I am looking for a senior without an office and cookies: how are we organized the search for employees 100% remote

Published on September 11, 2018

I am looking for a senior without an office and cookies: how are we organized the search for employees 100% remote

    Hiring a remote developer or tester, with whom personal meetings are not foreseen before the start of work, is a serious risk. The presence of the candidate creates the illusion of control over the situation. And where without it?

    Having adopted the ideology of distant work along with all its advantages, such as access to the best personnel across the country, Maxilekt had a choice: either to pay for all candidates to come to the office, or to build processes in such a way that there was no room for illusions.

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    About how recruiters are involved in assessing the skills of technicians, whether a senior needs a diploma, what’s the reason for webcams and what is the real cost of hiring mistakes, says Maxim Korotkov, CEO of the company.

    How many interviews did you have before starting to independently determine the approaches to hiring?

    Maxim Korotkov: In 20 years in software development, I conducted about 800 interviews. Being a hired employee, I came to meetings with candidates, both with the right to influence the process, and without it. Later, the entire Maxillect team went through communication with me.

    In addition, I had about 70 interviews, when I myself was looking for work. Shortly before the opening of the company, I became, as it is called, over qualified (relatively massively proposed posts). There were very few positions I was in compliance with, so I had to sit without work for a long time, attending various interviews.

    I saw different approaches and, to be honest, I built the recruitment process at Maxillect, remembering well what I didn’t like in the classic HR services.

    What are you so HR did not please?

    Maxim Korotkov: The situations that I saw at the interviews, rather, showed how not to do it.

    In theory, the HR department determines the company's team, i.e. to a large extent influences its strategy. But in practice, owners are rarely willing to give girls so much power in business immediately after the institute or the HR courses. And with this discrepancy of the declared and real power begins the confusion in processes and responsibility. As a result, they hire people who are not really needed at the same time, losing a lot of time - both their own and candidates.
    Having opened my company, I changed the processes under the current realities (2015–2016). And in my opinion, it works, although not without flaws.

    And what is the role of HR in “Maxillect”?

    Maxim Korotkov: Minimum. HR employees perform strictly defined tasks: they issue vacancy announcements in accordance with business needs, communicate with potential candidates, conduct a first interview on the basis of scenarios, assessing only certain characteristics. They are responsible for “selling” companies to candidates (so that even those who are not able to start working with us told about the company), filtering on the most important for remote work, soft skills and simple technical issues (for engineering positions), as well as informing about various HR -programs.

    In general, it is more correct to call this group a recruiting department, since development and retention issues are resolved without their direct involvement. For a long time, we had the role of the head of this department, but we have recently abolished it.

    How is hiring built in the company?

    Maxim Korotkov: The customer of the recruiting department is a business: he formulates the need for a certain profile employee, for example, when expanding the department, he gives recruiters a task to close a position. It is formulated in as much detail as possible: what are the qualities and skills of a candidate, what difficulties are in this particular vacancy.

    The appointed recruiter unfolds work in two directions at once:

    • formulates the announcement, places it on the agreed sites, is a passive search;
    • looks through open resumes of candidates matching a profile — it is actively searching.

    By the way, I forbid to call candidates on the go - recruiters first try to contact them using email, social networks and instant messengers, and only a couple of days later, if they do not receive an answer, they call (I myself didn’t like it when I was in the middle of the day distracted by such calls).

    If according to the results of the first communication the candidate is ready to discuss the position, he is invited to an interview. At this stage, as I have already said, the recruiter works: he evaluates mainly communication skills, organization and other software skills of the candidate.

    Since the first interview is a reciprocal process (not only the company selects an employee, but the specialist selects an employer), the recruiter tells in detail about the features of work in the company. I insist that all nuances be discussed as early as possible so that the candidate can make a more motivated decision.

    Is there any automation of the search process?

