Hiring can be challenging in the tech space: There’s a high demand for technical candidates, and then there’s pressure to showcase your company and make it stand out. With remote work, it gets even harder. Since hiring managers can’t interview team members in a physical space, there are some key things that hiring managers need to reconsider.
We had a chat with some internal hiring managers in the tech community, and asked them what they’re struggling with now that they’ve had to hire remotely, and how they’re working to solve those problems. Here’s what they said.
At OfferZen, we are very aware of how COVID-19 is impacting businesses and how the new reality of working remotely can affect hiring practices. This is why we organised a small Zoom meetup with some internal recruiters and hiring managers in our network. We discussed the new challenges that they’re encountering with remote hiring, and how they’re approaching them.
The peeps who joined us for this Zoom chat were:
- Merandi Roode - HR Manager at K2 Workflow South Africa Pty. Ltd
- Peter Ferreria - Head of Talent Acquisition at Dariel
- Duke Coulbanis - Agile Specialist at Cash Connect
- Shara Chernel - Internal Recruiter at OfferZen
The main challenges we touched on were:
- Keeping candidates engaged in their hiring process
- Running useful, in-person evaluations and simulation days
- Selling the employer value proposition remotely
Here’s how these companies have started solving them.
Keeping candidates engaged in your hiring process
Once a candidate has applied for a job, it’s important to keep them engaged. This is so that they can build connections and learn about the company in order to make an informed decision about the job. If there aren’t opportunities to build connections with the team, or it’s difficult to get more information on the hiring process then, as Merandi and Duke mention, it can be hard to keep a candidate interested and you may experience ‘no shows’.
These are some of the tips we discussed for keeping candidates engaged:
1. Send a personal video introduction:
Shara notes that a small tweak like this to your process, “just to introduce yourself and who you are… to connect with the candidate”, can really make a big difference in establishing trust and building a real connection. You can even take this a step further and have the entire team send video introductions, which can then be combined into a team introduction video, or even ask the candidate to send the team an introduction video as a way for them to tell you a bit about them.
Having more genuine connections can go a long way towards helping hiring managers feel confident in their hiring decisions and can also help candidates stand out from a sea of applications.
2. Explain your hiring process:
Use your initial screening call as an opportunity to give candidates information about what they can expect during the hiring process, as well as what you expect from them. “I do the first screening on my own because I know what my development team wants”, says Duke, “and if we agree on things like salary, expectation, and what the job entails, I then set up a technical assessment.”
This can save you both time as it helps identify deal breakers or highlight good matches early on in the hiring process.
3. Lock-in solid time commitments:
If a candidate doesn’t show up for a meeting or interview, while there may be a good reason, a lot of time and energy can go to waste. It is vital to ensure that they are only committing time that they have available and that they will respect that commitment.
Peter’s strategy for locking in commitment is to “let the candidates decide what time works for them by sharing [his] calendly… so there’s an incentive for them not to fall out because they’ve set up the meeting.”
Another suggestion was to reach out to the candidate before the call, just to make sure the time still works for them and that they are still available. You can easily do this in Gmail by writing a canned response and scheduling the email to go out when you need it to.
Doing ‘in-person’ evaluations or simulation days online
Typically, in-person evaluations or simulation days are designed to optimise for team interaction, and to create opportunities for the candidate to display their technical competency. But, if you are only seeing a candidate online, and can’t physically read their reactions, it can be hard to pick up on various cues that can be useful in making a hiring decision.
“I think that face to face connection is quite important - that feeling you get from actually sitting opposite someone.” - Peter Ferreria
In our chat, we discussed some of the solutions that these experts are using to evaluate a candidate’s cultural alignment and technical competency:
1. Prepare non-coding tests to establish culture fit:
While it’s important to avoid being impersonal by throwing a bunch of tests at a candidate, it’s useful to test for certain measurable competencies. To find these, Peter says: “We’ve identified a lot of the competencies that our more successful guys share… things like integrity, we definitely want that to be tested up front.” He also suggests reading this article for some ways to test non-coding competencies.
2. Set collaborative activities with the team:
Duke says there are instances where he worked to create the opportunity for the candidate “to actually spend a few hours working with the team; collaborating on a task that [they] set up for the interview.” By doing this, the candidate gets a good idea of the working environment, and the team gets to see more of how they operate as an individual.
