Last week, Braintrust Co-Founder Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski sat down with GitLab’s Head of Remote Darren Murph to discuss recruiting, hiring and onboarding practices for virtual teams.
Darren—who has worked remotely for his entire career and dedicated much of his professional life to helping others do the same—kicked off the session by claiming that due to COVID-19, “the world’s embrace of remote has been accelerated by at least 10 years.”
He went on to explain that while there is currently a great deal of crisis, 6-12 months from now we’re going to look back and acknowledge the “massive global forcing function” that’s empowered people to be more autonomous and better-leverage technology to do their best work from anywhere in the world. But for many enterprises, this is still a very new and foreign concept.
Hiring Remotely and The Importance of “Values Fit”
At the start of the session we polled our attendees, and more than 75% of respondents indicated that their biggest concern when hiring remotely is how to evaluate culture fit.
In response, Darren explained that the team at GitLab doesn’t actually don’t hire for culture fit— they hire for values fit.
“If you’re trying to hire and you don’t have well-articulated values, you will forever struggle on culture fit,” he noted. To remedy this, Darren suggests all organizations take the time to write out their values and to make them publicly available.
“People generally buy with emotion and justify with logic, and this is true for hiring as well… especially face-to-face,” he added. “Remote forces you to break that down… it helps you remove bias.” Even if you want to go back to the office in six months, you should still be recruiting and hiring with a remote mindset.
What other qualities are most important in virtual hires? GitLab looks for storytelling ability—even for technical roles like engineering—because communication is critical to success when working virtually. Darren recommended asking potential candidates to explain a situation where they worked remotely to move a project forward.
Onboarding with Documentation and Checklists
When onboarding remote hires, don’t underestimate the importance of good documentation.
“We have a checklist with 200 items that is public... and before someone even accepts an offer, they know what their first four weeks will look like,” Darren noted.
“To get people acclimated, you want to remove the burden from humans, and put the burden on documentation. The person should be able to do this [job] on mars and get it. That’s the goal.”
If you’re building this material for the first time, start by surveying employees who joined your company in the past three months to uncover common questions or challenges and start building an FAQ. GitLab also recommends assigning new hires an “onboarding buddy” who can serve as a point of contact and offer the support or shadowing that might typically be found in an office.
When going remote for the first time (particularly on short notice), Darren reminded our attendees that it’s going to feel awkward until it doesn’t. "Don’t think about what you’re losing by not having an office," he said. "Think about what possibilities exist now that you don’t have the burden of the office.”
Leading with Empathy
Speaking to today’s current events, Darren noted that, “This isn’t just work from home; this is a crisis-driven work from home situation”—and that we need to be humans first, and colleagues second.
“Children opening the doors and running into your meeting is exactly what society needs right now, we need more laughs. This is real life and we’re all doing the best we can. This is forcing us to embrace this reality, and it creates a healthier environment.”
“If you can thrive through this, the infrastructure you lay now will pay huge dividends,” he said in closing. “I think a lot of good is going to come from this.”
If you’re looking for additional resources on hiring and onboarding remotely, GitLab’s Company Handbook is a fantastic and freely available resource.
You can click here to watch the recording of this webinar session.