Recruiting for remote teams with Hotjar
Recruiting for remote teams
Webinar held December 19th, 2018.
Adrie Smith: Hey everyone! Welcome to our fourth edition of the Recruitee webinar. I’m just going to wait one more minute for a couple of people to join us, so feel free to grab a coffee or get comfortable, we’ll just be waiting one more minute for other people to join.
Okay, yeah so I think we’ll get started. So, welcome to everyone who just joined us. Yeah, welcome to the fourth edition of the Recruitee webinar. This week we’ll be covering hiring for remote teams. So, we have a special guest who’s joining us to speak on the topic.
If you don’t know me already my name is Adrie Smith, I am the content marketing manager at Recruitee and basically I am responsible for the blog and all the good stuff that you see there. You might want to keep an eye out on the blog this week because we actually have a quite exciting blog piece coming out at the end of this week from a recruiter who actually recruited remotely from her camper van for a year. Well, definitely keep an eye out on it and check it out.
And Recruitee, by the way, If you haven’t heard about us already- we are talent acquisition platform, designed to make a collaborative hiring a reality for you and to bring you closer to making great teams.
There’s are a couple of housekeeping things to get out of the way first. Basically, we’ll circulate the all information and all the follow up on our TA Innovators group on Facebook, you should have received the link to it in the invitation you received but you will also receive another link in the follow up by email. So join us there and we’ll have the recording, so if you want to share it with any of your colleagues who weren’t able to make it friends who might be interested feel free to do so. Also, if you have any questions for myself or Sara throughout the webinar, please feel free to leave it in the question section and we’ll get back to it at the Q&A at the end of our chat.
Let me introduce our guest today Sara Bent from Hotjar. Sara, thank you so much for joining us.
Sara Bent: You’re welcome. Thank you for inviting me on.
Adrie Smith: Would you please be able to give us a short intro to you and how you got into recruiting for remote roles?
Sara Bent: Yeah, sure. I’m Sara, I’m the People Ops Specialist at Hotjar, so, I’ve been here for two years now, and my role recently changed from being recruiter to People Specialist and I kind of fell into recruitment after I graduated from university. I was doing personnel logistics which involves some ad hoc and contractor recruitment.
My first experience of hiring remotely was when I was working for an English as a second language company out in Costa Rica. So, I was hiring for teachers for these people who tend to be based on their home countries. I would have to do all the interviews via skype and applications online. So, it was my first taste of hiring remotely. Then when I came home from there, I got this job here with Hotjar.
Adrie Smith: So, okay, yeah it might be a bit strange but Sara is actually located in Inverness, Scotland, currently, and I’m here in Amsterdam. Sara, you are now hiring for roles where?
Sara Bent: Currently, our roles, most of them tend to be focused within the EMEA timezone, so Europe and Africa, we also have roles open in the Americas just now, as well.
Adrie Smith: Okay. Cool. So I know the Hotjar story I find it interesting but not everyone here knows it. Would you be able to give us the low-down on the Hotjar story?
Sara Bent: Yeah, sure. So Hotjar was started, it was incorporated about four and a half years now, it was started by our five founders who were all based in Malta. There are three Maltese and two Swedish founders. And even though they all lived really really close together in the tiny Island of Malta, they wanted from the start to have a remote company. They started by just calling into each other from a very small distance apart but they wanted to start off remotely and scale it from there.
So, they started off with a couple of other Malta-based people and then started, I think, after the first year is when we got Recruitee and started hiring via Recruitee from there. And we’ve jumped up from five to 70 team members spread all over the world, we grew out to 17 different countries with 21 nationalities and yet, it’s definitely still in the startup stage but we’ve grown a lot and continue to do so.
Adrie Smith: Yeah, that’s quite a lot of nationalities. But we’re definitely going to delve into some of that, and how you manage that whole process. But straight off the bat, what- for you, working as a remote recruiter- are the core differences between, you know, a typical on-site, you’re working with a team in an office, and what you’re doing currently, which is remote recruiting?
Sara Bent: I guess the most obvious one is lack of face to face interaction, so, we’re used to it being in the office, obviously we can’t do that. I think the way remote companies send a hire definitely through Hotjar, we put a lot of emphasis on to the hiring process overall. So It’s a much longer process than an average, normal office-based company.
I think we do this to really spend that time to getting to know the person really well so once we are all working remotely, we don’t get the same amount of you know face to face time with each other. We meet each other twice a year, so it’s really important to us to make sure that we’ve got a good feel for the person before they start off with us. So for us, the difference with remote recruiting is, yeah, really elongating that hiring process so we can get to know them all better. Identifying as well whether or not the remote job is going to work for the person, I think some people are pretty more suited and still prefer the office-based environment, where it’s more sociable, you have people around you, so, remote is not for everyone and we really want to make sure we’re finding the people it’s suited to it.
Adrie Smith: For you, are there any tell-tale signs at the very beginning, where you can really spot who would be good to be recruited for remote work?
Sara Bent: It definitely gets easy as we go on, but, I think, one of the things that can stand out sometimes on the application stage is when the person has first applied to us via that Recruitee application form. I think there’s, sometimes it will stand out that a person is looking for more the digital nomad style of remote life. So, the idea of fully capable of freelance work and so something more like they can jump in and out off and to from. Like you see all the adverts of people working from a beach in Thailand, this type of lifestyle, which is great and sounds like a lot of fun. But with working here at Hotjar, you know, we do work full-time 40 hours a week so we are looking for people who are focused on the role as opposed to focused purely on working remotely.
