What You Need to Know About Hiring Remote Engineers in the Age of COVID-19

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Over the last month, we’ve seen a dramatic shift away from traditional work settings as companies have had to transition to fully remote operations. In addition to adjusting workflows and company policies for a remote world, organizations must also adapt their recruiting strategies for this new business environment.

With engineers being in particularly high demand, it’s especially important for organizations to get their hiring processes right when engaging these candidates. There’s little room for trial and error.

When recruiting engineers remotely, organizations should keep the following considerations in mind:

1. Overcommunication Is Key

Seventeen percent of employees believe remote work does not allow for normal communication and collaboration with coworkers. As a result, companies have to encourage overcommunication to ensure bases are covered and vital information is being shared.

Extra communication is that much more important when hiring remote engineers in particular. A software engineer’s job, by its very nature, requires working across many parts of the company. Engineers must engage collaborators in product management, support, operations, sales, and other departments in order to ensure the products they deliver meet the needs of everyone involved.

In a typical office setting, a software engineer can easily address a problem by physically meeting up with the teams involved. When working remotely, however, they just don’t have that luxury. That’s why overcommunication is key: It keeps the conversation flowing and ensures issues do not fall by the wayside.

In terms of the recruiting process itself, a company should overcommunicate expectations to engineering candidates. Companies must be exceptionally precise in describing projects, roles, and workflows so that potential engineering hires can readily understand the level of day-to-day support they will encounter. New remote hires don’t want to join a company where they’d be sequestered away without much insight into what’s going on in other departments. That would hinder their ability to successfully deliver on projects.

2. Community > Money

Engineering is one the best-paying occupations, but a good salary is not enough to keep an engineer on board. In fact, one Glassdoor survey found that more than half of engineers would actually take a pay cut in exchange for a job at a company with a great culture.

Establishing a sense of community is especially important for remote engineers, who may be prone to feeling isolated based on the nature of their work arrangements. Engineering work often requires long periods of isolated focus, and even during their downtime, remote engineers can only access their colleagues virtually. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to find ways to bring everyone together for communal events to build camaraderie.

During the recruiting process, it helps to emphasize the kind of community your company can offer a remote engineer. Explain to them who their teammates will be, who their mentors will be, and how they will connect with their colleagues regularly despite the distance.

3. Check Your Biases

Unconscious biases can pose a problem in any hiring process, including a fully remote one. Even in the absence of a physical meeting with a candidate, a hiring manager could subconsciously make a hiring decision based on discriminatory and irrelevant criteria. For example, if a hiring manager’s idea of a “great engineer” is a male candidate, they’ll be likely to hire a male applicant — even if there are female candidates who fit the role better.

When hiring remote engineers, it’s important to leverage tools like coding tests to screen a candidate’s aptitude for engineering without factoring in extraneous characteristics like gender, age, or race. Such screening tools allow a company to assess candidates and make hiring decisions on criteria that really matter.

Furthermore, these assessments can give the hiring manager an understanding of a candidate’s behavioral and work patterns, which is valuable information for a remote role. Remote engineers will have more autonomy over their tasks than in-office engineers would, so it’s important the company establishes the right kinds of supports to ensure the new hire stays on track. Understanding how a candidate likes to work will be critical to setting them up for success.

When recruiting an engineer, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that always delivers the best outcomes. Different companies, projects, and roles will require different kinds of engineers.

However, it’s important to follow some standard best practices to ensure the hiring process runs smoothly and efficiently — especially when hiring remotely. To stand out from competitors in this new hiring landscape, companies need to think outside the box. Overcommunicate, emphasize community, and be open to all kinds of engineering candidates. Doing so will position your team to secure the best candidates on the market today.

Natalia Panowicz is the CEO of Codility.

By Natalia Panowicz