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5 Practical Tips for Hiring a Global, Remote Workforce

January 15, 2020
BY GENERAL CATALYST
by
General Catalyst Team
5 Practical Tips for Hiring a Global, Remote Workforce

This is part two in a “how to” series for building effective distributed teams. We’ve compiled advice from CEOs and functional leaders to help better understand structuring distributed team, hiring and management best practices and what tools you’ll need to be successful.

Hiring for the Remote Experience

Many tech companies have already embraced remote work, with more and more announcements like Stripe’s remote engineering hub happening every day. An extensive, global talent pool provides myriad opportunities for fast-growth tech companies, especially those that otherwise would have built in highly competitive (not to mention, high turnover) markets like the San Francisco Bay area, New York, or Boston.

Whether you’re fully remote like GitLab, or just getting started with recruiting global employees, here are some secrets to hiring and retaining the best talent from the top remote tech companies.

1. Rely on Your Network to Scout the Best Global Talent

1. Rely on Your Network to Scout the Best Global Talent

It can be daunting to think about the entire world as your talent market, especially if you’re an early-stage company. A.J. Josephson, VP of people at Miro, advises companies to look to their own networks to scout the best global talent. “It’s a lot about building your network of informal advisors and partners, and asking them to debrief you on what they know,” he said. You never know exactly when someone in your network may know the perfect candidate who’s looking, or have experience hiring engineers in the Netherlands.

As Andrew Carges, VP of global talent at Elastic has found, people are often willing to lend their time and advice to early-stage founders as the concept of remote work takes off — you just have to reach out and ask. Or, in some cases, peers may be curious about what it’s like to recruit for a remote company and proactively offer suggestions for qualified candidates who are in the market for a flexible working arrangement.

2. Be Responsive, Even with a Large Volume of Candidates

2. Be Responsive, Even with a Large Volume of Candidates

Since the talent pool is global, remote companies are often flooded with a large volume of candidates. Two keys to success are prioritizing communication (and automating it wherever possible), and making the interview process more efficient for all parties involved.

Carges says Elastic will get up to 150,000 applicants for a job opening, which can be difficult to manage for a company of their size. By leveraging tools like Greenhouse, the hiring team can automate communications with all of the applicants, providing customized information such as background videos, source code, or use cases that can help prep for the interview process. Even if the outcome is a rejection, Carges’ team strives to communicate with every applicant.

A few other positive aspects of remote interviewing is that it’s both efficient and inclusive. For example, some candidates seek out remote work for flexible schedules because of a life circumstance such as caregiving, or they may have a prohibitively long commute. An efficient interview process shows that the company values the time of both candidates and interviewers alike. GitLab’s Senior Brand Talent Manager Betsy Church said, “We ask our internal team members to really prioritize interviews so we can fit their sessions into a week or two-week period. We really try to tighten up that timeline so it’s the best experience for the candidate.”

3. Prioritize the Candidate Interview Experience

3. Prioritize the Candidate Interview Experience

Sometimes, the lack of a physical office space can make it difficult for a candidate to understand company dynamics — at least on the surface level. As a result, the best first impression for a remote company is the candidate experience. For Church, that means making sure candidates have all of the information upfront on exactly what to expect during the hiring process, which her company documents in painstaking detail in their public handbook. “In the interview process, everything documented in our handbook lets you know exactly what you’ll need to be successful at GitLab,” she added. “We also heavily use the tools in interviews that we would use on the job, such as the video conferencing software Zoom, which can help determine whether the candidate will succeed in a remote work environment.”

Josephson also emphasized the importance of the candidate experience, encouraging companies to take 30 minutes to design it very intentionally. “Focus on creating an ‘Aha moment’ for the candidate. When I interviewed at Miro, they set up time on Zoom with a VC who participated in their Series A. That was an ‘aha moment’ for me’ that told me how serious they were about my candidacy. Even just 30 minutes of mapping out the candidate experience is going to unblock a lot of pain points and add more value.”

While having a well thought out interview experience, there should be room for “life happens” moments. Carges brought up a story of a woman whose child interrupted her video interview, and she was mortified. “I laughed and I said, ‘This is so common. This happens every day; we have people on my team that are holding their baby, or their dog or cat walks across the screen — and it’s just normal. Life happens where work happens for us, right?’”

4. Tap Employees to Spread the Culture Word

4. Tap Employees to Spread the Culture Word

It can be challenging for remote companies to accurately convey their culture to new hires since a distributed workforce looks and feels significantly different than traditional office culture. One thing that’s been effective for GitLab is documenting the company values in writing for accountability purposes. Then, they rely on their employees to spread the word about these values to their networks, so prospective hires know what to expect when they choose to work at GitLab.

“There’s a lot you can do in the beginning stage that will bring in more informed candidates, so you’re not using the interview process to bring them up to speed,” said Church. “Step one is making sure that they actually know about your values and can picture themselves adding or contributing to them.”

5. Clearly Communicate Compensation and Equity Policies

5. Clearly Communicate Compensation and Equity Policies

Hiring for the same role across multiple markets can be extremely challenging, but having the right data on local compensation market rates and attitudes toward equity can help in the negotiation process.

“We’ve built a calculator that shows total compensation in local currency based on your local area, experience, and the role you’re applying for,” said Brittany Rohde, compensation and benefits manager at GitLab. “It eliminates a lot of the ambiguity around compensation in recruiting, since you can talk about it upfront, as well as in the offer stage.”

Understanding how global recruits think about equity can help remove some major barriers in the hiring process. “In the Bay Area, equity is like breakfast. The best meal of the day is your one-year cliff,” said Josephson of Miro. “But in Russia, many of our recruits had experienced financial scams that made them skeptical about the value of equity, so we had to spend a lot more time explaining what it meant to have ownership in the company.” It’s crucial that candidates are educated on what their total compensation and benefits package looks like — not just the base salary — so they can make the most informed decisions.

Wrapping Up

When it comes down to it, hiring remotely shares some similarities with hiring for a physical office. Both physical and remote companies are trying to attract the most qualified candidates, show off their culture, and give the prospect a good sense of what it’s like on the job. However, remote companies need to embrace key nuances — such as an increased need for documentation and collaboration tools throughout the interview process — for optimal success. Wherever you are on your remote hiring journey today, these practical tips can help you find top talent diamonds in the rough of a global workforce.

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