Remote Work Hiring Guide: Expert Advice

Hiring Remote

We recently launched a Guide to Hiring Remote that featured insight from Doist, Buffer, Dribbble, Workplaceless, MetalabSkillcrush, and Operate Remote.

Peruse through their full contributions below and learn from these experts about their processes for hiring, recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and more.

Hiring Remote Considerations

Hiring for DE&I:

Being intentional about building a diverse hiring team—one that includes elements like different timezones, backgrounds, genders, roles, and tenure—is super important to us. The entire hiring team weighs in on the decision-making process, and we also make our discussions around hiring transparent in our hiring channel in Slack so that all team members are included as well. 
As a team, we’ve taken steps like:
Engaging in communities that foster diversity and inclusion is another strong focus. We aim to be visible and accessible in those spaces, and encourage folks to apply and reach out to us personally with questions.
We also take care to extend our opportunities beyond those who already know about Buffer. We’re always trying to reach out to more diverse groups because we know there are perspectives we’re currently missing on our team.
We still have plenty more progress to make and work we can do, but joining Buffer means joining a team committed to action on diversity.
–Keisha Washington
People Operations Manager, Buffer

While remote hiring is one of the biggest opportunities to truly achieve diversity, there are real remote accessibility obstacles when it comes to reaching that reality. It’s tricky to boil down the all-inclusive steps needed truly effective DE&I, however, here are a couple of recommendations to consider when focusing on diversity within hiring.
  1. Analyze current diversity status and objectives. 
    The first step is in taking stock of your current company setup and recognizing where are there gaps and opportunities for diversity of talent and thought. Do you have a 50/50 gender split across all employees, but when you look at leadership levels is it predominantly male? Have you recently hired a neurodivergent person, but failed to give them the tools needed to be most effective? This analysis phase and establishing benchmarks for continuous review, are going to be critical to how you go about and effectively hiring for diversity.

  2. Source for hires with diversity intention.
    Familiarity bias comes into play when employee referrals are a primary candidate source, and when remote experience is a prerequisite for a remote role. Introduce training for remote skills as part of an onboarding process, vs. requiring it from a candidate upon application. While employee referrals will never disappear entirely, companies (though well-intentioned) should reconsider referral incentive programs. Ensure recruitment efforts are proactively reaching out to the target diversity objectives you identified. Vary your candidate sourcing partners.

  3. Recognize and proactively eliminate biases throughout every stage. 
    The framing for new job postings needs to address inherent biases in language as well as placement. Opt to run a job posting through AI software to remove any potential language bias. 

    During the candidate review stage, consider an approach that is based on a paid one-off project before conducting an interview. At the bare minimum, ensure you are asking all candidates the identical questions during the interview itself.

Suggest your recruiting or hiring managers go through inherent bias training to recognize any gaps they may be introducing into the recruitment process. 

–The Workplaceless Team

Remote Company Benefits:

Fostering positive, productive workspaces and routines is huge, especially for remote folks. In 2015 [as we began to hire more remote employees], we incorporated benefits to support their work/life balance, such as annual fitness and equipment stipends. Since then, we also offer a $1,000 bonus to remote employees when they join to ensure they have the workspace setup they need to do their best work. We also started offering global access to coworking spaces in case working from home or coffee shops doesn’t work all of the time for our remote contingent.

–Elexa McMahon
Director, People Ops, Metalab

Recruiting the Remote way:

One of the most significant benefits of employing a remote workforce is access to a global talent pool unrestricted by physical location. However, the largest obstacle we see remote companies facing is in applying traditional hiring tactics to remote recruits.  

As with hiring for co-located teams, employee referrals remain a primary source for hiring within remote teams. Additionally, it’s currently the case that a candidate is far more likely to land a remote job if he/she/they already have remote experience. Combining these two factors, a company significantly constrains its remote candidate pool right out of the gate. To truly benefit from the opportunities of a broad-reaching talent pool, your hiring tactics should be broad-reaching as well. 

