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I have recently started hiring for a couple of full-time remote roles.

Obviously, ~90% of candidates do not have any prior remote work experience. Moreover, given these roles are entry-level, ~40% of applicants do not even have in-office internships in their work experience.

Should I straightaway reject candidates who do not have any prior work experience as remote + first job would be too big a challenge?

Or should I choose the best person for the role from a skill perspective and not consider prior remote/ work experience? Tailoring their onboarding process is another problem in this case.

What do you say?


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    Hi Suvansh!

    That's a great question that I understand deeply.

    The solution is to figure out if the candidate has the needed remote work skills (or can acquire them easily). Not to throw out all of the candidates who have no proven remote work skills through remote experience, or ignoring the importance of those skills.

    ...

    Because it is undeniable that there are particular remote work skills that help people perform well in a remote work environment. For example:

    * Being a reliable person that delivers what is agreed;

    * Being a proactive person who asks questions and figures out how to make progress;

    * Knowing what communication channel is right for each communication goal.

    * Would this person enjoy working remotely - e.g. some extroverts have difficulties adjusting to the remote work environment.

    (not complete list)

    ...

    We wrote two blog posts about those skills and how to assess them:

    https://blog.remotemore.com/the-5-killer-job-interview-questions-for-hiring-remotely

    https://blog.remotemore.com/the-4-soft-skills-to-find-a-remote-job

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      This is very helpful, Boris! I really appreciate you sharing the list as well. I can see why my recent hire is not working out as she fails on 2 of the 3 items.

      The only problem I see now is that recent grads do not usually have any answers to these questions as they have no past experience. In such cases, do you think working with them for a month or so to check for a fit is the solution?

      P.S. is knowledge.remotemore.com up? I could not access a couple of links in the blogs - http://knowledge.remotemore.com/land-your-next-remote-job

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        You are welcome :-)

        A trial period is always recommended. For most companies, introducing trial periods of 2-4 weeks is the best way to improve their hiring process.

        The interviewing process essentially tries to minimize the unsuccessful trial periods. It is a trade-off: how much time to spend in the interviewing process vs. how often you would have a wrong choice discovered 2-4 weeks later.

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        For recent graduates:

        * Ask them if they have worked remotely (university group work also counts) - and what was their experience with it, what worked well, what didn't work well. Successful remote work experience is the best signal, so if they have this, it would be great.

        * "What do you think makes a remote team good" or "Why do you think you will be good at working remotely". This should give an idea of how much they know about remote work, and it is a great way to see their communication skills in action.

        * Communication skills - are they good at writing, are they good at expressing themselves. Look at their emails, CV, Cover letter, look at their expression during the interview.ย 

        * Organized/reliable - how do you keep yourself organized? How do you approach a goal that you have, e.g. finishing your university degree?

        * To be honest, usually I prefer hiring more introverted people for remote roles. Because often extroverts do not enjoy working remotely, and this makes them demotivated after about 6 months. So asking about hobbies helps to figure out the profile of the person.

        * Language skills - do they have the language skills to work with the rest of the team.

        * Work environment - do they have sufficiently good machine, internet, quiet environment etc. You can ask them where do they plan to work from.

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        Some of those knowledge.remotemore.com links we have stopped supporting. The one you're asking about is this file:

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/76i75xifzcy69if/The%20ultimate%20guide%20to%20finding%20your%20remote%20job.pdf?dl=0 - page 10 is probably the most interesting one for you

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          The unofficial guru of remote hiring at his best!

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            Thank you, Karthik :-)

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            This is great, Boris. Have incorporated the questions and the factors to consider in my hiring process now!

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              2-4 weeks probation seems extremely short, 3-6 months is common. But really you need to balance the impression that you will give someone a fair shot and that they don't stay on 'probation' too long.ย 

              Obviously in at-will employment countries you can terminate someone at any time anyway. Official probation policies are more about unions and actually not being able to dismiss someone without serious cause after probation.

              You do need to be okay with firing people who aren't working out well enough at any time.

