22 Sep 2020

Why You Should Consider a Sample Project With Remote Hires

Hiring remote workers allows you to tap into a worldwide talent pool of experts who can take your projects and company further. That talent pool just got even wider, with 74.5% of respondents in a recent survey noting that they’ve gone remote since the start of the pandemic. More people are growing accustomed to a work-from-home environment, even those who might not have considered it before.

Seeking talent from all over the world offers many benefits, such as round-the-clock customer support thanks to a wide range of time zones.

However, hiring remote workers can be challenging, as well.

  • It’s possible to hire employees with gaps in their skillset that aren’t clear in the interview process. This can be because of a lack of proper training, gaps in their experience, or lack of exposure to other employees and projects in the office that would demonstrate different skills.
  • Employees working remotely may be poor communicators who are used to working independently and away from teams.
  • Remote hires can operate on rigid schedules that are dictated by their own setups and this may cause conflict with your teams and deadlines.

As remote work and the hiring of remote employees become more commonplace in our new normal, it’s important to make sure that you properly vet your potential hires to make sure they’re a great fit for your company.

Thankfully, there’s a tried and tested way of doing this that saves time, confirms skillsets, and sets you up for successful team onboarding before you even hire.

Vetting Remote Hires with a Sample Project

After drawing up a list of your top candidates and conducting your screening interviews, the best way to find the right hire for you is to create a sample project.

The benefits of a sample project

Sample projects offer direct insight into how a candidate will tackle tasks and operations when working for your company.

By assigning a sample task to each candidate and assessing delivery, performance, accuracy, and more, it’s easy to identify which person will be the right one for your company.

For technical roles, sample projects allow you to vet for key competencies, knowledge, and expertise.

If your role requires specific skills, experience, or foundational knowledge, a sample project allows you to vet for this before taking a hire on.

How remote hiring differs from traditional hiring

Remote hiring shares many elements with traditional hiring practices but because you aren’t able to meet with employees, additional steps should be taken to vet their suitability for the role.

This includes running sample projects and may also extend to things like contacting past clients or employers for short telephone conversations and more.

Traditional hiring practices should still apply.

Always make sure to validate personal information, the existence of past employers, and college and university degrees.

What should a sample project include?

When assigning a sample project, choose a task that will allow the candidate to display the skills that they’ll need most when working for you.

Pick tasks that are challenging but not impossible. You want to set the candidate up for success by giving them a preview of the work they’ll be doing once hired. Don’t give them your most important project or one that’s taken your team months already.

Choose a task that would be commonplace at your organization, something off the plate of the employee they’re replacing, or something that fills an urgent need.

If you’re hiring for a role that you have limited experience in it’s ok to ask for help. If you have industry peers you trust and have good relationships with, ask for their input in creating a challenge that will help you screen remote hires.

Coding challenges are standard practice when hiring software developers. Most remote hires will be used to completing some sort of test when applying for such a role.

For creative or marketing candidates, look to set challenges and a project that can let them spark their creative thinking while remaining on brief and to spec.

If you’re hiring remote customer service representatives, consider giving them a screening challenge that allows them to respond to a real-life customer complaint or question. Giving them something that directly relates to a problem your business has will let you gauge their response better.

How to grade a sample project

Grading and evaluating a remote hire’s sample project is fairly straightforward.

Assess it like you would do for a current employee and apply some additional layers of thinking:

  • How did the candidate respond to the brief?
    • Did they take it away and evaluate themselves in private or did they ask for additional information or context? Immediately turning to solo work may indicate potential conflicts with the team working in the future. 
    • Did the candidate respond in a way that reflects your company’s brand and way of working?
  • How on target was the candidate’s response to the brief? 
  • Does the response demonstrate a full grasp of all areas of knowledge and expertise associated with the role?
  • How did the candidate communicate with you and other team members before, during, and after delivering the sample project?
  • How was the project delivered?
    • Candidates who focus on the aesthetics of the delivery over the actual substance may be attempting to cover up for gaps in knowledge or skill set. On the other hand, rushed or late deliveries might illuminate a lack of interest or inability to deliver work on time. 

Key things to remember for sample projects

When you’re assigning a sample project make sure to remember the following:

  • The project should be short and shouldn’t require a huge amount of input from the candidate.
    • Any candidate worth hiring will have lots of offers. Stretching their time with a sample project that takes a week of work is inconsiderate and may cause them to rule out your company.
  • The sample project is effective at vetting both ways.
    • Your potential remote hires will use the sample project as the first opportunity to judge you and your company when it comes to communication, expectations, and types of work.
  • Sample projects should be paid.
    • Asking individuals to work for your company should result in them being paid, no question. This establishes good working practices from the start and shows your workplace as one that is trustworthy and treats employees fairly.
  • Don’t judge employees on how fast they submit the project, only on how well they complete it.
    • Many high-quality candidates will have several interviews lined up, along with personal commitments, which means they may not be able to deliver until the deadline. Don’t exclude these candidates because others delivered sooner.

Start hiring remote employees

Now that you have a good understanding of the value of sample projects, and the key things you should remember when you do so, it’s time to start hiring remote talent

About the Author

Dave Nevogt is the co-founder and the CEO of Hubstaff. The 100% remote company builds time tracking software for growing teams, along with Hubstaff Tasks, the Agile project management tool.

More Resources

The Complete Remote Hiring Guide

5 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement on a Remote Team

How to Communicate with Teams Across Time Zones


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