Adrie Smith: So, there’s a difference, for you there’s a key difference between somebody who is a freelancer who might apply for remote job versus somebody who is an actual full-time remote worker, who is a bit more long term then?
Sara Bent: Yeah, definitely, and I think, you can still find people who are looking specifically for remote work, I know I was when I found this role. But it’s a balance of wanting a role that suits you and wanting your career to continue, it just happens to be remote.
Adrie Smith: Yeah, so, I think from a practical perspective, it’s quite interesting, the whole dynamic that you have at Hotjar. For you, what does your recruitment process look like without this immediate face to face contact and how has the remote nature kind of shape the dynamic in the recruitment process?
Sara Bent: So we have a five stage application process. So, again, it’s a much longer process than usual and it start off with the application stage. So, the application form is specific for each role and it comes, again, via Recruitee and once we’ve reviewed this first stage, anybody who we think seems suitable we pass through to a video stage, which I don’t think is anybody’s favorite part of our application process but all of us within Hotjar, have to through this as well.
So, we send the candidate out a list of a few questions we would like them to answer and they record themselves doing this. So, I think a lot of people are quite nervous doing it, but it’s a really good way for us to get to know the person a little bit better before we jump in to that full hour long interview, which is the next stage. It’s an interview on, usually on Google Meet, usually with myself and the hiring manager or perhaps a different manager, a different person from the hiring team. And this is where we can really get to know them a little better, obviously to give them a chance to learn more about us as well.
And then the final stage of our process, and this is where, I think, Hotjar’s recruitment differs quite a lot from different companies. Well, we have a three-day paid task we ask people to do. And, again, it’s designed for each role, so it’s trying to give the idea of the taste of what the person will be doing if they are actually with us and working here in Hotjar. We add everybody, at this stage, onto Slack so they can ask questions about the role and about the task they are working on. They can also just, hopefully, get a really good impression of what Hotjar is like as a company, and what the atmosphere is like, they get added into our, what we call “a kitchen channel” which is the general kind of a chit chat nonsense channel.
The aim of the stage is really to give the person this really good impression, key impression as to what it’s like working here, what are people are like, how we interact with each other, and obviously it gives us a really good chance to learn much more about them as well and learn about their working styles. It does add quite a chunk to our recruitment timeline, unfortunately, but, we think we tend to get quite good positive reaction from the candidates throughout the stage. And to us it’s definitely the part I would recommend most of all of our recruitment process it’s the most useful and beneficial to finding out what that person is really like.
Adrie Smith: And do you have any kind of rules in the kitchen channel given that there might be people there who are new to Hotjar or are still on their trial?
Sara Bent: So nothing that’s said to anybody at task going in generally. So the typical, I feel like politics and religion, and again having a lot of people from a lot of different countries and cultures and what-not, but inevitably it will go towards, especially politics quite often. But no, no particular rules. Anybody who joins is just we want them to be themselves. We want to find out what they’re like, and we want them to see what we are like.
Adrie Smith: And are there kind of any things that you look for forward to when candidates do join that channel? So do you look for a special kind of engagement? Is there something that you’re looking for specifically?
Sara Bent: I think for the task, they just more see with how they’re working necessarily in how they’re interacting in the kitchen. And some people will interact a lot in the kitchen, which is great, but some people are just, you know, quieter or maybe more introverted. So we don’t expect a certain level.
And obviously again it just comes down to the person’s personality type, but how they interact with the team that they’re working more closely with to get their task done. That’s a really key area for us. We want to see, yeah, how much they reach out to people, how well the receive feedback is a really important thing for us and receiving that feedback and asking for it as well. So rather than rules, we’re looking at how they’re interacting in the more lighthearted kitchen side, we’re really interested to see how they’re working with a team on their actual task.
Adrie Smith: Okay. So it seems like you really put your company culture at the core of the recruitment process and it’s a big part of your recruitment strategy. How do you make sure, really make sure that people are good fits? I know you said that the process is longer and you try to get to know them, you add them to this channel. Are there any other ways that you really try to get to the core of your candidates?
Sara Bent: Having this extended recruitment process was definitely a part of it and it’s really important to us to get. Spent a lot of time getting to know somebody and it does work both ways as well. There’s this element of making sure that we’re right for them. So the person might seem great for Hotjar, but we might all of a sudden once they’ve got to know us better, perhaps we’re not the type of company or the type of mindset they’re looking for. So it’s important on both ways to make sure that we know each other and more sure about this.
In terms of trying to check up how good a fit somebody if for our company culture or values, more to the point, we try to tailor questions at each stage towards this. For example, within one of our feedback, one of our value should I say, it speaks about giving and receiving feedback. So there’s questions that we can ask throughout the application on these stages. And obviously it’s something we do check for during the tasks stage.
We have a lot of different personalities within Hotjar and a very wide range of people. But there’s this common thread which would be really hard to define, but I think it kind of link us all through this connection that we have and to our values, the company’s core values and how, how we act and operate being married within those.
