How to hire and manage the best remote team

Ross Kimbarovsky spent weeks trying to recruit an engineer. He talked to local engineer associations, read countless resumes, and conducted a lot of interviews.

Finally, he narrowed it down to the top candidate and offered her the job. Exciting!

Three weeks later, he fired her.

“She just wasn’t the right fit,” says Ross, a cofounder of creative service marketplace crowdSPRING. “It was a very painful process for us…we found ourselves in the situation of having to start that search from the very beginning.” And Ross was having a hard time hiring good team members for other positions, as well.

So what he was doing wrong?

Ross was only hiring local employees.

“We made the mistake of making geography one of our most important factors for the first couple of years of our life as a company, and it hurt us because we weren’t hiring the right people,” says Ross. “We may have been hiring the best people out of a pool of candidates, but they weren’t the right people for our team.”

Today Ross manages a team of 14 people who are based all over the world. Even the local team members telecommute. And his small remote team successfully supports a community of 200,000.

In his Mixergy course, Ross shows you how to do it. Here are three highlights from the course.

1. Gather Intelligence


In the very beginning, Ross and his cofounder didn’t know what kind of customer service people they needed.

“We didn’t know if we needed to hire people who were good on the phone, people that were good writers, or people that could speak many different languages,” he says.

And before you can figure out what kind of employees you need, you have to understand the job you’re hiring them to do, says Ross. Otherwise you’ll hire the wrong people and set new hires up for failure.

So how do you make sure you understand the job?

Learn from the Inside

To understand the job, do it yourself.

Before Ross and his cofounder hired customer service reps, they decided to handle customer service themselves. “We committed to do this job ourselves so we could understand the kind of people we needed to hire, and when we hired them, what we would help them and train them to do,” he says.

Ross also wanted to give new hires everything they’d need to be successful. “We were able to sit down [with new hires] and say, ‘here is what we’ve learned to help you get started,’” he says. “We didn’t throw them out into the field and say, ‘Now you figure it out on your own,’ because that’s unfair.”

2. Don’t Rush to Commit


If you find a great candidate, you should snap them up and offer them the job, right?

Wrong.

“When we started, when we found somebody we thought was a good engineer or good customer service person or good marketing person, we would extend an offer and hire them as a full time employee,” he says.

But Ross says that’s a bad way to hire.

“In one case, the first person we hired, literally the first engineer we hired when we first started out, we realized [it was a] mistake after just a handful of days,” he says.

So how do you find out if someone is a good fit without offering them the job?

Get to Know Each Other First

Ross gives all potential new hires a 30-day contract, no exceptions.

“We didn’t want to tie ourselves to somebody who just could not do the work well or who didn’t fit well with the team,” he says.

Ross contrasts two employees he initially hired on 30-day contracts. Both were based in Brazil and were having audio issues. The first employee promised to order a headset, but he still didn’t have a headset a few weeks later. Meanwhile, the second employee called another team member to find out which headset the rest of the team used and had one priority shipped to Brazil.

“Here is somebody who solved that problem immediately,” says Ross. “He didn’t wait even five minutes to start solving it and was conscientious enough to follow up and make sure that he had it. When we started the next call in a couple of days, he had a headset.”

3. Channel The Donald


Sometimes a team member just doesn’t work out.

Ross says he once hired someone who was “late for the first four days of their job, four hours a day on the average.”

But Ross kept giving him leeway because he wanted to help him grow into the position. “I recognized that I was investing a lot of my time counseling,” he says. “A lot of my time [was spent] managing a problem that just became a bigger and bigger problem. If you end up doing that with an early employee, where you are investing 30% of your time counseling effectively, you’re going to suffer. Your product is going to suffer. The rest of your team is going to suffer.”

What’s worse, a low-performing team member can affect high-performing team members. “It’s infectious,” he says. “It’s like a disease when you have somebody who is not performing well.”

Fire Them Quickly

When it becomes clear that a team member isn’t working out, fire them quickly to stop the bleeding. The sooner you do it, the better for your team.

“The most important lesson in firing is, as difficult as it is—and I have fired plenty of people in my career—you have to do it to protect your company and the rest of the team,” says Ross. “You are undermining the entire team and your company when you let people who are not performing continue to work for you.”

Cheat sheet written by April Dykman. Production notes by Jeremy Weisz.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samrobilotta Sam Robilotta

    Premium signup down? Thanks!

  • Kevin Markham

    I could definitely use this course… we have a distributed team of seven, which we have (so far) built purely through people we already know and trust. However, we are getting to the point that we may need to hire people that we don’t already know, and so we want to hire the best without screwing up the dynamic we have already created.

  • Rasheed

    Wow, the cheat sheet is definitely useful.

    I find it funny that many people will hire someone to do a job, but the person who is hiring doesn’t even know HOW the job needs to be done. Different corporate cultures necessitate different personalities and objectives when it comes to almost everything in an organization.

    I can definitely relate with numbers 2 and 3. 2; an initial interview can never show the true work ethic of a person. Sometimes they just say they have integrity and are willing to do what it takes, but that’s just lip service to get their foot in the door. Their actual values? Yet to be seen!

    And then of course, even though it is difficult for everyone, firing is something that is necessary. It takes courage to fire someone but if the person has a bad, contagious work ethic, they need to go!

    If the cheat sheet is this helpful, I could definitely use the entire course!