    Maxim Korotkov:We use Amazing Hiring - this is an aggregator of information about candidates from open sources (collecting data from LinkedIn, GitHub, etc. on one page). In addition, we have YouTrack, customized to the needs of recruiting. Information about candidates is collected there. Even if we are not ready to offer a position to someone today, it is possible that in the future we will have a vacancy that is better suited to the candidate. Therefore, we set up a workflow - set the status for the candidate card and the rules for switching between them. This greatly simplifies the work.

    All candidates are evaluated at the first stage on the same template?

    Maxim Korotkov: No. The importance of each of the qualities depends on the position to which the specialist is invited. The task coming from the business unambiguously determines what the recruiter should pay more attention to.

    For example, when we are looking for a head of a testing team, we preset advanced communication skills into the requirements (as compared to an ordinary employee of the department).
    At the end of each interview, the recruiter fills in a kind of questionnaire where he evaluates various skills. So we can compare candidates with the stated needs of the business.

    Do you have to look for a compromise between the real state of affairs (qualities of the candidates who came to the interview) and the application of the business? What can be done?

    Maxim Korotkov: Refusing initial requirements is a bad practice. You can very quickly regret it.

    A certain set of software skills (for each position) is a mandatory minimum for us. The IT market will come to the conclusion that software skills are more important than certain technical competencies. And for us this is also determined by the peculiarity of remote work.

    Today it is difficult to imagine any kind of development without a team. And if there is a team, it means that there are communications. If a candidate does not possess a declared list of software skills at the level required for a position (besides communication, this is proactivity, reference, self-organization, and a number of others), it does not go further.

    In relation to technical skills, we are less categorical. With a good theoretical base, they can be quickly “pumped”. On the basis of this idea, by the way, we also have internal movements of employees. We enable a manual tester to become an automator, an automator can switch to another stack (for example, from backend to mobile) or try our hand at the role of a developer. Similarly, the developer can switch from the frontend to the backend. But it should be noted that the main motivation for such movements must come from the specialist himself.

    And how exactly are software skills evaluated?

    Maxim Korotkov:Psychology, interview experience and communication scenarios help here. As in sociological research, we do not always want to know the result of answering a question. Sometimes we need to see the candidate's reaction.

    I will not reveal all the cards, but I will give one example. In some positions, we check a person’s ability to solve problems: he surrenders or not, when, as it seems, there is no solution. Asking questions, recruiters are driving a person into a corner. Roughly speaking, the problem is formulated, and the candidate must propose solutions. And he calls: one, second, third. And they ask him more and more. If at that moment a person surrenders, he will surrender in the same way when solving “combat” tasks.

    I borrowed this trick from personal experience. Ten years ago, in an interview at Google for the position of product manager, I was similarly asked what I would add on LinkedIn.

    Do recruiters ask any technical questions at the first interview?

    Maxim Korotkov: In the first interview, the candidate receives only a few general technical questions, which were predetermined by the group leader. These are simple questions on screening out those who are unlikely to be able to work with us. Relatively speaking, I answered half - we will continue to communicate, did not answer one - it makes no sense to continue, this is not our level.

    And the refusal is formulated immediately?

    Maxim Korotkov:Yes. I demand that 100% of the refusals be conveyed to the candidates. This is also from personal experience - many companies have marinated me for weeks. It is unpleasant.
    In this case, failures can be different. With someone later we are ready to work on another project. Someone needs to tighten the technical foundations. Of course, there are those with whom we will not work in the future.

    Suppose a candidate passed the first interview with a recruiter. What happens next?

    Maxim Korotkov: And then for each position we have our own “funnel” - a sequence of steps and checks prior to employment.

    For example, if we are talking about a tester, then the next step is a small unpaid test task, which results in an interview for technical topics directly in the testing department. At this stage, the potential leader looks to see whether the candidate will fit into the existing team, and whether he has the necessary technical knowledge or the desire to quickly learn something, if the experience does not quite match the vacancy. So, our testing team leader, when we hired him for the autotest position, did not have experience with the Robot Framework, but quickly mastered it.
    Given the wide range of technologies on the market, we are more likely to look at basic technical knowledge. Some recent frameworks and tools can be quickly studied, and if the foundation is rotten, it is useless to build on it.