There’s actually a really interesting quote from Recruitee’s Midweek Read today I think saying about hiring is an attitude, not just experience and qualification. And so a lot of what we’re looking for is this person’s attitude and we try to tailor the questions even from the application stage to try and find out what their attitude towards different things and especially in the working life is. And again, that, that hiring process, having all these different stages, it really is to try and give as much more time to find out what the person’s like and yeah, if they seem like they’re going to be a good match for our mindset and how we work.
Adrie Smith: Okay. And from also from a practical practical perspective, does the extended recruitment process ever pose a problem to getting candidates in? Because I know a lot of recruiters are very focused on their time to hire, and understanding that, you know, candidates continue to field interviews and offers from other companies. How do you manage to that while staying true to this extended recruitment process to get to know them better?
Sara Bent: So we tried to be very upfront about this from the start. So on our careers page, we have a little diagram that shows our recruitment process. So everyone knows what each stage is before they’ve even applied with us. And when they apply and they get the response email to let them know we’ve received their application, we give them a timeframe as to how long it’s likely to be until they get back to us. And we actually link people as well from that first email to our public team manual. And in there we have some recruitment FAQ lists, which also speaks to the time-frame.
So we just try to make sure people are very aware about this. Obviously we know we can be up against companies who are moving faster and chances are 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. If somebody seems like they’re going to be work really well here, but also that we’re going to work really well for them, chances are they’re very often we’ll find out that somebody else has been going through a process as well elsewhere, but decided that they’d rather keep going with Hotjar even though we do have that longer process. Which again, it does add into narrowing down people who are definitely right for us and we are right for them.
Adrie Smith: Right. So you spoke a little bit before about your company’s values. How has having remote teams really shaped your core values as a company?
Sara Bent: I think it’s actually, it works both ways as well. I think, our remote team has also impacted our values.
So Hotjar’s core values. We originally had eight, which have been written out by the founders. And at some point, I think earlier this year when our company was around 50 members, we had this external culture consultant, I guess you could call them, come in and survey us all. And basically we were wanted to rewrite the core values to reflect more accurately the people who were in Hotjar and not just based on what their founders at first written. And it turns out, they stayed very, very alike.
So what the team thought was still very true what the founders originally written. I think a lot of that is because they have always had this emphasis on hiring people who are true to these values. And so we had the values, we hired based on them. And then with the people we hired, we redid the values and they stayed very similar. So, I think some of that is really due to being a remote company as well. And one of our values is “build trust with transparency.” I think working remotely, you know, we’re not all in an office together, we don’t see each other throughout the year except our two company retreats. So it’s really important to us to be very transparent with each other and very open with each other.
And communication is such a key skill for working remotely to make sure that you’re all on the same page and you know what each other are doing. “Work with respect” is another one of our values, which again, we’re hiring from all over the world so we need to make sure that people are respectful of each other of all the backgrounds, the cultures, all the differences that we have within Hotjar. Yes, I think all of this is reflected in our values and how our team interacts with them.
Adrie Smith: Right. Are there any deal breakers that you have when it comes to hiring remote employees? Like qualities, statements, indications that they might spot early on that can raise a red flag? Maybe it relates to the core values, maybe it relates to skills. Have you found that there was some consistency?
Sara Bent: Yes sure, definitely the normal one to look out for even if you weren’t in remote in terms of the skill set, but also the mindset and sometimes these things that can come through in the application and what-not.
What I mentioned earlier about people seem like they’re more focused on working remotely for Hotjar for the wrong reasons, I’m not saying they’d be the wrong reasons for other companies. But, having the right motivation, I guess for wanting to work remotely and wanting to work with Hotjar. That’s something that can come out at the very first application stage.
I think a lack of preference or leaning towards teamwork if there’s any hint of that earlier on, we have to be such a strong team focus company, again because we are remote and so we’re very spread out and it’s important that we can rely on each other. So there’s any hint of that that comes through. These are all things which are easier, just fall later into the process you get. But things like being a clear communicator as well, because again, we’re just, we have to communicate with each other very, very well. Keep things ticking along and moving. And a lot of our communication is written, it’s on slack and email.
So somebody who is not a clear communicator or doesn’t do well expressing their ideas, that could also prove to be difficult. It’s definitely easier by the time we get to the interview and task stage to find out things which are much more Hotjar specific qualities like communication, taking feedback, etc.
Adrie Smith: Okay. So working remotely and having the people be also remote themselves, how do you manage to create a positive candidate experience for your remote applicants?
Sara Bent: I think a lot of this, again as I mentioned about managing expectations, so making sure that people know, especially in terms of timeframe. Because we do have a much longer recruitment process and we want to make sure that people are aware of that going straight into it.
So for example, just now at this time of year, because a lot of us are going to be off over Christmas and New Year break and the entire company was actually just out the week before last on our company retreat. And so to alert people to this, we have a notification on our career site and off to the email that people receive once they’ve replied and applied to us. It’s an added additional paragraph just now kind of explaining about all these times off and just letting them know we might be a bit slower than usual. But really just trying to manage expectations as to when people think they’re going to hear back from us. So each time we email somebody throughout this application, we have a little diagram that shows them which stage our application process we’re at. And we let them know how long it should be until the next time we get back to them.
