How to Hire Remote Developers
Hiring a remote developer is a time-consuming and energy-draining task. Finding the right developer is a process that if executed inefficiently can cost you and your organization time and money.
You have to put together a job listing, screen a lot of candidates, make a ton of phone calls, learn more about each candidate, and eventually test them. Even when you finally hire a remote developer, you won’t know for sure if they are the right pick until after they start working.
If you are a manager that’s responsible for putting together a rockstar team of developers and wish to do the best you can, then keep reading. This article is for you.
Hiring remote developers often revolves around a number of questions such as:
- Where do I find good developers?
- How do I attract the right talent to my job listing?
- How can I determine whether they are a good fit?
- What qualities and skills should they have?
- How much should I pay for them?
All of these concerns will be addressed in this guide, and hopefully, by the end, you should be feeling more confident in your ability to hire the right talent for your organization.
Now let’s get started!
Why Hire Remote Developers
Aside from the various research studies on remote development, there are a few benefits that can be incentives for employers to hire remote developers. Employees also benefit from working remotely as well.
Let’s take a look.
Benefits For Employees
- Work-life balance – Longer commute times, traffic, and other issues relating to transportation are directly linked to depression. Remote workers also have the freedom to work wherever they wish, whether at a local cafe or at home where they can have a classic lunch or do laundry.
- Autonomy – Remote work allows developers to take responsibility for their work and focus on results rather than the process, which requires a high level of self-organization.
- Time efficiency – Through remote work, developers have the opportunity to better manage their time and organize their daily workflow in a more productive way.
- Productivity – Remote employees have confirmed higher satisfaction with their work and better performance thanks to the lack of distractions of co-workers or micromanagement.
Benefits For Employers
- Cost reduction – The absence of necessity for office space, utilities, office supplies, and other amenities can save up to approximately $11,000 per employee per year for the company and that’s only if they work from home half the time.
- Talent pool access – Companies can reach more uniques specialists with versatile backgrounds while providing a competitive salary in their region. Remote work means global access.
- Flexibility – The modern economy favors the flexibility that remote work is providing, which can be a competitive advantage on the market.
- Happier and healthier employees – The well-being of your employees will reflect on your reputation as a business entity. It’ll also lead to more engaged employees who are committed to the company mission and more productive as a result.
Benefits For the Earth
For those who are trying to stay green, there are many environmentally-friendly benefits to remote works as well. According to Global Workforce Analytics working remotely for just half the year results in the following savings: :
- $20 million in gas
- 54 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions
- 640 million barrels of oil
Why Trio Hires Remote Developers
From Trio’s perspective, the opportunity to hire global talent is understated. Limiting your developers to one location leads to less diversity and very likely less talent.
Though it may not be obvious, having diverse teams has both a cultural and business incentive, especially if you intend to market software globally. Even modern software like facial recognition technology suffers from errors that are objectively discriminatory.
Surely, more diverse teams can offer new perspectives when it comes to addressing unique challenges. In the words of Trio CTO Daniel Alcanja, “why not involve everybody?”
The 3 Main Challenges of Hiring Remote Developers
While remote work boasts some great benefits, there are some challenges to hiring and managing remote developers that can affect both your organization and your employees.
Even though the benefits outweigh the challenges, it’s important to know what obstacles can arise while putting together an effective remote software development team.
Below are some challenges. Later you’ll see how to tackle these challenges effectively.
Identifying Quality Candidates
Having access to a world full of developers can easily become overwhelming once you post your job listing online.
Be prepared for an overflow of applications. You will have to sift through each and every one of them to find candidates to shortlist.
Managing Job Postings
Managing a job posting on multiple job boards can become time-consuming.
You will most likely have to create listings on 4-5 different sites, which means you will have to log into those separate sites and sift through all of the applications you receive.
Running your business from a non-English-speaking country means the probability of coming into contact with a developer that doesn’t speak fluent English is fairly high. Yes, even if they say they are fluent!