–The Workplaceless Team

Timeline for Hiring Remote:

On average it could take between 8-10 weeks from the time the position goes live to the time we make an offer to fill the position, depending on the role. We post the job for the first four weeks,  then allot about one week for each team member interview. In some cases, we also factor some time for the applicant to complete a brief exercise. In some instances, it has taken us upwards of 12 weeks, which prompted us to really examine our processes. Keeping a tentative timeline for each stage has really helped us improve, bringing the time down to as early as seven weeks from job post to offer.
–Keisha Washington
People Operations Manager, Buffer

Typically, an average hiring process takes around 4 weeks, although we keep things moving as quickly as possible to be respectful of each candidate’s time. This might be a bit shorter for in-house candidates, more like 2 weeks. We always aim to get back to candidates on next steps as quickly as possible, usually within 24 hours of their interview.

–Chloe Oddleifson
Director of Operations, Dribbble

We know how other companies are hiring, for example, it's not uncommon to set a deadline, get candidates throughout the time and then decide on who will be hired for this position. But in general, we don't want to compromise, so we just keep looking until we find the right person for the role. But despite getting a lot of applications every single day, sometimes this takes a long time. It can be a very frustrating process.

Knowing the process may take a while, set yourself up with reasonable expectations (re: patience) and timelines. Also, setting up multiple points of communication may help create a better experience for the candidates.

–Gonçalo Silva
COO, Doist

Read more: Hiring Remote Considerations

Sourcing Remote Candidates

Creating a positive candidate experience:

The candidate’s experience begins from the moment they encounter the job posting. We strive to be as upfront as possible about what we’re looking for and what they can expect from us. 
Timelines help to set expectations in terms of the various stages of the process, and we do our best to communicate with candidates if/when the timeline changes. It’s normal for an applicant to be nervous in an interview, particularly if they’ve never worked remotely and have no idea what to expect. So we do our best to humanize the experience and put the candidate at ease by encouraging dialogue and maintaining a light and positive energy throughout the initial chat. 
We’re also working toward providing more feedback to candidates who do not advance in their journey. Whether they ultimately become a Buffer teammate or not, it’s another way we stay true to our value of helping people improve consistently.
–Keisha Washington
People Operations Manager, Buffer

Filtering candidates:

There are ways to filter candidates without an applicant tracking system for sure, but before you make the decision that you can’t afford it, shop around. There might be a way to get what you want without every single bell and whistle. It’s also important to dispel the myth that an ATS is synonymous with “automated system that filters resumes by keywords and discards applications that don’t meet certain criteria.” Our ATS just helps us organize and store candidate information for the team to review – it doesn’t replace the human connection; we still read every application. It frees up time for us to focus more on the humanity of the process rather than manually constructing the logistics.
That said, if it’s truly not in the budget, then try having a dedicated email address that accepts only applications. Set up an auto-reply feature that lets candidates know that you’ve received their application. Create email filters that skip the inbox and move messages to folders dedicated to specific roles. You might even want to consider using Zapier integrations to establish a workflow that will make filtering candidates much easier.
–Keisha Washington
People Operations Manager, Buffer

Sourcing candidates:
There are so many candidates who are actively looking for remote work, and we’re constantly iterating on how we can do a better job of connecting with them. A great place to start is your current network. If you are not a member of diverse Slack communities, if you don’t hang out in remote Facebook groups, if you don’t know a single location to encounter someone outside of a job board, start there. 
For example, if you’re looking to fill a Customer Support role, the Support Driven community is an excellent source. Expand your circle of influence, and become an active member in places where folks who are looking for remote work hang out. And of course, remote-centric job boards like We Work Remotely, Remotive, and others are great places to find candidates as well.
–Keisha Washington
People Operations Manager, Buffer

Read more: Sourcing Remote Candidates

Remote Job Interviewing

Hiring for Emotional Intelligence:

Often, I see companies only assessing IQ and culture fit in the hiring process. Those days are long gone, especially in the remote working world. Companies need to clearly set expectations throughout the hiring process, be upfront about what remote working is and what it’s not. I also recommend to my clients that they assess EQ (emotional intelligence) in the hiring process as elements and skills involved in EQ are incredibly important when working remotely; such as self-awareness, coping mechanisms, and intrapersonal relationships. This is an area I specialise in with my clients because we can always develop our EQ skills and it’s fundamental in a remote environment.

