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Willem Wijnans
Willem Wijnans

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How to get hired by a remote-first company 🏝️

Remote is so hot right now. However, if you want to work for a remote-first company there are a few things you need to know before applying as the hiring game is vastly different. Here at Aula Education, we get around 10K applicants a year for our tech jobs alone and we’re all about setting our candidates up for success so here are some tips that can be valuable for everyone.

Let’s get started.

courtesy of evernote.comcourtesy of evernote.com

Before applying

Before you even start looking for jobs, have a deep thinking session with yourself on what it would mean to be a successful remote worker. Before you apply, make sure you got this covered:

Your motivation to go remote 🏃‍♀️

It’s important that you get crystal clear on why you want to go remote and understand the up and downsides of working in a remote-first team. Many candidates only see the positives like “no commute” & “more family time” but are oblivious to the loneliness remote work can introduce in their life. I want you to tell me in a mature way how you plan to go about the limitations of remote work as well.

You’ve invested in the right hardware 💻

Before you start applying, invest in a webcam, a good webcam (I use this one, Techradar 2019 webcams). Doing calls from your integrated laptop camera is just not great. Apart from telling me how serious you take this I clearly feel the difference between an OK and a great setup being on the receiving end. While you are at it, get a good pair of headphones (I use this one, Techradar 2019 headphones).

You acknowledge competition is going to be fierce 🚀

You probably already noticed, but the talent pool for remote companies is mostly unlimited. You are up against the whole world: think Maria from Uruguay, Fredrik from Sweden and Dhruv from India. Think of creative ways you can set yourself apart from the other candidates.

When applying

Now that you’ve taken care of the basics to set you up for success, let’s get started on the ‘applying’ part of landing a remote job. Here are the things I hold in high regard when screening applications:

Remote = async communication ✏️

The one thing that I want to reinforce is that we look for people who can communicate asynchronously. Written communication is a key part of remote work, and it needs to be clear. If you can’t put your thoughts to paper, then you will hold yourself back from being hired in a remote role.

When answering the initial questions (for comparisons, check out Gitlab, Aula, Hotjar, Clevertech starting questions), it’s in your best interests to take your time. It’s clear when a candidate has rushed their responses, so don’t do this, as it often means auto-deny.

Use the third door method🚪

Being successful … it’s just like a nightclub. There are always three ways in. There’s the First Door: the main entrance, where ninety-nine percent of people wait in line, hoping to get in. The Second Door: the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and celebrities slip through. But what no one tells you is that there is always, always… the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, climb over the dumpster, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen — there’s always a way in. — Alex Banayan

The ‘third door’ mentality can also help you get hired at a remote company. You can either apply where everyone else is applying and wait in line, or you take the third door. Here are two third door examples I’ve seen at Aula:

Building a custom website as an application

Lukas sent us a website built in react/redux answering the questions we ask + much more. He immediately stood out from the rest and got the final rounds at Aula. We concluded we were not the best match but we did intro him to Sketch where he currently works.Lukas sent us a website built in react/redux answering the questions we ask + much more. He immediately stood out from the rest and got the final rounds at Aula. We concluded we were not the best match but we did intro him to Sketch where he currently works.

Building your application in Notion

We use Notion extensively and one of our applicants for the PM role built her application in Notion. Got her automatically through to the first screen.We use Notion extensively and one of our applicants for the PM role built her application in Notion. Got her automatically through to the first screen.

When interviewing

Great, you’ve made it past the resume check! Now comes the interviews, which almost always starts with a screening call. This call is more important than you might want to believe. The person you’ll be speaking with will be your partner if you pass to the later rounds, so, a “this is just a screen ️call, whatever 💅” mentality is something that I strongly advise against (and unfortunately still see a lot).

Talking with the companies recruiter 🤝

Don’t underestimate the power of the recruiter within the remote organisation.

Recruiters working for a company are different than your third party recruiter. While you might be annoyed about the spam you receive from the latter, in-house recruiters are your friends during the hiring process. So come prepared to this first call, do some research on them as they will have on you. Most of the time the recruiter will try to align you with the companies values while extracting a few key traits they need for the role.

Bottom line here: a great recruiter will make you feel energized after the call, they left time in the end to answer your questions and are generally a good sneak peek into what the rest of the company is like.

Videocall hygiene 🤞

So this really should be common sense but I do want to stress out the following things that I find important:

  • Don’t do any of the official video calls outside, on your mobile phone or in a coffee shop. (quick syncs with the recruiter after the first screen are OK)

  • Make sure things going on in the background are in check. If you have a bed in the background, make sure it’s tidy. Messy kitchen? No thanks.

  • If you are going to write things down, mention it to the attendees beforehand. (hopefully, the interviewers return the favour)

  • Check if things work prior to your call. That means your laptop is fully charged, your camera is working (and not smudged), you’ve pre-installed and tested whatever video call tool you are using during the call.

  • Your position, especially in relation to the sun matters.

  • Be there earlier than the interview panel.

Take-home tests 🎒

Most companies send you off with something a-sync after the first screen, like some homework or a take-home test for you to complete. Here are some best practices:

  • Over-communicate: we like it when you show off your a-sync comms during the hiring process, so small updates on what you’ve been working on. Not making the deadline? That’s fine as long as you tell us in advance.

  • Be wary for “overpromise, underdeliver” syndrome: always go for “underpromise, overdeliver” instead.