We try to really under promise and over-deliver with this and over promise, under-deliver. I think I always get that one wrong way around. But over-estimate really because we want to make sure that we have a bit of leeway on our side in case something comes up, which inevitably will. We’d much rather say a long time and be consistently under that than the other way around. Not to say we can’t always get better at that as well, but definitely something we try to do to create this positive candidate experience.
And we also have each time we reject any candidate at either the video, the interview or the tasks that each, we actually send out a Hotjar survey with an NPS survey and so people can give us feedback based on this as well. And then we can take this feedback and adjust accordingly. The same with our Glassdoor feedback it’s a great place for if we’re going to get any feedback, be it negative or positive, but we can react to that and make sure we’re building into our process for future candidates.
Adrie Smith: How do you respond to a negative feedback on Glassdoor? Is it you that actually has to respond or is it often someone else?
Sara Bent: There’s a few of us who’ve responded to them.
Adrie Smith: Okay. How do you manage that whole process?
Sara Bent: It’s actually, there was a great success story to be honest. So I first set up Glassdoor for Hotjar when I started working here. And we were getting some negative interview and company reviews. So obviously there’s company reviews and interview reviews, and we were getting quite consistently negative reviews for it, about two different areas.
One was the time it took to get back to people and the other was about our compensation. And so we made tweaks based on these. We now include our compensation range for each role and every single job descriptions so we’re very transparent about it. Which also ties in with our core values. And so it’s right there. So that kind of, helped to alleviate one area that we’ve been getting some negative feedback about.
We also changed our process and how our pipeline works to try and alleviate the time it’s taking to get back to people as well. And again, we really hammer-home and trying to let people know how long we’ll be.
So yeah, it was a really, really, I’m really glad we got that negative feedback on Glassdoor because it really helped us to overhaul our process and make it better. And it turned around since then we have, I was actually looking at that the other day, I think I could be remembering wrong, but something like 70 something percent positive now. So yeah. Yeah, we managed to take that and really turn it around.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. I feel like glass door is such a tricky subject, right? Because the second that you create a Glassdoor, you’re kind of inviting yourself open tos both the positive and the negative, but I feel, well personally I feel like it’s often the people who have a negative experience that do end up going to Glassdoor. Was that already an internal conversation that you had when you created it or you just kind of went ahead and did it?
Sara Bent: I think it’s super useful even if it’s going to be negative. So I was surprised we didn’t have a Glassdoor profile when I was applying to Hotjar. I’d looked them up and like, oh, that’s weird. Especially because you hear a lot of positive comments around Hotjar. So our company reviews, we actually have a five star company review and a 100% rating of our CEO. So it’s super positive that we do have a Glassdoor profile. And in terms of the negative reviews, I think you’re right. I think we’ve managed to turn this around so perhaps it’s less true than I think we all think, but there does tend to be a tendency to want to go and leave a public review the more disgruntled you are with something.
So it’s extra wonderful that we managed to turn around to be mostly positive reviews, but I’d much rather know about a negative candidate experience so we can react to it accordingly than not know about it at all.
Adrie Smith: Yeah, and you guys also send around NPS surveys?
Sara Bent: Yeah. These are really interesting feedback to read to as well. It’s interesting as well. We actually get a better score the further along the process somebody has left us at. So, even if they’ve left us at the final stage and we tend to get more positive feedback then which is difficult to tell exactly why, based on the comments that people leave on them. But I think a lot to do with it as probably our team. Which also adds I think, to the positive experience candidates have with us.
We just have such a wonderful team on Hotjar and so the interactions the candidates will have, they’re with these wonderful people who all build really good rapport between each other. So at the interview stage there’ll be two of us on the call with the candidate. We’re very informal in the company, so that definitely comes through in our interviews as well. And then once it gets to the task stage and they can interact with the entire company, which is a really nice atmosphere within Hotjar.
So I think it helps add to nice candidate experience. That and the fact that we do include them in slack at the task stage and it is a paid task as well. So we really, we respect their time and fact they’re taking the time to do this work for us. And so yeah, I think all of this contributes to the overall experience people have with us.
Adrie Smith: Yeah.I feel like number one, asking for feedback is consistent with one of the qualities that you also look for in candidates is that- their feedback. But I think it’s also quite impressive that you do get such good reviews from people, despite not having actually physically met them. So then it really kind of brings to this, brings to light, quite a bigger question: do you need to actually meet someone face to face in order to establish a connection with them? That’s good at a nice professional level, that you can create a nice team within that. So are there ever any times in your recruitment process or even outside that you do wish there was kind of some face to face contact?
Sara Bent: I’m really glad that we do have our two company retreats a year. It doesn’t make a difference to, I guess how you interact with people. So even if I haven’t met somebody up until say we hired them just after one company retreat and I don’t get to meet them until six months later, you can still have a great relationship throughout with them. I think it helps that we tend to have, we have calls together quite often.
So as an entire company, we’re on a call once a week together every Friday afternoon and most people will leave their cameras on, which I think just that small thing makes a difference too as well. And then we have our company monthly meetings as well. So we do have quite a lot of entire company interaction times, we do things within Hotjar to try to encourage a lot of cross team collaboration for work, but also just communication in terms of social communication as well. And, but I do love the fact that we get together twice a year and then it’s just really interesting to meet somebody in person and see what they’re like, how they interact, what makes them tick.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. Well, yeah, I think when I invited you to this webinar, you were actually in Spain!
