Hiring remotely during COVID

Lachy Gray, 3 min read

Hiring remotely during COVID

We recently hired a new Customer Success Manager. It was the first time we've hired someone fully remotely and without meeting them face to face! We learned a lot along the way, that I thought someone considering hiring remotely may benefit from.

Our old hiring process

It used to be based around three interviews:

  • Interview one - on Zoom with the hiring team lead
  • Interview two - in person with two Yarnoers
  • Interview three - in person with two Yarnoers, and the opportunity to meet other Yarnoers in the office on that day


The first interview on Zoom was all about culture and values fit. Did we think the applicant was a good fit for Yarno and what we believe in?

The second interview was in-person and was a two hour deep dive into the applicant's career, the various roles they held, how they rated their performance and how they thought their manager (usually a reference) would rate their performance. We'd also run through various competencies that we felt were most applicable to the role, along with role specific questions.

The third interview was in person and was an opportunity to dive deeper into the role itself and to give the applicant and the wider team the opportunity to meet each other.

This process had worked fine for us - until COVID hit.

Our new remote hiring process

Hiring in August and September in the middle of lockdowns meant we needed to switch things up! No longer could we meet applicants in person. Though we were determined to adapt and ideally improve our process to the new way of working.

So we modified our process and moved it all onto Zoom:

  • Interview one - on Zoom with the hiring team lead
  • Interview two - on Zoom with two Yarnoers
  • Interview three - a role specific presentation on Zoom to the wider Yarno team


While initially apprehensive about the loss of face to face communication during the process, I came to see some benefits over our old process.

  1. It was significantly easier to find time in everyone's respective calendars for interviews, when travel time wasn't a factor.
  2. We recorded each Zoom interview (with the applicant's permission), to give other Yarnoers the opportunity to watch it and as a way to give ourselves feedback on our interviewing. I discovered I say "um" far more often than I realise.


At Yarno we talk often about bias in the hiring process and ways we can minimise it. Things we tried in the new hiring process to minimise bias included:

  1. Asking each applicant to answer four written questions and to write a 250 word story when they apply. Then one Yarnoer, usually me, went in and pasted each answer into a Numbers doc. I'd then ask a small group of Yarnoers to review just the answers and rate them against two criteria: suitability for the role and suitability for Yarno. One big difference is before asking other Yarnoers to review, I'd hide all columns in the Numbers doc that contained any applicant info that could identify them such as name, email etc. So Yarnoers were reviewing answers only and knew nothing else about each applicant. They were effectively reviewing 'blind'.
  2. Listening to the audio recording of a Zoom interview first, and then the video recording.  The thinking here was that when you're only listening to audio you concentrate on the applicant's tone of voice, what's being said and how it's said, without any visually distracting inputs such as what the applicant's wearing, what's in the background of their camera etc. I personally found this an unexpectedly positive outcome.

Learnings

Overall the new hiring process worked well, and we found Dale Shaw!
Listening and watching the Zoom recordings was a level up, as was reviewing question answers with no personally identifiable info. Reviewing an applicant's written responses knowing nothing about them is kind of liberating, in that you're forming an opinion based on what they write and how they write it. Effective writing skills are critical to our Customer Success Managers.

We had 5 x the volume of applicants that we've had in the past, which put pressure on our manual process of copy/pasting answers in Numbers. Next time round I'm looking at using Asana to track applicants progress through the hiring process.

We've talked about introducing interview three - the role specific presentation earlier on in the process, since having it as the last step caught us out a few times when an applicant was a strong cultural and experience fit yet wasn't able to present and answer questions of the team at the level that we needed.


Lachy Gray

Lachy's our Managing Director. He's our resident rationalist and ideas man. He also reads way too many books for our liking.

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