Written by Nathan Hewitt

How the shift to remote work will change who we hire

Eighteen months after we were all forced abruptly to work from home, it seems as the world cautiously opens up and employers are looking to return workers to offices, having the flexibility to work from home is an increasing demand that people aren’t willing to give up.

Earlier this year, Amazon laid out plans for most of its 60,000 workers in the Seattle area to return to the office later in the year. But, it wasn’t good news to everyone with hundreds threatening to quit.  Microsoft, at Redmond in California, took a softer approach saying employees could work from home, the office or in a hybrid arrangement. Google, Hubspot and Intuit are some of the other companies that have opted for hybrid models going forward.

Others like Atlassian, Twitter, Shopify, Spotify and Slack have decided to become fully remote.  Recently, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield declared that digital life has moved too far forward during the COVID-19 pandemic for companies to return to former ways of office-based working, even if they wanted to.

While these are some of the world’s most influential companies, it’s a conversation that almost every employer is having right now.

The reality is the demand for remote or hybrid work is fast becoming part of hiring negotiations and compensation packages. For many, work flexibility has become more important than pay. 

This has created a new dilemma for hiring managers that’s much deeper than offering strong commitments on flexibility as part of a job offer. 

If work flexibility is the future, how do you determine who’ll thrive in this setup? 

While it’s easy to guess some of the ideal attributes of a remote worker – that is they need to be autonomous, self-motivated, productive and able to collaborate online – there is another key characteristic that has proven vital to strong performance. 

What we’ve seen from companies that have prioritised remote working for a long time such as Automattic, GitLab, InVision and Buffer is the importance of strong written communication. This is because you are no longer relying on face-to-face interactions that occur naturally or through formal meetings in an office. For remote work to be viable communication needs to be predominantly textual and mostly asynchronous. 

When building a remote organization, Automattic CEO Matt  Mullenweg has said that at some point you realise how crucial written communication is for your success, and you start looking for great writers in your hiring. For this reason, Auttomatic job interviews are conducted via text only.

Mullenweg says the true asynchronous nature of a written interview reflects the remote work reality compared to real time video interviews, which are not scalable in an organisation. I think most of us found that out the hard way during the pandemic. 

So how can companies hire for remote capabilities?

In order to be effective remote and hybrid companies we need to rethink our hiring processes. To be frank, current hiring practices are just not going to cut it. CVs do not reveal the soft skills we need them to, and video is so inherently biased and stressful for candidates that many companies which opted for this early on in the pandemic are abandoning it as a top-of-the-funnel filter. We have several customers who have explicitly ditched video interviews.

The risk of making bad hires when you throw remote work into the equation is higher than if you’re bringing people into an office environment. You need to trust them from day one without any of the  ‘visibility’ you get from seeing someone everyday.

We need a new way of selecting candidates that can accurately identify soft skills like accountability,  autonomy, drive and writing skills. Can a text based interview reveal these qualities, while providing a great candidate experience and being highly relevant to the remote work context?

Mullenweg’s idea of a text only interview is not as radical as some might believe. We do thousands of them every day across the world, for a number of varied companies. We are able to reveal people’s character traits with over 90% accuracy (we know because we ask them).

It’s scientific, based on data and is the only accurate way you can identify both the written communication proficiency and soft skills required to work remotely.

How we do it

Our text interview includes open-ended questions on situational judgement and values, similar to a structured interview. When responses are analysed for skills that pertain to remote work it takes into account a multitude of features related to language fluency, proficiency, personality traits, behavioural traits, and semantic alignment. 

This allows a recruiter to quantify and compare a candidate’s written communication skills immediately as well as their suitability to the work environment. 

The revealing nature of text interviews is not just limited to the skill of writing, but also to the motivation behind expressing something in writing, which requires more effort and thinking than speaking it out. If someone is not motivated to express themselves in writing when a job is on the line, you can assume what it might be like once they are working in a role. 


