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Remote Hiring in a Start-Up

Manoeuvring the Complexities of Remote Hiring in a Start-Up

Hi! I’m Sreya and I’m the People Person at TerminusDB. Before we get down to the intricacies of just how complex it is to hire remotely as a relatively young remote-first company, I just want to say, straight off the bat, that hiring is hard. Setting up a good process that works well is even harder. The key is to accept that you’re never going to get it absolutely right, you can just continually work at making it better.

Fairness in Process

At the end of the day, when it comes to hiring, you’re in the business of dealing with real people who have real feelings. It is a massive responsibility to shoulder. We’ve all been rejected for a job before. Whether it’s for a job you really wanted or even one that you somewhat half-heartedly applied for, rejection still stings. I’ve been on that side of the process, but perhaps more importantly, I’ve experienced it first-hand as an immigrant. It makes it even harder. You’re left to constantly wonder whether you were rejected from a job based on merit, or whether you were rejected on the basis of your citizenship status. It might help candidates to know that a company’s People team is diverse and inclusive, or that there’s someone on the team who empathizes with that experience. Having been on that side of things and now finding myself in the position of having to look at applications, I’d like to say, first and foremost, that we will always ensure that we are being fair to any candidate who applies for a job at our company.

Who sees your CV?

If you happen to be a candidate reading this, or if you’re interested in applying for a job at TerminusDB (we’re hiring, by the way! Check out the roles here), one of the most important things you need to know about our hiring process is that we are still figuring it out. We don’t use an ATS – at least not yet – and we hardly ever put a bunch of filters or specify required qualifications when posting job advertisements.

This guarantees two things; one, that you can bet that your CV is actually going to be seen and read by a human and not a computer, and two, that if you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily have the important keywords on their CV, but show great enthusiasm and potential, you will most definitely be considered for the role.

There is, of course, another argument here – and that is that software eliminates human bias – and can hence be the smarter option. While that’s true, we also believe that we’ve done a fantastic job at building a really diverse and inclusive team at TerminusDB. Open-Source is one of our core values. That means that we prioritize inclusion above all. We’re all about love, not money.

Not using a recruitment software, however, also means that our process is slower. It takes time to personally read through hundreds of applications. Speed is very much the name of the game when it comes to hiring. We can only try to move as quickly as we can whilst continuing to be fair. Perhaps in the future we might have to look at using a software to help manage the volume of applications, but even then, we’d try to ensure as fair a process as possible, and introduce questions that review applications based only on merit.

Interview Rounds – What you can Expect

So let’s say you – a candidate – have been asked if you’re available for an interview. What can you expect? The following is a rough guide as it may differ slightly depending on the role.

The first round is a short screening call that would be with the line manager for the position. This is for us to get to know a little more about your experience and skills, why you’re interested in the role and the company, and also an opportunity for you to ask us any questions that you might have. The second round would be a longer interview with HR – or in this case, me. We are a remote-first company so we’d like to know about your remote work experience, or how you feel about working remotely, how you work in teams, how you approach problems, etc. We’ll tell you about how we collaborate, our culture, our meetings and more. We are also always happy to answer any questions that you have for us.

After this, we’d write to you informing you of the salary we are offering for the role – we offer competitive salaries based on location, industry averages and candidate experience. There may be a little wiggle room and space for negotiation, but if you are not happy with the figure, we believe that it is best to end the process there before you spend more of your time and effort on subsequent rounds, and vice versa. If you are happy, on the other hand, we’d proceed to a third round which is a project or task-based one. Depending on the role, we could ask you to showcase some of your prior work, we could assign a small coding project, ask for a writing sample, or ask you to deliver a short presentation on strategy. The fourth and last round is a short one and would usually be with upper management. This would be an opportunity to find out more about the direction the company is taking and how your role fits in the bigger picture. Post this, we would conduct reference checks and then make an offer.

This sounds like a long process, but remote hiring is a whole different ball game. We don’t get to see candidates in person, so it makes it a lot more challenging to make a decision. We need more time to get to know you and make sure that we’re making the right choice for our company and team. Equally, we believe you need more time to get to know us to decide whether we are the right company for you. We’re very aware of the effort it takes to prepare for interviews, not to mention the toll that it takes to receive a rejection email after multiple rounds. Our goal is to always act and respond with kindness, and where possible, give you specific feedback.

If you make it to the team, I can guarantee that you will get to collaborate with some of the most intelligent and friendliest people that I have personally had the good fortune to work with.

love over money

More positions to open up soon

If you don’t find a role you are interested in applying for at the moment, you are always welcome to join our Discord server where you can keep up to date with any news – we hope to announce new positions opening up soon. Myself and Cheuk (our DevRel Advocate extraordinaire) are also starting a CV Clinic side project soon – so keep your eyes peeled on the community server and our social media pages for that one. You can expect plenty of tips and one on one sessions on how to write a good CV and make your application stand out.

As I’ve said many times before, this is a learning experience for us as well. We always appreciate honest feedback, so if you have any on our hiring process, please get in touch with us via email or on Discord.

TL;DR: We are hiring and are still figuring out a good process – it’s a work in progress. We also have a Terminators on Tech webinar on hiring and expanding the team; watch it here.


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