–Shauna Moran
Founder, Operate Remote

Remote interview best practices:

I believe expectations should be as transparent as possible in the hiring process. There are many misconceptions as to what remote working actually is and what it involves. I believe clearly outlining how remote working is defined within a company, and what new employees can expect in terms of support, time-zones, and culture is key. 

It’s important to establish why individuals want to work remotely. Many people have a goal to work remotely one day, but remote working isn’t an end goal. The reasons for wanting to work remotely will vary for every individual. Remote working on its own will not necessarily guarantee happiness. Even if you work remotely, you still need to work on your skills, relationships, and goals because they will not develop without effort. If anything, you’ll need to put more effort into certain skill-sets in order to be successful at remote working and show your employer that remote working is a benefit as opposed to a hindrance.

–Shauna Moran
Founder, Operate Remote

Our interview questions are the same for each candidate, asked in the same order each time, and we already have in mind (and on paper) what elements we’re looking for in the answer. 
This may sound boring and robotic, but we’ve learned that it’s the best approach to remove as much bias as possible, and we share this with candidates upfront.
Generally, we’ll craft our list of questions based on the ideal skills and experience we believe will lead to success in the role, so each role is different. Additionally, we always love discovering what drew the candidate to Buffer specifically, and why they see themselves flourishing here. 
–Courtney Seiter
Director of People, Buffer

"Having candidates do a project and presenting it to the hiring manager is great because they can help with giving feedback [for the interview]. We also pay people. I feel strongly that people should be paid for this kind of work."

–Caro Griffen
Director of Ops, Skillcrush

Because we’re fully remote, we are extra-diligent when it comes to creating a thoughtful and purposeful interview process that gives us both the opportunity to explore whether a career at Dribbble is a mutual fit. Moving to a new company is a big decision, and we want potential Dribbblers to feel like they’ve had a genuine opportunity to see what working here looks like, as well as a chance to get to know their new teammates before accepting an offer. On-boarding really starts with the first interview! Our aim is to ensure both parties have had a chance to get to know one another well, and that each hire has the best possible chance of being a long-term fit. 

Adding new Dribbblers can have a big impact on our team culture, productivity, strength, and morale, so it’s something that we take very seriously. As we’ve grown from our two co-founders working solo for years to a team of 40+, we’ve worked diligently to retain our close-knit team culture, and build a team of truly excellent A-players. To assess culture fit, we typically cover questions like why a candidate is interested in working with us, what they know about our platform, or how they’ve used it in the past, what they feel they bring to the table that is unique to them, and what kind of experience they’ve had working remotely. We like to spend time exploring how they navigate the nuances of remote work by asking about their communication style, how they structure their days, what kind of relationship they like to have with their managers or their peers, etc. 

Besides asking questions to uncover relevant experience and skills, there are a few things that we look for when moving candidates through the interview process. These qualities make for an ideal Dribbble teammate: 

A passion for the design community: Community comes first is core value number one–the Dribbble community is at the center of everything that we do, so it’s important that prospective Dribbblers are excited to support and encourage that community. That’s not to say that we exclusively hire people who have a background in design, although that’s always an added bonus. The bottom line is we want to bring people on who understand our mission, and are dedicated to help us continue to elevate the Dribbble community and platform. 

They’ll raise the bar: We look for people who have proven areas of expertise and excellence that we can learn from! Core value number three is that we continue to grow. We want to hire people who are going to help us set higher standards for ourselves, for our team, and for our community.

Strong writing skills: Working remotely means that a good portion of our communication is shared through Slack, so it’s extra important that the people we bring on to our team are able to communicate and articulate themselves well through that medium. When we vet resumes, we give preference to people who have submitted a well-written cover letter.

Comfort with remote work: Working remotely is not for everyone, so we spend time in every phone screen interview talking about what working for Dribbble (a fully distributed team) looks like. It’s imperative that new Dribbblers are onboard with our remote-first culture, and will be able to work successfully with us, remotely.

Trustworthy: Being a fully distributed company means that we’re not able to lean over into someone’s cubicle to make sure they’re working, so we look for people who we can trust to get their work done without constant oversight. We look to hire those who are intrinsically motivated. We screen especially diligently for a combination of conscientiousness and collaboration, to ensure we’re building a team with a naturally high level of ambient trust. 