Sara Bent: Yeah. So we had our company week up there, but I think was it 14 of us went out a week early and spend the week together as well.
Adrie Smith: Super Nice. Yeah, it makes sense. That makes up for the lack of face to face contact then [chuckle].
Sara Bent: Yeah, definitely.
Adrie Smith: So what are your tricks of the trade or must have tips for the first time remote recruiter because not everyone has had this experience. What would be your top tips for them?
Sara Bent: So one of the tips I think I’ve probably said most often to our hiring managers and the one I’ve heard them repeat back more is to smile. It’s such an easy, easy thing, but if you’re on a call with somebody in interview or the task call, we don’t always have our cameras on. Perhaps the Internet connection isn’t so good, so its better sound quality to have your camera’s off. 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 when you’re talking to them and makes such a difference to your tone, how you come across and I think the overall atmosphere. So I think that’s probably the advice I’ve given most often. And to the hiring managers I work with here at Hotjar.
For the video calls as well. It’s such a natural time to be nervous when you’re going to be interviewed by somebody. And again, it doesn’t help they don’t get any body language feedback as they’re going along. And so trying to make sure I always think it’s the interviewer’s job to make sure that the candidate is as comfortable and as relaxed and reassured as they can be. Because the more confident somebody is or the more comfortable, the more you’re going to get out of them as well. So it’s important for both sides.
So I think if somebody is particularly nervous, make sure that you’re trying to loosen them up and make them less nervous, asking questions for something you know they’re particularly passionate or knowledgeable about can help because then the person can talk more confidently and get into astray as to what they’re talking about.
We actually link everybody to our team manual as well. And encourage people to have a look through this, completely up to them. Whether or not people are going to look through every single page in there, but it really helps again to add to the atmosphere of finding out what Hotjar is like and the atmosphere within the company. So I think that’s a really a good trick as well for remote recruitment specifically. Obviously in normal recruitment the person will walk physically into your office for the interview, so they’re going to get a bit of a taste as to what the atmosphere’s like there or you know, how people are interacting, which you can’t get when applying remotely. So linking to our team manual, we aim to, again, just give a sense as to what Hotjar is like. And again, definitely everything about managing expectations and most remote companies I think tend to have a different than usual, hiring pipeline. So making sure that candidates are aware of this upfront.
Adrie Smith: Yeah, I think that’s a consistent theme across all recruitment processes is constantly updating candidates. But I think it becomes more important when you’re hiring remotely as well. And tools, I think this is often a favorite question. What are your favorite tools or most useful tools for a recruiting remotely?
Sara Bent: In terms of recruiting tools specifically Recruitee It’s actually the only one we use. So Recruitee [chuckle].
I would definitely recommend it. My main advice, if you’re going to start hiring remotely, just hiring in general, don’t try and keep track of people via spreadsheet because you will quickly go insane. Obviously the benefit of hiring remotely means that people from all over the world or to your particular time zones can apply for your job. So you tend to get more applicants because they’re not specific to this small location that you’re hiring for. So if you’re trying to keep track of this via spreadsheets, it’s just going to go wrong quite quickly I think.
So we use Recruitee and it’s super useful to be able to guide candidates all the way through the pipeline. Recruitee, you’re actually coming out with more and more features and add ons. I can’t keep up with just now I need to make sure I spend some time in the new year making sure I’m making the most of them all. They are super useful to be able to keep a track of where everybody is, be able to find people again and share with your hiring managers as well. So that your full hiring team around the same page as to what’s going on.
Adrie Smith: And let’s talk future trends. So, what do you think? Is Hotjar kind of ahead of the curve? Have they gone on to the remote recruiting trends way earlier? Do you think remote recruiting is actually going to become more prevalent? Or do you think it’s going to be still limited to only a few companies?
Sara Bent: So I do think we have gotten to the remote recruiting trend fairly early on given that, especially with being around for four and a half years now. And I think it’s going to keep getting more and more prevalent. I think more and more companies will start allowing their employees to work remotely and as well have more and more companies who are just completely remote the way Hotjar is. And so with that, inevitably you’re going to have to have remote recruitments. It just makes sense as well for being able to pull from this much wider applicant pool as we can have people even in our EMEA timezone jobs. Almost anybody in all of Europe, all of Africa. There’s a lot of different candidates that we can possibly pull from. So yeah, I think it makes sense and it’s inevitable that it’s going to keep growing.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. And I guess, I think you mentioned that you have quite a few nationalities. And I’m sure quite a few languages as well. I’m sure that has obviously really positive effects for the diversity of your company as well.
Sara Bent: It’s really entertaining, the conversations we can have with all the different cultures thrown in. Even just in just the way we used different languages, even if it is just English and so, yeah, you can learn a lot about different cultures.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. So now is time for our question and answer section. So if you guys have any questions that you want to leave in the question tab. I know, I see one question here in the chat tab. We’ll also get to that one. Leave your questions there and we’ll get to them now. I’ll actually just start with the one in the chat section from Jenna: What’s the best way to on-board and train a remote workers?
Sara Bent: I’ll speak to our way which we’ve been honing and refining. So I’m not saying it’s the absolute best way out there, but I think it works quite well. And again, we asked for feedback from it with every new star who’s gone through it and we tweak and refine them. Yeah, it’s working well for us.
