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Five Best Practices for Remote Interviewing

Interviewing

Ah, the remote interview. To some, it’s a welcome time-saver, while to others it’s an awkward audition made worse by an inevitable lag or mic delay. Could you be doing them better? For most of us, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’

But whether we like it or not, let’s face it: Remote interviewing is here to stay. And even when an employer and prospective employee may be several time zones apart, there shouldn’t need to be a low bar for getting to know and evaluating new team members. 

Although the world of remote work and remote interviews are still new to some, there are always critical positions to fill and core functions that need to be performed. So how can you really nail remote technical hiring? We’ve put together the best practices from 2.5M+ remote interviews on the CoderPad platform — here’s what we found.  

1. Communicate with remote coders every step of the way

Global pandemic or not, coder interviews can be an anxiety-inducing process for candidates. Help them out by communicating thoroughly at every stage of the process – from mapping things out ahead of time to telling them what’s happening behind the scenes when they’re not in the office to see it.

Before you formally kick-off, try to give them a comprehensive overview of what to expect, including:

  • Length and number of remote interviews
  • What technology will be used (ideally, a CoderPad remote interview)
  • Who will participate in the interviews and what their respective roles are in the org
  • The timeline for next steps and making decisions

You can also help them get more comfortable by sending candidates a link to CoderPad’s Sandbox ahead of time — this way, they can even get a sense of how the interview environment will function on their end. In general, you should try to anticipate the issues that are uncomfortable for candidates and actively encourage them to ask questions and collaborate with their interviewers. 

And finally, though they should know you’ll be laser-focused, be sure to make it clear you’ll be taking notes and, thus, staring right at them via webcam (not playing solitaire in another tab or counting how many times they blink).  

2. Pick up the phone and put down your (unintentional) bias

If you’re hiring for an office job, your default mechanism for remote hiring might be Webex, Zoom, or Skype. Those are great tools, but making them part of the first step can also bias your process —  not every candidate has a personal computer/smartphone, reliable WiFi, and a quiet (perhaps beautifully decorated) space that they feel comfortable showing to a prospective interviewer. 

Research shows that people of color, those who live in rural areas, and older individuals have less access to home-based broadband, for example.

Do you want the most talented candidates? Of course you do. So start the process with a simple, old-fashioned call. Use this time to dig deep on the critical stuff: salary expectations, ability to work remotely today, what they want with their next role, and more. You can also work out the feasibility and details of conducting the next phase on video in a way that suits the candidate. Maybe it’s reassuring them that, yes, calling from their bedroom isn’t a disqualifier. Do what you can to remove any barriers.

3. Dive deeper and show all your work

After the initial phone screening, it’s time to do a deeper dive with promising candidates. Because most of us still rely on in-person interaction to give us a gut feel, we need to retrain ourselves for a fully remote process. This requires some creativity. 

If you’re used to seeing if a sales rep has a distinct presence via an in-person pitch, then give them the background to prepare and do one over video. Another idea could be having them do a remote demo of something in their homes they’re trying to “sell” you. If your go-to is working side by side with a PM to wireframe a product, use collaborative tools to reach the same result. And if you’re scheduling a coder interview, make sure you provide a fully interactive IDE.

Remember, you always have options:

  • Ask them to present work from a side gig or previous position to you
  • Prior to a CoderPad remote interview, give candidates a reasonable take-home project with a business-relevant problem and have them share the solution
  • Give them a chance to critique another person’s work and assess their ability to be empathetic while still making useful observations and suggestions

4. Set candidates — and yourself — up for success

Nowadays, tools are an essential part of the remote interviewing process. For documenting and organizing ideas, we like Trello and Mural. For developers’ interviews, we’re a little (ok, very) biased, but we strongly recommend CoderPad remote interviews.

As an interviewer yourself, don’t forget to come well-prepared and make use of all available resources. With CoderPad, you can access the Question Library to have your frequently-used questions in one place and have them ready ahead of time. You can also use create your own MySQL and PostgreSQL databases for candidates to query with the CoderPad Custom Databases Guide.

Whatever technical system you’re using, though, it’s crucial to remember that know it’s very uncool—and, frankly, unfair—to spring a brand new platform on a candidate for the first time in an interview. During coder interviews, for example, send them a link to practice in a sandbox environment ahead of time. Let them do the installs and configuration on their own time so they’re comfortable with the tool. You want them to feel comfortable so they can show you what they can really do – not try to figure out the remote pad and address the problem you’ve asked them to solve in a 30-minute time slot.

5. Embrace new hiring models

Remote hiring means you won’t necessarily feel the level of confidence you’re used to following in-person assessments. At the final stage, you can always try alternatives. Here at CoderPad, for instance, we’re doing paid “trial employee” periods with our new technical hires because day-to-day performance is what matters most to us. You might do a three-month, contract-to-hire option – or, depending on the role, a final 30-minute call with a senior leader might do the trick.

This is new for everyone, companies and candidates alike. For candidates, free kombucha, a fun office, and foosball are no longer selling points; they’re more or less irrelevant, at least for now. Candidates are still putting their best foot forward, so it’s time for you to find ways to do the same. Elevate the value of the work your company is doing, showcase the amazing team that a dream candidate would join, and the impact of the role itself. It’s the meaning behind what you do that will matter most to prospective employees.

Remember: good candidates want to know they will be valuable to — and valued by — the company they are joining, even if they will be delivering that value from a distance. Set the tone early with a killer remote coder interview process.