–Chloe Oddleifson
Director of Operations, Dribbble

Read more: Remote Job Interviewing

Onboarding Remote Teams

Onboarding best practices:

The biggest challenges I see for companies is how they refine their onboarding process to cater to remote. If a startup is onboarding new hires, they may struggle in relation knowledge management and clearly defined processes. Being in a somewhat ‘scrapy’ environment only works up until a certain point, then a business needs to consider scalability and laying down effective foundations that will support all new team members. 

I also believe that companies need to provide more ‘remote-specific’ training to their new hires and employees. For example, what are the best practises when an individual is working from home? What are the main challenges individuals face in a remote environment and what are the steps they can take to be proactive as opposed to reactive to these challenges? It’s all about new knowledge and empowering your team to be self-aware and resourceful and the onboarding process is the perfect place to deliver this.

–Shauna Moran
Founder, Operate Remote

We’re continually experimenting with how much is too much information and how can we get people up to speed without overwhelming. We’ve used email drip campaigns, Paper documents, and even “homework” assignments and are still iterating on tone and delivery systems. We’ll perhaps experiment more with Slack workflows or additional tools!
Another practice we aim for but don’t always hit due to logistics is getting new hires to meet someone else from the company face-to-face within their first 90 days. This is a really energizing experience and helps solidify bonds and relationships within the team, but it can be tricky to manage as a distributed team. Luckily, we try to schedule either an in-person onsite or company retreat at least every six months, so we don’t go too long without a little face time. 
–Nicole Miller
Team Engagement Manager, Buffer

Onboarding communication:

There’s often a disconnect between employers and employee experiences during onboarding because employers often fail to recognize the day one first impression. Onboarding programs miss addressing one or more of these key pillars:
  • Providing the necessary structure for early success
  • Introducing new teammates to the company culture
  • Identifying learning gaps and skill development opportunities early

A new employee needs to feel welcomed and supported from day one on the job. Employers need to provide a balance of thorough documentation, team integration, and development opportunities during the first few months of employment. 

Due to the lack of physical cues and connectivity in a remote environment, the learning curve in a remote environment has the potential to be longer and more burdensome on the role of the employee. Employers need to be constantly and proactively over-communicating from day one when it comes to introducing a new candidate to people, processes, and resources. Here are some pro-tips for effective remote onboarding.

–The Workplaceless Team

Our email series that “sets the stage” for what’s to come has been really helpful. With remote work, communicating is really important and it’s easy to miss things with so much information. Thus, we stagger information through an email drip campaign that sets expectations and creates a handy roadmap. 
The other practice that has helped with nearly all of our teammates is the concept of Buddies — we assign role buddies (someone on a peer level) and culture buddies (someone who has been at Buffer a while and resides in a different department). These buddies regularly chat with the new teammate throughout their first 90 days and are there to guide and answer questions as needed. It also helps establish a unique relationship with folks across the company. 

–Nicole Miller
Team Engagement Manager, Buffer

Onboarding length of time:

The onboarding process timeline will vary by company, by role, and potentially even by individual. However, it’s certainly not as simple as a one-week checklist of policies. While ensuring a candidate has access to all the systems they need is important, it’s also an ongoing process of checking in to ensure they are set up to accelerate their contributions to the team and to the company. Thinking of the onboarding process and the introductory phase to a long-term relationship is a better approach than a fixed timeline.

– The Workplaceless Team

The onboarding process begins right after the offer is accepted, and lasts 90 days after the start day. 
Several weeks before the new hire starts, we ensure they have their laptop and a whole box full of Buffer-branded gear, we make introductions to their manager and onboarding “buddies,” who will help guide them through their first 90 days and beyond. 
We also work behind the scenes with their manager and “buddies” to craft 30-60-90 day goals and milestones to clearly map out what success looks like for this new hire. We’ll also get super granular and create a helpful to-do list for some of the initial first days so there are immediate tasks to get to know our company values, history and norms.

–Nicole Miller
Team Engagement Manager, Buffer

Read more: Remote Onboarding

Read the full Guide to Hiring Remote if you haven't already.

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