So we actually have operations on-boarding and then the team specific onboarding as well. We’re using Trello for it just now, which as a tool works for us. So we have our onboarding, for the operations side is very focused on, first of all the person getting to know everything they need to know about the company and even things like the basics, like “here are the calls you’re going to have, here are all the tools you need to go and log into. Here are the meetings that we’re going to have throughout it” and what-not. But also to do with really getting to know that person. So again, we’re not in an office, you can’t just wander off and introduce yourself. So we have calls with different people within the company, obviously within their own team.
We actually ask every single new starter who joins with us to write a list and post it to and discourse 10 interesting facts about themselves, which is just a really nice and very simple way of getting to know, getting to see a little bit about that person and what their interests are, what their life is like. And obviously all of our team can then go and comment. They can share stories. It’s a really interesting way of finding out about somebody who might not meet for the next six months or so. But we also have then the rules specific onboarding, which each different department and team will take somebody through. So a lot of it for us is working through Trello boards, having calls with people. And really trying to throw them into it so they get integrated and as settled as they can, as quickly as they can.
Adrie Smith: And how did you find that process yourself? Or did you develop that process?
Sara Bent: No, I didn’t develop, my colleague developed it. I actually had a slightly different on-boarding experience because my first week with Hotjar was at a company retreat. So my first day was being flown out to park city in Utah. So I met everybody straight off the bat, which isn’t, some other people have also experienced like this, but it’s not the norm. So I did have a slightly different on-boarding, which meant when I took my on-boarding call with Mariana the next Monday, it was more, you know, I’d already met her. I knew what she was like, we chatted. It was more just going through the formalities. So yeah, and it’s been tweaked quite a lot since then.
But yeah, we have a few people who’ve done the same thing of starting at a company meet-up. I’m really glad I did. I love working remotely and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it was really fun to be able to just meet people straight away. But I will say, I think it’s probably a more nerve wracking way to start because suddenly you’re meeting the entire company and spending a week with them in a foreign country.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. I think, I forget how stressful. Well, it’s like a good kind of stressful when you join a company and all of a sudden you have to meet all of your colleagues, get to know what everyone does. I feel like even though, I mean that’s the only experience I personally know, but I also think it might be quite nice to do it almost on your own terms where you slowly get to know everyone and yeah, so it’s not as confronting I guess?
Sara Bent: Yeah, you can throw yourself in as much or as little as you like, which usually is the way with a Hotjar, you can be as talkative in the kitchen and in team room and to different slack channels as you want to be or so some people are more so than others. But with a retreat you’re just thrown in [chuckle] “sink or swim”.
Adrie Smith: So we have another question here. Do you have some kind of substitute for office policies for remote employees?
Sara Bent: Yeah, so we use Confluence is where we document all of our policies, which is things like everything you might need to know, like our core values are on there. We actually have, in terms of the office policies, if you’re referring more to behavior and interactions within the office, we actually have like a guideline you call it for a company meetups. So kind of do’s and don’ts I guess, for when all these different people like 70 people again from a lot of different countries, different backgrounds are getting together and we have our kind of, maybe that would be our version of office guidelines and it’s more to do with the twice a year we do meet up.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. And any rules of thumb when you’re communicating over slack?
Sara Bent: Again, avoiding politics and religion is one, was kind of vaguely mentioned but isn’t always stuck to. But I think just making sure to respect people. Working with respect, It’s one of our core values and we’re all going to have different opinions and different things. But working over slack we’ve actually, something we’re looking into just now in terms of how we use it and how we use each of our communication tools to communicate. And we all have slightly different styles and some people would rather that you send them an email if you want to ask them something. Some people would rather you just ping them on slack, they won’t lose it in the inbox. So yeah that’s actually something we’ve grown quite a lot and with our growth we need to make sure our collaboration and our communication methods are working accordingly. So it’s project we’re going through just now to try and streamline this and get the entire company aligned into some kind of, I guess umbrella guidelines. We don’t want to be too prescriptive with it, but to make sure that as a company we are aligned in how we communicate.
Adrie Smith: Right. And as the company grows. Are there other ways that you’re also thinking about scaling this remote work vision that you guys have?
Sara Bent: For now I think continuing as we are. So we actually, we always obviously have recruitment forecast. Yeah, I think just making sure that we’re keeping an eye on hiring when we need to hire, being sure that we need this person being sure where we need them as well. Actually it’s an important aspect for us.
Some rules, as I said, about 80% of us are based in the Europe or African time zones, some are over in the Americas. So trying to make sure we’re keeping an eye on where it makes most sense for that particular role to be and with not that can be in either. But in terms of scaling up, yeah, really we were continuing, as we are tweaking everything. So following through our hiring processes, making sure it’s the right time to make some hires. We had a slower year this year because we grew a lot the year previously, so we tried to slow that down a little bit this year because we wanted to make sure our teams could settle into each other and really form strong connections with each other before adding more and more people into each team. So yeah within 2019 we’ll be ramping this up a little bit more again.
Adrie Smith: So you mentioned kind of people all over the place and thinking about where you needed people, time zones are a consideration for you guys?
