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From 0 to 800+ Remote Interviews: Lessons from ServiceNow’s Two-Week Transition to Remote Hiring

To respond to COVID-19, ServiceNow had to take their entire hiring process online—which meant a transition to 100% remote interviews. In this interview, NancyDeLeon, Director of Global Talent Acquisition, explains how they managed it. 


At its core, ServiceNow’s purpose is simple but impactful: “to make the world of work, work better for people.” By crafting digital workflows for IT, employees, and customer support, ServiceNow is known for streamlining complex workflows—and helping companies improve productivity in the process. It’s how they’ve been able to help drive widespread digital transformation at their 6,200+ global customers.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the meaning of “work” took on a new definition. As safety necessitated a shift to work-from-home, ServiceNow’s 75 global offices were suddenly emptied. While employees began to adapt to this new form of work, companies around the world began to freeze or slow hiring. Hiring at ServiceNow, however, continued at its original pace: 30% growth year over year.

To continue to fuel company growth, ServiceNow shifted to 100% remote interviews. To learn how they did it, HackerRank CEO and Co-founder, Vivek Ravisankar, connected with Nancy DeLeon, Director of Talent Acquisition at ServiceNow. In their remote interview, they talk through how Nancy and her team led the Americas engineering organization from 0 to 800+ remote technical interviews in a matter of weeks, and took their entire internship program online.

You can listen to Vivek and Nancy’s full interview on HackerRank Radio, or read through the highlights below.

Three lessons learned from a two-week transition to remote interviews

Like many companies, the onsite interview was a core component of ServiceNow’s technical hiring process. But that changed quickly once employees started working from home. “Changing from onsite to a remote interview environment—it may not seem like such a tough thing to accomplish,” Nancy says. “However, going to 100% virtual interviews in less than a week in a high volume environment... that's going to be quite challenging.”

Quote from Nancy DeLeon of ServiceNow that reads: “We had the daunting task of training a global engineering team, our recruiting team, and our talent acquisition operations team in a very short period of time. And we said, you know what? With HackerRank and ServiceNow: challenge accepted. And the results were fantastic.”Granting employees access to remote interviewing tools wasn’t nearly enough. It necessitated a complete revamp of their hiring approach. “We had the daunting task of training a global engineering team, our recruiting team, and our talent acquisition operations team in a very short period of time,” Nancy recalls. “And we said, you know what? With HackerRank and ServiceNow: challenge accepted. And the results were fantastic.”

Lesson #1: Focus on training and documentation first

Transitioning the entire engineering organization from onsites to remote interviews was no easy task. The entire hiring organization—from recruiting, to engineering, to operations—had to relearn how to facilitate and run technical interviews. To ease the learning curve, Nancy’s team started by distributing training for each stakeholder organization. But documentation was the main tool they used to keep hiring on track.

“So, internally, we created a knowledge base,” Nancy says. “This allowed us to have a reference point where our internal teams knew where to go, and how to get things scheduled.” Having a central point of reference, she says, was a core driver for helping the team transition. Interviewers’ comfort with this new process was key for facilitating a positive candidate experience.

“The interviewers were able to find the questions right away. They were able to implement the questions—and the best part was the whiteboarding aspect, which made it very easy,” she explains. “On the candidate side, they felt that they were able to really showcase and highlight their skillset.”

Lesson #2: Tap into the power of existing tools and and partnerships

According to Nancy, it’s ServiceNow’s existing talent tech stack that helped them pivot quickly. By leveraging HackerRank their team was already familiar with, they were able to scale from 0 to 800+ remote interviews in just a few weeks. “We were able to successfully implement about 800+ CodePair interviews—and that's not including the CodeScreen test that we actually rolled out [beforehand],” Nancy explains.

While that shift was driven by her team’s planning and coordination, Nancy says it couldn’t be done without leveraging their existing tools and partnerships. “Part of this success was because of the strong partnership with HackerRank. The team helped us with a seamless process and that resulted in our team being able to meet the high demand for the remote interviews.”

To Nancy, that’s what made the transition for interviewers feasible. “They really felt the tool was very easy and comprehensive and with the job aids, it was very intuitive,” Nancy explains. “So on the interviewer side, it was very seamless.”

Lesson #3: Make room for candidate feedback at scale

Facilitating feedback on the new process was key to ensuring a smooth transition. That boiled down to gathering internal feedback from interviewers as well as candidates being interviewed. “We had to capture success metrics, and of course overall satisfaction,” Nancy says.

Pull quote from Nancy DeLeon from ServiceNow that reads: “I was actually expecting much more of a negative result since there wasn't a human being on the other side. But in fact, strangely enough, most candidates said, ‘I really feel [the assessment] was unbiased.’”It’s those metrics around satisfaction and experience that helped Nancy’s team monitor candidate sentiment. By monitoring candidate sentiment, they were able to keep tabs on what was (and what wasn’t) working.

“When I was measuring candidate experience with HackerRank [CodeScreen], it was actually one of the surprise results that I got. I was actually expecting much more of a negative result since there wasn't a human being on the other side,” Nancy explains. “But in fact strangely enough, most candidates said, ‘I really feel it was unbiased.’” That early feedback gave her team confidence to double down on their process.

The new future of work: ServiceNow’s take on distributed work and the road to recovery

At this point, the future of work is, in a lot of ways, uncertain. And though hiring continues for ServiceNow, they’re still in the process of determining what work post-COVID will look like. Nancy thinks it’s unlikely that work will return to the pre-COVID “normal”—but she does think there will be more room for face-to-face interaction once recovery starts.

The post-COVID workplace: an opportunity for flexible working?

Like most workplaces, remote work has forced ServiceNow to shift to an entirely remote hiring process. And given its success, she thinks it may be around to stay.

“We are going to continue with remote interviewing. We've successfully proven that we can hire and work virtually while maintaining our productivity,” Nancy says. “So, I foresee that this is going to continue as an option for our candidates and our employees.”

But on the other hand, Nancy doesn’t feel physical meetings will disappear entirely. “I also recognize that we're social beings and we're naturally going to need to be physically connected in some way,” Nancy explains. “So, I also see that we are going to still have some onsite interviewing, and working physically in the office will also return. But I see that as possibly an option—versus mandated—as a future part of our workforce.”

Quote from Nancy DeLeon of ServiceNow that reads: “To be competitive as a company, we're going to have to consider how we’re able to provide those types of options, and how we’re going to be enabled to do both [physical and virtual work].”For ServiceNow, she sees the flexibility between physical and remote interviews as a talent branding need, too. “To be competitive as a company, we're going to have to consider how we’re able to provide those types of options, and how we’re going to be enabled to do both.”

Advice for candidates on the hunt for work

As the world sets eyes on the road to recovery, Nancy has some words of advice for candidates that have unexpectedly re-entered the job market due to layoffs and furloughs. “My best advice for candidates who are looking for their next opportunity is, number one, please take care of yourself and your family,” Nancy says. “Losing a job is like losing a little piece of us—so we are all grieving. Take the time to re-center yourself.”

She advises taking a strategic approach to searching for a new role. And part of that strategy is about taking the job search in stride.  “Don't sit in front of your computer eight hours or a full day looking for a job,” Nancy suggests. “Instead schedule that time. Send out your applications, and then for the rest of the day, do something for yourself. Invest in your development and think about the future you want to be in.”

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