Remote Hiring and Communication Strategies to Increase Team Productivity

Vijay GillVivek Ravisankar

Vijay Gill, SVP of Engineering at RapidAPI, and Vivek Ravisankar, Co-founder/CEO at HackerRank, share modern-day hiring practices and communication strategies while working in a remote-first environment.

In the past ten years, the trending topic to discuss regarded companies transitioning to become software enterprises. During COVID, that changed as remote industries accelerated and the demand for developers increased; advancing the tech org into an unexplored environment.

Looking at the supply side of things, the number of active developers hit 65 million, increasing over the past three years and still expanding. Along with this large increase, companies began constructing their teams remotely, transforming the hiring process.

The increase in demand, supply, and the difference in team structure has led to a major reorganization in the company’s lifecycle. How enterprises source, screen, and interview talent has turned on its head, forcing companies to establish themselves within the hybrid landscape.

Balancing the Playing Field for Hybrid Teams

With teams now able to work worldwide, providing structure and clarity is key for the success of any team. To increase collaboration, motivation, and performance, leaders have been implementing a simple equality-based mindset revolving around the idea that: everybody should be on an even playing field.

The thing that really kills team cohesion and collaboration is the mindset of insider v.s. outsider team members. With hybrid working spaces, individuals who work from the office gain in-person conversations, surpassing remote communication. Recognizing this communication bandwidth differential is key, as teams can then begin to self-organize.

To battle the insider v.s. outsider mindset:

  • Schedule’ remote work days’ and ‘in-office work days’ where entire teams work from similar locations, increasing location equality
  • Set guidelines for asynchronous communication
  • Align teams on documentation regarding remote communication practices

Strengthening Informal Communication Between Teams

Previously in the office world, companies were unaware of how much information moved laterally through interstitial meetings. Between work, informal conversations bound various teams together.

Looking at the Microsoft study published on Nature, we learned that in the remote environment, existing relationships are ossified, and new relations decay or don’t get formed at all. All that means is that companies become more siloed, and innovation slows.

To alleviate the challenges of informal remote communication, you can:

Implement “Chalk Docs”: Chalk docs are similar to a daily standup, where each department talks through a specific thing they’ve been working on. While it may be germane, it can build inside connections between teams and individuals.

Use Breakout Rooms: While they appear cheesy on the surface level, Zoom’s breakout rooms are beneficial to construct interdepartmental ties. The feature groups individuals together that normally do not work together, allowing teammates to collaborate with their cross-functional peers.

How to Develop a Fair Interview Process for All Candidates

Due to the remote transition, location does not play as large of a role in hiring. However, it does revolve back to the sorting process of the interview, as many of these processes are not equitable.

Here’s an example: At Stanford, there’s an elective course that teaches students insider interview skills. The people who have taken this course are better positioned for a typical interview, not because they’re any smarter than other candidates, but because they know the parameters and differentiators. It set’s an unfair balance for those that have taken this course v.s. everyone that hasn’t.

Frankly, the talent pool has widened, but the sorting algorithm hasn’t improved. Companies like Stripe and CockroachDB have built a new interview process, where they:

  • Tell interviewees how to prepare before the interview
  • Provide any resources that are needed before an interview

The keyword in both of these examples is ‘before.’ Preparing candidates for the interview before it decreases stress and significantly levels the playing field for each individual.

How to Measure On-The-Job-Performance During an Interview

Interviewing is similar to a sorting problem; it’s the question of narrowing candidates down to the ‘good’ developers. Good is the keyword here, as good developers are circumstantial to each team and company.

Ideally, you want the interview process to be an oracle that picks candidates with higher than average job performance. However, most hiring boards know that interviewing is more like a game, as there are no predictive signals that determine candidates’ merit. You should ask yourself: what features do I want to extract to predict candidates’ on-the-job-performance-fidelity?

The only method that consistency drives predictions for on-the-job-performance is implementing a ‘try before you buy approach’ such as:

Apprenticeships and Internship Programs: At the end of the day, the only determinator for on-the-job performance is on-the-job performance. No interview or coding test will replicate day-to-day activities, but you can begin to extract signals one-level deep using third-party platforms such as Hacker Rank or Karat. These programs can:

Reduce personal biases (unconscious or conscious): Many interviews revolve around a candidate's likeability, regardless of whether they are ‘good’ or not.

Increase quantitative data: Emotional aspects of interviews can be mitigated with pre-approved screening processes offered on third-party platforms.

Improving the Quality of the Remote Environment

The remote world is sticking with us for the long term. To promote equality and collaboration, leaders need to be aware of the hiring and communication processes that are lacking. By recognizing biases and finding modern-day solutions, our workplace will begin to blossom into a remote culture built to last.

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