision for us.
We also tell them the process:
- We will have a few casual calls after this (3-7 calls)
- During those calls, we request them to also interview us. It’s an important decision for you as well. We want you to be as serious about it as we are and think it through.
- Give you something to work on (It will be something which has to be executed at HelloMeets anyway and we will also be sharing your work with the community for feedback)
- Lastly, we will do a final call where both you and we will share feedback about each other and decide if we would like to go ahead.
Any specific question you ask that has helped you in knowing candidates better?
Vishal- We like to see what currently motivates them in life. Our goal is to find alignment between what we want to do and our team’s personal goals. As long as there can be some alignment in goals and we can work transparently with trust, we think other things are manageable.
A team member may work with us for just a month or many years, but being aligned and trusting each other is the key for a successful working relationship.
Tanmay- We check if they have done their home work. In the final round we ask them about the most difficult time they have gone through. When they share these things it shows they are open to share it with us. It’s a trust building exercise. Some people might not be comfortable in sharing those stories. We always mention that it’s not a compulsion.
Another question we ask them is around their hobbies and interests. Basically non-monetary activities. We want to know what they geek out on and how much they are interested in their hobbies.
Heuristics show in daily work - If a person is passionate about their hobbies, that passion will reflect in their work. Also, we focus a lot on on the soft skills.
How do you onboard remote working employees?
Vishal- Our on-boarding starts during the selection process itself. We ask candidates to work on an equivalent mini-project and expect them to ask questions and deliver as per their commitments. Our selection process is similar to our actual work environment.
We keep things informal and focused on the tasks to be done. We usually let new teammates settle in and get comfortable for a week before gradually getting them to a more disciplined work style.
Tanmay- We do a lot of emails between the time of accepting and joining. These emails include lot of information sharing. This develops trust. We share an enrolment handbook which has all the processes and information about company’s history and whatever is necessary for the new joinee to know before hand. One day before joining, we do a long AMA video call with them.
How do you make sure the knowledge transfer is smooth?
Vishal- We start with small and relatively separate tasks. Only gradually they work on tasks which require large amounts of existing knowledge. So the only way to make the knowledge transfer smooth is to make it a gradual process.
Tanmay- Everything is in the handbook. If the person feels there is a gap, it is cleared there and then. We make sure we update the handbook whenever this happens.
How do you define tasks for your new remotely working employees?
Vishal- A senior team never defines the tasks. We only help to prioritise and manage scope.
Tanmay- Each person is hired to solve a different business problem. On the day of hiring they are clear with their tasks.
To make you more familiar with the hiring process done in other companies around the world, and what their founders have to say about it, we are sharing a list of resources and tweets below.
Rodolphe Dutel, Founder of Remotive which helps tech professionals land remote jobs
Andreas Klinger, Investor at Remote First Capital (a fund that invests only in remote companies and products that helps them)
Job, co-founder and CEO of remote that working on creating more remote jobs around the would.
Erik Torenberg, co-founder of Village Global. Early stage venture capital fund backed by some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs.
David Heinemeier Hansson, Co-Founder & CTO at Basecamp & Hey. Jason Fried, Co-Founder & CEO at Basecamp
A book recommendation — Remote by Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, to learn about how they built a 100% remote team.
For those of you who would want to know remote hiring process in detail Zapier has written a blog that covers writing a remote job post, platforms you can find remote employees on, application, interview and on-boarding process.
Here is a list of some popular platforms to find great talent pool:
WeWorkRemotely: Find ‘world-class’ talent in marketing, design, sales, dev-ops and others.
AngelList: A go-to place for startups to find and hire talented professionals from all domains.
Stack Overflow: One-stop-shop for hiring developers looking for work-from-home opportunities.
Remote.co: 100% remote team creating remote jobs in all domains.
Remotive: Popular for customer support, software dev, product, marketing, sales and others.
Hope this blog helps you in getting started with hiring the right employees for your team.
If you have any questions about remote or HelloMeets, or if you’d like to say Hi, drop an email to [email protected],com