While many companies are already scrambling to update their remote work policies and rethink their office space needs, if they are not reconsidering their hiring processes as part of this inevitable shift, then they are exposing their company to risk. 

Just because people want to work remotely, doesn’t always mean they can thrive in it. While you may be doing the right thing in offering flexibility for candidates, you also need to make sure that you are doing right by your company by understanding how well these candidates will thrive remotely.


Wondering how our Ai recruitment assessment tool can identify soft skills in candidates? Find out here.


The case for meaningful recruitment data

I am not a CFO but surely every CFO out there is encouraging, if not mandating, that their leaders look for investments that keep delivering business value (over those that are a sunk cost, or a one-time use).

I am a CEO though, and I like to ask the same question around meaningful data that keeps delivering value to a business. Because I am a CEO of a HR Tech company solving for human recruitment at scale, I also ask this question about meaningful recruitment data. 

Sure HR departments are drowning in data, but it’s often not the right data. 

Meaningful recruitment data isn’t:

  • Data that sits in your ATS and HRIS.
  • Data from a traditional psychometric test .
  • Engagement data (it’s retrospective data). 
  • Leaver data (also retrospective).
  • Or even leaver data by gender (it’s too late).

Meaningful recruitment data:

  • Allows you to discover talent easily.
  • Is re-useable, scalebale, giving you ‘forever insight ’ vs. one-time use.
  • Can be fed into your processes to make better, fairer decisions.
  • Allows you to make decisions faster, winning you the best talent before anyone else.
  • Allows you to measure–essential when you are changing behaviours.

Think about a candidate who completes a typical assessment and then gets hired. Usually, that’s the end of the data story.  Josh Bersin reckons about $2bn a year are spent on these ‘disposable’ assessments.  Each time one of these assessments is used it is a sunk cost. The data goes into the system and stagnates there, never to be used again.

Wouldn’t you love to know what your newest hire is capable of, beyond the job they’ve been hired for?  What other roles they could fill as business needs change? Or say you need 1,000 contract tracers fast? Or your business plan calls for 200 agile coaches or 50 product managers immediately? 

If you don’t have easily accessible data on your employees’ aptitudes, their strengths and underutilized skills, then every time you are forced to restructure you do it inefficiently–at huge cost to both your people and your bottom line. 

HR teams need to be thinking about how we use data about company employees to continually improve recruitment and retention. In much the same way that marketing and advertising uses data to learn about what people want, and recommend things based on that.

Imagine the world of possibility if recruitment data was used this way. Imagine if we built an Amazon recommendation system for people’s skill sets that looked at their ability to perform in any role? 

What are you waiting for? Let us show you what we can do for you.

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The Candidate Experience Playbook

To find out how to improve candidate experience using Recruitment Automation, we have a great eBook on candidate experience.

Hiring with heart is good for business: candidate experience in C-19 times. Sapia launches its Candidate Experience eBook. This book provides an insight into the changing face of the candidate experience. 

If there was ever a time for our profession to show humanity for the job searchers, that time is now. Unemployment in Australia has passed a two-decade high. The trend is similar for other countries. That means there are a lot more candidates in the market looking for work.

With so many more candidates, the experience of a recruiting process matters more. What are candidates experiencing? Are they respected, regardless of whether they got the job or not? Is their application appreciated. Are they acknowledged for that?

This may be the time to rethink your candidate experience strategy.

Here are two big reasons to prioritise improving candidates’ experience:


1. There is a much higher value attached to it – both for candidates and your organisation. 

This story won’t be unfamiliar to you:  An Australian based consulting firm advertised for a Management Consultant and decided to withdraw the advert after 298 candidates had applied. That was in their first week of advertising.

When candidate supply outstrips demand, that is bound to happen. Inundation of your Talent Acquisition team becomes an every-day thing. Employers are feeling swamped with job applications.

Being effective is much harder when there are more candidates to get through every day.

