How to Hire for Talent, Not Geography

It can be done successfully, but there are nuances to consider when rethinking your recruiting and hiring process.
How to Hire for Talent, Not Geography
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This story appears in the December 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Will companies’ work-from-home policies remain in place, even when COVID-19 ends? Back in March, only 38 percent of corporate decision-­makers said yes. A few months later, that number rose to 67 percent. (Both surveys were done by 451 Research, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence, which polled more than 500 people.) As companies increasingly adopt distributed services like cloud tools and SaaS platforms, it’s easier to work anywhere — forever.

If the predictions hold true, many things about the way we work will change, starting with the way we build a team. We asked four business leaders how entrepreneurs can best approach hiring for talent, not geography.

Related: How Covid-19 Changed the Way We Look at Hiring

1. Be truthful.

Just because our culture has accepted remote work doesn’t mean it’s the perfect setup for every job candidate — and that’s OK. “Whenever I interview someone, I explain that we’re a small but close team and they’ll never feel alone on an island,” says Kerry Benjamin, founder and CEO of StackedSkincare, whose team of 10 is partly in Los Angeles, partly scattered throughout the country. “But if you’re not comfortable with work-from-home, this won’t be the company for you.”

2. Update your processes.

The core skills you hire for may stay the same, but secondary skills may change. Alyssa Ravasio, founder and CEO of the campsite-­booking platform Hipcamp, was happy to see introverted staffers comfortably contributing in a digital-first world. But that depends upon top-notch written communication skills, so now, she gives candidates “homework” to test that ability. “It’s always important, but now it’s really important.”

Related: 5 Breakthrough Approaches to Hiring in the Covid-19 World

3. Prioritize company culture.

“You might see employees on Zoom, but there are no more happy hours or company softball teams,” says Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm. “You have to work harder to create connection.” So Gimbel encourages his staff to schedule video chats with random colleagues a few times a week, “to talk to the folks you might not work with but would have seen at the watercooler.”

4. Throw out the office hours.

“We don’t have work-life separation anymore — it’s about integration,” says Ben Stewart, interim executive director of Tulsa Remote, a program that provides $10,000 grants to get remote workers to relocate to Tulsa. “Motivations are all different: Some people want to be by aging parents, some people want a yard for their kids, others want to gain back those two hours of city commute time so they can work on their side hustle. Time is money for everyone. The companies that give people freedom are increasing happiness — and drive.”

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