How to Improve Your Remote Hiring Process

by Ali Gordon

Across the globe, the COVID19 pandemic has catapulted companies into the future. Whether through video conferencing or virtual onboarding, employers have been expected to adapt to a range of remote work dynamics that have changed management styles, interpersonal co-working scenarios, and even business branding. Projections suggest that will continue.

Work from home is now a fundamental expectation for workers in many industries, according to global communications expert Ashira Prossack: 97% of employees don’t want to return to an office model, 74% expect remote work to become the norm, and 61% of employees prefer full-time remote work. In fact, Prossack reports that if an employer does not offer a remote option at this point, most top candidates will turn down the company for another role that does.

Companies who hope to stand out must not only offer remote work options, but they must demonstrate to candidates that they have the technological and interpersonal infrastructure to support employees working from home. One of the best ways to build this relationship is by having a strong remote hiring process to attract, vet, and onboard the right candidates. 

Step #1: Check the Tech

Whether a recruiting firm or small business, companies trying to hire remotely must start with having the right technology in place for the application, interview, and onboarding process. Many companies haphazardly cobbled together tech tools to survive the pandemic, but as many states transition to open environments, it’s important for businesses across the U.S. to assess the tools they have in place. Are they right for future, long term needs? 

For example, are online applications served on an easy-to-use tool with quality load times and multilingual features? Can the application be viewed on a desktop, smart phone, and other digital platforms clearly? If companies intend to move to a remote hiring model long term, they need to make sure their digital application process is streamlined, clear, and consistently updated to attract the broadest range of applicants.

In addition to needing the right technology for the application process, companies should also ensure they have a smooth background check process. Can prospects easily provide consent for the check? On the back end of the check, a high tech, high touch process that pairs updated tools with personalized verification can help an employer more clearly understand the different candidates in front of them. Especially when remote hiring, a high quality background check process with a reliable company is essential. Remote hiring procedures also need a clear way for candidates to dispute the results of a background check, if needed. 

Lastly, companies should assess the video or other technology they have in place for interviewing and onboarding. If a company hastily selected tools during the pandemic, now is a good time to step back and consider if the correct tools are being used for a given industry: 

  1. Is it private enough? 
  2. Is the interview scheduling technology easy to use, even across time zones?
  3. Does the tech have the kinds of features needed for candidates to review information later, if needed? 
  4. Does it have inclusive features for different candidates' needs, such as closed captioning?
  5. Does it have interactive elements that can help transcend the 2-dimensional aspects of a video interview and give a company a more well-rounded view of candidates? 
  6. Were there problems over the last year that should now be addressed and perhaps guide the selection of new tech tools for interviewing and onboarding?

Companies can put their current teams through mock hiring processes to run trials of each phase of the process technologically. The goal should be to identify and remove any technological barriers that may turn applicants away in the process. 

Step #2: Use Subjective and Objective Hiring Metrics for a Holistic Picture

One of the most difficult parts of remote hiring is the loss of in-person interactions. Digital contexts can diminish more typical human communication patterns that often indicate a lot about a candidate. In fact, experts suggest that 90% of human interactions use nonverbal communication to make connections and exchange information; much of this can be lost in a remote hiring process. 

But even this part of remote hiring can be improved. Background checks should be used uniformly across all candidates, and assessments or metrics can also be standardized to rank candidates more consistently. Talent platform The McQuaig Institute offers: 

“[In] a remote context, many of the tools or tricks we rely on to gain a deeper understanding of others are limited. One way to get around this problem is with the use of assessments. Assessments are a great way of collecting unbiased insights into your candidate’s personality, cognitive, and behavioural attributes that can then be used to inform which interview questions to ask. This saves busy managers time and keeps the interview focused on the most important topics. Better yet, they also provide the hiring manager with a fair benchmark to compare candidates against, even if it has to happen virtually.”

However, it’s also important for employers to recognize that interpersonal dynamics on-screen can be even more subjective and make a significant impact on the likeability of a candidate in the eyes of an interviewer. Grant space for ways candidates may not fit a typical mold and can bring something new to a company outside of whatever more objective or standardized metrics may be put in place. For example, employers should understand that candidates will perform with different comfort levels in an on-screen process and give ample opportunity for them to prove themselves both during an interview and beyond it. 

As candidates and employers alike learn new, long term workforce dynamics, it’s important to ensure the hiring experience gives prospects the best chance of success: companies must account for personality styles, disabilities, neurodivergence, and other aspects that show up differently and in more amplified ways in a digital context. Consider what might make a digital interview unnecessarily inequitable or challenging. Use post-interview project assignments, detailed notes, and other creative tactics to gain a clearer picture of a candidate overall.  Ask if both the subjective and objective aspects of the process set candidates up for success.

Step #3: Properly Prep the Hiring Team

Hiring and human resources teams across the country brilliantly navigated the peak of the pandemic in the U.S., but now is a good time to make sure these teams are truly prepared for sustained remote hiring. Companies should take a review of their hiring process and the concerns their teams had during each phase. What worked, and what didn’t? Can changes be made now to improve these processes?

Additionally, hiring teams should take stock of the length, questions, and other dynamics throughout the process. Talent management strategist Meghan M. Biro suggests

[Own] the remote interview process: upgrade the tech and test it in advance; organize the interview and script out questions. If the interview involves multiple people, choreograph and script that carefully. If you’re leading a hiring team, make sure they have the tools and the training to ace the remote interview process. The experience of an interview, particularly when there is no chance of going to the actual workplace, counts tremendously. Mediocre, awkward, tedious interviews will transmit the message that the work culture at this prospective employer is likely lacking.”

In addition to prepping the hiring team or human resources department, companies should also consider integrating the candidate’s would-be work team into the hiring process. For example, if a role is in the finance department, the interview process should include members of the finance team or whoever the candidate would work with directly in the role. 

While this extra step may take a bit more collaboration, it can ultimately help break down barriers by drawing insight from future team members about the candidate. If employers broaden their understanding of what constitutes “the hiring team” and prepare them for interviews and onboarding accordingly, they will also gain a stronger understanding of the fit of future employees.

Step #4: Express Company Values Clearly 

The remote hiring process should not compromise on expressing a company’s values. If anything, this process demands more from employers, not just candidates. Companies should use the remote process to help candidates clearly understand what makes a good fit for their team. The consequences of a lack of transparency on the company’s part will be even more pronounced in remote hiring. 

Beyond the technical aspects of a specific job, companies should share the overall experience of working with their company and the values that drive their internal culture. Use the remote hiring process to do this: for example, the timeliness and experience of a digital interview process can demonstrate whether or not a company respects candidates’ time, or whether they will encroach on it and set unrealistic expectations when an employee is working from home. A company can also demonstrate listening, clear follow up, and other communication skills to set the precedent for what interactions an employee should expect. 

Whatever a company’s values, they should strive to express these clearly to a candidate all throughout the remote hiring process. Prioritizing a candidates’ experiences from the technological aspects to the interview to a hiring team dynamics can set a solid foundation for how employees can expect to be treated if brought onto the team. Companies that work to improve their remote hiring processes and pay attention to all these details will reap the rewards of a strong, efficient team later on.  

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