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How to recruit for a remote workforce

This week, most employees around the world found themselves answering calls and emails from home as teams shifted towards remote working in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

It’s reasonable to assume that the ‘home office’ will become the new normal for many of us until the crisis abates. This shift in workplace dynamics also provides recruiters with food for thought. 

In order to adapt, you’ll need to level up your remote recruiting efforts. 

So, when it comes to hiring great remote employees, building winning remote-first teams, and probably even hiring them remotely yourself, where should you start? 

We sat down with Hotjar, a behavior analytics tool, that embraces remote working and personal development, to find out all about their remote recruiting strategy. For those of you that don’t know, Hotjar is run remotely by over 100 team members across 20 countries. 

Find out what Sara Bent, People Ops Specialist at Hotjar, had to say about recruiting for remote teams.

What does your recruitment process look like?

We have a step-by-step application process. First, applicants fill out forms specific for each role, and after reviewing the forms and CVs we forward selected candidates to the video stage.

We then send candidates a list of questions that we would like for them to answer and they send us back their responses as a video recording. 

The next stage is a one-hour long virtual interview, which usually involves the recruiter and hiring manager(s). This is when we really get to know the candidates better and give them a chance to learn more about us as well.

If successful after the interview round, we give candidates a three-day paid task to do. Again, it’s designed for each role, so it’s trying to give candidates a taste of what they would be doing if they were actually working at Hotjar. We add candidates to Slack so they can ask questions about the role and about the task they’re working on. They can join our ‘Kitchen Channel’ where we hold general conversations on the hot topics of the day, which can range from anything such as politics, current affairs, etc… 

At this stage, a candidate can get a better idea of how we interact with each other, and it gives us a really good idea about their personality, engagement and to learn about their working style too. 

Our recruitment process does become much longer with all the steps involved to find candidates but it’s hugely important to help us determine who is the right fit for us. 

Are there any specific things that you look for when candidates join the ‘Kitchen Channel’ on Slack?

Some people will interact a lot in the kitchen, which is great, but some people are quieter or maybe more introverted. Outside of the ‘Kitchen Channel’, it’s more important for us to see how candidates interact with teams, and how they go about completing their tasks. We want to see how much they reach out to people, and whether they’re asking for feedback. 

How do you make sure, people are good fits?

There’s a quote that reads ‘hiring is an attitude, not just experience and qualification.’ A lot of what we’re looking for is a person’s attitude and we try to tailor our questions, even from the application stage, to try and find out what their attitude is towards remote working life.

From a practical perspective, does the extended recruitment process ever pose a problem to getting candidates in?

We are very upfront about this from the start. On our careers page, we have a little diagram that shows our recruitment process. Everyone knows what each stage is before they apply with us. And when they apply, they also get a response email to let them know we’ve received their application and a timeframe for how long it will be before we get back to them. We know that we are up against companies who are moving faster and the chances that the person applying to us is probably applying elsewhere as well. I think, for us, it also plays into finding the person who’s the right match for Hotjar and vice-versa. 

How has having remote teams really shaped your core values as a company?

I think it works both ways. Our remote teams have also impacted our values. One of which is to “build trust with transparency.” When working remotely, we only see each other during our two company retreats. So it’s really important for us to be transparent and open with each other.

And communication is a key skill when working remotely to make sure that we’re all on the same page. “Work with respect” is another one of our values, so we need to make sure that people are respectful of each other’s differences, backgrounds, and cultures. 

Are there any deal-breakers that you have when it comes to hiring remote employees?

We’re a team focused company, and because we’re remote, it’s even more important to ensure employees interact with one another on tasks, and socially. If we notice a lack of interaction, that could be a deal-breaker for us. Another quality that we look for is a strong communicator. If someone is unclear, or unable to communicate effectively, that could also prove to be difficult.

We’re a team focused company, and because we’re remote, it’s even more important to ensure that employees interact with one another on work tasks.

How do you manage to create a positive candidate experience for your remote applicants?

A lot of this is about managing expectations, so making sure that people know where they are in the hiring process, especially in terms of timeframe. 

Anytime we reject candidates at either the video, interview or task stages, we usually send out a Hotjar survey with an NPS survey so people can give us feedback. And then we can take this feedback and adjust accordingly.

What are your tricks of the trade or must-have tips for the first time remote recruiter?

One of the tips is to smile. It’s such an easy thing to do, but if you’re on a call with somebody we don’t always have our cameras on. Perhaps the internet connection isn’t so good. But with your camera off, that poor candidate is just staring at a blank screen, which isn’t necessarily a great experience and then obviously they can’t see you for the feedback, and it’s difficult for them to know how things are going. But if you’re just smiling, even when you’re talking to them, that makes such a difference to your tone of voice, and how you can come across to a candidate. 

What are your favorite tools or the most useful tools for recruiting remotely?

If you’re going to start hiring remotely, don’t try and keep track of people via spreadsheets because you will quickly go insane. Obviously the benefit of hiring remotely means that people from all over the world can apply for your jobs. So you tend to get a larger talent pool. If you’re trying to keep track of this via spreadsheets, it’s going to go wrong quite quickly.

We use Recruitee and it’s super useful to be able to guide candidates all the way through the pipeline. 

Looking beyond the current health crisis, do you think remote recruiting will become more prevalent?

I think more and more companies will start allowing their employees to work remotely, and there’ll be more companies who are completely remote the way Hotjar is. And so with that, inevitably, you’re going to have greater remote recruitment. It just makes sense, and it’s always better for recruiters to be able to find great candidates from a much wider applicant pool. 

Key takeaways:

  • Look out for qualities in candidates that show strong communication skills, asking for feedback and interacting with others 
  • Communicate timeframes of the application process to candidates 
  • Use communication tools such as Slack to encourage conversation and interaction between new employees and team members
  • When candidates reach the final stages of the hiring process, consider giving them a task to see how they work remotely

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