Sultan Saidov, Co-founder and President at Beamery talks about the challenges of remote hiring and onboarding to Grant Hayward, Partner at Erevena, who recently helped placed its  Chief Product Officer at the company during lockdown.

Beamery’s mission is to help the world’s best companies acquire their greatest assets: their people. Their Talent Operating System allows enterprises to attract, engage, and retain top talent, and manage the entire talent journey on one unified platform.

Founded in 2014, they are trusted by some of the world’s most innovative global organizations to treat their candidates like customers. They have three main hubs in London, Austin, and San Francisco with satellite offices spread over a dozen countries and are backed by EQT Ventures and Index Ventures.

A key hire for the company this year was an experienced Chief Product Officer (CPO) to lead the rapid growth of the Product team and business while nurturing a strong one-team culture. The business had a small but growing team in Product, Design and Data Science and needed a new CPO to manage the build out of these teams and bring a greater design centricity to the build of the product.

What has the impact of lockdown been on the business?

Currently, of course, you won’t find any of us in our offices—we’ve gone fully remote, and all our team events are now online. That said, we’re all still here, still working, and still onboarding new people into the team. Our commitment to building a better future of work means that challenges like the Coronavirus can’t shut us down. We’re actively developing new services for our customers and partners, such as ‘New Home’ which is a free community for anyone who has been made redundant or furloughed. Anyone can register, and we have approved dozens of  employers into the platform where they have already been matched with thousands of candidates, using Beamery’s automated Talent Pool technology.

We wanted to do something that would help anyone  who has been furloughed or made redundant as a result of COVID, including from our customers, partners and from our own teamHow you treat your customers, candidates and employees at a time like thiswill determine how you’re remembered  as a company for a long time to come.

Our intention is to help our customers through these tough times, for example by offering training webinars for free as people may have more time available and developing more standard email templates that people can use. We have a modular product which means that some modules are highly relevant to our customers now, such as virtual events, so we’ve taken the decision to make these available to our customers for free.

“It’s about helping our customers adapt to the new normal and to engage and hire talent in a different way.”

How has lockdown affected hiring at Beamery?

We were hiring quite aggressively at the beginning of the year and took the decision to freeze a number of roles across the business until we had more certainty on the outlook. However, some key roles, such as the Chief Product Officer are on a longer life cycle and time horizons in terms of investment and decision making, so it made sense to continue with the hiring process.

“We didn’t want to jump in and take more risk, but some exceptional talent is starting to appear.”

How have your hiring processes changed?

With the Chief Product Officer role, the process was in its final stages of interviewing, so we needed to think about how we made sure that our assessment process adapted to being purely remote. It’s more challenging when remote interviewing to pick up on signals and non-verbal cues. We were looking for a specific mixture of personal traits: someone who was able to deal with the unknown and manage through uncertainty, while acting as a leader for the product teams.

Normally at the final stage of the process we run a half day, face-to-face, interactive exercise around a white board, so we had to adjust this. We introduced more one on one interactions prior to the final round and included more parts of the business in this process. The candidate asked to meet even more people too, which we were happy to arrange over Zoom.

We set up a remote problem-solving session – similar to the one we previously ran on-site – but introduced a bit more structure , made the briefing deck available beforehand, and involved more stakeholders from across the business. It was important that we gave the right visibility to the people in the team that the new CPO will be working with, so that people are aware of the recruiting that’s going on and engaged in contributing to the hiring and onboarding process, as this does not happen as organically as when this process is taking place in the office, where it’s more visible.

How do you assess cultural fit when you can’t meet someone face to face?

We’re looking for people with a passionate curiosity, who challenge the norm and fit with our culture of autonomy through ownership, which is particularly key with leadership roles. To explore these things, we expanded our conversations with candidates to include more discussions about personal interests and found that increasing the number of calls made it easier to establish personal rapport. Going forward it’s about thinking creatively about how you do things, for example now that lockdown has been relaxed a bit it would be possible to meet someone in a park for an interview, whilst keeping a distance away.

How will you go about successfully onboarding a new hire remotely?

We had a well-defined onboarding process which we’ve adjusted for remote implementation, adapting the level of engagement and becoming more structured. Our pre-onboarding process starts as soon as someone signs their contract. We use video to introduce the new team to someone joining where we prerecord snippets and package these up into a presentation comprised of videos and stories of people who will be in their direct path of interaction. This is sent to the new joiner along with recommended reading, relevant documentation and details of available resources. There’s no expectation that the new starter will read everything, but frequently they do as the content is designed to be clear and engaging, and it gives them a great head start.

We also ask the new joiner to provide a video introduction to themselves that we share with their direct team. Plus, every month we email the whole company with details of who is joining, so that people can put faces (and videos) to names before they join.

When someone joins there are a couple of rituals that help immerse people, they automatically get added to group and team meetings and we make sure that we have rounds of reintroductions, and to a buddy system that matches them to meet up with people from other departments. These aren’t necessarily new initiatives, because we’re used to working with distributed offices, but there’s now an extra rigour to make sure that they are run quickly and comprehensively.

Do you think that we may see a longer-term change in the way companies operate in the new ‘low touch’ economy?

I don’t think anyone is going back to how they did things before, I think we’re seeing a long-term change here. The way our recruiting team operates has changed already, not only are they helping to run our new initiatives such as the New Home Community but the way they think about our candidate and employee experience has significantly shifted. As an example, they now message our candidate tips not just about what Beamery are doing but tips on how to best get themselves noticed and generally being more helpful and empathetic.

Fundamentally a lot more things have become ok to do virtually, which might well speed them up. Companies may come to realise that they don’t need things like large onsite meetings and travel and that there isn’t anything lost in the process, so hopefully some things , including time to hire, will move much faster moving forward.

There are certain things such as collaborative meetings and building rapport that are hard to replace and I don’t think you can get equivalents from a fully remote culture, but you certainly don’t need to be doing that every day, and particularly with recruiting there are quite a lot of things that can be done effectively remotely.

A lot of things have shifted recently, at times like this more people are available in the market and we must consider how we use this as an opportunity to improve our methodologies to find the right talent and build pipelines for the futures. We are questioning should open roles be re-examined and are new opportunities to hire great talent coming out of the crisis?

 “It’s a time to be very thoughtful and nimble particularly if you’re freezing some hiring and opening up new roles.”