Many people are stunned to learn that I didn’t meet my chief technology officer in person until 2014 — three years after he started working for me.
Hiring key employees you’ve never met face-to-face may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
As the CEO and founder of a remote-based software development company, I’ve learned that remote work creates better employees. As more companies choose not to simply be “remote friendly” but actually all-mobile right from inception, creative hiring strategies that fit this new paradigm will ensure they hire the best remote workers.
To attract top remote talent, start by rethinking your approach to job descriptions. I actually recommend making your job descriptions less descriptive. Instead, focus on using fewer words and incorporating more intrigue.
At Clevertech, we win over candidates with minimalist yet provocative descriptions that spark their interest and curiosity, such as “If you like new ideas and want to work with a virtual but absurdly talented group of people in a learning-friendly environment, check out the open positions.” Or we might tempt them with something like “You’re looking for projects that you’ll be proud to share with your friends and family.”
We then direct potential employees to pages that showcase our accomplishments and our company culture to help applicants envision themselves working for us.
We also include a call to action at the bottom of the description that says, “Log in with Google,” where they can apply for positions. If someone doesn’t have a Google account and isn’t willing or able to set one up, that person probably isn’t advanced or flexible enough to work remotely and positively impact our company.
If candidates are put off by our unorthodox approach, we know immediately that they are not a good fit for our firm.
When determining fit, understand that a culture deck is crucial. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, called Netflix’s now-legendary culture deck “one of the most important documents ever to come out of Silicon Valley.” In 126 slides, it revealed to current and potential employees — and the whole world, after being made public — the reality of how employees are hired, fired, and rewarded. This visual representation of the company culture is a work in progress — a living document. It serves not only to clarify internal practices so employees know what to expect and how to achieve success at the company, but also as a recruiting tool.
Culture decks have garnered more attention lately for the powerful way in which they can shape hiring. For a remote workforce, the culture deck takes on an even larger role because it has to somewhat compensate for a lack of in-person meetings and office visits.
Clevertech’s culture deck is a vital part of our recruiting strategy. Establishing a culture deck is a circular exercise — only by understanding ourselves can we attract the types of employees we want and weed out the ones we don’t. Before you can project the right image, you have to first think about who you are as a manager or business owner, who the best people in your organization are, and what values you hold in common.
We also use a type of gaming “badge” system to call out people in the organization who exemplify our core values. Everyone in the company is allotted a certain number of points to give away to others each month, and this information is displayed graphically. So when potential candidates look at employee profiles on our site, they’ll see badges that not only show how we recognize superior performance, but that also impart our core values.
When it comes to finding the best employees, I’m not interested in traditional résumés — everything I need to know about someone’s skill set can be learned from his or her LinkedIn or GitHub profile. We also ask applicants to record themselves answering some questions in a few short videos that add up to a total of 10-15 minutes. This allows us to see how candidates react under pressure — if they aren’t comfortable making videos of themselves, how will they react to doing something outside their comfort zone?
These videos also offer less obvious benefits. For example, we place a two-minute limit on answers, but many applicants ignore that. That’s valuable information, as it allows us to see who can follow directions, as well as who can provide crucial information in an efficient, time-sensitive manner. This relates to our core value of being able to quickly and effectively communicate what’s most important because this is a required skill when working remotely.
We put a great deal of thought into formulating complicated and sometimes controversial questions for applicants to answer. For example, we might ask, “Who was the most difficult person you worked with? And how did you respond?” The critical insight we are trying to suss out with this question is what someone views as “difficult,” and by asking about how he or she responded to the issue, we can ensure that it’s not a made-up situation.
Another question we often ask aims to figure out if applicants take ownership of getting a result, or if they will compromise on their objectives when the going gets tough. To do this, we ask about a time when they faced an injustice of some sort. We empathize with them, and then we wait to see how they react. When they put the injustice aside and instead talk about the results they achieved, it’s a good sign. If they simply accept the empathy and say, “Yeah, it was too bad that happened,” then we know they lack a sense of ownership and the grit needed to achieve the desired outcome.
Asking these types of strategic questions serves two purposes: First, if they’re put off by the intensity of the questions, we know they’re not right for our company. Additionally, this helps us attract applicants who respect the high level of our questions — and will, therefore, be more interested in working for us.
Countless studies confirm what I’ve experienced firsthand: Remote employees are happier, more productive, and more cost-efficient than their office-bound peers. The key to harnessing remote success lies in evolving your hiring strategy. The workforce as we know it is changing, and as leaders, we must be nimble and open-minded in our hiring techniques to meet this exciting challenge.
Kuty Shalev is the founder of Clevertech, a New York City-based firm that designs, develops, and deploys strategic software for businesses that want to transform themselves using the power of the web.
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