Hiring, and Being Hired in the Distributed Workspace

With remote work opportunities becoming more and more common, we see an increasing number of both remote jobs and applicants. What is the best way to look for talent, when you’re not limited by geographic boundaries? As an applicant, what should you expect from potential employers when looking for a remote job?


Esther Lee: All right. I think we're recording. Hey, everybody. Welcome to hiring, and being hired in the distributed workspace. This session was accepted for DrupalCon Minneapolis which has now become DrupalCon global. Thanks for joining to learn more on this topic with me. My name is Esther Lee. Nice to meet you. I just thought I would talk a little bit about why I decided to submit this session and my credentials as well. I currently hold the society of human resources certified professional certification. I just got my bachelor's degree in human resource management this year. I have over a decade of experience working and hiring in the distributed workspace.

I am currently the manager of people operations at Chromatic, a completely distributed company with team members throughout the world. Here we are, the chromatic team 2020. There I am right there. Nice to see you. A little bit about why I decided to share about this topic. I decided to present this idea for a session because for a couple of reasons. I have a fair amount of experience with it over a decade. Secondly, more and more companies are offering a distributed option if not going completely distributed and I wanted to share some info on the topic, maybe even give a little insight into what companies look for when hiring for distributed positions.

Lastly, I want to hear from you. This session is just through one person's perspective. Let me know if you have anything to add or questions to ask. If you're wondering if you're in the right place, you are. This session is for everyone, anyone who's part of a hiring team or potential job applicants, which we probably have all found ourselves at one point or another in our life. You'll get the most out of the session by being familiar or interested in hiring processes, job applications, and even general resume construction.

Firstly before I jump in, I just wanted to address verbiage. You'll hear me use the term distributed instead of remote, virtual, or digital. To me remote means far away or removed from and I believe that if you're doing it right you'll actually feel more connected working on a distributed team than in a brick and mortar office building. I shy away from saying virtual or distributed just because those terms imply that something isn't real. Distributed work though it's so often lived in a computer, it's definitely real. Whatever term you want to use is great, whatever term anyone else wants to use is great, this is just what I prefer and why you'll hear me saying distributed.

All right, let's dive in. The way this session will roll is first we'll address a few topics for hiring managers or hiring team. Secondly, we'll touch on distributed hiring processes. Then we'll turn an eye to the job seekers with an overview of job applications, and end by touching on the topic of resumes. Hiring team. A hiring team consists of anyone who will be making contact with the applicant. It's typically led by a member of the human resources department who is the one that usually handles correspondence applicants among other duties. Usually, whomever the position will report to is involved in vetting applications and interviewing with the HR lead.

Also, I personally like to see a member of the team that currently has this role be involved in interviews or maybe code review. However, if this is a new role, then someone that they will work closely with suffices, and lastly, at least one executive decision-maker will probably be part of the hiring team. This person might be part of the final interview most likely before an offer is sent.

Where to post? Over time I have seen a myriad of job boards devoted to distributed teams come to fruition. Here are some well-known sites. We Work Remotely, Remote OK, Remote.co, or Remotive. There are probably more. These are just the first ones that jump to mind and of course, there are other job boards that aren't completely catered towards working from home that have the option to filter to distributed jobs. FlexJobs, ZipRecruiter, or Stack Overflow are good examples of these among others. Since we're in the technology realm, at Chromatic we use tech- centered sites in addition to these others.

Some of my personal favorites include People of Color in Tech, Women Who Code, Diversify Tech, Authentic Jobs, and Dribble. Of course, when we're looking for a Drupal specific team member, we make sure to post the job on Drupal jobs board. You may notice that I'm leaving out the typical or maybe no-brainer places such as LinkedIn, Monster, and Glassdoor. I know these are typical places to post your job, but I have found more success posting to job boards that are specific in one way or another.

Job boards specifically devoted to distributed companies mean you'll find someone who really wants to work in this way or has experience doing so. Job boards specifically devoted to a diverse audience an underrepresented group means you'll have a much more diverse pool of applicants. Job boards devoted to designers or developers means you'll get your posting in front of the right audience if that's the role that you are hiring for.

I also want to mention referrals which I believe is a wonderful way to look for talent when you're not limited by geographic boundaries. Ask your team if they know anyone who would be a good fit. Ask your colleagues if they know of anyone looking, put it out there on Twitter or Linkedin. I have had such success hiring stellar candidates that were referrals, but I decided there had to be some statistics around this and I was right. Referrals are the leading source of superior candidates for 88% of employers. Forbes.com tells us referred candidates are a better culture fit than those hired through other sources and retention rates for referrals are much higher than the rates for other employees. Companies, let it be known that you're hiring, and for job seekers, let it be known that you're looking.