That’s not to say that they aren’t talented developers, but if you are managing an English-speaking team, you will need to hire remote developers that can communicate with your team members.
The best way to mitigate dealing with the above challenges when you hire remote developers is to create a robust screening and interviewing process.
Part of this is knowing what makes a good developer so that next time you come across one, you will recognize them both on paper and in action.
How To Write a Job Description for Remote Developers
The hiring process starts with creating a job posting. Your job posting will set the tone for the entire journey of finding a remote developer, so please, don’t take this section lightly.
In order to attract the best developers, you will need to make your company look as attractive as possible.
Some of the well-written job listings on sites like We Work Remotely can serve as your guide. Piecing together a well-written job description is not rocket science, but these ideas can get you started.
Check out this breakdown of the anatomy of a job posting and learn how you can help potential candidates screen themselves before even submitting their applications.
Job titles should be clear and communicate the role as it is. No need to add fluffy words like “rockstar” or “ninja.” Instead, opt for more professional and descriptive titles such as iOS Engineer or React Developer.
Job descriptions should provide detailed information on what your expectations are, what are the specific high-level tasks the position entails, what you’re offering in terms of salary and benefits, and why candidates should be excited to join your team.
You can use narrative style paragraphs to draw candidates in or use bullet-pointed lists. A mix of both is optimal.
An alternative to coming up with a job description from scratch is to use a template. Indeed provides templates for various jobs and you can edit them further.
When you write a job description, divide all of the responsibilities into succinct bullet points. The more specifications you are able to provide, the better candidates will be able to understand your expectations and their potential duties in the remote team.
It will also give them a chance to screen themselves out of applying, which means time saved for you. This is your chance to narrow down candidates. For example, you may only want developers who have coded for at least five years, or you may be looking for certain certifications.
What Is the Process for Hiring Remote Developers?
After you’ve written a decent job description, you’ll need to get started with the actual hiring process. It’ll be a trial, but if you end up with the right developer who does their work well and is a good cultural fit, it’ll be worth it.
Post a Job Listing
Most job searches for job seekers begin with an attractive job listing. It’s your job to convey the mission of your company along with what you’re looking for accurately to a job seeker.
As mentioned, a job description, job title, and list of requirements are the three base components to any respectable job listing. But don’t make it heartless. Include reasons why someone would want to work for you. What can you offer?
Receive and Review Applications
Once the applications start rolling in it’s your job to comb through them. Some companies have a hiring manager do some part of this, but if you’re a small company, it makes sense if you don’t have the resources.
That’s not a bad thing. Although you’ll be undoubtedly busy, you’ll get a chance to take a personal look at your applicant’s.
Find a Resume/CV & Cover Letter That Shines
It should be easy enough to find a candidate with the technical skills you need, so long as you have a solid reputation backed up with fair compensation.
Select the best candidate from the pile but also ensure that their cover letter demonstrates good communication skills and some inkling of personality because these candidates will work better on a team.
Scroll further down for more information on ‘How To Choose the Right Candidate(s).’
Interview the Candidate
After choosing a handful of candidates to move forward, you need to complete the second step in the hiring process. In most industries, this is just an interview.
Even for software development, an interview is a means of assessing a candidate's communication skills. But the entirety of the hiring process entails much more. Read on for more details.
Test and Evaluate the Candidate
Your job candidate needs to put their money where their mouth is and prove they can do what they say they can. It’s traditional (and smart) to test your candidate’s performance on challenges related to their technical skills.
You’ll find more information on just how to do that on ‘How To Screen and Interview Remote Developers’ just a couple of scrolls forward.
Hire Remote Developers and Work Happily Ever After
In a fantasy world, after finding and hiring the right developer(s), you won’t encounter any more problems. That’s probably not going to happen. But can you revel in the fact that you conducted your hiring process in an astute and orderly fashion and this mitigates more risk.
What Does a Good Developer Look Like? 5 Skills To Look For
Before you get into the process of hiring remote developers, it’s important to understand what the ideal candidate looks like both on paper and in action.