Sara Bent: Yeah, so we have a time zone restrictions for every single role that we post. They’re not particularly narrow. Again, most of us can be working anywhere within Europe or Africa or the Middle East kind of works well with it as well. But for every job that we post to people right at the top of it and where we need the candidate to be based. And again it’s based on a time zone. If we say GMT, you don’t have to be in London, you can be anywhere within that time zone but tends to be a few hour span and or they Americas, it’s often the East Coast Americas, which again covers anywhere in eastern coast and US and Canada and lso a lot of South and Central America.
Adrie Smith: Well East Coast is my favorite coast, Washington, DC being from there. We also have another question here: Do you compensate employees who want to work from a co-working space?
Sara Bent: Yes. So Hotjar offers a lot of different perks and one of our perks is a working space allowance. So each of us gets 200 euros each month to spend on your working space. So you could spend that on a co-working space if you wanted to, if you work from home, I know some people use it for their internet bills or to have a cleaner come in and deal with their working space and you can buy snacks with it. Yeah, If you want to work in coffee shops, you can use it to buy coffee from that place. Anything to make sure that you have a comfortable working environment and whichever way works best for you.
Adrie Smith: And another question here: would you say that your employer branding needs to be a little bit different when you’re only hiring for remote roles?
Sara Bent: I guess everybody’s employer branding is unique to them. So for us it feeds into it quite a lot. We speak about it straight off the bat on our careers stage, we speak about the culture and how we are made up of this very wide mix of people because we’re all from around the world. So I think it needs to be specific more to the company’s identity, which for us being remote is a large part of our identity. So that naturally feeds into it.
Adrie Smith: And another one here: do you keep remote employees engaged in the long term?
Sara Bent: Yes, I would say so. We actually have a really good turnover rate here at Hotjar. We do quite a lot of, we put conscious effort in trying to keep people engaged because we’re remote. So in terms of the social element, which tends to come with the workplace, obviously you can’t just go for a beer after work on a Friday. So we put conscious effort in to trying keeping people engaged throughout their lifecycle here at Hotjar. It’s something we’re still growing with because we are, we’re a fairly young company, so we now have a people ops team, so it’s our, as part of our work is to keep people engaged both in their day to day life, but also in the long term here at Hotjar. And something we’re very conscious of. But we’re also, we are very lucky so far and that we do have a very low turnover rate, which again I think it’s a lot to do with the atmosphere and the environment and how Hotjar treats its team members.
Adrie Smith: Are there any special initiatives in that engagement area that you can share with us?
Sara Bent: I’m trying to think of, I’ll think of a small one and a bigger one. So one of the small ones, we have a bonfire call each Wednesday afternoon. I’m not sure I can answer you why it’s called upon bonfire call. I’m thinking about it, but every Wednesday, and we call Wednesday “working Wednesday.”
So we try to avoid having any meetings so that your day your schedule should be clear so then you can just get on fire through all the work that you need to fire through. Every Wednesday afternoon we have this call and it’s just, it’s really a social hour. So again, we can’t just go for a beer after work together. But what we can do is get on a call and sometimes we’ll play games, sometimes we’ll just chat about anything. Sometimes we have specific topics that we want everybody to chat about. But it’s just the time to join if you want to. Don’t worry if you don’t want to, but a time to get to know your team members in a more relaxed, sociable atmosphere, and to do with keeping people engaged and also getting to know each other better.
One of our newer budgets we have is the “working together budget”. So we had it as a trial this year and our executive team confirmed to us recently they were going to continue it as a permanent budget. So this budget allows, it’s 2,000 euros each every person has to spend on traveling to and working with one of your coworkers. And so some people went over to Malta to work together and those of us who were in Tenerife before our meetup were using that budget, we’ve had trips to New York and Ireland and South Africa, Cyprus. But the idea is to travel to where somebody lives and is based and you can spend a few days or however long you like working with them and seeing how remote life works for them and getting that face to face time with them as well.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. Actually I, myself am doing that when I go to DC for Christmas.
Sara Bent: Oh Great.
Adrie Smith: With our community manager, actually lives in Pennsylvania. So she’s actually coming to DC and we’re going to work together, get some face time in. That’s quite nice.
Sara Bent: Yeah. It’s great. I love it. And obviously we kind of encourage people to combine it for different budgets, like their holiday budget as well. So if you’re going to travel all the way over to see our Canadian team members, quite a long haul flight for most of us then, so you may as well, whilst you’re there, take some time off and enjoy Canada as well.
Adrie Smith: Hmm. So we have someone here asking, if there was anything for Hotjar any jobs potentially for remote work in India?
Sara Bent: Unfortunately not. We haven’t actually started extending our time zones as far as into Asia so far. Again in the Middle East would be the furthest east that we are so far. But no, most of our jobs are focused or all of them are focused either the Americas but mostly Europe and Africa. It’s not to say we won’t at some point in the future decide that it’s much more beneficial to us to have people who are further east and into Asia but not for now.
Adrie Smith: We also have a question here: Is it a problem that employees communicate privately more than publicly? And do you prevent this in any way?
Sara Bent: We don’t prevent it in any way. So on slack, I don’t know how many people listening are aware of, but on slack, even the workspace owner can’t see the full list of private channels. And obviously can’t see the chat people are having between each other and no, it’s not something we tried to limit and we want people to communicate and we have different groups as well, which are purposefully locked down channels on slack. Like one room for a women only room called “hot directs” and then we have our LGBTQ room called “team rainbow” and these are lockdown rooms that people, I guess you can call them a safe space for these groups to be in. So no private communication is not something we discourage or lock down on. The more people communicate with each other, the better. They’re going to know each other, know their working styles. It’s just going to be beneficial overall for the company.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. Do you find yourself that there’s actually quite a lot of quite a lot of private communication, at least on your end?