    The final decision is already taken by me in the final conversation.

    In your opinion, does specialized education play a role?

    Maxim Korotkov: The presence of a crust is not a criterion for us. We focus on middle, senior and higher specialists. They already have quite a lot of experience, which compensates for even the complete absence of higher education. For example, one of the testers who has been working with us for a long time does not have a crust, but he “burns” so much that many university graduates could learn from him.

    Do you need experience in, relatively speaking, complex projects?

    Maxim Korotkov:Not. If a person has a good base, a bright head and high learning, it is not so important that somewhere in the outback he had no chance to work in a strong team. Suppose he was forced to engage in a “bloody” enterprise, legacy support — he worked to support his family, and was tired of that. And we have the opportunity to offer him new interesting projects with the latest technologies, large loads. It does not matter if he does not know Kotlin, and the projects used to be rotten. There is a very reasonable explanation for this. If he knows Java, is ready to learn new things and give results, then this is our man.

    Do all interviews take place remotely or are employees invited to the office at some stage?

    Maxim Korotkov:Everything happens remotely. We have the experience of hiring "live", but in general, the remote process suits us.

    Maxillect actively hires from the regions. And how are questions with interviews of candidates from other time zones solved?

    Maxim Korotkov: I do not see the problem. Recruiters are flexible - they can talk early or, conversely, linger at work, if there is no other way to agree.

    The difference in time zones is largely reflected not in the interviews, but in the subsequent collaboration. Working hours are determined by the project under which the candidate is hired. You can adapt to work on a standard "office" time, living in Novosibirsk, - to agree on some mandatory hours of presence - the intersection with the team. But it is unlikely that a team leader from Tomsk will be able to effectively communicate with a client from the US West Coast, while maintaining the usual rhythm of life.

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    Is video calling used at interviews?

    Maxim Korotkov: Yes, this is a prerequisite.

    In general, all the processes of the personnel department are maximally standardized and described on the internal portal, which removes the question of introducing new recruiters into the course. The use of video is embedded at the process level.

    There are different situations for candidates. We are ready to move the interview on time, turn on the camera only for part of the conversation, but the video should be. This is one of the checks of those communication skills that are to be actively used in the remote format of work.

    By the way, video, a comfortable headset and the availability of fast Internet are mandatory requirements for workplaces that the staff themselves equip. For our part, after recruitment, we are ready to participate financially in a certain framework.

    In general, video interview today can be done from the mobile Internet. From May to October I myself work on the mobile Internet, leaving to live away from the city. Of course, I have two Internet channels from different mobile operators to always be online. A spare channel is needed in the city - all employees possess it.

    Experience a classic freelancing candidate counts in plus or minus?

    Maxim Korotkov: I would say that this is a plus. First of all, in self-organization.
    But permanent remote work is different from freelancing. The freelancer has to close the full cycle - from finding customers to closing a deal with possible subsequent support. Remote work allows you to focus on what a person likes to do the most, and the rest of the value chains are closed by other employees, including me. So we are completely open to freelancers who are tired of finding customers, negotiating, downtime and worries, whether the customer will pay or not.

    How much detail can you tell the candidate about the project under which he is hired, given the NDA? Is it possible to describe the task and not break the NDA? Or is the candidate forced to get a “cat in a bag”?

    Maxim Korotkov: It all depends on the client and our NDA with it.

    There are customers that we can never name until the new employee signs the NDA with us. In such cases, at the interviews we talk about the scope of the project (finance, ad tech or something else), and then proceed to talk about the applied technological stack. We mention that there is no legacy there, only a new project, etc.

    We expect the same from candidates if their projects are under the NDA. They can hide the name of the company and a large-scale description of the business problem, but some of the details of the projects they encountered can be revealed by most NDAs.

