Tapping the Remote Workforce

Work-from-home policies open the door to larger pools of qualified, diverse candidates, but hiring remotely comes with many challenges.

remote hiring - training magazine

Few recent trends will have a more profound and lasting impact on businesses than the widespread acceptance of remote work. Before the pandemic so radically changed how many companies operate, employers often resisted remote work due to its assumed tradeoffs in productivity and collaboration.

COVID-19 forced those misgivings aside and changed how the world works, showing that remote workers in a wide range of jobs can effectively perform their roles, collaborate, and innovate. As more organizations consider allowing remote work permanently, employers that may have only considered a local talent in the past now are expanding their searches nationwide and allowing new team members to work from anywhere.

Searching extensively offers several advantages, including access to skilled talent in greater numbers. Focusing on markets with diverse populations, such as Houston, Chicago, or Los Angeles, enables more diverse hiring practices. Regions with a low cost of living may offer more affordable skilled labor. This is a strategy that is leading technology companies in high-cost coastal tech hubs to hire remote engineers in lower-cost markets.

Simultaneously, remote scenarios create new challenges that can strain conventional approaches to interviewing, onboarding, and training. Without in-person contact, it is easier to inadvertently eliminate qualified applicants and harder for new hires to assimilate. When candidates share their negative experiences, it degrades an employer’s brand and erodes morale.

When handled correctly, virtual interviews work well—our firm has done thousands of them in the course of our growth and on behalf of clients hiring software engineers. But phone and videoconference interviews can make it more difficult for candidates and interviewers to pick up on body language and subtle cues. Remote interviewers need a reliable system to support objective candidate evaluations and comparisons.

3 Tips for Successful Remote Interviews

1. Be explicit

Clear and unambiguous communication is essential to identify the best applicants, and that clarity begins with well-defined competencies. Employment postings often descend from a series of older descriptions that have been borrowed and modified, picking up tired phrasing and hazy qualifications along the way. A better approach, to begin with, is criteria for the position’s first annual review and then specify competencies based on how their performance will be measured.

Avoid jargon and remove any “superhero” references or similar informal descriptions of the ideal candidate. Qualifications that cannot be measured objectively suggest the organization seeks insiders of some sort, which can discourage women and members of underrepresented groups from applying.

Accurate, measurable competencies provide the framework for efficient remote interviews. Maintaining the emphasis on explicit communication, hiring managers should explain to the candidate at the interview’s start how they are being assessed. Doing so will reduce misunderstandings and false negatives.

2. Develop expert interviewers

Consolidate interviewing responsibilities to a centralized team, training them to improve their techniques as they develop and refine the organization’s preferred hiring process and infrastructure. Interviewers should drill their methods of evaluating core competencies, practicing the questions they will ask and the guidance they will offer.

Plan to collect data on the screening process, as well as applicant scores. This will help management to optimize overall interview characteristics, including speed, predictiveness, and the candidate experience. Virtual meetings are easily recorded, so use this feature for ongoing quality control. Review and compare interviewers’ performances and coach them as needed. They need to be kind and empathetic, putting candidates at ease but maintaining consistency across interviews to aid objective evaluations and candidate rankings.

Monitor candidate responses to root out confusing questions or ambiguous directions and rephrase or discard them. Also, track applicant dropout rates at each stage in the hiring sequence to identify systemic bottlenecks or individuals who may be driving away candidates. Management may be able to remedy the situation with additional training for the interviewer or simply move them out of interviewing responsibilities. It bears repeating that employers should address sources of negative candidate experiences to avoid damage to the brand.

3. Evaluate candidates objectively

It can be difficult to compare candidates based on a single hiring manager’s informal interview notes and more challenging when multiple interviewers are involved. The solution is to use structured rubrics or scoring guides aligned to competencies. These will help evaluators measure performance consistently while using terms or numbered metrics shared by all interviewing team members.

Along with predetermined competencies and agreed-upon measurement methods, the hiring team should work with managers to establish a clear hiring bar for the position. This is a must with remote hiring, which often spans offices and geographies. Determine what level of job performance the job requires and how interview output will show how well each candidate performed in relation to the target level.

Candidates react positively to brands they feel are treating them fairly. It makes it doubly important that job postings, applicant tests, and interviews demonstrate the organization’s commitment to objective hiring. The more consistent and transparent the remote hiring process becomes, the more successful an employer will be at improving its candidate experience and brand.

Shannon Hogue started her career writing software over 20 years ago and has moved through the ranks as an engineer and, ultimately, CTO. She is passionate about improving developer productivity so that dreams and innovations can be built. As Head of Solutions Engineering at Karat, Shannon works closely with engineering teams to mitigate bias, understand their hiring bars, align interviews, and create more fair and predictive hiring processes. She lives in San Francisco with her two dogs, Samus and Locke.