  • dimitris mistriotis

    Why I would use this course if I had it for free: (1) At some point will work for a very small software house, It is crucial to do successful hires because the resources allocated are crucial (on early stages) (2) I already tried to do it on my own and failed, I want to learn more (documented here: http://www.mistriotis.gr/2012/12/05/hiring-is-hard/), (3) Also academically interesting for me (as all human/soft issues)

  • http://twitter.com/appliedpda Sebastian Dwornik

    I could use this course to help me hire my first employee. It’s a scary feeling to take on the responsibility of employee #1. So I don’t want to screw it up.

  • Melani

    Why I need this course!

    We’re a 2 person founder team (both full time), hired employee #1 in October and it’s going great, but we need to improve our recruiting process to find the best possible candidates for employee #3 and #4 and quickly. These hires will most likely not be in our city so hiring over the phone and skype will be key.

    Recruiting is new to me as the CEO and I need to further develop these soft skills and want to use the holiday time when everyone slows down as a time to continue learning.

  • http://theothersideofcode.com/ Tomislav Capan

    Thanks for those insights, they are quite helpful as I’m in the situation where I need to hire our first technical employee to take my tech role in the local business I’m running with partners, while I’m growing the international consulting business. We’re all quite nervous about it because tech talent costs quite a lot and we want to make sure we can lower the risk as much as possible and make the right hiring choice.

  • techpop

    I’ve had issues hiring in the past, at the interview, people are really at their best; smart, articulate, confident. A few months later it seems like there was something we missed. Would like to get some insights on Ross’ lessons learned.

  • Elizabeth Hannan

    Isn’t it possible the recruiter misaligned with seeing the value and depths of company culture. Most candidates will tell you what type of company they want to work for.
    Just to hire someone because its a great fit on paper seems very naive and one sided in an economy where relationship is everything.

  • J.

    I’m currently doing the groundwork for my startup business and I will need to hire team members in different geographic locations. In the meantime, I am going on interviews so i can bring in a steady income until I can be supported by my business. This knowledge can help me be more specific and discerning in building my team; informative and illuminating as I seek to work for someone else’s team.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brunet.nicolas Nicolas Brunet

    We could definitely use this course for hiring our first tech employee; especially that we are foreigners in the country where we are based and the culture is different. This would be even more critical to avoid common pitfalls, and maybe learn when and how to fire.

  • http://twitter.com/WeberJon Jon Weber

    This course sounds like it could prove to be useful for us; I won’t know for certain until I get a chance to see it (hopefully for free, per the email sent from Andrew@Mixergy).

  • jeff

    This course is exactly what I need right now. We’re hiring a team in Dublin, which will be managed out of New York, for a position that has not previously existed. I’ve been interviewing like crazy and have had a hard time identifying the type of person we need. We’re using a contractor system so we’re not over-committing to people, but I’d like to know more about how to manage a remote team once we get them in place.

  • Michael Bernstein

    I’m not hiring anyone, but it looks like this course might give me a better idea on how to be hire-able.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003159262825 Maria Lobanova

    Hopefully this course will get me one step closer to building the Great Team (which I have been trying to do for the past 2 years). And with the Great team we can grow our business dramatically, increase the quality of service and become Greater company than we are now.

  • Paul

    I am just beginning to put together a team along with my partner. I really never thought about getting into the job first to know exactly what is required for the job you’re hiring for. We have one guy with an engineering background, and one with business background, so we’ll probably split things up, but I will be making sure we understand the new position inside and out so that we not only put together a good job description, but also have clear instructions for our new hire.

    The 30 day contract is also brilliant – I was wondering how best to test drive a new employee…I didn’t even think about something so simple. I was looking at out clauses, and such…way over complicated.

  • Aejaz

    Most physical/information products come with a try before you buy(or commit) period. Unfortunately the conventional method of hiring/interviewing is based on how candidate does in the interviews which just measures a small part of the overall requirements of the job. If one does good at the time of interview he gets the job & the risky period starts for the company which does the hiring. I am hoping that this course addresses how to minimize the risk/damage.

  • Ed

    Sometimes self-imposed deadlines create the perfect environment for making mistake #2, particularly if you have convinced yourself that you have gathered enough collateral information, and given the new hire smaller “test run” jobs. I really like the idea of knowing what the job entails to a fine detail in order to make the most informed decision of a new hire. Great read!

  • Daniel Tjon

    Hi Andrew, you are doing a great job.Thanks for that! I need this course as I am in The Foundation (by Dane Maxwell) and have to hire a developer soon, while I don’t have any experience hiring this type of freelancer. I am pretty much in the dark on what is a good developer and I know taking the wrong one can be pretty costly. I will try to bring the word out among the entrepreneurs that are in The Foundation.

  • http://twitter.com/b1omerta melissa brown

    I just can’t get it right. I started to doubt my ability to hire the correct person for the job in the first instance. I ended up with a number of absolutely nightmarish employees and just couldn’t fire them. The damage that was caused to my start up from bad hiring almost destroyed me. If only I ‘Didnt rush to commit’ and got to know them first with a 30 day contract, I could have saved myself time, money and countless nights without sleep. This course could very well help save my start up from failing.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Nope. Just this one. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/worldwideincorp Jennifer

    Great tips! I particularly like the one about not rushing to “snap” someone up! Never rush with big decisions like that.

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