Quality applicant. You've posted your job on all the job boards and you're beginning to see candidates rolling in. How do you distinguish good applicants from all the others? Well, here are a few things that come to mind. A good applicant is someone who obviously spent time on their application. Every field is filled out, the resume looks good, the cover letter is personalized. A good applicant completes the entire application and includes what is asked. Maybe you are asking for a cover letter, maybe you're asking for code samples, maybe you're asking for a link to a portfolio.

If something is presented as optional, do it. It's your first chance to show that you'll go extra mile. I'm talking to the job seekers here. Now I have seen some job postings include Easter eggs such as include the word blue in your cover letter to see if applicants are reading the whole job posting. Do, do read the whole posting. A good applicant is an excellent communicator, friendly, and concise. Don't speak all in jargon, personality comes through, and simply is telling me something not just filling space on the application. A good applicant has an easy to read resume. More on this later. A good applicant meets most qualifications. Notice I did not say, "all qualifications."

If you're only focused on an applicant checking off the boxes, you could miss out on a potentially awesome team member who would just have to learn a few things in the role. To my job seekers, apply, take the risk, you may be exactly what a company is looking for even though you don't have experience with every single thing on the requirements list. Now that is what companies are looking for in their applicants, what are candidates looking for. We could go pretty deep on this and talk about culture, diversity, benefits, et cetera., but let's just keep it to the hiring process.

Candidates want to see a clear application that outlines job duties and requirements. Specific examples are extremely helpful here so candidates can get an idea of what the day-to-day entails. You want to encourage candidates, not discourage them from applying. A friendly encouraging voice never hurts. For many applicants, this may be the first time they've been introduced to your company. You can make it a really good experience from the very good goal and that's what candidates are looking for. I know this next phrase may not make sense, but I call it specifics and leniency.

Of all the job requirements you've listed, be specific about what you have leniency on. If you are asking for a candidate that's familiar with QuickBooks, but experience with Wave would suffice, say so. If you are asking for a developer with a degree in computer engineering, but five years developing experience would suffice, say so. If you outline specifics without leniency, applicants will take you by your word. If they don't have those requirements, meet those requirements, they won't apply. However, if you only use Drupal and specifically need applicants with this knowledge, be clear about that as well.

Distributed work by its very nature means that communication is important. Not only are we looking for applicants who communicate well but companies need to return the favor and exercise excellent communication skills, response time to emails, getting a response at all, tone of written voice, which I mentioned before are all traits of a company that communicates well.

Lastly, candidates want to converse with a company that respects their time. Be honest and transparent about the process and where each candidate stands in it. If someone isn't going to work out let them know as soon as you know and try to give a reason why, it's super helpful. If the job has been filled, let them know. If they are a top candidate, let them know. Basically treat each application as if there's a human on the other end because there is.

Distributed hiring process. In my experience, every company does this a little bit differently and I would love to hear what your company does, but typically for a distributed company, this is the process that I've seen follow. A candidate applies, and they receive an email confirmation that their application was received. If it seems like a good fit they may meet with a member of the hiring team for an initial meet and greet or they may be asked a few questions or given a test in which they will write their responses.

One company I know of has a first interview completely in Slack, which is a great way to gauge written communication skills. Some companies just skip straight to the interviews. Interviews are meant for both companies and applicants to ask questions to see if they are a good fit for each other. Sometimes in a distributed company, you'll see interviews done by video especially if your role will be a client-facing one. It's a great way to meet when logistics don't make that a possibility. I no longer see meeting in person as a necessity to be hired for distributed work. However, if logistics prove easy then why not meet up with somebody that you might be working with.

On the interviews is when you'll hopefully meet the person this position reports to, a team member in this role or who will be working closely with you and eventually a member of the executive team. If you've made it this far in the process, you're probably a top candidate for the position and expecting a job offer isn't unrealistic. If a candidate didn't make it this far in the process, hopefully, the company has sent a thoughtful email as to why. Truly it's not that different a process than in a physical location but it all happens online.