There is no shortage of skillful and hardworking software developers ready to work remotely, but the key to establishing a long-term productive relationship between employer and employee is finding the right fit.
Hiring the wrong developer can not only cost you time and money but do significant damage to the company and its reputation. It’s a rare worst-case scenario, but one worth avoiding.
So what does a good developer look like? Aside from identifying traditional qualities and professional experience, you should also look for soft skills directly related to remote working.
Remote work implies a high level of self-organization and autonomy among employees. Look for software developers who are self-motivated enough to stay productive without their manager looking over their shoulder and checking their work all the time.
The mark of a great developer is in their ability to communicate their ideas, both verbally and in writing with their team. They should also be fluent in your primary language of business.
Given the nature of remote working, developers that show initiative when working on a project are highly desirable. These tend to be senior-level developers who have “been there, done that.”
Remote work offers the unique benefit of allowing developers to balance their lives in ways that allows them to be more productive. While it might sound nice to hire the herculean programmer, it’s probably better to go with someone who has hobbies and interests outside of work. Burnout syndrome can impact your business negatively.
A good developer is mature enough to provide their manager with a safe timeline estimation regarding a task or project. Developing software is not easy, and even seemingly simple tasks can suffer from unexpected bugs and other delays.
One of the marks of a good developer is to be safe and deliver early rather than to be optimistic and deliver late.
It’s easy to get caught up in assessing a developer’s technical skill, and while it’s important to ensure the developer can code his way out of a paper bag, soft skills will determine how valuable a developer is in the long term.
Also, it goes without saying that developers with poor soft skills tend don’t last very long on a team. Collaboration is an essential element of any remote team.
When it comes to resumes and cover letters, a resume should only be used to gauge whether the candidate meets certain skills, years of experience, and educational requirements.
Cover letters, should a candidate submit one, can give you an idea of a candidate’s personality. A good cover letter is earnest, shows good writing ability, and is enjoyable to read.
To sum things up, a good developer will meet most of your skill requirements on paper and flex those skills during technical tests. A great developer will have strong verbal communication skills and let their soft skills shine through their past work and throughout the interviewing process.
One lesson that you can take from a corporate headhunter is to look past candidates that describe their work history using phrases like “I did this, I did that.” Instead, single out candidates that championed the efforts of the team.
Should You Hire a Freelancer or Full-Time Remote Developer?
Another big decision you will have to make is whether to hire a freelancer or full-time remote developer to work on your project.
A freelance developer is someone that you hire on a contractual basis to work on a project for a short period of time. Freelancers sign up to marketplace sites like Upwork, Toptal, and Freelancer and qualify their skills through these networks.
You might be more familiar with the concept of full-time staff. These are employees you’ll hire to stay on indefinitely. In return, they’ll expect a reasonable salary and comparable benefits.
Whether you decide to go with one or the other primarily depends on the scope and complexity of your project. The difference between freelance and full-time developers may be starker than you think.
Pros of Freelance Remote Developers
Not only will freelancers enjoy the flexibility of a pliable work schedule, but you will enjoy some flexibility as well when it comes to how you navigate the expectations that you have for freelancers and what expectations they have from you.
While freelancers typically charge more per hour, businesses can save money by not having to pay for benefits like health insurance and social security. You can save even more money if you hire a freelancer in a country where the cost of living is lower.
- Risk Reduction
Freelancers are easy to terminate if the relationship isn’t working out and do not have the right to collect unemployment insurance or sue for harassment or discrimination. Of course, you want to make sure you hire the right developers in the first place, but it’s good to plan for the worst scenario.
Freelancers are responsible for their income, which means that they are incentivized to deliver excellent work to their clients. While full-time employees might have highs and lows in their time working with you, freelancers know that a contract is up for renewal and will work to keep that contract.
Cons of Freelance Remote Developers
Freelancers by definition maintain some type of corporate liberties in that they do not have to be fully dedicated to you or your company. And that’s their right as freelancers.
Freelance developers tend to balance multiple projects at once. This means that you are on their time and must respect their schedule.