Sara Bent: It’s private in terms of one to one that’s not so open you mean? So I guess, we do have a lot of one to one chats, but they’re not… They’re one to one because it makes sense to be talking to that particular person about that particular thing. But it’s not to say they’re private in terms of trying to keep information hidden. We’re very transparent with our information in Hotjar purposefully because again, the, I think communication is one of those areas where it, when it starts going slightly downhill within the company is when Morralstarts going down with it. And we’re very transparent.
We have our company monthly meetings where we go through even the financials, everybody has access to the financial spreadsheet. Whenever they want to go and look it, we speak through on our weekly demos, but watch each team have been doing that week. So whilst, a lots of private conversations in terms of one to one chats definitely go on. And teams are chatting within themselves. We try to make sure everybody’s aware of what they need to know. We don’t want to flood people with information because you know, there’s lot of information happening in the company that team A needs to know but team B doesn’t. But we try to make sure everybody’s as up-to-date and on top of things as it can be in terms of all the information which is important, company wise or affect different teams in the company.
Adrie Smith: So we have another one here in the question section: next to Slack what other applications / programs does Hotjar use or would recommend?
Sara Bent: So there’s a few different tools. Slack is our main day to day communication tool and we use discourse for like a forum type tool so you can have bigger conversations on there where you want to get feedback from people or if really if the information isn’t finalized discourse is a really good place to have that information. We use Hotjar when we need to have surveys for the team as well. So use their own Hotjar surveys. We use confluence as our, where our manuals are kept. So any finished information is kept in confluence.
Obviously email but we use much less email than I think traditional office based companies use. And then there’s all the different tools which different groups use. So the Devs have Jira, we have Trello, some people do project management in Trellos and some people use Asana, we have a few different tools.
Adrie Smith: Yeah. We also have quite a diverse range of tools out here as well. But I can definitely recommend confluence for managing documents. We also have like our own employee profiles on confluence that everybody has to do in their onboarding, so they have to write a little section about themselves, put a photo and, yeah, something of interest that you’re doing, something that others might not know about you, which I quite like.
Sara Bent: That’s cool to use confluence like that, which we actually have Pingboard, which is one really good way for people to try and find out names and match names and faces. So Pingboard has this game, so it’s where we have all our employee profiles and they have a game where it’s just you have to… a filter will will come up and you have to say… You have multiple choice answers to it. It’s an, it’s a scoreboard and there’s a lot of quite competitive people within Hotjar, so people love playing this game, especially before the retreats. It’s really useful to make sure that you know whose name goes with which face.
Adrie Smith: I love that. That’s amazing.
Sara Bent: Yeah, it’s really good fun.
Adrie Smith: You also do like fun facts about the people or is it mostly just like what they do, their name, etc.?
Sara Bent: So people can write a profile in there, it’s more kind of, we don’t force people to write it. It’s in there, the option is there, but we do a link to it with the “10 different interesting facts” everybody writes on themselves. We link to it from Pingboard, but we have on discourse the conversation can happen below it, so people can comment back and forth on their interesting facts.
Adrie Smith: Nice. We also have a question here: what online tools have you used to manage projects and communicate with your coworkers? I think we’ve kind of already covered that. And how frequently should you have one to ones? This person also manages remote teams and he said he conducts once, only once a week.
Sara Bent: Yeah, once a week is the same for us as well and different teams for doing this differently. We try to bring in some alignment but we have them once a week. They tend to be my one to one is an hour. I think some teams do it for half an hour, but I find an hour to be at least scheduling the time for an hour to be super useful. If it doesn’t run for the full hour, that’s fine. Sometimes it might go over depending on what you’ve got going on that week.
But yeah, I think once a week is really useful so you can touch in with that person. And we do also use 15Five is one of our engagement tools for that. The everybody in the company we’ll fill out there 15Five and once every two weeks. So it’s an engagement tool. Ask how you’re feeling on a scale of 1 to 5, ask certain questions each time you fill in an uncertain optional rotating questions as well.
Adrie Smith: Nice. Yeah, I know a lot of companies have the happy phase, medium phase upset phase, kind of as like your weekly like how did your week go or something like this also helps for us. Do you guys do stand ups also on Slack?
Sara Bent: Not on Slack. So again, different teams from the company will do it slightly differently. I know some teams have dropped off the daily stand up and gone down to slightly different systems. But, I guess a normal standard for a lot of teams in the company will have a daily stand up on Google meet and, and then a retro as well, planning at the start of a week standups each day and then a retro on Friday.
Adrie Smith: Well I think that’s all of the questions that we have currently. So I think, well yeah, I just want to thank you for joining us today Sara. We really appreciate all your insights. And for those of you who have joined us, if you have any questions that you didn’t think of during the Webinar, you can post them on TA Innovators and I’ll forward them to Sara as well. So she’ll get back to you. Also check out our blog. As I said, there’s going to be a blog post later this week about a recruiter who recruited remotely from her camper van for a year. Quite interesting. And yeah, thank you for joining us today. And thank you, Sara.