See the recommended resources section at the end of this article for tools that can be used for collaborative, online activities.
3. Get familiar with using online tools for hiring:
When a candidate says something in person, and you signal it as a thing to follow up on, you get that ‘fuzzy feeling’ telling you that you’re doing the right thing and asking the right questions. It can be hard to read the candidate in the same way over a remote call, which can result in a lack of confidence that the right questions have been asked. But, when it comes down to it, Peter says a lack of confidence is “probably just unfamiliarity with the video conferencing tools.”
“I don’t think that we’ve developed our gut feel for meeting candidates online as well as we’ve developed a gut feel for meeting them face-to-face.” Peter Ferreria
By practising with online interviewing tools, and building processes that help with decision-making, a natural gain in confidence will follow - which will help you trust your online candidate evaluations more.
Selling your employer value proposition
When you’re able to meet face-to-face, it’s a lot easier to show off your employer value proposition (EVP), and help candidates understand your workplace culture and your team values. However, Shara points out that it’s important not to “oversell or create a false image” because “that’s a really quick way to disappoint someone.” Peter adds:
“We might find [candidates], but it’s about engaging with them and making them choose us, more than us choosing them if they get through our technical hoops.”
Once you have a good idea of what your value proposition to candidates is, here are some tips for engaging them with your EVP.
1. Create a virtual office space that reflects your culture:
A physical walk through an office can tell a candidate a lot about the vibe your team gives off while working, and also allows them to see the cool things available in the office for the team. While you can’t just show off your office while we’re in lockdown, Duke recommends Sococo as a possible alternative. It’s a simulated office that integrates with Slack and Zoom and can be customised to look a lot like your physical space.
2. Speak about the tech that why will be using:
Developers and other tech professionals want to know about the tech that they will be working with in the day-to-day. This helps them establish how they will grow, and what their daily work may look like. Since Merandi isn’t very technical, to make sure this conversation is had early on, she always ensures that a more technical person is there to give the candidate more information, and answer any questions they have.
3. Set up meet and greets with the team:
Since your team culture lives and breathes with your team, the best way to display it is to talk about it with the people who make it happen. Merandi’s first step is always to set up a ‘Meet and Greet’ where the candidate meets the team, and they have the opportunity to ask about culture and what they can expect in the workplace. She says that having this step early on allows candidates to opt out of the hiring process if the culture really isn’t a fit for them - and before too much time and energy is spent.
4. Continuously produce engaging company content:
“We’ve got a candidate engagement crisis, more than we have a candidate connection crisis,” Peter says, highlighting the difficulty experienced when trying to engage candidates who don’t know much about the company. He suggests that the best way to keep candidates engaged is to produce content that explains more about what your company does and values. By doing this, you’re creating a backlog of resources that you can use to explain your EVP and send to potential candidates in the future.
5. Be authentic and deliver on your EVP during lockdown:
While it’s important to understand your EVP, and communicate it clearly to potential candidates, it’s also important to ensure that your team is able to deliver on those promises - despite being remote or on lockdown. “I think you’ve got to be authentic”, Peter says, “and every engagement that the candidate has with you has to build on that foundation of authenticity that you’ve created.”
You can do this by being transparent about the parts of your EVP that you’re unsure about during this time, or by communicating constantly with your candidates on any updates to your company’s current situation. Just stay authentic to your company’s culture, and avoid creating false images your team may not be able to deliver on if the candidate is hired.
Share your experiences and engage with others
Overall, the new way of hiring remotely seems to present quite a few challenges to candidate engagement, building connections, and selling a company EVP. This is why it’s important to keep having these discussions, and to reach out to others who are in a similar position to you; it lets you share ideas and solutions that can help the tech community survive during this time of social and economic unsurity.
Let’s keep this conversation going - feel free to comment below if you have any questions, problems or solutions around hiring remotely and building solid remote hiring processes!
Tools that can make remote hiring easier:
- Codeshare.io: For collaborating remotely on technical tasks.
- Draw.io: To help you design process, diagrams etc. during interview tasks.
- Slack: This will allow the team to collaborate better during remote tasks with a new candidate.
- Trello: For tracking tasks, or creating hiring checklists to ensure you’re managing your pipeline well.
- Zoom: A great conference video tool for workshopping and interviewing online.
- Sococo: For simulating a physical office space online - it also integrates with Slack and Zoom.