June 16, 2021
April 6, 2020

15 Tips for Hiring A Remote Software Development Team

It makes a lot of sense to hire remote developers to execute development projects – or to add capacity to internal teams. Remote developers are flexible, cost less than local talent, and the top tier ones give a high-performance boost to the team.

Remote developers make even more sense during the current COVID-19 crisis when most internal teams are operating remotely anyway. Budgets are under increasing pressure, too, so hiring remote developers can give projects the substantial boost they need to survive the crisis.

However, optimizing your hiring is crucial to get the most out of your remote teams – and you need to get all three hiring stages right. 

From presenting your requirements to onboarding your top choice - every stage of the hiring funnel matters. The more concretely you spell out your objectives in these stages, the greater your business outcomes will be. Let's dive in.

Set your project up for recruitment success

First off, let's get it out there that to recruit the best technical talent you need an epic sales pitch. Top talent know that they are in demand, and these developers will seek out opportunities that bring benefits above and beyond a paycheck. 

Your sales pitch must be compelling, clear, and appropriate. Don't jump in without establishing your project and skills requirements, and don't over promise in your job offer. You can always throw in an added bonus when you feel you can close the negotiation by adding one more perk.

Start by defining your requirements.

You can't effectively recruit the best remote developers if you don't know what your project requirements are and, consequently, what skills and experience you need from your development team. Think through your requirements and codify it into a precise job specification.

Some roles warrant highly specific job descriptions – with requirements around programming language skills, frameworks, and technology stacks – be as accurate as you need to be. Though consider splitting requirements into "essentials" and "nice-to-haves." And don't write a laundry list of qualities that would all go in the "nice to have".

Yes, you should go into as much detail as you sensibly can – but word your requirements in a way that leaves the opportunity open to candidates who are not a perfect fit, but who could be top contributors after a modest amount of training.

Write an appealing job ad and post it widely.

Sure, you're under pressure to get recruiting straight away. But don't rush your job ad. Write an ad that is clear, and that highlights the standout points of your business or project. Here are a couple of essential tips:

  • explain the value of your project or how your business will help your customers
  • take advantage of the high caliber talent and reasonable rates on remote job boards but focus on platforms that have a flourishing community of members, rather than lackluster career sites.
  • take the time to outline why a candidate will benefit from choosing to work with you rather than at company xyz.
  • refresh your About Us or Team page on your site and add testimonials from your existing team members
  • cast your net wide to increase the chances of finding the best developers: start with your social network by making your requirements known on LinkedIn 

Note also that there are several job boards specific to technical hiring focused on specific technology stacks.

If you need a niche expert, you might want to check out a specialist job board and consider posting on discussion forums too.

Look past the language, location barrier.

Your developer needs to be a superstar in the programming language your project requires. Do they need to be native English speakers? No. As long as they are able to carry a conversation with you and understand your requirements native language skills are not a necessity. In Ukraine, English is spoken widely and having a certain command of the English language is required for developers to get hired at any major software companies. Therefore a top remote software developer from Ukraine will have enough language competence to communicate with you. You aren't hiring them to craft press releases. You will get greater value from a developer located in a country where the cost of living is cheaper, like Ukraine so accept the less than native english and focus on their technical acumen.

The same goes for time zones. As long as your developer is willing to communicate during your business hours, a time zone difference poses little in the way of problems. Time zone differences can even be a bonus because your remote developer can complete tasks overnight. Note : this works for Eastern Europe because they will have completed half a day of work as you're just opening up your laptop over morning coffee. But this doesn't work for India. Indian developers will be going to sleep just as you're starting your work day and that being 10 hours out of sync is a huge lag in development times.

Give pricing meticulous thought.

Pricing up a development hire is tough. Do you offer a fixed-price rate, or do you hire your developer by the hour? Developers will have their preferences too. Don't short-cut the pricing step: do your research and be transparent with the people you are trying to recruit. Here is how you should think about pricing:

  • never try to hide the true extent of your requirements to negotiate a lower price
  • stay aware of prices in different locations in the world: you will get the most value for your costs by hiring developer in Ukraine or other parts of Eastern Europe
  • where developers must understand the context of your project, hiring local might be the best option – even if it is at a higher price
  • if your team is fast-moving and agile, any communications barriers may not be worth the savings
  • don't forget that offshore teams can deliver more developer brawn for the money and for many projects that is all that counts

Remember, developers, are attracted to more than just cash remuneration. Some developers wish to do good for society; others want to be a part of the next tech revolution. Where your project has something unique to offer, you may be able to offer rates at the lower end of the spectrum.

Consider hiring teams rather than individuals.

Hiring several developers for a large project?

Consider hiring entire teams rather than hiring developers one by one. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're outsourcing the whole project – instead, see it as bulk-buying development expertise.

Teams come with benefits. Members have already gone through a vetting process, and teamwork and team cohesion are already established. With teams, you can hire once and get all the skills you require, including the capability to jump-start a complex project.

Choosing the right developers

Right, you've widely published your (hopefully clear!) requirements, and the job applications are starting to roll in. How do you choose the best candidates? Follow these tips.

Develop a structured interview process

First and foremost, put together a plan or interview process. Haphazardly interviewing lots of candidates without following a fixed, sensible process will make it hard to compare candidates objectively – and you might miss asking that essential question. A structured process also sets a professional stage – something your candidates will be expecting. 

We recommend that you start the interview process with an initial screen using a video link. It's an opportunity to feel out a candidate, sensing whether a candidate is a good fit. Your screening interview also flags any insurmountable language or cultural barriers. 

It's a good idea to involve someone from HR at this early human-focused stage, rather than your more technical colleagues. However, you also need a technical stage – you're hiring a programmer, after all. 

Technical screening is essential.