    But hard NDA require not all. “Maxilekt” has mostly open projects that we can freely talk about, mentioning the name of the client company, the business problem to be solved, and other details.

    In general, I myself am interested in having the candidate receive as much information as possible at the interview stage so that his choice is informed. We do not want to lure anyone into fraud, as we once did: the recruiter with the title on the business card of the HR Business Partner, which looked rather funny, went to a deal with a conscience to close the position. She could not do this for six months. And then I was unpleasantly surprised by the range of tasks.
    In the person of the employee, we need a partner for many years of mutually beneficial cooperation. We are no longer a gang of freelancers, as it was in late 2015 - early 2016, but an accomplished company with almost three years of experience, challenging and interesting projects in the background. About 40 specialists work with us on an ongoing basis, and we continue to expand.

    Maxillect adheres to the remote work format, which is not typical for the Russian market. Does he have any influence on the employees themselves?

    Maxim Korotkov: Of course. We just recently conducted a survey in the company to find out which aspects of our work are important for employees. What surprised me, many of them indicated personal freedom. It seems to me that when, at the stage of employment, we discussed with them their attitude to work, freedom was not a priority. Now for many it is a prerequisite.

    In general, the market has changed. Now the remote format is no longer “atypical for the market.” Many companies with whom we crossed paths on a competitive field took a couple of years ago strictly to the office, and now they are also trying to cooperate with remote workers. This is inevitable, because the two capitals are not rubber, and the attempts to open 10 offices in the regions are also finite. We felt this trend a little earlier and managed to build internal processes both in terms of work and in hiring.

    What do you think is important for candidates from regions who now have a choice, with whom to work?

    Maxim Korotkov: We asked such questions to our employees, and also published an article on Habré. If you rely on this audience, then at the head of the corner is stability and the absence of discrimination on a geographical basis. It is no secret that in many companies that have development offices in different regions, salaries differ depending on the local standard of living. We basically adhere to a different position - we have one proposal for candidates from both megacities and from the Volgograd region (where, according to statistics, almost the lowest wages in IT). The offer is based only on the expected benefits that the specialist will bring to the company.

    Does the hiring process described fail? Were there any errors, according to the results of which something had to be “screwed up” exactly in the processes?

    Maxim Korotkov:Of course, there were mistakes. Only the one who does nothing makes no mistakes. But we didn’t allow any really critical problems. There were assumptions that were not justified. For example, we expected that the candidate would tighten up a weak technical level, but this did not happen within a reasonable time. In the end, we worked together for a little less than a year and parted.

    There were situations when employees overestimated their ability to work remotely - they understood that there is a big responsibility on their shoulders for which they are not ready.
    From a business point of view, marketing and positioning mistakes are much more expensive. We also committed them, and some of them were described in another article on Habré, about marketing and sales. Against this background, the price of an error in one candidate for a vacancy will not be prohibitive, because here we will not talk about losses of a million rubles or more.

    Of course, because of the employee, you can lose a client. We had a situation close to that: it was painful, but we kept the client, and settled the situation. After all, in addition to hiring, we have also built work with existing employees, and we already have the opportunity to quickly insure where the recession has gone.

    In which direction is the development of "Maxillect" in terms of recruiting?

    Maxim Korotkov:We are constantly improving something, experimenting, and if new approaches in a certain test environment work well, then we introduce them throughout the company. Once I caught myself thinking that in the work of the recruiting and marketing departments, sales have a lot in common. We even borrowed terminology and instead of the word “candidate” we often use “lead” (potential client, Eng. Lead). I will not disclose all the maps and nuances of our current transformations, but I will give a hint using the sales department terminology: selling is the inevitable result of a good reputation and properly aligned relationships .

    Transformations in terms of recruiting, with a slight delay, inherit what we implemented and tested in B2B marketing and sales. After all, here and there we have to work with people, which means there must be a lot in common.



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