Depending on the nature of your project, it takes a certain amount of trust to leave it in the hands of a freelancer. Freelance marketplaces help build trust between employers and freelancers via features like rankings and testimonials.
- Internal Visibility
Freelance developers do not integrate as deeply into your organization as a full-time developer would.
For example, freelancers might have trouble building relationships with existing team members working full-time. You can avoid this by cultivating a culture that values communication and collaboration.
Your company's success is not their priority. Freelance developers are often working on multiple projects which means there will be clients they enjoy working with more than others.
Overall, their level of commitment to your vision is lower than a full-time employee. If you are looking for a developer that will emotionally invest in your product, you might want to consider hiring full-time employees.
Pros of Full-Time Remote Developers
Full-time remote developers are obligated to be on your side, at least during work hours. You can rest easy knowing where they stand.
In contrast to freelance developers, full-time developers have a larger stake in the company. Their salaries are, in some ways, tied to the success of the product they are building.
Because full-time developers make their living working on the one figurative project that is your business, they tend to submit their resumes to companies that they believe they will enjoy working at.
Full-time developers don’t have to balance multiple projects, and they don’t get to pick favorites between clients. Your product is their main focus and how you manage the development process will determine the successes and failures of your product.
- Organizational Topology
Developers that are in it for the long-haul will build deeper relationships with their coworkers and create a unique mental map of the product they are building.
This organizational topology makes full-time developers extremely valuable as they become more efficient over time.
Cons of Full-time Remote Developers
Most of the cons of having full-time remote developers, ironically, have to do with their permanency. The fixed nature of having full-time remote developers on your team lead to problems down the line if you’re not careful.
- Cost of Replacement
Replacing employees costs money.
A 2017 study showed that an employee earning a median salary of $45,000 will cost around $15,000 to replace. Also, when an employee works full-time they create mental maps about your business that allow them to become more efficient over the course of their employment.
This cost is harder to quantify, but you’ll feel it when an employee leaves. Low turnover should be the goal.
- Cost of Training
When you bring on a developer to work on an existing project they will need to be onboarded and given some time to learn the tools that your organization uses, the work methodologies your team adheres to, and immerse themselves into the codebase. And time is money.
- Cultural Fit
Chances are if you have experience hiring employees, then you’ve hired someone who turned out not to be the right fit culturally. This problem can be hard to manage considering the permanency of full-time positions and the difficulties of letting an employee go.
Thankfully, you can incorporate team meet and greets into your interviewing process to make sure that your team members approve. While this isn’t a foolproof solution, it’s an inclusive one.
Which Type of Remote Developer Is Right for You?
The answer is that it depends on what you are looking for.
If you are a very early startup looking for a developer to build an MVP, then maybe it’s best to find a freelance developer.
If you have an existing codebase then a full-time developer will be better in the long-term. Freelancers simply do not offer the level of investment you need at that point.
Unfortunately, things aren’t all black and white, and you might not have the resources to go about building a remote team.
You might want the benefits of a freelancer and full-time employee without the drawbacks. In that case, you may want to look more into alternatives to hiring full-time software developers.
6 Places To Find and Hire Remote Developers
Now that you have an idea about what the ideal developer looks like, as well as the differences between freelancers and full-time developers, you might be wondering where to find developers.
Depending on the type of project, companies will leverage one or more channels – such as remote job boards or freelance marketplaces – to attract talent. These channels have their pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which ones to use.
There’s a good chance you already know some of these resources if you’ve spent some time on the internet. But for those who don’t know, this is a good place to start. And either way, you might learn something new.
1. Outsourcing Agencies
Outsourcing agencies will hire remote developers for you so you don’t have to. Essentially, once you work with an outsourcing agency you tell them about the project and you can be sure they’ll get it done.
Trio is one example of an outsourcing agency. But Trio developers strive to work more closely with your company than other outsourcing agencies and fully understand the needs of your project.