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            These are great thoughts, Boris!ย 

            Honestly, I don't think that previous work experience is necessarily a great indicator of whether a person is suited to work remotely. In some instances it's easier to create totally new habits for people that have no work experience than it is for some to unlearn their non-remote habits.

            I'd also add that many of the ways you "work" during your studies resemble remote/async work way more than in-office work does (e.g. long form writeups, teaching yourself things on your own).ย 

            It's more a question of the fundamentals, which I think Boris nails in his reply.

            /Jakob

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              I'm glad to share learning ๐Ÿ™‚

              /Boris

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            I as a job seeker would prefer that you can train them as well on the remote working process parallely while they are doing their work, learning new skills and acquiring knowledge. If they have remote working skills then it is good to have that but still needs to be polished.ย 

            Also, Students or freshers are not trained on these things they are just running in the daily run, so giving them time to learn the required skills and then onboarding is good idea.

            Another way can be instead of hiring full time hire them as a intern see if they get adjusted in one month otherwise you can have other better options.

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              Good point. A trial period or hiring an intern is always the best option to mitigate the risks of a bad hire. But the drawback is it would consume a lot of time and resources that are often crucial for founders.

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                Thanks๐Ÿ˜€

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                You are right. Training and onboarding are a big part of the objectives for any new joiners for the first 2 months. The hiring process as Boris suggested needs to incorporate factors that assess their suitability for remote work.

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                  > Also, Students or freshers are not trained on these things they are just running in the daily run, so giving them time to learn the required skills and then onboarding is good idea. > >

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                  I agree, you should consider training the new employees in this.

                  For example, having internal guide on how to be successful when working remotely in this company.

                  It skills like any other skills.

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                  Of course, having a clear probation period combined with a concrete onboarding plan is quite crucial. Other than that you need to take a disciplinary practice to be set as a culture while better to look after self-organized people.

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                    Good point, Pouya.ย 

                    Having a clear probation period combined with a concrete onboarding plan is quite crucial

                    I have observed remote companies setting clear expectations right from the start of the interviewing process where they directly ask candidates if they can work hours that overlap with specific time zones, and sending status updates at the end of each day etc. This would make it much easier to determine if the person is able to work remotely.ย 

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                      > Other than that you need to take a disciplinary practice to be set as a culture while better to look after self-organized people.

                      Can you elaborate on this, Pouya? I have put in place practices where questions/ thoughts/ opinions are welcomed and shared on public channels rather than on DMs to ensure transparency. Are you suggesting something similar?

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                        It merely depends on the culture you have built and where you want to go to.

                        Taking demographic factors in place if any. However, you may need some so sort of alignment in all actions from daily stands up to weekly hearing/all-hands sessions.

                        I usually suggest common open hall/practices inter-functional be in longer time spans such as monthly while putting in-department practical hearing sessions in place in a more regular time span.

                        ย 

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                      I'd lean on "Experience in the role" being more important than "Experience working outside an office environment".

                      As somebody that's worked remotely for years now, but absolutely hated it to begin with, all it takes is making the effort to mentor and suggest ways to improve the remote working environment, and which systems/daily routines are important to implement.

                      Over time, the enjoyment factor went up for me and ultimately lead to me being more effective at the role I needed to play whilst working from home. ๐Ÿ’ช

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                        Good point, Michael. Remote working skills are transferable and can be honed over a period of time.
                        I took some time to settle into my remote role. But after getting accustomed to my new schedule and habits, I was able to reap the benefits of working remotely.ย 

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                          That's awesome you've managed to find a comfortable baseline! You can keep making it even nicer now ๐Ÿ™‚

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                          That's great to hear, Michael! I personally haven't heard a lot of such stories. Can you possibly share the ways that helped you transition? They would help me for sure.

                          Also, congratulations on 4+ years as an independent freelance developer :)

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                            Sure, happy to share and thank you!

                            When I began working from home the first time around, isolation and the blurriness between work/home eventually got to me at the end. My work desk that i'd spend 7-8 hours each day was 1m away from my bed, and i'd wake up every day just thinking about "work work work".

                            On top of this, the startup I was working for at the time wasn't going too well, promises never eventuated and was affecting me emotionally. I totally burnt out in the end.

