Book: No Office » Part 2 - What if there was no office? » Chapter 23 - Hire remotely | hire.md

Chapter 23 - Hire remotely

You can get the best people for the job and not care where they live.

People who live close to you might not be any good!

Most traditional companies hire people based on their geographical proximity to the office. It sounds ridiculous that the ultimate decision about a hire is done by the office building itself. The building decides. I mean, not literally, but if the office is too far, a candidate wouldn’t apply or you wouldn’t even consider a person for the job. Should geography really be more of a deciding factor than competence?

Even the supposedly smartest people on the planet think this way. I remember that during the early days of Nozbe I was considering additional funding through one of the Silicon Valley Venture Capital firms. I gave up quickly, as I realized that they wanted me to move my Nozbe Headquarters to where they resided, within a 20 mile radius of their offices. Before they even wanted to talk to me about the actual Nozbe product they would invest in, they first needed to know if I was willing to move.

It didn’t matter that such a decision would complicate everything for me and my team, cost lots of money and administrative headaches and contribute nothing to the development of the product as such. Geography mattered. So I gave up, and in the end, I never took a VC investment and kept the company bootstrapped, funded entirely from the payments by our customers.

The benefit of a “No Office” mindset is that you have a chance to get the exact person for the job that you need. And they can be living very far away from you, yet be a perfect fit with the team and be delivering the exact kind of work that you need. So don’t get held up by geography. Expand your horizons. Hire from anywhere in the world.

Isn’t hiring people from far away risky?

Hiring is risky, period. Lots of businesses have a real psychological problem with hiring people from afar, yet they have no issue hiring contractors like this. Many companies regularly use the services of accountants, HR consultants or lawyers. Very often, these external contractors are not located next to the business that hires them. They might as well be located on the other side of town or have an office in a different city entirely.

My point is that most small businesses are already hiring remotely but they don’t recognize this. Now it’s time to take another step and get a hire for your core team from the enormous pool of talent out there.

How to get the best person for the job, from anywhere in the world

There’s a very popular saying in HR: hire slow, fire fast. There’s some truth in that statement. You should take your time to hire a person, especially if you’re doing it completely remotely. Over the years, we’ve gone through several iterations of our hiring process, and the following is what works for us at Nozbe:

Step 1. A strong job description

The job description is the key to getting a great hire. It’s basically a sales letter – you want to sell the job to a perfect candidate1. It should include these three key things:

  • A description of the work environment. An answer to the big fat WHY? – as in Why should I even consider working for you? We briefly describe that we’re an all-remote company, how we work, which perks we offer, the size of the team, where the position would fit in and what we believe in. The goal is that a person who doesn’t even know our company can quickly decide if that’s a place they’ll see themselves work for.
  • A description of the position. Here, we list the minimum required skills for the job. We also expand it with a list of additional nice-to-haves. Later, we explain deeper what this job really means for us. What the person would actually work on if they were hired. The key is to give the candidate a good idea of not only what we want but also why we want it and why it’s important to us, as well as how much they’d be earning.
  • An outline of the recruitment process and the next steps. Here, we explain how to apply and also how the rest of the application process will unfold. It’s important to set expectations correctly for both the candidate and the team.

Step 2. CV and cover letter

To make sure we get quality candidates for a position, we require them to send in their most updated CV via email with a short message explaining why we should consider them for the position. No need for a formal cover letter, but a personalized email message is appreciated.

This is where many candidates lose points. Most just send a short email saying: “Here’s my CV for the position. Best regards…” That’s it.

They don’t understand that to us, it’s already strike one. They could have taken five minutes to browse our site, read a little more about the company and explain why we might want them on our team instead of someone else. Most don’t bother to do this. They don’t understand that the content of this email is being read by someone and is being judged as well. This is the place where they can potentially stand out.

Step 3. Written interview through an online form

We reply to the initial CV email with a short thank you note and if the candidate’s skills match our needs we ask them to fill out an online form for us2.

This online form is very important, as it gives us a chance to interview a candidate before we even talk to them. We can ask very specific questions and hopefully get good answers that will tell us a lot about the candidate.

As it is all done in writing, we don’t know what the person looks like or how they sound. This helps eliminate any kind of personal bias that’s irrelevant when it comes to the job. That’s why the quality of the questions we ask them in the form is extremely important, as the answers give us an initial feel for the person.

We communicate the final date of receiving applications to each candidate and explain to them that we only start going through the applications once we’ve received the entire application package, including the CV, the cover letter, and the form. This communicates to the applicant that submitting early doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of your submission that counts, so take your time and make a great first written impression.

Step 4. First video interview with the team

Once we’ve gone through all the applications, we try to eliminate as many folks as possible and choose the top five candidates. Depending on the job position, we might receive a high volume of applications.

Up until now, we haven’t seen the person, so we’re judging everything. Their cover letter or lack thereof. How quickly they answer our email and how well they write. Regardless of the position, when working remotely, the written word is key. As explained in the previous chapters of this book, we write a lot to each other. In tasks, in comments, in documents before the meetings, in chat… we write everywhere. That’s why we try to choose the best writers.

Once we’ve chosen our top five, their future team leader schedules the interviews. Usually we get two people involved in an interview: the team leader and a peer who would potentially be working with the candidate. This way, they can evaluate a candidate from two different points of view.

As you can see, this process is very taxing. With only five interviews done by two people from the team each time, at least 10 man-hours are being spent on this. So these interviews better be well prepared and meaningful.

Just as we had our questions ready in the online form, we have a separate list of questions ready for the video interview to make sure each chat is as objective and efficient as possible. There should also be a hard time limit for each video call. Usually we set it to one hour.

