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Tips for Remote Hiring: How Atlassian is Making Virtual Interviews a Reality

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Remote hiring is a process that companies across all sectors are now incorporating into their hiring strategy. To help set your team up for remote hiring success, HackerRank’s Co-founder and CEO, Vivek Ravisankar, spoke with Atlassian’s Andy Mountney about remote hiring best practices. 

When it comes to remote interviewing, Atlassian is ahead of the curve—in fact, it’s something they’ve been doing since their founding. Originally started in Australia, Atlassian began hiring remotely as a means to bring international talent to work at their Sydney HQ. Pursuing international talent meant some candidates weren’t able to attend a traditional onsite—so remote interviews became a must-have. They’ve been refining and perfecting their remote hiring process ever since. 

As the Talent Acquisition Site Lead for Atlassian’s Sydney location, Andy Mountney has been helping his technical teams conduct remote interviews since 2018. To hear his advice on creating a smooth remote hiring process, read the key takeaways below.

Define, document, and communicate a consistent remote hiring process

Changes in policies and procedures will inevitably happen when making the shift to remote hiring. To minimize room for dysfunction, Andy advises that teams spend time defining and documenting what the new remote hiring process will look like. Then communicate the process to internal team members and candidates. 

Start by defining & documenting your process

Explicitly defining the new workflow prevents confusion and empowers interviewers to deliver a positive remote candidate experience.  It also proactively answers questions from interviewers,  and enables teams to adjust quickly if a teammate—or the entire company—suddenly has to work remotely.

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“I think one of the real strengths we had when making this pivot wasn't just the fact that we've already conducted so many remote interviews. It was the documentation that we had to support it,” says Andy. “With it, we could lift very quickly at scale and build consistency into that change...so I’d certainly encourage people to document it and think about it.” 

Communicate clearly, and often

What’s next after defining and documenting your new remote hiring process? Communicate it to your candidates. Many candidates have never gone through an entirely remote hiring process; it’s the recruiter’s responsibility to set expectations. Andy says it’s also crucial that recruiters communicate the intended outcome of the process, should there be a mutual fit.

“It's important to make sure that the candidate understands [if] there could be an offer coming out of this process still if it's successful,” says Andy. “You want your recruiters to be [asking]: Will you be ready if we make an offer? How can we help you make that decision?” 

Especially when taking your hiring process remote, it’s helpful to amp up your candidate communications. Atlassian has done this by increasing the number of digital touch points they have with their candidates throughout the hiring process—just one of the ways they’ve adapted their in-person hiring process to a remote-friendly one.

Don’t skimp on candidate or interviewer prep

It’s natural to feel more relaxed when working from home. But it’s important for candidates to treat the remote interview the same way they would treat a traditional onsite. Andy encourages candidates to dedicate plenty of time to prepping;  from his perspective, it’s the best way they can set themselves up for success.

Preparing to interview from home

“Typically, if you were going to an interview as a candidate, you're going to prepare for going to a physical place. And you're going to think about, perhaps, your journey there,” says Andy. “If you're interviewing remotely as a candidate, it’s still important to take that step and just think about the environment you’re going to deliver your interview in.”

At Atlassian, Andy says it’s standard to send candidates a guide with interview prep tips and suggestions. He likes to include things like:

  • Instruction on how to access the video interview tool they’ll be using, and any other tools or software they’ll need for the interview
  • A reminder to choose a clean and comfortable interview space
  • The names and LinkedIn profiles of the people on the interview panel

Adopt a 10-minute rule

Andy says it’s equally important that the interview panel prepares for each interview.

“From the interviewer's perspective, it's important to make sure that interviewers are set up to switch into that interview mindset—just as they would be in the workplace.”

To enable that, Atlassian likes to  set aside an extra 10 minutes before the interview for both the interviewer and the candidate to get ready. During these 10 minutes, the interviewer and the candidates have the time to set up, calm any nerves, and get ready for their discussion.

“We block that time out in the interviewer’s calendar so that they have that 10 minutes to get their brain into the right place to deliver the interview, get their laptops set up, and get their tools set up for the interview,” Andy explains. “I think that really helps calm someone down and get them back into that right place to deliver.”

When in doubt, practice empathy

For most candidates, remote interviewing is a new experience. And to make that transition smooth, empathy is a must-have. “I think for remote interviews, it’s just about thinking ‘How can I help facilitate something which is possibly a first-time experience for the person on the other end?,’” Andy stressed. And that starts with the interviewer. 

Focus on putting the candidate at ease

“As an interviewer, you have as much responsibility as the candidate does to make it a great experience,” Andy says. To accurately evaluate fit, it’s key that interviewers give candidates a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere to showcase their skills. 

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“For the interviewer, [it’s important] to make the interviewing experience as comfortable as possible, and to ensure that the [candidate] is only being evaluated on the skills and attributes that they should be.” That means keeping focus on the candidate’s skills—not their video background, or accidental interruptions from their family.

Evaluate on skills, not minor mishaps

Say, for example, the candidate is having trouble with their video tool in the first 5-10 minutes of the interview. While some interviewers might see this as a red flag, Andy stresses that this isn’t a chance to judge the candidate. Instead, he feels strongly that interviewers should keep the evaluation to the interview itself.

“[It’s a] big responsibility of the interviewer to help calm that person, settle them, and help them reset [in the event of an issue],” Andy argues. “It’s not an opportunity to judge.” A little bit of empathy for the candidate can go a long way, and can help you stay focused on what matters: their skills. 

Use the flexibility of remote hiring to your advantage

Since remote interviewing can be done from home—versus an office—it’s inherently more flexible. Andy sees that as an opportunity to build an even stronger relationship with the candidate.

“I think one of the advantages of the remote [interview] is that you can build in breaks very comfortably...whether it’s hard stops over the course of 24 hours, or a longer period of time,” Andy notes. With remote hiring, companies have the chance to break the interview process up into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Take, for example, breaks between interviews. “Typically, [you’d be] trying to fill that space if somebody was onsite,” Andy explains. To keep the candidate engaged, you might have to orchestrate activities like office tours, team lunches, or coffee breaks. 

But by cutting them out, you give candidates more room to reset, or prepare for their next round.  “Now, you’re actually giving that time back to candidates.” And that helps candidates get in the right headspace to deliver a great interview. 

The future of remote hiring at Atlassian

So how will this shift to remote hiring impact Atlassian’s hiring process in the long run? “We always want to learn through experience—and inevitably, we’re going to learn through this experience.” Andy believes. “We’re really fascinated to see the impact of a remote-only interviewing model.” 

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Atlassian regularly surveys candidates on their interview experience: the highs, the lows, and everything in between. They plan to keep a close eye on that data to learn from this transition as it unfolds.

“Will it enhance or deliver specific changes that we’ve identified today? Absolutely not,” Andy admits. “But when we get back in the office, it’ll be a good opportunity to retro, reflect, and understand what the opportunities are: what we could’ve done better, and what [the process] will look like going forward.”

Want to listen to the conversation live? Catch Vivek and Andy’s interview on HackerRank Radio

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