Audio: Attracting Remote Talent: Why Telling Your Company Story Matters

Attracting Remote Talent: Why Telling Your Company Story Matters

By Jomiro Eming

While your talent pool for high quality developers increases when you open up your hiring remotely, so does the competition. Now, companies across the world — from small startups, to ‘big tech’ — are trying to attract the same developers. In this audio documentary, we get advice from the best in tech hiring at Codility, Recruitee, and co., and unpack what companies getting remote hiring right are doing. Here is what it takes to hire top tech talent in a remote world.

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Remote work is not going away: Developers have wanted it for a long time, and big tech companies are embracing it. While your talent pool increases when you hire globally, so does your competition. This means that your superpower in tech recruitment moves away from talent acquisition, and towards talent attraction — whether you’re a CTO, an engineering lead or tech recruiter, remote-first impacts your role.

And attracting talent in a remote world means you’re no longer able to rely on in-person meetings, office tours and team lunches. All you have to sell someone on who you are is what you communicate about your company, and how. In other words, the story you tell. And, in a remote environment, your hiring process is the custodian of that story.

If developers can work for any company in the world, your superpower in tech recruitment becomes how you attract the talent you want to hire. In other words: How you present yourself, and how you communicate your story.

Remote work isn’t a new idea. Even before the lockdown, many companies were already experimenting with work-from-home practices. Ultimately, the global pandemic is simply an accelerator of an already existing trend. It’s been a ‘fast forward’ button for remote work and, in the process, has highlighted the robustness and competitiveness of companies that are able to take their operations online, empower remote work and work across distributed teams.

These companies are also more likely to attract the best tech talent: In OfferZen’s 2020 Developer Remote Work Report, 9 out of 10 developers said they’d prefer a role with remote work benefits. In other words, successful companies are going to be remote powered, because they’ll have the easiest time attracting tech talent.

Oliver Short has been a tech recruiter for more than a decade, and he says:

“Pre-lockdown, if you spent time on LinkedIn or any online platform or just talking to developers in-person remote working was top of everybody’s list. “If you don’t do it, you’re gonna lose the engineers you already have. They’ve had that taste of freedom, and they are not that interested in going back to the way things were. You will lose out to companies who have already thought about this, embraced it, and are running with it.”

The stakes are much higher now that developers can choose between your company, and companies like Twitter, for example. Sjamilla van der Tooren, tech sourcer at VanMoof, has sourced for companies like Blendle, WeTransfer and Zenly, and says that smaller companies are going to need to find what sets them apart in order to compete on a global scale:

“Twitter and Facebook… announced that they were going fully remote. That actually makes it pretty difficult for the smaller companies, because their salaries are way bigger.”

While we’re all competing internationally with big tech companies now, the opportunity to hire top developers does not solely hinge on big money: The superpowers, in Sjamilla’s mind, are your culture and mission and how you talk about them. In short - employer branding:

“[Sure], you might have some more competition. But, if you are a company that has something to offer… and knows how to sell that story, and has someone in house who’s passionate about selling that story, it’s going to be easier, because people want to work remote.”

When a developer looks at a job opportunity message from three places — Slack, Amazon, and your company — what sets you apart is how you communicate and connect with them.

“I think it’s the same for companies like Amazon and Microsoft”, says Vanessa Raath. “You can’t just sit back on your laurels these days and just say, ‘Well, work for us because we’re Microsoft.’ She runs training workshops for tech recruitment specialists globally, and sees what people are focussing on the attract the talent they want to hire:

“Why would I want to do that? And that’s the why of: Why people need to join a company or brand… it’s becoming all the more important… That’s what a lot of companies should do: Just sit down to think about, why would people want to work for them?”

Your company’s brand is the thing people see online. It’s how they remember you. It’s the lens through which they see the products you build, the people you hire, the partnerships you make. And, when someone reaches out to them from your company, they use that same lens. Sjamilla explains:

“The thing is: If I get a message from a recruiter — or anyone hiring — that is really bad, I don’t want to buy stuff from that company anymore… You’re looking for that point in the middle where the company’s motivators align with the candidates motivators. And, that is so much more than money and practicalities. That’s something that’s a match in terms of… could be saving the environment or it could be, we’re building more bikes… or we are connecting people with their friends.”

Telling the right story, right

So: If telling the story of your company’s people, mission and vision is the secret weapon for attracting talent across the globe in a remote world… What does it take to get storytelling right?

Storytelling is as much about how you say things to developers, as it is about what you say.

The tech leaders we’ve spoken to are focussing on three things in particular:

  • They have a stance on their company’s remote work policy
  • They treat remote work as one-size-fits-some, and cater for individual preferences
  • They invest heavily into hiring teams working together more effectively

Let’s take a look at what this is about in a little more detail.

Have a stance on your company’s remote work policy

Firstly, take a decisive stance on remote work, and invest time on defining and communicating it clearly. Stephen van der Heijden, VP of Growth at OfferZen, says that being clear on what your stance actually is, is one the first and most important things to communicate with candidates:

“As a tech company, you’ve got to be decisive and say, ‘Look, this is how we see the world right now, this is what we’re testing, and you’re going to be a part of that test. You’ve got to explain to someone, ‘This is our stance’ — and, if you don’t have a stance by now, get one quickly.”

