A guide to hiring and onboarding staff remotely in 2020

A guide to hiring and onboarding staff remotely in 2020

Remote teams are future-proofed teams. Many businesses have been forced to adapt to remote work practically overnight due to COVID-19, while others already made the pivot intentionally in previous years.

Regardless of where your business falls on that spectrum, the benefits of remote work mean it’s only going to become more common and advantageous for teams to work remotely.

Although we have our PieSync HQ in Ghent, Belgium, we’ve been transitioning to remote-first hiring processes. This is especially true in our marketing team, which has been distributed across Europe, Asia, and North and South America in the last year.

Our parent company, HubSpot, has also been hiring more remote employees and now has a population of 400 full-time remote employees. So… how do we make remote hiring and onboarding work for us?

We’ve adapted our team to remote work by building a culture with:

  • Remote-friendliness in our company DNA
  • A cloud-based tech stack that supports our team wherever they’re working
  • Remote-first operations (meetings, collaboration, working styles)
  • Remote hiring and onboarding processes

During the last year, the bulk of our marketing hiring processes have been handled entirely remotely and we’ve honed our capability to take a new hire from applicant to onboarded without real face-to-face interaction.

Here’s the process we’ve followed to attract top talent from all over the world and give them a great welcome to the team remotely.

Our remote hiring process in PieSync’s marketing team

Phase 1: Screening

  • Look at LinkedIn instead of a document-based CV
  • Send a screening questionnaire
  • Focus on actual work experience and portfolio
  • Have a quick review of their digital presence

Our remote hiring process starts by opening up the net to the widest pool of good-fit candidates.

We don’t focus much on document-based CVs and resumes – it’s not 2000 anymore, and LinkedIn gives us all of that information in a more standardized way.

Every candidate also completes a mandatory questionnaire when applying that gives us a glimpse of how serious and attentive they are, as well as what they could add to the team. It’s easy to weed out those who are “mass applying” at this stage.

This questionnaire is a valuable way for us to make the first cut of candidates, but also gives us information to compare the candidates in our longlist in more depth.

After making the list a bit more manageable, we also look at the digital presence and activity of those candidates to narrow down applicants further. We love seeing candidates with their own website to show a bit more about who they are, what inspires them, and the work they love creating.

For each role, we focus on the applicants’ actual work experience and portfolio, especially (but not exclusively!) for creative roles such as writers and designers.

Phase 2: Interview

  • Schedule a video interview with skills and personality questions
  • Look at their approach to answering and asking questions
  • Shortlist for honesty, willingness to learn new things, and an open communication style

Our remote interviews are always with video on and include a mix of skill-based and personality questions.

While we care about the answers, often it’s more about the candidate’s approach to answering them. We prefer candidates to be honest and just say “I don’t know, but I can find out” rather than covering up gaps in their knowledge.

The video interview stage is also a helpful time to see the questions that a candidate asks, as well as how they assess the role from their own side. What matters to them? And why are they interested in the role?

Phase 3: Follow up

  • Have a more detailed look at their digital footprint and portfolio
  • Give the candidate a skills-based task and deadline to narrow down the shortlist
  • Schedule a video call with another colleague if decision making is difficult
  • Connect them to HR to make an offer

The video interview provides a good way to narrow down our shortlist of candidates and highlight the best-fit candidates.

If we’re finding it hard to narrow down the shortlist, we often ask candidates to complete a task that’s related to what the role will involve and set a deadline. Another video call with a colleague can also help here.

Once we’ve found the perfect fit, we connect them with HR to make an offer and give them a great welcome to PieSync.

Onboarding remote hires

Welcoming remote hires to the team can require a bit more effort to get right than standard in-office onboarding. However, tech makes it easier than ever to make new team members feel like part of the team.

Here are some of the tactics we use to onboard new hires remotely:

  • Ask everyone to create a “Working With Me” guide. Everyone in our marketing team has created their own Google Doc to share how they like to work, receive feedback, schedule meetings, and a bit more about themselves. Some of our team members also include personality test results here to help their colleagues understand them better.
  • Set boundaries. Managers don’t want to be working outside of usual office hours, and nor do our team members. We encourage our team to set up “Do Not Disturb” schedules in Slack and respect those boundaries when someone is done for the day.
  • Streamline access to our tech stack. To help a new hire get started as easily as possible, we use LastPass to smoothly pass over all of the credentials they need to access the right tools for their role. Remember to pair this with documentation in your wiki or some 1-1 training with their new colleagues to show them the ropes.
  • Use automation to build team culture. Automation doesn’t mean making things impersonal. Rather, it can bring your team closer together. Here are some of the ways we use automation to strengthen our team culture.
  • Communicate the cues you’d use in an office. When you’re working in the same place, it’s easy to pick up that someone doesn’t want to be disturbed if they’ve got headphones on. That’s not so easy when you’re working remotely. However, with Slack it’s easy to make up for it with helpful digital signals of what you’re up to and if you’re available to chat.

Making remote work a success

Hiring, onboarding, and collaborating remotely takes constant optimization. A remote hiring strategy will never be one-size-fits-all, especially when your team isn’t always 100% remote.

To get the best results from hiring and onboarding staff remotely, remember to make your processes remote-first. These can easily be adapted to in-person interactions, but the reverse is more difficult. With a powerful cloud-based tech stack, remote processes, and a strong team culture, you’re heading in a great direction.

This article originally appeared on PieSync

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