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Is a Fully Remote Hiring Process Possible for Leadership Roles?

June 29,2020 Leadership
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

It’s no secret that remote work has been growing for the average worker, but what about leadership roles? The State of Remote Work by Owl Labs found that 18% more executives work remotely than onsite, and 46% of C-Suite members work remotely at least part of the time.

While working partially remote may be the new norm, the fully remote leadership role is a fairly new idea. We asked business leaders if they’ve hired remote leaders, how to onboard this role remotely and whether they believe it’s better to meet in person.

Do You Always Meet Leadership Candidates?

Eva Peris, co-founder and CMO of Wanted, said, “The most important thing is to make sure leaders will meet the people they will manage physically or virtually,” she explained, “depending on wherever they are going to work fully remote or in an office.” Their online behavior could be different from their in-person behavior, so it’s crucial to see if there’s a match with the team they’ll be working with long-term.

For Yaniv Masjedi, CMO of Nextiva, meeting team leaders is still essential. “We are trying to find new ways to cut down on this need and videoconferencing certainly helps,” he said, “but it’s not quite the same at this point.” Masjedi believes meeting in person is the best way to get an understanding of who the person is, what motivates them, and their true character. Video calls are great for the first round of screening, but there needs to be a way to measure a potential leader’s soft skills prior to hiring them.

“Despite how digital the world has become, meeting in person builds a level of trust that simply can't be replicated online,” agreed Mark Webster, co-founder of Authority Hacker. He says meeting in person could bridge the gap between being people working together online and an actual team working together. “For all these reasons,” he continued, “if you really want to create a 'team' I would absolutely recommend meeting in real life.”

Hiring Leaders Remotely

While Masjedi is confident in hiring normal positions remotely, he’s still hesitant about doing so for leadership roles. “Videoconferencing has come a long way relatively quickly, and we are starting to become more open to filling executive positions completely remotely,” he explained, “but we want that functionality as a backup, rather than as an end goal.” Masjedi says it’s not a cut and dry decision when hiring leaders, so it requires a more involved hiring process to understand how the individual will influence the team.

“The most important things to consider when hiring leaders remotely are their soft skills,” Peris added, “management, communication and critical thinking are the top 3, in my opinion, that a leader should have.” As long as you can gauge these skills during the interview process, she believes it’s possible to hire effective leaders remotely. Moreover, by interviewing in a way that’s similar to how day-to-day interactions will be, companies can be more confident that they’re getting a realistic representation of the individuals soft skills within a digital context.

Onboarding Remote Leaders

For David Johnson, CTO at Mulytic Labs, it's most important to ensure new leaders know the tools and applications they should use to communicate with their team remotely. “Secondly,” he said, “the hours and cadence needs to be communicated in a straightforward manner.” Normally leaders can gauge how teams interact by spending time in the office, but without this opportunity, they’ll need to be told how to operate effectively.

Masjedi hasn’t had to onboard a remote leader yet, but he does have a plan in place. “Normally we would contact talent on LinkedIn and arrange to video chat,” he said, “I’d get the feel for the person and then we would take it from there.” He’d then schedule an in-person meeting, but hiring remotely he’d have to rely solely on the video chat and trust that the new hire will get up to speed.

While many industry leaders still feel in-person meetings are critical when hiring for leadership roles, this is starting to change. “As people get more comfortable with remote interactions and remote communications,” Johnson concluded, “it will become easier for remote leadership hiring,” In the end, leaders — like most other employees — will need to learn how to adapt their roles to remain effective in the digital age.

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