It might take only one genius to come up with a genuinely original, breakthrough idea. But to actually develop this idea and place it on the market, you will always need a team made up of a few professionals. Moreover, this team must be professionally assembled and managed.
Whether in tech or non-tech, putting together a dream team is always a challenge. Luckily, headhunting today is not limited by geographical boundaries or time zones.
More companies, particularly those involved in IT, are increasingly choosing to hire remotely and internationally, thus delegating even the most strategic and data-sensitive tasks to a team based miles away from their company’s headquarters.
At the same time, hiring remote developers is a very different task compared to hiring office-based employees. The initial conditions for hiring a remote development team must be taken into consideration: all interviews are online-only, legal requirements of employment vary per country (in many cases, you would need to translate legal paperwork), plus there are time zone differences, language barriers, and simple cultural misunderstandings.
If hiring remotely is so complex, why do people bother?
Benefits of hiring a dedicated remote development team
It may not be apparent from the very beginning, but hiring globally nearly automatically means you are entitled to global competitive advantages. Some of these global benefits become apparent during the first week. Others become evident after several months. Let’s have a look at the impacts of these benefits.
Imagine your team is scattered between Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and North America (Canada). What does this mean in terms of working schedules?
It means the working hours of your team fall within all the major time zones. Also, the timing of national holidays does not coincide. Moreover, preferential time for vacations does not coincide either. If designed strategically, your team would literally be operating all the time, without any interruptions.
This might become an incredibly huge benefit (and an unbeatable competitive advantage) if your product/services require constant chats or calls with customers. You may easily organize a 24/7 support team without extra expenses for overtime or night shifts.
Less distraction at work
According to Udemy report, people working in offices actually have a six-hour workday. How so? Because of smoking breaks, small talk with colleagues, coffee pauses, and so on.
Besides, at least 37% of respondents admitted they are regularly late in the mornings or have to leave early in the evenings.
If calculated per year and for an entire team, this would be a huge productivity loss.
Organizing work remotely means you are eliminating a huge portion of external distracting factors (office gossip, loud colleagues, phone calls around you, etc.).
Besides, you are the master of your own schedule when you work remotely. You get all the flexibility you need. For example, you can go to the gym during the day and then return to work after 9 p.m., if it’s convenient for you.
And don’t forget all those endless hours stuck in traffic when commuting. This time lost is completely eliminated in the case of remote work.
Exposure to a much larger talent pool
When you are hiring for the office, your choice is limited to one city (plus a one-hour driving distance, at best). If you’ve found a developer who is the perfect fit for your team/project, but they live across the country — you’d probably think twice about relocating. Relocation is a significant expenditure for any budget, especially when it involves a family.
When you choose to hire remote developers, your HR and operations budgets are much more affordable because an entire range of complications is automatically excluded from the list.
If you want to hire five teammates from five different parts of the world, go ahead, you can easily afford it.
Your portfolio of potential candidates can be limitless.
International presence boosts recognition
Hiring a remote development team is especially beneficial for SaaS vendors, e-commerce companies, and any other business interested in developing a global presence.
Having colleagues in several countries at the same time means you have official company representatives as well as “someone on the inside” of a certain market.
International teammates can help with the intricacies of a local language or with finding a local partner. They can tell you who your competition is at the local markets, which platforms are better for placing ads, and so on.
Excellent learning environment
Having an internationally diverse team means everyone gets to learn something new. This is an excellent opportunity for mentoring and coaching. Every team member arrives with their own unique work experiences and diverse backgrounds.
This is not only beneficial for a project and you as a founder but also for the hired developers themselves since a remote work environment is the perfect foundation for lifelong learning.
If you are not entirely sure that hiring a dedicated remote development team is the best fit for your specific purposes, we can offer a checklist of questions. Not all of them would be mandatory or strictly applicable to your particular case, but it will act as a good starting point.
Questions to ask yourself before hiring remote developers
- Are you struggling to hire domestically? Do you feel that the local market has certain professional or qualification gaps?
- Considering that we have all been working from home for the last two years, how well adjusted are you to collaborating online?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you evaluate the potential language barriers (assuming that the major working language is English, though there are exceptions, of course)?
- Do you experience problems when delegating tasks?
- Can you explain the mission and vision of your product (service) to a person you’ve just met?
