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Recommendations as We Enter the Remote-Friendly “Great Rehiring”

Advice for entrepreneurs and early-stage teams who are looking to hire top talent in a remote world.

We are in a very unique time for hiring. As the uncertainty of the pandemic continues, there remains a lot of uncertainty around long-term hiring plans as well.

Most companies are adapting their strategies to fit our new normal and determining what their office structure (such as 100% remote, a phased return to the office, or a hybrid model) will look like going forward. And while it has been amazing to see just how productive we’ve all been under the circumstances, there is still a lot of work to be done. The good news is that we are starting to see an uptick in hiring and a growing contingent of companies capitalizing on the newly available talent pools.

My experience this summer has gone from witnessing an ice age and mass layoffs to the beginning of “The Great Rehiring.” I have worked with many candidates to find their dream role and conversely, companies hiring their dream candidate into key roles. Below, I’ve laid out some considerations for early-stage teams looking to hire top folks right now, drawing from anecdotal experience within our portfolio.

Pursue your dream hires.

If warranted against your prioritized hiring needs, cash on hand and company stage, hiring should continue, albeit modestly. We’ve seen some of the best candidates open to exploratory recruiting calls and shorter cycles for hard-to-fill executive roles. Companies and recruiters have seen higher candidate response rates as work from home (WFH) has afforded them the flexibility to find time for interviews and the privacy to take meetings confidentially. While it's unfortunate that most of us have restricted/no travel plans this year, it means that they’re sitting at home waiting for your thoughtfully written emails and recruiting calls. With the shift to 100% virtual interviewing, we’ve seen processes move faster as it’s much easier to coordinate a few hours of Zoom calls rather than flying candidates out for multiple rounds of on-site interviews.

Don’t prematurely disqualify a candidate that was laid off.

Hear them out; a number of layoffs were due to industries impacted by COVID (e.g. travel, hospitality, retail, SMB) and may not have been purely performance-related. 

Consider non-local candidates.

As we enter a more permanent WFH economy and are not constrained by job locality, there is no shortage of top talent across the country that are just as qualified (and perhaps less entitled) that you should consider. Even better if they are near growing tech hubs (Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, etc.) and can hire local talent to start up an office in that local market. The best companies haven’t slowed on hiring them, so you shouldn't as well.  

Proactively address how you've adapted to remote-friendly routines.

Candidate priorities have shifted. Many have skewed towards optimizing for company stability, remote work flexibility, strong remote cultures, and the previously popular perks are no longer as relevant (WFH, snacks, kombucha on tap, dog-friendly office). Reassure candidates by sharing the health of your business, how you’ve shifted to accommodate new remote routines, how you’ve maintained culture through remote team-building activities and potential return to workplace plans, even if they’re a work in progress. Discuss long-term company strategy and vision and articulate how they fit into this plan. Invite their suggestions into the conversation, as none of us have all the answers right now.  

Invest more heavily in references.

To solve for the lack of in-person interviews in our remote world and get a “gut” sense for someone’s potential fit within your company, leverage your collective networks to do your diligence and better understand their past performance. Use references as a tool to validate what you’ve learned through interviews (potential strengths, weaknesses). 

Once you’ve formed your own opinion (towards the latter part of the process), you’ll need to do more references, both those that the candidate has supplied and also backchannel references. Together, these two approaches will give you a clearer picture. Approach referencing with caution - don’t contact someone at their current employer and risk exposing their search.

Have a healthy mix of structured and unstructured conversations.

It is important to really get to know the person outside of their skills and experience. This may require more interviews than normal, and allocating an extra 10 minutes in each interview session for both parties to get to know each other better, beyond the evaluation itself. 

Evaluate their motivations and alignment with your company values and if they are a cultural fit. How will they add to your culture? For executive candidates in later stages, it won’t require much coordination to invite them to Zoom into an All Hands, quick virtual coffee chats or a fun cross-functional team event to meet more of the team. (Thank you, Gia Scinto!)

Create proximity when closing candidates.

Interviewing is a two-way street. The best candidates will have many options and are evaluating you as you interview them. For executive hires at the offer stage, consider a social distancing walk if both sides are comfortable. Or, if you prefer to keep things virtual, host a virtual dinner over Zoom and have them invite a key decision-maker (such as a significant other) to let everyone get to know each other in a casual environment.

Candidate experience is paramount.

Be overly communicative throughout the interview process from first touchpoint to post-offer acceptance, until they show up on their first day. It’s worked well in two companies’ favor, as they’ve had candidates start ahead of their intended start date with the momentum that was built during the interview process. 

Things are still changing quickly in this remote hiring world, so plan to touch base every few days. Increased transparency and keeping them apprised as their start date nears can help reduce any unnecessary unease with the candidate. As they haven’t had the chance to visit your office in-person, it’s harder to envision working there so invite them to join informal team meetings or virtual happy hours so they can at least picture themselves on the team and start to build meaningful connections with their new teammates. 

Thoughtfully onboard new hires while remote.

You’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and money into finding and hiring them, so go the extra mile to keep them excited, engaged, and ensure they show up on Day 1 (and ramp up quickly). As soon as a candidate accepts, onboarding begins. Send a welcome care package (including some swag and welcome note from team & hiring manager) to show them how excited you are to bring them on. Assign sherpas to help them through their initial onboarding phase, introduce them to their colleagues and answer “silly” questions. Provide them with their first week’s schedule (before their first day), an onboarding manual (living doc in Google Slides) with mission/vision, best practices, links to important documents, an FAQ, tools and systems (which should already be uploaded by IT), contact list and supporting materials related to their role. If you’re looking for a tool that can help your team organize onboarding tasks, look no further than Sora

At Emergence, we have incoming new hires fill out a “My Life Story” Google doc with 15 fun facts that we email out to the entire company on their first day, which helps them start an exchange and build genuine connections throughout the company right away. They are also added to a Shared team drive where they can review an archive of Life Stories created by their new teammates. 

Our onboarding traditions were inspired by a mashup of Percolate’s onboarding process and adaptation of Guru’s My Life Story template. This will enable new hires to get integrated and up to speed quickly; enculturation sets up a strong foundation and greater likelihood of success and long-term retention. For their first week, send a “survival kit” representative of your company culture/company values and key items that you would have prepared for their desk. This will allow them to recreate a comfortable WFH environment that feels like an extension of your office. Pre-fill their first few weeks with 1:1s, internal events and team lunches so they can get their bearings, get to know their new team and aren’t left wondering what they should be doing (or if they made the right decision to join your company). Since they’re not working in an office environment, they can no longer ask their neighbor questions and meet people from other teams. Add them to Slack channels that allow for cross-functional interactions so they feel included and start to form their own relationships. Managers should check in regularly on questions, celebrate the small wins, and over-communicate to ensure clarity.  

Our managers send introductory emails on their first day to introduce the new hire and welcome them to the company (who they are, where they’re coming from, and what they’ll be doing) and the cascading welcome emails from everyone will make their inboxes feel less empty.

Stay true to your process.

You will see a greater than normal influx of applicants/candidates for each role which can be overwhelming, but I encourage you to stay true to your interview process. It is better to be intentional, thorough, and ultimately, find the best person to fit the role and your company.


At Emergence, we invest in people who change the way the world works. And this year, the world surprised all of us and forced us to change the way we work - remotely. We still have a lot to learn as we navigate the great rehiring in our new, remote normal and would love to hear what’s worked for you. Please help us make this shortlist of recommendations better by contributing your feedback, suggestions, and questions. You can drop me a note on Linkedin or tweet at @tammyfabulous

Until then, happy (re)hiring!