So much has changed since March of this year. While many of us are still working from home to stay safe, business as usual has continued – especially for those in office jobs. And despite the odds, many businesses are finding continued growth during the pandemic. And with that growth comes interviewing and hiring candidates virtually.
If you’re used to an office, hiring virtually may be a bit daunting of a task. Video chats are great, but there’s something a little different about making a decision to bring someone onto your team without ever shaking a hand (or safely bumping an elbow).
Kin has been 100% remote for almost three years, so we’ve hired a good amount of people onto the team during that time. In fact, we have people we haven’t even met in person yet who are some of the most impactful members of our company. It’s crazy to think we can build such connections without ever sitting in the same room.
Here are some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned over time on finding – and hiring – the right person 100% remotely.
Develop a hiring team that isn’t all people from the same department or discipline
The most important part of hiring remotely is having the right people “in the room” to help you make the decision. If you have a team in place and this isn’t your first hire, you have trusted people who will help you grow your team and your culture in one move.
When I develop a hiring team for each position, I look for the following people:
The HT Group uses the same formula with a variety of people interviewing a new candidate as well. The more perspectives the better, but keep the room limited to 3-4 people on your side at the most to keep it comfortable for the candidate.
Develop the right questions ahead of time
When you’re hiring remotely, there are a lot of questions that will come up due to this context. For example, this person will likely not be working from your office. Do they have reliable internet at home? Is their workplace set up free from distractions? Do they need any additional hardware or software to complete their job you might not have thought of?
Be sure to add these questions into your normal prescreen questions. You can either bake them into the application, or ask them during the initial phone screen (which we’ll review in a minute). I personally like to ask them during the phone screen so I can get some context around each answer throughout the conversation.
I will also gather questions from the hiring team I have curated and heavily rely on the hiring manager for the position who will be on the team. If she or he has any make or breaks for this position that weren’t covered during the application process, they’ll be asked during the phone screen.
Start with a phone screen
This may seem counterintuitive, but you can learn a lot about someone by just picking up the phone and talking with them. I typically start each interview process with a phone screen – no video. I want to see how they interact when the sense of sight is removed.
Remember, working remotely means we have to be masters of communication, regardless of which type. Some of our clients prefer phone calls, while others are fine with video chat. I want to see a potential hire in both scenarios so I can understand how they communicate in a variety of ways.
The phone screens typically last between 15-30 minutes. I get my basic questions out of the way then, including the general connectivity questions mentioned above. I also ask a handful of skillset questions at a high-level to make sure what we’re looking for in this position is there. I don’t dive in too deeply here, as we’ll have them do an exercise later on that allows us to better assess their skills, knowledge and experience in what we’re looking for.
Looking for more pre-screen questions? The Balance Careers has a great list for you to pick and choose from here.
Create a small “proof of skill” assignment
If the phone screen goes well, well immediately move them to the next step which is sending out an exercise for them to complete. This exercise allows us to understand more about this candidate’s experience, how they work, and – you guessed it – how they communicate via the written word.
If they are a developer, it’s typically a coding exercise that also requires documentation. For other positions, it varies based on the discipline and position level. But one tie runs through each exercise: communication. Each person must explain why they made the choices they did in written communication.
We usually give a 72 hour window to complete the assignment, which should take no more than two hours to finish.
Between this and the phone screen, I’ve now gotten a taste of both verbal and written communication skills. If the assignment comes back with high marks and they seem to be a good fit so far, I’ll schedule a group video-chat with the hiring team I’ve curated for the position.
Conduct a group interview virtually
This group interview is typically two parts. One, the hiring manager and the candidate will first meet one-on-one to review the exercise together. Once that’s complete, the rest of the group will join in.
As mentioned above, each person has a role to play in group interview and their questions align with that. Before we hop on the group interview, we share our questions with one another to make sure there is no overlap.
Our team will typically also ask more conversational questions, too. The ultimate goal is for us to spend time together with the candidate to determine if they have the skills we need them to in order to be successful in this role, and if we feel like they could be a good cultural fit.
Trust your gut
Have we made a lot of great hires using this method? Absolutely. Have we missed the mark on some? Absolutely.
The common theme for those we missed the mark on is we didn’t trust our gut. We either really needed to hire someone fast so we ignored warning signs, or we felt like things would be different once the individual was in. This has always come back to prove as an ineffective strategy when hiring.
When one of our hiring team members feels uncomfortable about the choice we’re making, we take the time to thoroughly discuss it. If it’s a tie-breaker between two candidates, we’ll bring in our CEO, Craig Bryant, who will have a final chat with each person and help us determine who would be best suited for the job.
Get to hiring
Once we’ve chosen the right candidate, we call them directly and offer them the position. Once they’ve verbally accepted or expressed interest, we send over an offer letter with all of the details we discussed on the phone.
From there, we get their Kin account set up and begin planning for their first day.
Wondering how we go about onboarding remotely? Check out our latest blog post on the topic here.