Step 5. Test project

After the interviews, the team chooses the top two candidates for the job and offers them a gig.

Over the years of hiring remotely, we realized that talking about work is nice, but really letting someone do the work and seeing them in action is so much better. This gives us a chance to get to know how the person is really working. What they really know and what their skills really are. And most of all, how they communicate with us.

We appreciate people’s time and we don’t ask anyone to work for free, so this test project is a paid gig. Also, the candidate is usually already working somewhere full time, so the project must be something they can do in a span of a few days, dedicating 2-3 hours a day in the afternoons after they’ve finished their current job. For the test project, we usually choose something very practical. As we’ll be paying for it, we might as well use it in the future.

Throughout the test project, their team leader monitors their progress, answers their questions and stays in touch via chat or email.

Step 6. Job offer and an interview with the boss

After the test project, the team ultimately decides who they want to hire. They choose the successful candidate and send them a job offer based on our Salary Formula (as explained in Chapter 13). When they accept the offer, we schedule a second video interview with them. This time, it’s with the CEO (that’s me!) and the person who has been running the recruitment process from our side.

The goal of this video interview is to familiarize ourselves with the personality of the candidate and get them excited about working in our company. Usually it is just a nice formality and it gives me an idea of who we’re hiring. Before we really start working together, I want to try to get to know the person a little deeper, figure out their goals and dreams and see if they are really looking forward to working with us.

Step 7. In-person meeting with someone from our team

If there aren’t any red flags and everything goes smoothly, we figure out who from our all-remote team lives the closest to the candidate and we ask them to go and meet them in person. They usually have lunch or coffee on company’s dime, and as a formality we check their ID to make sure that they are who they say they are. This is the final step of our hiring process, and unless there are any significant issues, they’ve got themselves a new job!

Step 8. Onboarding process for the three-month trial period

Now that we’ve hired the candidate and they’ve started work, we have an onboarding process ready for them. We have an entire onboarding article with links to videos and screencasts for them to watch, in addition to being given their first work tasks. It’s important to give them a light assignment early in the process so they have a nice balance of work and setting up their accounts and access points, while also reading about the company and watching instructional videos.

Throughout the first week, their team leader meets with them every day for a few minutes via video to catch up and assist them, answering any questions or concerns. We also ask every new hire to do a CliftonStrengths3 test to see how they fit into our team as far as their talents are concerned.

We usually sign a three-month trial period with each candidate. This way, we have more than 12 weeks of real work with the person to really figure out if they’re truly the right fit for us. As the trial period goes, we give them feedback, start challenging them with more and more complicated tasks and see how they perform. Usually after 10 full weeks, we give ourselves the time to assess their work and make a conscious decision if the person should stay with us or go.

Step 9. Next nine months with full perks

Now that the person is fully onboarded, we sign another contract for the next nine months. This gives us a longer period of time to test if the person is really a good fit. They’re now treated as a fully-integrated part of our team and they get all the perks we offer.

Step 10. Happily ever after.

If everything works well after these nine months, we sign an indefinite contract and we work happily ever after.

How to get remote hiring done – practical tips

The recruitment process is long and complicated. There are many people involved, lots of applications being received and many other things to take care of.

That’s why in Nozbe Teams, we set up a separate recruitment project for each position. To be mindful of candidates’ personal data, we limit who we invite to this project. Usually these are the company leaders and the people that really need to be involved with this particular job. When each candidate emails their CV, we forward their email message to this project, which automatically creates a task. This means we have a separate task for each candidate. In the project, we have sections for each of the 10 steps of the recruitment process to make sure we’ve got everything under control.

Having one task for each candidate helps us have all the information about them in one place. Their CV is attached as the first comment to the task. Later in the following comments, we can discuss the candidate and exchange opinions. When we have an interview with them, we can add an appropriate due date and time.

We use Nozbe Teams, as this is our shared project and task app of choice, but any other system that your team is using should do. The key is to keep this process organized and digital so that everyone can have access to this information from any device.

When the candidate is already on step five and is doing the paid test project, we usually set up a chat channel between them and our team so that we can quickly communicate progress.4

How to get good candidates

Finding a good candidate is still hard, even though there are so many places available to search for them. There are numerous job boards, and some are focused on posting remote-only jobs. There is social media, especially LinkedIn, that’s dedicated to job search. On Facebook, there are groups for specific sectors or industries where the companies are welcome to post their job offers.

Apart from that, never forget to search for candidates among your real friends, as well as your virtual friends on social media. It’s always great to hire someone who’s already following you or your company, as they know you better and are much more motivated to work with you. We always post job openings on our blog.

Apart from that, it’s always great to have a permanent Careers page, even if you’re currently not actively hiring.5 This way, people can learn more about what it’s like to work with your team in advance. Sometimes a brilliant person might be between jobs for various reasons, and as they stumble upon your page, they might want to reach out.

The one thing: hire the best person for the job, period.

A “No Office” company has the amazing luxury of hiring the best candidate, not just a good enough candidate within close proximity to their office. You can hire a brilliant person from anywhere in the world. The talent is everywhere, so it’s time to look beyond geography and start hiring not just the best person around, but truly the best person for the job.

  1. Here are some of the recent job descriptions. One by Basecamp: NoOffice.link/basecamphires and other one by Nozbe: NoOffice.link/nozbehires

  2. We simply use Google Forms for this: NoOffice.link/forms 

  3. More on Gallup CliftonStrengths test here: NoOffice.Link/strenghts 

  4. Internally, we use Slack as our chat program: NoOffice.Link/slack 

  5. Here’s an example of our site: NoOffice.Link/careers 

Next: Chapter 24 - Connect with people

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