Job seekers, let's discuss how to apply for multiple jobs efficiently. Firstly create a solid resume aimed towards the role you want. You do not need to customize it for each company unless of course, you want to. The cover letter should be included and it should be customized to each company. Again, one person's opinion here but this is what I have seen really work. You can create a cover letter template that you can easily customize. The first paragraph might be the same on all of them, but do take a few sentences to speak to what attracted you to each individual company and why you think you're a good match for the role. I have found it helpful when applying for several jobs at once to track them in a spreadsheet. Not only will you be able to quickly see where you've applied, but exactly what stage you're at, who you've talked to in each application, this is also a good place to see your efforts compiled. Often when applying for jobs you might not see much action at first while the company reviews candidates, so a spreadsheet will be your motivation that things are happening, progress is being made.

Prompt communication, as you've probably noticed, communication is a crucial part of distributed work. By replying promptly to companies you ensure that number one, you are not a blocker in the process, number two, the company knows you're fully invested and interested in the role, and three, it's easier to keep track of where you're at with each company in your spreadsheet when you're not waiting on reply.

Next, let's talk about what hiring managers expect from a good applicant. Does this look familiar? I've already outlined this on what companies are looking for in quality applicants. Really it's the same thing to be a quality applicant. Spend time on your application. Really, you can tell when someone just rushes through and just wants to get applied or if they've actually spent time to think about the questions. Complete the entire application. Include what is asked. If they're asking for code samples; if they're asking for your portfolio, a link to your portfolio. If they're asking they have a reason and I would not treat it as optional.

Be an excellent communicator, thoughtful responses. I oftentimes compose an email walk away from it for an hour or so and then come back and make sure it's saying what I really want it to be saying. Easy to read resume, we can talk about that soon. Remember you just need to meet most qualifications, you do not have to meet all qualifications.

If you've ever looked for a job you know that searching, applying, and interviewing is almost a job unto itself. As far as job applications go here is some advice that I hope is helpful. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, look for multiple jobs that you're interested in.

I mentioned a few times that a quality candidate meets most requirements. No hiring manager is expecting for a candidate to hit every single check box. Just apply liberally, just apply, get your name out there. You have to decide what your time is worth as you apply for jobs. I never like to see when candidates are asked to spend a lot of time on an unpaid test project. This really says something about the company you're applying for. If the company is asking for hours of your time before you're even hired, consider what that might mean after you're hired. Remember you've applied for a job to find out more about the job and the company, it may not be a good fit.

You're interviewing the company as well as they're interviewing you and it's okay if you decide that that's not the place for you or if they decide that you're not a great fit for each other. It takes time and effort to find a great fit but you can do it. I often think you can find anything on the internet these days. A SpongeBob meme for every occasion, yes. A job you're excited about and can excel in, it's there too.

Resumes. General resume construction, one to two pages I would say at most. As somebody who reads resumes for a living, anything more than that and you're probably going to lose my interest a little bit. Be clear and concise. This is the first impression that you get to make for this company. You don't need to add too much detail, you can discuss specifics later. It's actually, I believe, more helpful just to list the skills that you are strong in or have experience in instead of diving in to specifics about each job that you've held.

I would also say no need to list references on your resume. Again, that can come later in the process. I would discourage people from putting a headshot. You should use the space on your resume to sell yourself in your abilities rather than your appearance, but I would say yes to graphics. Use the opportunity to show your personality and make your resume stand out.

I really hope this goes inside but I'm going to say anyways. Please no grammatical errors on a resume. It shows a lack of attention to detail or that you hurried or didn't take the time to put something thoughtful together. Have somebody review your resume. I'm happy to look your resume over and make suggestions but please, know what I'm saying here and if I were to review your resume, I'm just one person. If your resume feels authentic to who you are, that trumps anything else that I have said here.

Quick recap. If you take one thing away from the session, let it be the importance of communication. A crucial skill at any distributed company, I would even say it's the most important thing about hiring or being hired in a distributed workspace. For companies, it's how you present your company, and for job seekers, it's how you present yourself. Keep it clear, professional, friendly, and remember there is a human on the other end.

I firmly believe that distributed is the future and the future is now. We are seeing more and more companies entering the distributed workspace. That said on the flip side, hey, working in a distributed fashion isn't for everyone and that's fine. Find the way that works best for you and rock it.

Thank you so much for joining me today for a brief foray into hiring and being hired in the distributed workspace. I would love to hear from you with any questions, suggestions, more in-depth conversations. Here is my contact information you can find me esther@chromatichq.com. Here is Chromatic's contact information. We're easy to find. You can find anything on the internet. We have a LinkedIn, Twitter, and of course all the other usual avenues. Have a wonderful day and good luck in your hiring journey.

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