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Interview with Angelina Ebeling, Founder & CEO at acework.
acework has been fully remote since it’s inception in 2018. Since we’re all about connecting remote talent to positions at remote-friendly companies, it would be difficult if we didn’t "walk the talk“.
My remote work journey started during my last job though. I was tasked with the expansion of a German tech startup in the US, and became a remote employee by accident. The entire team was in Munich, Germany and I was the only one in New York. Being removed from my colleagues made me realise the potential of remote work, but also the drawbacks and potential dangers when it’s not set up properly.
After I quit that job in 2017, I was looking for a new opportunity. During that time a lot of new remote job boards appeared, and the "buzz“ started. I noticed that it was really hard to find great opportunities and often it wasn’t clear what was required from candidates. That’s when I decided to build something that would fix remote recruiting.
We are a team of 8, and are already scattered from the East Coast of the US all the way to India, China and Russia.
Luckily I am in the middle, in Germany, since I am usually in touch with everyone at some point during the day.
I’ve noticed that the coordination between India and the US is especially hard, so often I am the person mitigating or advancing a topic while one of the sides is still asleep. It’s definitely not ideal, but since we’re such a small team at the moment, I can still handle it.
Once we grow bigger, I will make sure that teams and people with more collaboration sit closer together, maybe with a 4 hour overlap in their working hours.
In order to mitigate the challenges at the moment, we just make sure we are diligent in documentation and asynchronous communication (meaning Slack). Effective written communication is actually one of the key traits we are vetting candidates for, since it’s something all remote companies require and value highly. We do this via screening questions before we admit candidates to the acework platform.
Since we’re such a young and dynamic (meaning constantly changing) company, we haven’t established a definite onboarding process yet.
Right now we have simply set up a Kanban style task board in our project management tool Notion.so, which lists all the steps that the new hire has to go through.
So far we’ve been fortunate to only bring people with remote working experience on board, so they already have figured out their style. I think it’s especially interesting to help newbies to remote working find their flow and that should be part of a successful onboarding!
First of all, hiring remote employees has obvious benefits. They include tapping into a large global talent pool to find the truly best fit for the position. However, remote companies often face a problem regular recruiters can only dream of: they have too many applicants.
I’ve spoken to a lot of HR professionals hiring remotely, and they all say that it costs them so much time to screen applications, resumés and cover letters to find the few candidates they want to even consider for an interview. Zapier for example only invites 2% of applicants to interview.
In order to avoid irrelevant candidates, recruiters need to pay special attention to drafting job descriptions. On the acework platform, for example, they create a job description that clearly states which time zones or countries candidates have to be located in. In addition, we match candidates on salary range, skills, remote work experience and so on.
By defining important „deal breakers“ early on, companies avoid to even receive applications from unsuited candidates, which cuts down the time screening applications.
We have also found that remote recruiting depends even more on values alignment, or, as some companies call it, "culture fit." Getting a first impression of a candidate’s personality in their initial application is a key aspect as well. That way, recruiters avoid wasting time on an interview.
With acework, recruiters can set individual screening questions for each open position. Applicants then have to reply either in written format or via a short video recording. This makes it even easier to filter out the candidates they want to move forward in the process.
Candidates love this, by the way, because it lets them move much faster to a final decision. A quick "no“ can also be worth a lot!
All in all, remote recruiting is about finding a needle in a haystack. It’s important to not get overwhelmed, prioritise correctly in the large inflow of candidates, and use tools that support quick hiring processes to ensure a great candidate experience.
We’re lucky to be part of such an incredible ecosystem of experts, talent and companies all advocating for remote work.
Our mission is to expand that ecosystem, by helping companies make their first remote hires, and talent to find their first remote career opportunities.