2. Freelance Marketplaces
Freelance marketplaces are often associated with project-based jobs rather than regular employment, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a remote developer interested in working long-term. You most certainly can; however, it would be an inefficient way to find candidates compared to some other methods.
Some well-known sites that connect businesses to freelancers are UpWork, Toptal, Gun.io, and Codeable.
3. Job Boards
The best place to find remote candidates are job boards. You’ve probably heard of global job boards such as Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn Jobs, but there are plenty of smaller ones that are popular within the development community.
Below are the ones that we know to have high amounts of site traffic, which means more candidates for you.
Quick note: Make sure when you create a job posting on global job boards that you explicitly state that the position is remote.
Aside from LinkedIn’s job board, LinkedIn is a social media platform unlike any other. It caters to the needs of business-oriented people no matter what industry you’re in. This is why it’s a good place to network. And while this won’t immediately result in developers to hire, give it time and you’ll find some worthwhile connections.
Referrals have long been considered the best way to hire someone. Even LinkedIn agrees! It’s when someone in your personal or professional network recommends a job candidate to you. These recommendations usually highlight the most talented people which leads to less risky decision-making.
You’re probably surprised to hear that you can use a forum website to find developers. But Reddit has dozens of subreddits that are great hubs for networking. And there are quite a few subreddits just for hiring developers. Have a look here for some more direction.
For a more detailed insight on where to find and hire remote developers, look no further than Trio’s blog for another in-depth guide.
How To Choose the Right Candidate(s)
So you’ve posted your job listing, applications are flowing in, and you’re now realizing that you have your hands full. Believe it or not, these are good problems to have. Even so, you might be wondering how to choose the best candidate.
Sifting through resumes can be overwhelming but the most important thing to know is that hiring developers takes time. In fact, it’s better that you take your time, regardless of your company roadmap.
That might sound counterintuitive, but don’t forget the point of hiring is to find the right developer, not just any developer. Rushing the process will most certainly cause you problems later on.
The steps below will give you some guidance about how exactly you should narrow down your candidates and make sure you’re making the right decision.
Filter the Candidates
To start, first, filter out resumes that don’t match your criteria at all. There are a couple of red flags that can be easily spotted. Throwing out these bad eggs will save you a lot of time.
- Red Flag #1: They didn’t read the job description.
This one is quite common. Some developers will blast their resume in hopes of landing an interview.
Often this comes at the expense of not paying attention to the job listing. As a result, their resume sits out of place and you can assume they don’t care enough about your project.
These applicants aren’t worth your time.
Things that scream ‘do not hire’ are:
- Their skills don’t match what you need. For example, you asked for a Python developer but they code in Java.
- They don’t have enough experience. You specifically asked for 5-7 years of experience but they applied with only 1-3 years under their belt, for instance.
- They’re in the wrong time zone. For whatever reason, you need developers in certain time zones and they neglected to read that specification.
- Red Flag #2: Their cover letter sounds generic and/or uninspired.
Numbers are arbitrary, but feelings are not. Companies like Basecamp value cover letters to gauge whether a candidate is worth talking to.
They put a strong emphasis on telling candidates to put their maximum effort into their cover letter. All of this to say, if you receive a cover letter that’s subpar, toss it.
Selecting the Top 5 Candidates
At this point, you should have enough resumes to pick your top five candidates. Remember that you’ll be hiring remote developers after narrowing down this lot so make sure the candidates you pick show genuine potential.
You can even be a little more strict and go for a top three, but many companies – including here at Trio – stick with five since interviews tend to leave you with only one candidate.
Selecting your top five is very straightforward. If you have requested your developers to write amazing cover letters then you should base your decisions on the passion, quality, and clarity of their writing.
Quick Tip: To make evaluating cover letters easier, make sure to tell applicants reading your job listing to keep it short and sweet. You can also outline what topics you expect them to touch upon in their cover letter. Here’s an example of some tips to give job applicants for cover letters:
- Introduce yourself.
- Talk about what you do.
- Describe your role in the company’s future.
- Describe what you are looking for in return.