Misc 🌈

As much as us companies like to believe that we are in the driving seat when hiring, trust me when I say that we are as much “on interview” as you are. Things to look out for during the hiring process:

  • How diverse was the interviewing team? Did you speak to a wide variety of people from different backgrounds?

  • If there were female or interviewers from underrepresented groups, how much were they involved? Did they actively participate or only sat in and listened?

  • Did you get feedback after every round? The positives but also the areas to improve?

  • Were the interviews scheduled with your best interest in mind or did you have to juggle unrealistic timezones?

  • Did you have to tell the same story twice in different interviewing rounds? Were the interviewers aligned?

  • Did the interviewers come prepared? Did they take the time or seemed rushed?

As a rule of thumb, the hiring process is like a miniature version of the company. If it’s awesome there is a good chance you have found yourself a great place to work. If it’s not, make sure you don’t sign up for something sub-par.

And with this, I leave you to it. I hope this helps you in your quest in finding a remote job.

We are hiring at Aula, find our open jobs at https://aula.education/careers.html

We open-sourced our handbook, you can find all our interview preparations there as well as how we do social life in a remote company or what we think remote work brings us as a company. Check it out:
The Aula Brain

And if you want to learn more about what kind of company we are under the hood, browse to our brand new Key Values profile: https://keyvalues.com/aula-education

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Discussion (11)

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esandez profile image
esandez

I want to jump to a full remote position in some time, so I find this really helpful! I'm building some side projects to show me off a little before starting some interviews, and also I'm improving my English (slower than I would like, though). I'll come back here and check the post when I feel confident to go remote :)

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willemwijnans profile image
Willem Wijnans Author

:) Good luck.

Remotive.io run a slack group which is nice if you want to surround yourself with a group of remote workers. I am part of it and use it on a weekly base.

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ekimkael profile image
Ekim Kael

As you said english is my main problem.
Thanks for this article

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pascalwacker profile image
Pascal Wacker

Any hints for folks on the other side? I currently work for a startup where I'm the only dev. We're currently looking into hiring another fullstack dev and since we don't have a proper office (we do have a space in a coworking space, but most people work from where they like), we're looking for a remote-first person. I've found your post over at: dev.to/willemwijnans/86-quality-ca... any other hints on what to look at in candidates and more importantly where to look for them.

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willemwijnans profile image
Willem Wijnans Author • Edited

Hi Pascal,

thanks for reaching out.

Consider posting on remote jobbboards like:

  • weworkremotely.com
  • remoteok.io
  • remotive.io
  • remote.com

Then some nice niche jobboards I use:

  • epic jobs twitter
  • diversify tech
  • hire tech ladies
  • shecancode.io
  • include.io

If you have a job description, I would be happy to share it in some slacks I am part of whom focus on remote work.

Hope that helps,
Willem

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pascalwacker profile image
Pascal Wacker

Hi Willem

We've finally managed to put a first job description together: medison.ch/jobs/Full_Stack_Symfony...

What do you think about it? Is there to much information? To little? Anything missing? We also had a long discussion about putting the salary in or not, in the end we've decided not to include it. What are your experiences with this? Would you put it in and if so a fix number or a range? And why put it in or leave it out? Also what would you consider an adequate salary for the position of a mid-level or senior fullstack Symfony dev?

Cheers Pascal

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willemwijnans profile image
Willem Wijnans Author

Hi Pascal,

Will have a look later :)

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pascalwacker profile image
Pascal Wacker

That would be nice! We've already thought about remoteok.io but we'll definitely check out the others and send the job description to you, once we've finalized it.

Would you put a constraint on Timezones? We where thinking about just asking for at least 2h of availability during a "normal" working day in our timezone. How would you handle this?

What about salaries? Would you communicate this directly in the job description or rather later? Would you have a salary depending on the location of the candidates or not? Any experience with companies offering remote team members (like for example: qubit-labs.com/), if so why would you choose them or why not? Any companies you had positive experiences with?

About the niche jobboards, any things we should consider to generate a more inclusive working experience? Currently we're pretty balanced (in the overall team, as said before, I'm currently the sole dev) when it comes to gender, but since we're all based out of Switzerland not very ethnically diverse. Anything we can do to not deter possible candidates?

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willemwijnans profile image
Willem Wijnans Author

We do put a constraint on timezones, +4 / -4 GMT which allows people to have 4 hours of overlap with GMT (most of us are in that timezone). However, we are hiring our first US based engineer and it does require a bit more thought into onboarding, alignment etc. I think with the right management structure you should at some point be able to make it work. That said, I have spoken with a dozen of engineers who work for US based fully remote companies like InVision and they sometimes find it hard being on the other end of the timezone scale. Its good you think about these things now. 👍

Salaries, at Aula we take senior roles in London as a benchmark, so we're OK for most of the European hires (minus Switzerland🇨🇭/ Norway 🇳🇴). I do not communicate salaries upfront in job-docs, but make sure I cover expectations in the first call.

For off/nearshoring, I would not do that. Beats the purpose of having the whole world at your disposal for me. But maybe if you need something fast it could be a solution. I would rather look at places like Andela, or maybe Facet.

Just make sure that when you hire, you talk to a wide variety of people from different backgrounds. That's a first start. Doing Inclusiveness great is another topic which is easily another blogpost on another day ;)

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Lola Baltaeva

Interesting stuff!
I think you will find our research on how the most successful remote companies hire useful. We have analyzed 9768 LinkedIn profiles of established remote companies’ software employees and came across a lot of findings, interesting for both employers and engineers, as potential employees of these remote companies.
6nomads.com/howtohire