                            After leaving the startup and freelancing, I worked out of a coworking space for a few yrs and learnt so many life lessons from the environment and people around me.

                            Eventually that passed its expiry date and I wanted to move back to working from home full time. Given the experiences I had learnt in the past, this time around I made a conscious effort to create an environment & system at home designed to keep me motivated and mentally fresh.

                            My desk is still 1m away from my bed, but now I go for daily walks without fail (of at least half hour - rain, wind, or shine), I have an electronic standing desk that I can adjust to stand when i'm feeling mentally dozy, monitor arms to allow me to freely rotate my two screens, and a LIFX light strip horizontally stuck along the backside of the table that creates and adjustable backlight on the wall behind my screens to reduce glare during the day and night.

                            These things have been so beneficial for establishing the correct environment/systems so I can be efficient & effective every day. (well most days at least!)

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                              Ohh that's great! Frankly, I never knew that having a set routine and a well-formulated work setup could be the difference between able to work remotely or not.ย 

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                            Well said, Michael.

                            I am curious how this would apply to devs. I usually look at previous projects than just professional experience (company, open-source >> personal). So you don't need to strictly work at a company, open-source projects worked at during college also count as 'experience in the role'. What do you think?

                            Also, I feel dev work is very aligned to independent working & hence, the transition to remote is a little easier. So there isn't a huge leap of faith when hiring a remote dev vs in office. Whereas for non-tech roles, remote might add in additional levels of complexity.

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                              Yeah, I do agree past projects count as proof of experience but how you work and gel in a team environment is also important.

                              But r.e. proof of experience, now's the perfect opportunity to be putting yourself out there to help others get a better read on you since we can't properly do this in person at an office or meetups. I'm trying to do this myself right now. ๐Ÿ™‚

                              I naturally agree with your point on transioning to a remote envionrment as a dev possibly being a little easlier, but it still has its own challenges. But this is based on my own experience.

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                                Super, makes sense. I am also keen to see if you would like to share a more detailed version of your story as part of our Monday newsletter. Dropping you an email about that right away ๐Ÿ˜€

                                Also, as Karthik said, eager to know how Focused Work is going. Already saw some amazing updates on Twitter ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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                                  Great points, Michael. Sorry to hijack the conversation but on an aside how is Focused Work doing?

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                                    It's being doing pretty well! Since launch the app averages 100-120 DAU which is really great, and retention rate is ~20% after 1 week and 15% after 2 weeks. That says the app has an element of stickiness to it, so I really need to work on making the app better and scale the DAU's. ๐Ÿ’ช

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                                      Amazing stats!

                                      Just a couple of questions, if you dont mind ๐Ÿ™

                                      1. Where are you getting new users from?

                                      2ย  Do you plan to make it paid sometime?

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                                        Mostly organically via the App Store, or if somebody finds me on Twitter since i'm regularly sharing what i'm working on. I haven't actively hustled since the launch month as I need to add more key features first.

                                        The app is free to download, but the app does offer the choice of a yearly subscription or lifetime purchase to unlock the Pro-tier features ๐Ÿ™‚

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                                          Amazing, totally crushing it! ๐Ÿ™Œ

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                              It depends on what the role you want to fill out is, generally, newbies with no experience required to work under strict supervision on his/her manager or supervisor to gain meaningful experience to be better at the job and also get ready to start making decisions on their own.

                              Since 2020 is not like any other year we have seen, almost everything is now done remotely. I will suggest you hire the best person on the list but make sure you deploy a very sophisticated remote tool in your organization to be sure you keep the newbie under strict supervision at least for the first 3months.

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                                The manager helping the new joiner makes sense. Though, am not an advocate of keeping anyone under supervision especially in a remote role. I feel that it fosters distrust and takes away the freedom that a remote worker needs.

                                The only supervision I intend to keep within my team is on output and performance metrics. So, after onboarding, the responsibility to come in and ask questions lies on the newbie and not on me as the manager.

                                I checked out Fexspace though. Seems to be an all-in-one collaboration tool for teams. Will give it a spin!