Writing is an extremely valuable skill regardless of what position your job applicants aim to be in. If a candidate is capable of writing a cover letter that is clear and concise, it shows that they are able to communicate well.
Always opt for the better writer.
Once you have filtered and selected the top five candidates that have the necessary requirements (at least on paper) from your pool of applicants, it’s time to interview them.
Interviewing remotely is slightly different than interviewing local applicants because you will not have the benefit of meeting them in person.
Instead, you will have to leverage a number of different tools to make your life easier. More importantly, you will have to develop an interview process that helps you determine whether or not the candidate is a good fit.
How to Screen and Interview Remote Developers
Below are a few methods Trio uses to qualify candidates before hiring remote developers. But the interview process at Trio is constantly evolving.
You should take great care in developing a process that doesn’t overwhelm you as you will be interviewing more than one candidate.
Interviewing developers takes time and can be exhausting, so it’s best to be as organized and methodical as possible. This is arguably the most important step in hiring remote developers.
You don’t want to waste time interviewing or hiring the wrong people.
That’s why every remote developer candidate that you are interviewing should go through a coding challenge. This is a great way to see if the candidate can write code. You will learn how they approach and solve problems.
Give them a small task that takes between half an hour and an hour, and you will get a pretty clear idea about how they write, structure, and document their code, as well as how they test and implement it.
Short Video Presentation
Video presentations are becoming a popular addition to the interviewing process. In only 3-5 minutes, you can know what you can expect from the candidate in terms of their communication skills, personality, enthusiasm, in addition to learning more about their technical skills.
Technical interviews allow you to go deeper and learn about the candidate’s specific skills and professional knowledge. Usually, interviews consist of a set of questions that are specific to the role and seniority you are hiring for and verify that they can walk the walk.
Apart from checking a candidate’s expertise, a technical interview is a good opportunity to learn about the projects that they have done before and are proud of. You can also glimpse how they have handled difficult situations in the past, how they would handle a certain type of a project or a situation, and other things of that nature.
Find out about their career and growth expectations, what drives them, and what they are looking for to achieve in the new position.
The key here is to ask questions that allow the developer to open up and talk about things they are passionate about. It’s less about asking trivia questions and more about having a conversation.
Pair programming is an agile practice that allows two programmers to work together on a small project or feature. There are two distinct roles – the driver and the navigator. The driver is the person who is writing the code, while the navigator guides how the code should be written.
In a pair programming interview, the interviewer is the navigator, and the candidate is the driver. This is as much a test on technical skills as it is on communication.
Pair programming shows a candidate’s ability to collaborate with other team members.
If you’re interested in any one of these screening activities or interview types, the tools down below will be super helpful.
- For video presentations - https://zoom.us/
- For code challenges - https://www.hackerrank.com/
- For pair programming - https://slack.com/ and https://github.com/
Hiring remote developers on your own will take a good chunk of your time, not to mention exhausting at times if it’s not something you are used to doing.
This includes hundreds of unsuitable applications flooding your inbox, unsolicited emails and messages on Linkedin, hours of interviewing and testing, exhausting salary and benefits negotiations, complicated onboarding process, etc. Seriously, it can get hectic.
Trio can help by hiring and allocating developers that not only have the technical skills you are looking for, but have the core-skills necessary to communicate and work effectively in a remote work environment. Contact us today to get started!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re looking for some information, but can’t find it here, please contact us.
Go to FAQ
Depending on the type of project, companies will leverage one or more channels, such as remote job boards and freelance marketplaces to attract talent. These channels have their pros and cons, so it is up to you to decide which ones to use.
A good developer will meet most of your skill requirements on paper and flex those skills during technical tests. A good developer will have strong verbal communication skills and let their soft skills shine through their past work and throughout the interviewing process.
Depending on the size of your business, the business owner or HR manager will be in charge of the hiring process. Keep in mind that in order to conduct an effective technical interview, the person interviewing must be knowledgeable about software development to accurately assess a candidate’s skill and fit.