High-volume recruiting issues become further aggravated when two additional dynamics come into play:

>> When the role for which you are hiring requires a relatively low skill level.

In the example provided above, the Management Consultant role had several essential requirements which should have limited applications.  Included in the applicant list were hoteliers, baristas, waiting-staff and cabin crew (it’s heartbreaking). So when it comes to roles with a much lower barrier to entry, the application numbers can quadruple.

The traditional ‘high-volume low-skill role’ has now become excruciatingly high-volume. This trend is being seen across recruitment for roles like customer service staff, retail assistants and contact centre staff.

>>When your organisation is a (well-loved) consumer brand. 

Frequently, candidates will apply to work for brands that they love. Fans of Apple products, work for Apple. They also apply to work and get rejected in their millions. So, how do you keep people as fans of your brand when around 98% of them will be rejected in the recruiting process? That’s not only a recruiting issue – it’s a marketing issue too.

Thousands of organisations and their Talent Acquisition teams are grappling with both dynamics right now.

The combination of unemployment and being in Covid-19 lockdown means that consumer buying is being impacted. Their confidence is down. Buying is also down. With people applying for more jobs and spending less as consumers, the hat has somewhat switched. For many who were consumers, they have now become candidates. That may be how they are currently experiencing your brand. As candidates first, customers second.

If customers are candidates and candidates are customers, is there a reason for their experience to be fundamentally different? 

Candidate experience is defined as the perception of a job seeker about an organisation and their brand based on their interactions during the recruiting process. Customer experience is the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey.

Is there a difference? It’s all about how the human feels when interacting with your brand. A person is a person, regardless of the hat they are wearing at the time!

All about the human experience.

Millions, even billions, of dollars are spent each year by organisations crafting a positive brand presence and customer experience. Organisations have flipped 180 degrees to become passionately customer-centric. It makes sense to do so. Put your customers first, and that goes straight to the bottom line.

What is perhaps less recognised is the loss of revenue and customer loyalty which is directly attributed to negative candidate experiences.

How about those loyal customers who want to work for your brand? They eagerly apply for a job only to get rejected.

2. Candidate Experience improvements have become super easy to implement.  

For those who have tried in the past, you may well know that it can take an extraordinarily long time to ‘define’ a Candidate Experience strategy, create its metrics, find a budget and then execute on it.

Have a look inside the ‘too hard’ basket and there you may well find many thousands of well-meaning ‘candidate experience’ initiatives, that are still lying dormant! So many want to focus on candidate experience, but may shy away from doing so. This is because it’s perceived as time-consuming and expensive.

Plus, right now there is so much on which CHROs need to focus. From ensuring workers’ wellbeing to enabling remote working. Who has the time to also worry about the experiences of candidates?

However, that has changed. Boosting candidate experience is no longer too hard, too expensive, nor too time-consuming. Technology becomes more manageable, quicker and cheaper over time. Also (borrowing from Moore’s law), its value to users grows exponentially.

Candidate Experience Playbook: Hire with Heart

The good news is that for those organisations who genuinely want to improve candidate experience, it has become much easier to do so. Finally, it is possible to give great experiences at scale while also driving down costs and improving efficiencies.

Win-win is easily attainable. In the Sapia Candidate Experience Playbook, read how organisations are hiring with heart. All by creating positive experiences for candidates while also decreasing the workload for the hiring team.

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HR Tech – Makes our Day!

Tech Den is the HR Tech Summit’s flagship program – celebrating excellence in HR start-ups and entrepreneurship across Australia.

Vying for the ultimate prize, a $20k marketing campaign in HRD Australia publications, hundreds of HR Tech start-ups will be whittled down to just a few finalists.

Five lucky finalists pitched their solutions to a panel of judges and investors with Sapia coming out on top.

The competition was fierce as we went head-to-head with Crewmojo, Gradsift, Voop.Global and Referoo.

We were delighted to come out on top!

Thank you HR Tech for the opportunity and the wonderful prize. We look forward to using it!

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