Technical hiring means you must check out the technical capabilities of your candidates. There are plenty of ways you can go about it. A short, recorded 30-minute test could work just fine for some jobs. 

For others, you should think about a paid trial period involving a day's work – or even a week's work, if your project is particularly challenging. Nonetheless, your technical screen should challenge your candidate and be poised to highlight any potential flaws. Technical screens will also weed out copied resumes and resumes that exaggerate a developer's skills and experience.

Qualities to look out for

If you've hired technical talent, you'll already know what you need in a candidate. But just in case you're at the startup stage and new to hiring here are the essential qualities for a remote developer:

  • First and foremost, you need someone with a high level of self-motivation. Your new team members won't have the benefit of a buzzy office environment and amped-up colleagues around them, and you won't be there to supervise their work. Your developer must be a go-getter that gets on with the job and who doesn't need handholding.
  • Problem-solving skills are essential too – often, your developer will be stuck, alone, with a tricky problem and no one to ask for insight. Rather than hold up work, your developer must have the capacity to sort problems out on their own.
  • Self-awareness is also vital. Developers who understand where their skills lie and where their weaknesses are can more easily integrate into teams to contribute their best. You don't want bravado that leads to coding errors and botched projects.

In essence, you're not necessarily looking for the most intelligent hire – or a rock-star programmer. You're looking for a well-rounded colleague that functions well as a remote worker.

Verify your developer's remote working capabilities 

In many cases, you'll be dealing with an experienced remote worker, equipped to serve clients around the globe. But that is not necessarily the case. Check the essentials – does your developer have reliable internet connectivity? Do they have alternative sources of connectivity?

Establish whether your developer has the self-discipline to contribute to remote teams; it might be a real challenge if they have just moved from an in-house role. 

Also, check whether your developer is susceptible to any rapid changes in the local environment – are they currently using a shared office that will close if social distancing measures are applied? Verify their security measures, too – your remote developer cannot be the gateway for cybercriminals.

Keep an eye on the team and cultural fit.

Your developer must be able to engage in teamwork in a remote environment. Maintaining team cohesion across Slack requires a particular kind of mindset – it's possible, but not for everyone. It often involves "flat" rather than hierarchical collaboration, which can be challenging for some people. Try to find that team member who can do it in their stride.

Cultural fit is a sticky issue, mainly where cost pressures are on, and you need to find developers offshore. However, keep this in mind: cross-cultural collaboration is rarely a problem as long as the attitude of each individual is right. In other words, attitude can count for more than cultural nuances. Besides, cultural diversity can bring benefits to a project via the breadth and width of viewpoints.

Look for project history that matches your goals.

New hires must get up to speed rapidly. One way to achieve that is to hire developers who have worked in similar businesses or, if possible, on similar projects. Think about it this way: just because a developer is the Ruby expert you require does not mean they will grasp your business objectives. 

However, a developer who writes in Ruby in an industry similar to yours stands a better chance to get the business logic right the first time. You'll end up with a more productive developer and a project that moves along faster.

Stage Three - Onboarding and long-term success

Sure, we all expect new hires to jump in and contribute from day one. Yet careful onboarding and ongoing management play a huge role in the long-term success of your remote developer. 

Establish trust

It's worth spending time getting to know your new developer. Camaraderie can build out pretty quickly – it just requires a leadership spark, and it's well worth it. Be open about the goals of your project, and give some insight into the project history.

Go the extra length to spend more time with the new team member – do regular video catchups, and encourage your new developer to highlight concerns and questions. Your new team member should feel they are an essential contributor from day one. 

Clear lines of communication and an open-door policy is another must from the word go – make sure your new hire knows they can come to you when they need to.

Integrate your new colleague into the team

Trust also matters in the team context, and project leaders play an essential role in fast-tracking team relationships. Take the time to introduce your new developer to the entire team and outline who's responsible for what so that your new developer knows where to ask the right questions.

One way to go about this is to get an established team member to work alongside your new hire for a while. It's a great way to speed up cultural fit and to make sure your new developer fits in with the established workflows and patterns that make your existing team work together so well.

Make sure expectations are crystal clear.

A fast-moving development project means that goals and requirements shift rapidly. Don't let the fast pace of work leave your new hire on the side-lines. From the moment you say "go,"; your new hire needs to know what you're expecting of them. Communicate these expectations with absolute clarity.

Now, there's always a time where what your new hire is delivering doesn't meet your expectations. Don't delay in addressing this – it's often just a minor misunderstanding. Take the opportunity to course-correct – nobody will fit into an existing project without a little bit of guidance.

Follow your instinct and fire fast.

Every new hire should get a fair opportunity to settle in, but your project is not there to train up developers or to boost the morale of a struggling freelancer. You need results fast, and it may mean that you need to fire quickly too.

You'll quickly see whether a developer fits in and whether they are technically competent. Projects need both – competence and fit. If either is lacking, move on. Your new hire will have the opportunity to find a better fit in another team, and your team will benefit from seeing a better fit.

Hiring is an involved but rewarding process.

We can't emphasize this enough: don't let your focus on productivity and project success take away from the hiring process. We'll go as far as to say that getting hiring right should be one of your primary goals.

Why? Your developers are the people who ultimately execute your project. The better your developers, the fast your project will move along. Great hires need minimal interference and guidance.

Don't have the time to hire?
Get in touch with us.
Make it in UA is here to help, matching you with teams that provide the perfect blend of value and capability. We'll get your project off to a flying start in no time – and make sure that your team drives your project success.

Shad Paterson
About author
Shad's been a digital nomad since he was 16, living and working remotely. After working in marketing and selling crap to people constantly, he decided to change his life and do something good. Now he helps other people transform their lives, by landing them high-paying jobs across the world.
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