Hiring strategies for the newly remote-first organisation

3 minute read
Remote 1 column

We went fully remote in March 2020, and revisited our work strategy to suit changing times and workplace systems.

As hiring began, however, we faced fresh challenges that also called for tweaks and overhauls. We could no longer rely on physical processes—including the day that applicants spent at Obvious— to give us a sense of values fit.

That said, we've got the hang of hiring for a remote economy enough to share our methods, in the hopes that you find them helpful. These aren't set in stone—and they change with every team— but they've worked well enough so far for us!

Check for value alignment first

Upon receiving applications, we ask applicants for a video conversation to align interests and values. If things look good, this leads to the next rounds of technical interviews. This order of things helps reduce the top of the funnel and leads to deeper intentional conversations. These examples are meant to give you an idea of what can help gauge intent and values alignment:

  1. What about Obvious is making you keen to work with us?
  2. What is the notice period you're on?
  3. Tell us under what monetary value would this conversation stop being viable for you, to avoid last minute surprises of suitability of our remuneration offer?
  4. What are belief systems guiding you as you look for your next assignment?
  5. What would make an organisation unexciting for you?

Pack interviews into one day

In an hour, it is possible to meet four people online. This would not be possible in the physical office space given the many considerations, including traffic, distances and meeting spaces.

Applicants are more likely to confirm a 30-minute time availability for the next day on a call than they are in person. It helps to set aside a day for interviews only, so that your other tasks don't suffer, and you're able to maintain the right mindset.

This crunching of time resulted in a faster set of hires in a short period of time, with less time spent by the hiring team.

Engage in more bias-conscious interviewing

As interviewers, we are aware of body language cues being lost on calls. Therefore, we put in conscious effort to be more bias-aware and ask sharp, neutral and respectful questions. Allowing for technology failures, lags and internet issues is part of the parcel.

Introduce them to the team beforehand

To increase the focus our craft and potential fit over the hiring cycle, we do back-to-back Zoom conversations over the course of half a day. This means that the conversations tend to get more focused; questions from applicants get sharper with time as they get used to different folks and interview patterns. We also offer a chance to talk to others in the team — we'd highly recommend this if candidates are to get a sense of life at the company as early as possible.

Make onboarding nice and easy

We try to mimic our real-world onboarding as much as possible to cinch a good hiring cycle. This entails a slow start to the first day, no presentations, a call system where the new person changes hands through the day. Pro tip: ensure the depth of the virtual onboarding makes our newest folk feel like they belong.

Our results so far

Our remote-first shift in hiring over the past few months has led to the following victories:

  • We have onboarded 14 people since March 2020.
  • 8 of the newly onboarded live in locations other than Bangalore.
  • 35% of our newer folks who moved to Bangalore in 2019 to early 2020 have relocated.
  • 40% of applicants in ongoing interviews say that they are now applying to us because we are remote-first.
  • 15% of applicants are from geographies outside India. We're working through the legalese of hiring from the international workforce remotely, and add another dimension to our visions for diversity.

It is almost a cliché to look back at the year and say, "We ended up stronger for having gone through all the strife", but it rings very true for us. When we look at this unusual year through the lens of teaming up and hiring, we see it as the year of expansiveness and more diversity with its fair share of challenges.

These numbers are indicative of a system that has made a quick recovery to suit the remote-first agenda, and is well on its way to eventually becoming a sturdy base to fall back on. Feel free to tweak them as you see fit — we'll probably do the same each time we encounter a fresh challenge. It's all part of the process of progress!