Answering the above questions as honestly as you can will give you a good feel for your personal readiness to hire remote developers.
Hiring remotely might sound like a colossal challenge at first, however, just as with any other complex project, it can be split into smaller tasks (recall Agile).
To-do list when you are hiring a remote development team
- Clear and precise evaluation of your needs. Is it one team or several? Do you need an integrated team or several independent freelancers?
- Define responsibility centers. Are they also outsourced? Or do you want to keep them at your headquarters?
- Compile detailed job descriptions for each position. “Detailed” is the keyword here. Job descriptions must be as specific as possible. Ideally, they must have two blocks of items in them: skills/expertise (what the candidate did earlier) and responsibilities (what the candidate is expected to do on your project). Note that remote developers would surely ask about your project’s expected duration and employment. Your time assessment must be exact.
- Search for candidates. Depending on the size of the team you need and on the complexity of your project, there are several ways to organize this. You can do the search yourself (if the numbers are not big, and if you can dedicate personal time to that). You can hire a private recruiter or a company specializing in such intermediary services (matching remote developers with potential employers). The choice of platforms to start your search for the perfect remote team is staggering. From personal experience, we can recommend the following: Toptal, Stack Overflow, Working Nomads, Lemon.
- Screening the candidates. From experience, we recommend sending the tech task first, then agreeing on a video call. Video is a must in this case. Doing an interview over the phone could be a risky mistake when hiring remotely. Keep in mind that all future communications would be happening online. Checking communication and collaboration skills is no less important than tech expertise or previous employment.
- Checking references of your selected candidates. This does not necessarily have to be formal letters of recommendation. Online reviews, Linkedin endorsements, feedback from previous projects will help you make the right choice. Special attention should be paid to any previous experience of working remotely and whether the candidate has projects similar to yours in their portfolio. For example, suppose you plan to develop a mobile app for the healthcare industry. In that case, there is a whole list of highly specific issues developers must be aware of (medical records security, industry compliance, etc.). If a candidate already knows this from their previous experience, you are automatically saving hours of work in advance.
- Mapping the preliminary schedule. If you are hiring worldwide, make sure there is no conflict of time zones. The ideal time zone difference is two to five hours. More can be problematic, especially within the same team. However, if you play the geography card correctly, the time difference will work in your favor and you will achieve an uninterrupted development process.
- Organizing an introductory meeting with your entire team. Once you are 99% confident about your candidates, a meeting to break the ice is strongly recommended. This is not a mandatory step at all. However, it can tell you a lot about your choice of teammates. In the course of this introductory meeting, spend some time outlining your mission, vision, and key values of the project you have in mind. The responses of your future teammates and the nature of the questions they are asking could really tell you a lot about your hiring choices and the type of management style you need to choose from now on.
One of the most essential questions in this hiring process is choosing your preferred method of remote employment — hiring an entire team or standalone freelancers? Both methods have their advantages. Let’s have a closer look.
Standalone freelancers vs. hiring a dedicated remote development team
1. Keep in mind the complexity of the tasks ahead.
The dilemma can be narrowed down to a single parameter — the overall complexity of your project. If your project is a complex and long-term one, you need a dedicated team with an established rapport and a history of previous (and successful!) projects.
It might take a little more time to negotiate the employment conditions if an entire team is involved. However, the end result would more than compensate for the initial time invested to get things going. Dedicated teams are known to be the most productive, efficient, and well-organized.
On the other hand, freelancers tend to have at least two or three projects on their hands at once. In other words, you probably won’t get a full workday out of them.
However, hiring four standalone freelancers may be your best option if you need one developer, one tester, one UX designer, and one content writer. Besides, doing so would be more cost-effective than hiring a premade team.
2. Savings vs. status
Obviously, hiring freelancers is significantly cheaper than hiring a completely dedicated team (even if this team is less than ten people). This is a solid economic advantage in the early stages of product development. However, at later stages, it can actually turn into a disadvantage:
- Having a completely dedicated team is more presentable when you start talking to customers
- Integrated teams usually have a much better understanding of the vision and the product role and are far more motivated
- If remote developers are already working as a team, you won’t need to spend extra time on onboarding and other adjustments
3. Responsibility for the job done
Accountability and consistency are the key advantages of dedicated teams over freelance developers.
