Hiring Remote Employees: How to select the best applicants
4 min read

Hiring Remote Employees: How to select the best applicants

I'm telling you about the interview process for high paying remote roles, which get hundreds of applicants from around the world. But this time, let me tell you from the CTO perspective, how I shape and conduct such a remote selection process.


I'm Sergio Pereira, and this is the Remote Work newsletter 👋

Last week I explained why I don't use Scrum in my remote teams. Ditching Scrum helped my teams having much fewer meetings, and that's great when we work remote.

Today I'm telling you about the interview process for high paying remote roles, which get hundreds of applicants from around the world. But this time, let me tell you from the CTO perspective, how I shape and conduct such a remote selection process.

If you're a candidate, this will help you better prepare for your next remote interview. If you're an interviewer, it will help you fine tune your remote interviews.

Before diving in, let's cover the fundamentals. There are three core aspects to evaluate candidates on, for technical positions:

1 How strong are their technical skills?

2 How relevant is their past experience?

3 Does the candidate fit the company's culture?

So, the interviewer's challenge is to disqualify all candidates who aren't good enough for at least one of the 3 questions. But the question is: With such a broad top funnel, which of these questions should we evaluate first?

Let's assess the tradeoffs of each one:

1 Testing technical skills takes a test and at least one interview.

2 Assessing relevancy of past experience takes reviewing CV and an interview.

3 Assessing culture fit takes at least an interview.

Top funnel filtering

Whenever I have such a large number of candidates at the top of the funnel, I chose testing tech skills first.

This is the high level process:

1 Candidate applies to a given tech role

2 An automated email flow follows up to send them a take home test

3 Candidate submits a solution

4 There's an automated review that evaluates and scores their test

5 I only interview candidates who have a positive score

This filters out:

• Candidates who aren't committed to the role (Good!)

• Candidates who are a poor technical fit (Good!)

• Candidates who would be a good fit, but are too busy to complete the test (Bad!)

• Candidates who don't understand the test brief (Mixed feelings)

There are clear trade offs when it comes to technical assessments:

• Objective tests remove human biases, and put all candidates at the same level (Good!)

• They are a scalable process (Good!)

• They cause false negatives (Bad!)

In my experience, having such a technical take home test as the first step of the interview process filters out 80-95% of candidates. Those ~10% of candidates who engage AND do the test AND deliver a good solution are clear winners.

They showed both commitment and solid technical skills. These take home tests can be faked with AI coding tools, or having someone completing it. Those false positives aren't so frequent in my experience, and such candidates will fail in the technical interview.

As a candidate, the best way you can prepare for this round is to allocate a significant amount of deep focus time to complete this test and prepare any follow up questions in the live technical interview. If you get very nervous in technical interviews, find a friend who can "mock interview" you, so you feel more confident.

The follow up round I do is a CV review of those candidates who pass the technical test. But I only disqualify those who are clearly off (usually less than 20%). I personally put much more emphasis on skills+personality than I put on education+past experience. It's my personal style, not necessarily right or wrong.

As a candidate, you should make sure the person reviewing your CV can immediately grasp:

• Which companies your worked before

• How long you worked in each one

• What were your roles

• Make it obvious why you're a match with this role: Use the keywords from the job description, such as tech stack, industry, etc.

As a result of these two selection steps, I reduce the funnel from 500 candidates to maybe 10-20.

I'm eager to invest my team's time to interviewing those.

I reckon this isn't a perfect process and has pitfalls. But considering the tradeoffs, it's better than the alternatives.

Final interviews

For those remaining candidates who showed both technical skills and relevant past experience, I invest significant time from myself and my team members, depending on the role and requirements.

I usually start with the technical interview round. That's usually led by myself and at least one engineer who's relevant to the role and tech stack I'm hiring for. I ask a lot of questions about the take home test, and add further constraints which the candidate must think through on the spot. We make the tone very collaborative and as close as possible to a real-world work challenge in our team.

The last interview round is usually a cultural interview, usually with the company Founders, given that as a Fractional CTO I work mostly with early stage startup, where the teams are small and Founders are still very involved in the hiring process.

I'm telling you all this thought process in shaping a remote interview process so you can better prepare for you remote job search, in case you're looking for a job.

If that's the case, you might want to have a look at this list of 1000+ companies hiring remote roles right now. I built this free resource just about 3 months ago, and since then 20000+ people have visited the page and applied to remote roles listed there. Have a look!

I'm also launching soon my first ever cohort based course and private community, where I'll be breaking down my knowledge into modules, and will help a batch of remote job seekers find a remote job. The launch will be private, join the waitlist and stay tuned.

Thanks for reading this newsletter until the end. You can read all past editions here. Make sure to share the link with your friends and colleagues so they can read it too.

See you next Friday,

Sergio Pereira,
Startup CTO & Remote Work Lover

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