Hiring developers remotely means that location is no longer a constraint for who talent recruiters can reach out to. However, ‘remote’ means different things for different people, and this makes a recruiter’s job really hard, and can negatively impact the success of a remote hire. Oliver Short, Founder and Tech Recruiter at SEEKR, has learned that by aligning a developer’s and a company’s motivators at the start of his process, and clearly defining what each person means by remote work, he’s better able to match a developer with the role in which they are most likely to not only succeed in, but also stay in.
In this article, Oliver shares two ways in which he approaches sourcing and recruiting tech talent in a remote world.
Although many companies froze hiring at the start of COVID-19, many still continued to recruit and interview remotely. This opened up the opportunity to hire software makers from anywhere in the world and start building distributed workforces.
Although this opens up the tech talent pool ten fold, it can easily make a tech recruiter’s job much more difficult: Now, with location is no longer a criteria, the volume of candidates recruiters need to screen and the list of potential matches increases by a lot.
Oliver, as a tech recruiter for his UK-based tech recruitment agency, has been in tech recruitment for over a decade. What he’s seen over the last few months is a big push from tech talent for companies to adopt remote work policies, and move towards a more remote-friendly approach with tech teams.
This has helped him understand that — in order to secure the best talent and increase the success of a remote hire — his remote hiring process has to be able to align what candidates and what a company is looking for.
“As a company, you really need to think about where you are [with remote work], and start communicating that… Otherwise, you’ll lose out to companies who have already embraced it and are running with it… and you’re gonna lose the engineers you already have.”
Below, are Oliver’s two approaches for getting this right in his recruitment process:
Put the candidate first, and understand their ‘why’
Oliver always looks further than salary, stacks, and company perks, and tries to find a candidate’s core motivators: “It’s about finding those other motivators”, Oliver explains, “and the underlying interests of the people you’re talking to, and then trying to create that connection between the developer and your company on a far deeper level.”
In Oliver’s opinion, this means that just searching for resumes that match a job spec isn’t going to find the tech talent he wants:
“In the past, a recruiter would match up salary, some keywords, and location — and that was 75% of the job. Then, the other 25% was talking about motivation and long-term interests. Without location… consulting global talent will quickly pull you back a long list of people. You have to have that ‘deeper understanding’.”
Plus, even though Oliver can reach out to any developer in any country, he says it’s important that tech recruiters remember that developers can also work for any tech company in any country as well.
In his screening calls with candidates, Oliver doesn’t start by asking what they’re looking for in their next role. Instead, Oliver first tries to understand what they like(d) about their current, or most recent, role: “One of the most telling things” he says, “is asking people that simple question, ‘What is it that you most enjoy about what you’re doing at the moment?’ This helps him get an idea of what they already have and want to hold onto.
The other really telling thing is to ask people about their frustrations, ‘What would you change about your current role?’… I’ve found that that tells you a lot more about what they actually value right now.”
From there, Oliver’s heuristic for screening calls is to ask at least one follow-up for every question he puts in front of someone. In his arsenal, these could look like some of the following:
- What do you think that looks like?
- Why are those things important to you?
- What does that mean to you?
- How does that affect your career trajectory?
This gives Oliver a lot more to work with that simply the skills someone wants to develop, the tech someone wants to work with, or the company benefits someone wants to have access to in their career. Although those play a contributing role, Oliver says that aligning candidate and company motivators at this level of depth is more likely going to lead to successful hires, and longer retention.
Define what people mean by ‘remote work’
The other part of Oliver’s approach has been to help both tech talent and tech companies define what they mean by ‘remote work’. This helps him ensure that the expectations around remote work, both on the company and candidate side, align:
“There are a lot of recruiters taking shortcuts right now”, he explains, “advertising jobs as ‘remote’, knowing full well that — when ‘normality’ resumes — the company won’t be interested in remote work, or at best is thinking about a day a week from home.”
By not aligning expectations around what remote work actually means during the hiring process, Oliver has seen developers leave tech teams in a heartbeat. Where any tech company is game for a developer, being told one thing and seeing another will be a deal breaker for most of them. As he says, “I think some train wrecks are waiting to happen.”
So, when Oliver sources tech talent, he aligns those expectations right from the start of the process: “You want to tease out what remote means, and you definitely need to spend some time figuring that out for both parties. Then, it’s about matching up what the expectations are on both sides.”
For tech companies and hiring teams, Oliver asks them to define ‘remote work’ in two ways:
- What does ‘remote’ mean now? Are you open to fully remote teams, but want to have an in-person team event every quarter? Does each person pay for their own travel, then? Or, are you looking at one-day in the office every week? Or, are you opening up your offices as a co-working space, but are defaulting to a remote-first approach? How much communication do you expect? What countries or time-zones are you happy to recruit from?
- What does ‘remote’ mean a year from now? How fixed are your above remote policies? What plans are you putting in place if the pandemic goes on for longer than we expect? What happens to remote work when you scale your teams? What are your plans for building remote work into your company structure in the next 6 months? And the next 12 months?
Having these clearly defined and communicated on the side of the hiring team equips Oliver better in his screening calls with candidates.
With these two approaches to remote tech recruitment, Oliver feels that he is better equipped as a recruiter to match a developer with the role in which they are most likely to not only succeed in, but also stay in. Asking ‘why’, understanding someone’s deeper motivations, and clearly defining the extent to which both candidates and companies want to work remotely, makes Oliver’s job easier and more successful.
If you’d like to reach out to Oliver about anything you read in this post, or ask him any questions you have after this, you can do so via finding him on LinkedIn!