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Struggling to hire a developer? Here’s our three step guide to remote hiring

Remote workers are the fastest growing work category in the US according to data from Global Workplace Analytics. That doesn’t include the self-employed, by the way. Most remote employees work for companies with over 100 staff.

We’re not surprised remote hiring is on the up. We’ve been telling people for years that their back yard is not the best place to look for the very best development talent. If you want that? You have to think global.

But, while over 80% of the workforce would like to work from home, finding someone who can work effectively from home is more challenging. If you’re not familiar with remote hiring, it can seem daunting. How do you put someone through their paces when they’re the other side of the world?

What’s the best way to test someone’s skills? How can you tell if they’re going to be a good fit for your company? How do you know if they are going to be able to work from home efficiently? That they will deliver what they’ve promised?

If you’ve been struggling with how to hire a developer, or knowing how to adequately test your remote candidates you’ve come to the right place. This is what we spend our days doing, and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Here are our top tips on how to hire a developer who is going to be working remotely, whether that be in the same country or on a different continent.

Get Recommendations Before you Hire a developer

Remote teams are well established enough now that there is knowledge to draw on. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If you have contacts who have used remote developers, get in touch with them and find out how they did things. They might be able to signpost you to some resources or even the perfect hire.

It’s also worth scouting forums for the programming language you need or getting in touch with experts in that field. Remember that old adage. It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. Use your network; it will help you decide who to approach (and maybe even who to avoid).

Getting the Remote Hiring Interview Right

There’s some disagreement about how much of communication is nonverbal. Still, if the only contact you’ve had with a candidate is via video conference, you may feel that you haven’t got the full picture. That’s why we’ve come up with a three-step process to get as complete a picture of candidates as possible. Here’s how we do it:

Technical Expertise

We’ve talked before about how we think the way technical skills are assessed in most interviews is wrong. In spite of our words of wisdom, employers are still using the whiteboard test. The truth of the matter is, you don’t work under exam conditions. Isn’t knowing when and how to find the answers to problems you come across a skill worth having?

We think it’s better to look at a developer’s body of work. Check out their CV, reach out to the people they’ve worked with before. Take some time to think about the projects they might work on for you, and what overlaps there might be. Discuss those things, specifically. You’ll soon discover whether you have a genuinely creative developer or someone who has just swallowed a manual.

More than that, by discussing projects in detail you will be assessing one of the most critical skills that a remote developer needs: communication. You’ll be touching base with this person regularly (ideally once a day, if you follow our advice and adopt the Agile development methodology). You need them to be able to explain where they are with a project, and to trust they they know where they are going next.

Cultural Fit

When you’re planning an interview, it’s tempting to fall back on the usual questions. You hear them all the time, so they must be the right ones, right? At DistantJob we have a different approach. Rather than think about the questions, think about the answers you want. What do you need to know about a person, to make sure they’ll be an excellent addition to the team.

This doesn’t mean hiring people who are just like you – in fact, diversity is one of the main benefits of remote teams. It does mean thinking about the core values of your company, and the goals of your team. Now ask questions that will help you vet a candidate for those.

This can mean tossing the interview script. Rather than asking, ‘Where’s your biggest weakness?’ (who is going to answer that honestly?) think about questions like, ‘Give me an example of where things have gone wrong for you, what did you do to overcome the problem?’

You can also think about more alternative questions, take a leaf out of these CEO’s book and ask some different questions. It’s okay to abandon the professional and sound your candidate out on their attitudes to other things. Of course, avoid divisive issues like religion, politics and Jar Jar Binks.


This is a little different to technical skill. Particularly when you’re hiring someone for a remote position, it’s useful to know what their past experiences of working remotely have been. You’ll need to determine whether they’re going to work well according to your remote working policies.

One potential problem with remote working is that you can’t see if your developers are struggling. In the office, you’ll hear the swearing! Knowing how your potential telecommuter has handled problems in the past will tell you a lot. This is especially important if you will be working asynchronously. (At DistantJob, we recommend that everyone works the same hours, regardless of timezones.) You don’t want an employee losing a day’s work because they didn’t ask a vital question.

Payment & Contracts for Remote Hiring

If you haven’t hired remote employees before, you will need to give some thought and do some research on salaries and contracts. There are questions that you’ll need to answer. For example, you may know the going rate for a developer in the USA but how much will you pay if they work in Europe, Singapore or India?

Your regular contract of employment probably won’t be up to the job. Make sure you tell HR your plans to hire before you start interviewing to prevent delays while they rustle up a contract that will do the job.

Currency is an issue, too. Will you pay in your currency, or in theirs? If you pay in your currency, your new employee may get hit with extra bank charges for currency conversion.

It’s also worth thinking about giving them a budget work working expenses. Companies save about $10,000 a year on costs by having employees work remotely. Some of that is passed to the remote worker as a cost. Having something in place should they need to replace their laptop, office chair or install faster internet is worth considering.

Sounds Complicated?

Like anything new, hiring remote workers can seem daunting the first time you do it. Even if this isn’t the first time, there are more and different things to think about. Hopefully, this article will help you get started, but there is an alternative.

At DistantJob we specialize in headhunting the very best digital nomads around the world. Then we match them with great opportunities like yours. We have our systems for checking candidates out in place, so you know that anyone we send to you is at the top of their game. If you’ve got a vacancy you’d like us to fill, get in touch today. We’d love to help.

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a remote work advocate and thought leader and a specialist in persuasive writing. She has an MA in Creative Fiction, is a children's author, and a writer of award-winning short stories.