The intricacies of interviews when hiring udalenka

    We continue to talk about the internal structure of “Maxilekt”. We have already talked about the general principles of hiring remote specialists accepted by the company. Now let’s talk about the details - what exactly we ask the candidates who came to us for an interview.


    Spoiler: alas, there are no “right answers” ​​to these questions. They simply do not exist.

    Hiring remote professionals is a rather difficult task to find the optimal solution, taking into account known limitations.

    On the one hand, you are limited in time. Given the average salary in IT, the cost of downtime for each such specialist is extremely high. If the candidates are at the stage of active search, and you allow yourself to think for 3-4 weeks on who exactly to choose, many simply will not wait for an answer - they will agree to an alternative proposal. Those. the decision to hire or refuse must be made very quickly.

    On the other hand, it is not so easy to make this decision. We initially abandoned the practice of inviting all potential employees to the office for a personal conversation - we built all the processes remotely. And although many issues can be closed by the use of video communication during negotiations with a candidate, some of the non-verbal information is still lost in this way.
    In order to reduce the probability of error to a minimum under these conditions (quickly collecting teams that work in our conditions), we have formulated certain limitations for ourselves. In particular, they chose the segment of specialists with whom we work - these are middle and seniors.

    Juniors are, in principle, more difficult on the remote - they need more professional communication, the ability to constantly ask someone questions, and the remote format does not contribute to this. The second point is that we focus on the full-time mode of operation: full time, 5 days a week, excluding public holidays and holidays.

    How we are interviewed

    In our company, the hiring processes are built very clearly. The candidate goes through several video calls - their number, sequence and the roles of the interviewers depend on the position in question. The purpose of these meetings is not only to test the candidate’s abilities, but, first of all, to talk about the company and the features of the work.

    A distributed team has its pros and cons. And since there is no industry-wide practice; each company deals with its disadvantages in its own way. Not every specialist is ready to flexibly adapt to any work processes, so our task when communicating with a candidate is to find out if we are suitable for each other in principle. And the first interview with the recruiter is devoted mainly to these details of the interaction. Along the way, we evaluate some obvious skills: communicativeness, which becomes critical in the distance, the manner of communication and other soft skills. And asking some specific questions, we try to predict how the candidate will behave in a particular situation. This article is devoted to just part of these issues. Perhaps they are no different from questions that, from my point of view,

    But before moving from the preface to the point, I note that we never make a decision on one answer (or quality) of a person. There is no and cannot exist any stop list or list of correct / incorrect answers to questions regarding soft skills.

    What is important to us?

    Are you ready to adjust your life schedule a bit to the work schedule of the team you are hired for? (Alternative wording - what time do you plan to start the working day?)

    Why do we ask about this: too much time difference is critical for the team, management and the project as a whole. And this is especially critical if the final project has tight deadlines. Of course, you can build the work “asynchronously”, documenting every action and decision. But this complicates and bureaucratizes the workflow. We use the advantages of udalenka, while maintaining, in our opinion, the optimal level of labor for ensuring the implementation of processes. And for this, it is important for us to stay in touch with the whole team at least part of the working time.

    Practice has shown that plus or minus 3 hours is a time difference that you may not even notice, even with regular calls. Employees from the conditional Omsk may come to work a little later in order to work with the Muscovites on one task. In fact, the same time shift occurs in the office, when management allows a non-rigid start to the working day. One is comfortable working from 9 am, the other after 12, but they are together present in the office for at least 5 hours, so this does not affect overall performance.

    From the point of view of the interview, the key point is that the employee himself must be ready for the team schedule (frequency of releases and mitaps) so as not to burn out over long distances. I saw with my own eyes a project manager who worked with two customers for a year, from Singapore and the USA. After a year, he simply did not die in the company - with two children, he could not live long on such a schedule. But this example does not mean that a schedule shift is not possible for a family person. We already have a certain number of employees beyond the Urals, and they are happy with everything. So at the interview, we ask the candidate if he is ready to live according to the schedule in which the team works. At the same time, we ourselves are ready to adapt to some individual characteristics, for example, a two-hour lunch in the middle of the day.

    I note that if a big time difference exists after hiring a person - for example, he changed his team, but at the same time as a specialist he is very valuable - you have to work with this. And there are different solutions to problems, but everything is very individual.

    Are you ready for business trips?

