Sandra squints at her computer screen as the candidate attempting to interview for a role at her company renders as a pixelated dance of block-like colours and irregular robotic voice distortions. “Wifi,” she sighs. Undeterred, Sandra picks up the phone, keeps the visual on without sound on her computer and quickly pivots into a modified phone interview with partial visuals. “Necessity is the mother of invention!” she intones.

Constant, quick pivots like these feel like the norm today with the onset of a worldwide pandemic alongside accompanying challenges in economic, political, and social justice arenas. Numerous recruiters have lost their jobs, along with hundreds of thousands of workers. Of the in-house recruiters or talent acquisition specialists that remain employed, many are working with a skeleton crew and are juggling the creation of entirely new remote-hiring processes.

Luckily for us, hiring candidates remotely has been tackled by several remote-first companies for a number of years, and they readily share their learnings. To ensure your remote hiring efforts are getting the best results, here are three effective hiring practices and two additional tips specific to permanently distributed positions.

#1. Create trust with your career page, blog or FYI landing page

Building trust with candidates in a remote hiring process is hard, let alone in an uncertain economic market. “We are finding candidates need more rapport time to build trust today than before the pandemic hit,‘ said Mabel Lozano Lopez, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Clio

The original remote-first companies have learned for years that transparency is key to building trust. For example, Gitlab details their entire recruitment process for all to see, and Buffer boldly reveals their salaries, product roadmap, and more. As not all recruiters can create this level of transparency during this time of hyper-change, sometimes a simple visual at the bottom of a page can convey financial success. Even an FYI temporary landing page can give a brief overview of what to expect and the growth or financials you can speak about freely.

Candidates today are also wanting proof that a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts are authentic and effective. While some companies stick with pictures on an “about” page, creating a blog post, article, or a resource info page such as Automattic’s that speaks to your ongoing and evolving diversity efforts can significantly increase candidate trust.

#2. Save time with Referrals

With larger numbers of candidate applications filling recruiter ATS’ and inboxes, focusing efforts on employee referrals can yield more qualified candidates. The trick is to know which referrers generate qualified candidates and which referrers send in unqualified leads. Using referral technology such as, you can not only say thanks via cash or donations to your referral team (which can extend even outside your employee population), but you can track the best sources of candidate referrals and prioritize them for screening.

#3. The Test

Most remote-first companies utilize some form of test that validates the candidate’s skill. Written tests, role plays, case studies, and situational examples can affirm skills that do not require the physical use of hands (typing excluded). But be sure to honor the candidate experience with tests that do not take too much of your candidate’s time too early in the hiring process.  Basecamp (also known as 37 Signals) provides tests to their developer candidates near the end of the hiring process and asks no more than three to five hours of testing time. “On the design side, we have asked candidates to complete more substantial projects, perhaps asking 10-20 hours of work, but then we pay them for the work.”

For companies that have new remote-only positions, here are two additional tips for hiring remote-only top talent:

#4. Filter for candidates who want to do the work, not just the remote-work lifestyle.

With the dramatic increase in unemployment levels, companies with active hiring initiatives are experiencing higher volumes of unqualified applicants. Interestingly, recruiters are also seeing many qualified candidates who are motivated more by the remote-work lifestyle as opposed to the opportunity itself. While ‘lifestyle” candidates are trickier to detect, interview questions such as those listed below can increase your chances of finding workers passionate about the work:

Q1: If you had to pick three things that energized you in your previous work experience, what would those be? Can you give us examples?

Q2: Why are you interested in this role? What was it about X company that made you apply for this role?

Q3: Have you had any experience working remotely? OR: What challenges have you experienced while working remotely?

#5. Remote-work Requires Particular Competencies 

While many workers may want to be permanently remotely-based, effective remote work requires certain competencies to be successful. Gitlab, the world’s largest remote technology company with 1,300, employees maintains that “remote work requires you to manage your own time and be self-motivated, disciplined, and organized.”  In an interview with, Coby Chapple, Product Designer at Github, a remote-friendly company, outlined these critical characteristics for remote workers:

  • Written communication: Most of their communication will be written. It’s important that they know how to express, coordinate, and collaborate through text.
  • Discipline: Remote workers must be autonomous and complete work without the feeling of someone looking over their shoulder. This goes hand-in-hand with a strong sense of accountability.
  • Decisiveness: Working outside of the office and even in different time zones may mean they need to make decisions without someone in the office to guide them.
  • Interests outside work: Working from home can make it difficult to “turn off”. Interests outside of work can help them avoid the risk of loneliness and potential burn out.

This emphasis on autonomy can be addressed with interview questions such as:

Q1: How do you prioritize projects? Can you give us an example of when prioritization was tricky?

Q2: What three things have you done in the past year to develop yourself professionally? OR How do you stay current?

Q3: When you have a problem and are struggling to find the solution, what do you do? Could you tell us about a time when this happened?

There is a lot help out there that remote-first companies are offering to companies that are having to pivot to survive. For more information, check out Gitlab’s massive resource on remote companies, their Remote Work Emergency Plan (What to Do and Where to Start), and’s remote work tracker that shows what companies are staying remote and which ones are moving away from COVID-19-related remote work arrangements.


While these methods will help you hire top skilled talent remotely, has your company’s EVP or “Employee Value Proposition” changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic? Weigh-in and we will share the results back to you.

How have you changed your EVP to attract skilled top talent?