You have made tremendous efforts to select the best applicants from a talent pool. You also conducted plenty of interviews with the best applicants. After the interviews, many candidates will be disqualified. You act like you always do: reject them even more politely, as they’ve spent time on talking with you. Let them know they are dismissed quickly, and it is polite. They might hunt for other jobs as well and still wait for your feedback. With those who qualified during the interview, you should do a test job. That is the first step in the process, where you make sure that they are a great fit.
Testing your applicants for a remote job
It can be tricky because it highly depends on the position you are about to fill. Also keep in mind that if the test job requires more than a couple of hours, you should pay their time. Some companies even pay a flat fee for the test job, regardless of the time. It’s polite and respectful.
Note that the test job’s goal is simple: it is done only to test their skills. Nothing else. Let’s say you are hiring a marketer. The candidate has excellent skills, and it got confirmed by a background check. The candidate also did great during the interview, sharp, proactive, prompt, not too pushy and chemistry worked too. However, you are a developer shop who wants more clients and this candidate only worked for SaaS startups before. The candidate might have a unique approach to your company that misaligned with your goals. So even if on paper everything is fine, you still need to make sure that the candidate is the right candidate solely for you.
On the test job, ask something presentable and deliverable. Even if you pay for it, the test job shouldn’t take more than a day of work. It should relate to the position, so if you are hiring a developer, ask for a code on a non-relevant project of yours. If you are hiring a PR person, ask for a copy of a press release with a couple of journalist names to pitch the article. If you are hiring a customer service agent, bring out some issues and let the candidate answer the questions. It’s up to you and your business, but keep it relevant, brief and reviewable. Set a deadline and let them know that they are free to ask anything but that doesn’t change the deadline. You need to check the quality of the test work of course, but also keep an eye on how this small project has been managed, how the candidate communicated.
How to make sure applicants are a great fit
Those who made it through here are worth to hire. There should be only a handful of them. From now on, only one thing matters – culture. Everything that has happened until this point was to test if the candidate can work remotely and can deliver value to your company. However, none of this matter if they can’t fit in your team and company culture. Now testing this out is tricky, and seriously there are no general recipes for this. It all depends on what your company culture is. The last interview should test this out.
There is no recipe on how to test the cultural fit, but I always recommend one approach that is indeed working for others. The method is the podium talk. Sure you can examine personality traits through various tools and assessment, but ultimately, your team has to work with someone new. So your team has to make the call. Anyone who made this far is worth to hire as they have the skills and capabilities, plus they can work with you. From your point of view, anyone from your now narrowed shortlist would be a great fit. So why you are the one who picks? Let your team choose whom they want to work with.
Gather around all of your team for a video call and invite the candidate to join. Let the candidate speak on a topic of her/his choice. Let the candidate know beforehand that the interview will be about a speak-up event for your team where he/she needs to pitch something to your organization. The speech somehow has to be connected to your business. It shouldn’t be more than a short presentation, followed by a Q&A. It is excellent as this podium talk lets your team engage with the candidate and the candidate has the chance to peek into your business and your team. After the call, let your team vote anonymously for the best talk and hire the winner. Write back to those who didn’t make it but highlight that they were on the very end shortlist and you might be getting back to them with actual work.
How to do a trial period for new employees
Now that you have a winner make sure you still test the applicant. I mean, not on paper as most of these employees will work on a contract basis with you but more in your mindset. Be upfront and tell them that their first month is a trial period. Some companies even offer a lower base salary for the first months. In this trial period, keep a close eye on their work. There are a couple of ways you should do that.
Some companies who have a SaaS or any service that needs customer service support, throw the trialing applicant into customer service first. A significant amount of their time should be spent on customer service to learn more about the product, the customers, and the main issues. It is done for everyone, even if you hire a marketing director who did customer service ticketing years ago or haven’t had the chance to do before. Companies who do this, they don’t evaluate the work based on the sharp customer service the applicant provides but the way the applicant works.
Some other companies, like Buffer, have new employees bootcamp. They do a serious and sometimes offline onboarding for newcomers to further test out if the new candidates are a good fit for the company. During this time the applicant gets a base salary but not doing actual billable work but only tests.
Others attach the newcomer to non-relevant projects first to test out if they can be a good fit. Even others assign them to the most critical project, the deep dive, see how they react to pressure.
It all depends on your business, but ultimately you should test before you buy. A trial period salary is excellent as it shows the candidate that during this time, they are undergoing a testing period. Once it’s done, their compensation rises to normal levels. If it turns out that your candidate is not the best fit, you can still turn back to other shortlisted ones. Now that you have a new remote employee on board, your job is to keep them happy, motivated, focused and productive.