    Why do we ask this: this is not even a question, but a story about how we have to work together. In the remote format, all the same problems of the team, management and soft skills of individual developers are manifested as in the office, but there is still a certain communication barrier on the remote site that turns all these pitfalls into real rocky reefs. A personal meeting, even if not for long, is a way to remove or at least slightly lower this barrier.

    We distinguish three types of business trips that are really effective in our format:

    • weekly onboarding in a team;
    • retrospective of the previous and planning of the next major release;
    • Holidays and team building.

    In all cases, the duration of the trip should not exceed 3-4 days, since we work mainly with seniors, and for the most part these are family people. Having children, leaving for more than a week is difficult. Even if the business trip lasts 5 business days, a person arrives home on Saturday and he actually has a weekend. And from Monday - back to work. This is hard, and we understand that. So long-term collaboration from one location is, of course, great, but not available in our case.

    What tasks did you solve at your previous job? What did you personally propose to do?

    Why do we ask this: for successful interaction with a remote employee, not only his experience and a set of technical skills are important. In this mode, proactivity is very necessary. Unfortunately, one cannot directly ask how proactive a person is, so we evaluate this quality based on his story about previous projects. We look at both the construction of phrases and the essence that the candidate sets out, trying to understand how ready he is to take the initiative in solving current problems.

    By the way, in the answer to this question both managerial skills and the maturity of a specialist as a separate structural unit are manifested. This is also useful on a remote site. And in hiring, we take into account all the information that it turns out to collect, including so that the teams are balanced and do not conflict inside due to the fact that five generators of ideas have gathered, relatively speaking, but not a single person who can realize all this.

    What have you learned lately?

    Why do we ask this: self-learning is very important in remote work. And this is another quality that you won’t be able to ask a direct question about. Moreover, the actual knowledge of the candidate is also not at all equivalent to the ability to obtain it independently. Therefore, it remains only to ask about where a person is moving in the field of self-education.

    What do you like about work?

    Why do we ask this: our work (both the format and the nature of the tasks) is structured so that we need results. They are also often needed in development offices, but, unfortunately, there are fewer processors than processors in the labor market. And if in the office you can put up with this, periodically coming in and personally kicking the processor, then in the remote format this assumption will not work.

    To what extent the person is focused on the result, we evaluate by the answer to this question. Naturally, in the end, we look not only at this answer, but also at the whole conversation.

    Why not complete the task?

    Why do we ask this: the purpose of this question is to get an idea of ​​how much the candidate is responsible, how he generally perceives the work and his role in it. The answer to this question reveals very interesting features of the candidates.

    In some cases, discussion of outstanding tasks leads us to the topic of monitoring our own state. We are not machines - physical and emotional health always affects performance. And if in the office the manager can track such things and send employees home when they obviously can’t do it (he can give a vacation or sick leave, depending on the reasons for the sharp drop in productivity), then the situation is different on the remote site. The team leader / leader sees nothing but the obvious. And many remote employees have previously been confronted with the attitude that "since you are sitting at home, work and be sick."

    So for their part, they are used to raping their bodies every time so as not to seem like loafers. And this is also a problem, since a sick person not only works more slowly, but also, most likely, will give a lower-quality solution (which will also have to be corrected later). So monitoring your own condition is also a facet of responsibility to the team.

    A few months ago I was at TeamLead Conf, and there my colleagues suggested other questions for assessing responsibility. For example, “how will you part with your current job”? I agree that such a question also says a lot about the candidate. You don’t want to hire a person who is happy to run away from the previous employer even tomorrow without preparing the ground for a responsible (critical for business) position. In the same way, he will then run away from you.

    Instead of totals

    In none of the questions did I specifically write “correct answers” ​​because, again, there are none. As mentioned above, we never evaluate candidates based on one or more responses. We always draw up a detailed matrix of qualities, according to which we select a person to match the company and its values.

    Of course, our questions are not limited to this list. We expect questions from the candidates themselves - about everything that excites them in the context of relations with our company.

    If you are an IT professional, come to us. We work completely remotely, which means that we have no discrimination for those who, for whatever reason, do not get into the office. We are building strong teams of interesting people who are just great to talk to. We do not hang on the qualified staff of June for training and do not prohibit the conduct of our own projects.

    If you yourself hire a remote, perhaps you have some interesting life hacks? Share in the comments!

    Author: Sergey Marina, Maxilekt

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