Freelancers are primarily interested in short-term projects with flexible schedules. Sometimes they are not motivated enough to produce anything “with a heart.” This does not mean that you should not hire freelancers at all. They might be an excellent choice for purely technical, routine, short-term projects.
On the other hand, in a dedicated team, each member is personally interested in the excellence of the end result.
In around three-quarters of all cases, hiring a dedicated remote development team would be a much better choice than hiring unassociated freelancers one by one. To say the very least, group hiring saves a tremendous amount of time.
However, this does not mean that hiring an entire team is the secret sauce for solving all managerial problems at once.
Imagine a situation where you’ve just hired an entire team of 10-15 developers only to realize that they do not fit your project at all. This would be a huge expenditure that was spent in vain, as well as a tremendous loss of precious time.
To avoid this situation, you need to be aware of any potential red flags.
Red flags in hiring remote development teams
1. Ready to take any project you are offering
Overall, the remote work market is overcrowded, thus, the competition between teams and standalone players is fierce. You will surely come across teams that are open to all sorts of projects, coming from any industry. First, you might take this as a sign of ambition and enthusiasm.
But there is another side to this coin. If a team is ready to start working tomorrow, not double-checking the SOW (scope of work), not negotiating the deadline, showing no interest in the mission or value of your project — most likely, the end result would be far below your expectations. A team should be genuinely interested in what you are trying to achieve. The more questions they initially ask, the better.
2. Communication channels and software
A team’s choice of software and communication channels speaks volumes about their tech experience and professionalism.
Asking about a team’s preferences in collaboration tools, cloud storage services, and technology stack should be among your top three questions during the very first video call.
For the sake of demonstrations, let’s consider some simplified examples: mentions of Jira, Confluence, GitHub, and Stack Overflow are good signs, even if you yourself do not use them at all.
Ideally, your future team should have sufficient knowledge and experience with Agile and/or Scrum. This would be an in-advance guarantee of continuous delivery, flexibility for the entire project per your changing needs, and your involvement in project communication.
3. Invisible online presence
In the previous decade, a common pre-hiring practice was to check a person’s activities on Facebook and similar sites. This might still be useful in some cases (especially when you are hiring remote developers for a project with a strong social value and reputation — charity, non-profit activities, a political campaign). However, social networks are already a thing of the past when it comes to employee screening.
Consider Linkedin and other more professional communities — the already mentioned above Github and Stack Overflow. If your future hires are actively involved in recent discussions and are assisting colleagues from other projects and countries — that’s a good sign: they have empathy, are open to sharing their experience, and have sufficient skills in explanation.
A developers’ team having its own site can also be a good sign or a red flag. Is it professionally done? How much content does it have? Is it a one-pager only? Can you read reviews and customer success stories there? These are small things that can speak volumes.
4. Too good to be true
Your first video call with the team will surely have questions and answers about previous experiences. Of course, every team wants to make an excellent first impression. Their presentation of completed projects would probably include impressive numbers and sophisticated terminology. Do not be reluctant to ask uncomfortable questions:
- What was the toughest challenge on the previous project?
- How did the team overcome these challenges?
- Was there a project that simply did not work out? Why did this happen?
Stories of failures and more importantly — how people reflect on them — will tell you much more than overly optimistic success stories.
5. Vague estimations
Once you’ve done your part, explaining the mission/vision/values and outlining the SOW, it would be most appropriate to ask about the numbers — hourly rates per each job description, deadlines, complexity estimates. The team’s answer may not be 100% accurate, and it might require some time for internal discussions. But it should include sufficiently precise numbers.
The inability to measure one’s own work quantitatively is a sign of unprofessionalism and an early sign that any future deadlines would surely be missed.
6. Too narrow a focus and entertaining projects
Last but not least, the nature of previously finished projects is critical. If a team only has mobile games in its portfolio, its capabilities probably won’t go beyond that, no matter its initial promises. Gaming, gambling, and other entertaining content projects may tell you a lot about a team’s creative potential.
However, if you plan to develop a fintech app or a real estate software solution — professionals from unrelated sectors would hardly be of any help to you. Niche specialization is often interpreted as a sign of true professionalism, just not in remote development.
Summing up, a piece of brief universal advice for anyone interested in hiring a remote development team:
- Visit the site
- Check their history of completed projects
- Analyze your team’s portfolio of clients
The names, numbers, and years of experience will tell you all you need to know.