Oliver adds onto that: In his experience, having an unclear or badly communicate stance on remote work is likely to result in costly mis-hires.

“There’s also a lot of recruiters taking shortcuts right now, advertising jobs as remote knowing full well that when things come to an end… that the company will actually not be interested in having remote workers, and at best they’re thinking about a day a week from home.”

”I think some train wrecks are waiting to happen where developers have joined under one expectation, and companies think they’ve hired somebody under another expectation.”

This doesn’t mean you have to decide whether you’re fully remote or all in-office. All it means is that you can tell a candidate: This is our remote work situation for now, this is why we’re doing that, and in X months time we’ll review that and decide what to do — and you would be part of the team when we figure that out together.

Treat remote work as one-size-fits-some, and cater for individual preferences

Secondly, companies understand that remote work isn’t a universal experience. Those who win treat it as dynamic, and personalise remote work setups for their employees. So, it doesn’t have to be fully remote or nothing — it’s bigger than that, and there’s room to experiment with what works for different teams, and different people.

After-all, everyone has different situations, home setups, and preferences:

“You want to try and appeal to the majority”, explains Vanessa, “because you want the majority to potentially work for you, but why does everybody need the same cookie cutter? If you’ve got someone that wants to work remotely, and you’ve got someone who wants to do two days in the office — let them. If people are delivering and they’re doing a good job, do everything in your power not to lose them.”

When it comes to attracting tech talent, it’s important to remember that even though the majority of developers want to work remotely, there are still those who prefer to work from an office. From OfferZen’s report, ⅓ of developers prefer a part-time remote setup, and a small percentage prefer working full-time from the office. Stephen explains:

“When I was going through the data, and I was like, oh, look, a high percentage of people prefer remote - this is great, this is conclusive. But then I looked at the individual responses of the people who said, I just hate this. If you look at those people, you can’t exclude them, because for us to build teams, we need to collaborate inclusively with everybody in our company.”

For larger companies, this seems like quite a resource-heavy undertaking — but the companies attracting the best tech talent out there have had those conversations, and are communicating that with candidates. Stephen continues:

“The companies that are winning the most are the ones that are taking it insanely seriously… that have dedicated their CEO’s time to figure this thing out… and that have understood that this does not require just an alteration of the way we used to do things, but a complete rethink.”

Candidates can see how seriously your company is taking remote work. It shines through your hiring process, and it shines through the messaging you put online. If you can show candidates that their remote work preferences are your primary concern, that you’re working full-time on making sure every voice is counted, and that remote work is now a feature of your company and not just a phase, your story as a company will be far more convincing.

Invest heavily into hiring teams working together more effectively

Thirdly, companies who tell a strong story during remote hiring,invest into the hiring relationships between their recruiters, their HR teams, and their hiring managers.

This is important to remember because, as Sjamilla says, she as a recruiter is often responsible for the first impression someone gets of a company. And first impressions really matter:

“As recruiters, you should think about every candidate that you reach out to as potential clients, or a potential customer, and make every point that you have, even if you don’t want to want to hire this person in the end, make it special, make people feel heard.”

Vanessa shares this sentiment:

“That’s what companies need to realise is that your recruitment team or your sourcing team or whatever they are, are not the ugly, redheaded stepchild of the HR industry. They have such an impact and can affect your brand negatively or positively. You better choose that team wisely.”

And it really comes down to leveraging the expertise in your team: The tech lead knows the development culture in the specific role. How well a tech lead communicates that to the recruiter impacts how well the recruiter sells it to a candidate in their outreach.

In order to make sure recruiters know what to say and how to say it when communicating a company story, tech leaders need to invest in having a structured process in place that everyone can communicate and understand.

Rachel Whitehead is the VP of Marketing at Codility. She spearheaded their report on how companies and developers feel about remote work. From those insights, she found that many companies haven’t spent time designing remote hiring practices.

“I think a lot of companies, particularly at the start of COVID had to sort of very quickly put things together. Now, though, we’ve had a lot more time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“The thing that they should be doing is sitting in a room together mapping out literally what are the steps how much time should there be within each of those steps and then what are the platforms and the systems that we’re going to use to make sure it’s secure and works smoothly, and that we’ve got all the information we need, but also quite honestly that the candidate does as well.”

Who has the “remote control?”

Even though what remote work will look like in the next few years is still a little unclear, staying ahead of the game means taking it seriously.

Although many companies are still figuring it out, the one thing that does shine through in a lot of the data is that productivity and efficiency are not the big, scary trade-offs that everyone once thought came with remote work and hiring remote teams.

Monica Ciovică, the Community Manager at Recruitee, a remote hiring tool and applicant tracking system. She engages with hiring professionals, from around the world, and sees that — especially in the software industry — people have tasted the fruits of Eden — and for the most part it doesn’t look like it really want to go back to the way things were before.

“Before now, you had a lot of companies being afraid to let employees work remotely, because they might not be as efficient as in the office. But we think the myth of efficiency in remote work has been busted. So, the shift to remote work is here to stay.”

We’d like to hear about what you think: How is remote hiring changing your world? What do you think about running a fully remote tech team? What have you learned about hiring developers remotely, and how is it shaping the way you source, asses and recruit tech talent?

Let us know by sharing this article on Twitter, and tagging @offerzen, or by filling out this feedback form!

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