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If you hire online workers, you have no doubt had your share of hits and misses. It can be hard to find someone who will reliably work online, without the structure of an office environment. Add to that the complexity of hiring devs, and you’ve got yourself a unique hiring challenge.

Here are four key questions that we love to ask remote devs in an online interview:

Question 1

What tools would you set up (or get access to) on day #1 to get ready for your first dev tasks?

We love this question because when you hire online workers, you need folks that are especially communicative, and this question goes right to the heart of that matter. If the candidate responds with a list of tools that are for independent/solo work (like their preferred IDE, OS, or utilities), that’s not necessarily bad. But the list had better also include tools whose primary purpose is interacting with the broader team (e.g., JIRA, Confluence, Slack, GitHub). A dev who is primed to work remotely will intuitively understand that their success depends on how well they can contribute to the team. That means interacting productively. When you hire online workers, don’t forget to gauge the candidate’s mentality towards that.

Question 2

When you write fresh code for a bug or story, what steps do you like to see to get that code into a production branch?

This question is fun for us, because it teases out the difference between candidates that are tuned for operating in a tiny (1-2 devs) environment, versus those that are accustomed to finding an efficient-but-appropriate level of process for a more substantial team size. When you hire online workers, best to be sure that they are team members that will continue to fit in as the team grows. Our favorite answer involves writing unit tests and code on a branch, demonstrating that continuous integration tests pass, creating a pull request, soliciting feedback, updating the pull request, and then merging. There are variants of this process, but the important thing is that it demonstrates an eagerness to be transparent about the work that is occurring, and to accept and react to feedback.

Question 3

Suppose that an early-career dev joins the team, and is not remote but rather is at the main office, and you are asked to be a mentor. What would you do to make this new-hire successful?

One reason that this question has become a favorite for us, is that it helps us hire online workers that have a natural tendancy to treat mentoring as part of their job. We get some candidates that say that they think the new-hire should probably be mentored by someone that works at the office (instead of a remote worker). We’ll admit that we are a bit dissappointed when we hear this answer. What we’re usually hoping for is a candidate that is eager to find a rhythm where they can fit mentoring into their day-to-day work, through code reviews, 1:1 chats, looking at upcoming bugs/stories together, and just generally not being inhibited by the lack of being in the same physical location.

Question 4

How will you continue to grow as a developer, in this role?

This one is always interesting, because usually it’s easy to tell whether the candidate has thought about this question or not. Devs that have great ambition and are pursuing a remote role, usually have spent some time pondering this in advance. And why not? Ambitious employees are always thinking about what new challenges will further refine their talents for the benefit of their long-term career. We have great fun hearing from candidates that have thought through this issue in advance, and we’re always a bit worried when we talk with a candidate who has not.

Hire Online Workers with Care

When you hire online workers, especially developers, you join a growing movement towards reducing the focus on “where” the work is getting done and instead focus on “that” the work is getting done. Just make sure you are finding the right personalities that can thrive in a remote work environment!

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