How to Hire Software Engineers in an All-Remote World

Managers that need to hire software engineers post-COVID-19 pandemic face a new challenge--hiring and onboarding new employees without an office. The standard rituals of back-to-back-to-back office interviews and whiteboard sessions are no longer possible. And for many companies, remote work is likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future.Think Outside the ResumeShould you recruit and hire differently than if you were in the office? Yes and no. Many of the skills and cultural values you look for will not change. And interviews and skills assessment can be done via video conferencing. That said, what makes a remote developer successful has as much to do with soft skills as it does with technical acumen. You will likely see the candidate's development experience on a resume or CV. However, you won't see critical success factors for remote workers, such as communication skills, work ethic, problem-solving skills, and accountability.A structured interview process will help you assess the soft skills that successful remote engineers need. Do they communicate well? Do they meet deadlines? Do they show up for meetings on time? Throughout the interview process, assess communication skills, and set deadlines for next-steps. Move from one-on-one video interviews to group interviews. Group interviews are a great way to determine a candidate's cultural fit. Have peers ask candidates how they would approach real problems that they are trying to solve rather than theoretical ones.Remote Code TestsCode tests can be frustrating for applicants if you don't tell the candidates what is being assessed. Speed? Functionality? Optimization? Lack of clarity about what is measured can make the test results ambiguous. Test one competency at a time to make sure you're getting accurate results. Set expectations for how long you think a task should take when testing for speed, for example.Code-pairing is another excellent way to test both technical skills and collaboration and communication skills. Working with a team member will help you get feedback on both areas. Pay attention to whether the candidate asks questions of others to see how flexible and teachable he or she is.Don't Forget CultureA strong cultural fit is, in some ways, more important for remote teams than for in-office groups. Distributed teams can have a harder time bonding with co-workers and feeling connected to the company vision, both of which are critical to productivity and satisfaction. Ask the candidates why they are interested in your company. Have your teammates share what they love about their jobs and the company. Talk about the ways you keep the team connected and aligned. Be honest about what types of employees are most successful, and what you expect employees to bring beyond the technical job description.Culture is important, but so is diversity. Looking for cultural fit has to be tempered against any biases we bring to the hiring process. Use a scorecard for hiring criteria to compare candidates as objectively as possible. Avoid broad terms on the scorecard like "Coding Skill," and use the languages that are most important for the job; instead of "Cultural Fit," score on specific core values like "Passion." Have each member of the interview team score candidates independently to minimize groupthink.Look at the Bright SideBuilding a team of remote engineers is challenging, but it also brings opportunities. You have access to more talent, and multiple studies have found that remote workers are more satisfied with their jobs. Distributed teams are also often more productive because they are interrupted less, don't have the stress of a commute, and can more conveniently address personal needs. Remote work can also save employers money by reducing the need for office space and infrastructure. A recent survey by Gartner found that 74% of CFOs plan to make many roles permanently remote even after the COVID-19 crisis.Consider AlternativesStaff augmentation is an alternative to hiring permanent employees that many software businesses are turning to as a hedge against an uncertain economy. Staff augmentation firms that specialize in software engineering maintain networks of experienced developers from regions of the world where talent is abundant, but the opportunity is not. The firms recruit, assess, match, and handle all payroll and HR responsibilities for engineers that are fully embedded with your team. With this model, you get a proven, full-time developer without the overhead or financial risk of a permanent hire. Unlike traditional project outsourcing, staff augmentation firms are accountable to you, and you maintain control over the work, schedules, and roadmaps. It can be an ideal solution when you need senior resources with the flexibility to scale up or down.Andela has provided software engineering staff augmentation services for hundreds of businesses. To learn more about how our partners have transitioned to augmented, distributed teams, download the e-book, "Making the Shift: Experts Share How to Rapidly Build and Scale Distributed Teams".

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