The Do’s and Don’ts of Remote Recruitment

I wanted to share these lessons learned about remote recruitment. I’ve spent years running across articles and advice on the topic, but it took me a while to boil down what works for me.

The TL; DR of this is:

Tap into your local community (and national ones) where possible Hire slowly don’t compromise your standards Do pay attention to how you work together This is not just hiring someone that codes well Select for fit


How to Find Talent

That’s easy – hire from within your network. Heaps of people have written about this already. There are only so many things you can do in a day, or week, or month when it comes to coding/design/etc. If you’re doing a startup, and you’re not tapped into your social network, then there’s only so much room for growth.

If we weren’t living in an expensive part of the country (Vic), and didn’t have 2 kids, I’d be seriously considering actively hunting for local talent that wants to get into startups or just work on interesting side projects. But we need to pay our bills, so it would take someone special.

Nowadays I’m working with people from overseas – this is the second best option because you can hire slowly over time without burning too much cash up front. There are problems though: Time zones You get wrecked by currency exchange rates Not everyone will speak English Communication – email can be very frustrating when you’re trying to get something done quickly.

I guess you could say that it’s not all fun and games 🙂

TEDx talk on this general topic

How to Hire Slowly

First we need to figure out what skills we want (design, front end or back end). For example if you’re doing a design focused startup, then you’d want someone who has the following: A strong portfolio of work Demonstrable experience building interactions with Javascript / AJAX A good eye for layouts and typography Some interesting things they’ve built outside of school/work Excellent communication skills Gets excited about startups and technology Generally doesn’t suck 🙂

If we were hiring a full stack developer, then we might look at figuring out if they worked on their own projects in the past – if so, then this is a good sign. Engineering roles are generally harder to fill because you’re looking at how well someone can code.

Usually the first step is to have a 10 minute chat on Skype / Google Hangout or whatever. It’s hard to know how much you can trust someone over that time period though, so do it gently 🙂 If the person seems really keen, then you might want to meet them in person for an hour or two. Try not to hire people who live too far away though – it’s just painful trying to get things done together when there are big time zones between you.

Question for You:

How long would you wait before meeting someone for coffee? I struggle with this sometimes because I know that a lot of good people move on to other opportunities.

Once you’ve hired someone, try and work with them for a month or two before giving them a more serious role. Some people are really energetic when they first start working on new things, others can be pretty quiet. So give it some time – plus there’s no point ‘de-hiring’ someone until you’ve given them a fair chance 🙂

Sometimes it’s hard to tell how well someone will do from an interview though – so don’t put all your chips into one basket. You need to mix up the way you find talent: Have a strong network Have a list of potential skills / projects that you’re looking for Prioritise quality over anything else Track metrics on how people perform and then fire / hire based on that

What If They Suck After You Hire Them:  

Ok, this is something I deal with quite a bit. It’s really hard to find people who are good at what they do – but you can’t let your guard down once you think you’ve found someone great either. Don’t feel bad about firing people (or having them leave) if it’s not working out. It’s like any other relationship – sometimes it fizzles out after a day, sometimes it lasts 5 years. But if there aren’t signs of improvement/excitement/care, then don’t be afraid to cut the cord and move on.

When we interview someone we’re looking for three things: Passion Excitement About the company the skills needed to be successful in the role

The first two points are pretty obvious, but why are we looking for something (skills) that’s not directly correlated with passion and excitement?


This is a bit of a rambly post, so here are the main takeaways: Only hire people who have similar attitudes as you do Start small and expand once you’ve got things to work on Work with your team in the same time zone Tie performance metrics into how much someone cares about what they’re doing Always be prepared to let go

Also – it’s very important that the skills required align with what you need. The more technical / full stack roles are hard to fill because if someone doesn’t care about technology, then why would they want to work in tech?

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