The Ultimate Guide to Finding and Hiring the Best Remote Developers

The Ultimate Guide to Finding and Hiring the Best Remote Developers

There’s something I think we can all recognize: online businesses need talented developers to create amazing customer experiences that beat the competition.

But despite our best efforts and intentions, finding high-quality developers can be challenging, costly, and time-consuming.

There are currently tens of thousands of remote web developers available to hire on the internet, but the quality of these developers varies greatly. Often, the developers available are inexperienced, under-qualified, and not able to meet the demands of a high-performing company.

If you have tried to find a quality remote web developer for your business, you will know how difficult it can be to receive applications from candidates that actually possess the skills and experience you need to take your business to the next level.

Thankfully, while it is difficult to find good remote developers, there is a straightforward process that, if followed correctly, will help you to discover the hidden gems.

This guide collects everything you need to know about finding and hiring the best remote developers Click To Tweet

One common misconception that many business owners have, and it’s perhaps one that you share too, is that finding a good developer is just about fielding applications from good developers.

This isn’t the case.

Finding a high-quality remote developer isn’t just about getting applications from talented developers, it’s about the whole hiring process.

That means that the work you do to prepare your company for a new hire, the time you take to create an attractive and informative job advert, and the care and attention you pay to processing applications, are as important as attracting applications from talented people.

Finding a good remote developer takes time, skill, planning, and a well-thought process. This guide will help you through this from start to finish.

Free Bonus: All the resources mentioned in this post are available as part of our bundle for finding remote developers: Download it now

Prepare Yourself for Hiring a Remote Developer

Prepare yourself for hiring a remote developer

The process for hiring a remote web developer starts far before you make a job posting, or begin fielding applications. In order to attract the best talent available, you as a business owner, executive, or hiring manager have to make sure that you and your company are ready to hire a remote developer.

What does this mean?

When a business fails to attract quality remote developers, the problem is often not only that the applications they receive fail to meet their expectations, but that the business owner and hiring manager have set themselves up for failure through poor planning, a lack of foresight, and inadequate preparation.

To prevent this, there is a process you must complete before you even begin to think about creating a job posting.

Is Your Company Ready to Hire a Remote Developer?

By far-and-away the most important thing for you to do at the start of your hiring process is to work out whether your company actually needs a remote developer, and if it is ready to hire one.

This means making sure that you not only have an adequate financial runway to accommodate a typically costly hire but that you can also justify hiring a remote developer because you actually have a direct need for one.

In many cases, companies fall down during the hiring process, and after the recruitment process has ended, not because they have failed somewhere along the way, but because they fell at the very first hurdle – not having a direct and specific need for a remote developer in the first place.

How to Determine if You Actually Need a Remote Developer

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, spend some time coming up with exactly what you want from a remote developer: outline what projects they will work on, what their workload and schedule will look like, where they will sit in your organization, and what you hope to gain by bringing them into your team.

While you’re doing this, take some time to evaluate just why you need a remote developer. Think about the project or projects that you need them to work on, and ask whether the work can be done by someone else already on staff, or if you could find a short-term freelance developer to complete the work for you.

Sitting down before you begin the recruitment and hiring process to think about everything you want your remote developer to do, where they will sit in your organisation, and what their workload will look like, might seem like an unnecessary step that over-complicates the process and needlessly increases the time it takes to actually get a hire.

But this could not be further from the truth:

Successfully hiring a great remote developer requires you to take time before you begin the process to work out every detail.

Use this sample spreadsheet (it’s part of the bundle) that we’ve prepared that can help you to really discover if you do need a remote web developer.

How to Find Quality Remote Developers - Checklist

Answering these questions will help you to fully understand why you need a remote developer, and will serve as a reference point that you can return to again and again during the recruitment, interview, and post-hire processes.

If you’re still not sure of whether you really need to hire someone in-house, this guide will help you decide.

The Qualities of a Good Remote Developer

The Qualities of A Good Remote Developer

Now that you have solidified just why you need a remote developer, by thinking about the type of work they will complete and how they will fit into your organization, you can start to think about what soft-characteristics you will look for in candidates.

This is important because a good remote developer has completely different qualities and characteristics compared to an in-house developer.

Why?

Because the realities of working remotely are completely different to working inside a company’s offices each day.

Remote work can be lonely, monotonous, and mentally draining. Compare this to working in an office, where employees surround each other, you as a leader or executive are there to check on and motivate employees, and there are meetings and conversations to break up the day.

To be able to work successfully and productively, and deliver high-quality work consistently, a good remote developer should have the following characteristics (among others):

  • Independence
  • They should be self-motivated: remote development work requires an employee to work for hours on end without people around them to motivate and encourage them. Because of this, the hire must be able to hustle on their own to complete the work to a high standard, and within the deadline.
  • The ability to be self-critical: without a manager or founder around to directly influence and critique a remote developer’s work, poor remote developers can produce inadequate work. To counter this, your remote developer must be constructively self-critical and be able to ensure that they produce high-quality work every time
  • They should have initiative: development work, whether remotely or in-house, requires someone able to use initiative to seek out and address problems. Initiative is an especially important characteristic for a remote developer, as they will need to be able to seek out and address problems without the constant prompting and encouragement of a manager or team leader

The best remote developers will have these characteristics in abundance, and will have developed and demonstrated them over a successful career. While these are soft and intangible characteristics, that can be hard to identify from a resumé or short interview, there are key questions that can be used to determine whether a candidate is likely to have and make use of these qualities.

The ‘How to Filter remote Developer Applications’ and ‘How to Interview Remote Developers’ sections will explore this in greater depth, but consider reading this list of personalities to avoid when hiring freelancers.

Where To Find Quality Remote Developers

Where to find good remote developers

Thanks to the internet, and the increased connectivity of much of the world, quality remote developers are able to be found anywhere from Tahiti to Toronto, Bratislava to Bogota.

Discovering good remote developers requires you to spread yourself and your job posting across multiple websites and online jobs boards so that you increase the number of people who will see and respond to your listing.

The increasing popularity of remote work has led to the creation of a number of remote work specific jobs boards and websites, along with freelance platforms, all of which you should consider when it comes to finding and attracting your remote developer.

Remote Work Job Boards and Platforms

Probably the easiest form of recruitment, and the most likely lead to successful applications, is posting on remote work-specific jobs boards.

These sites were created with the specific focus of helping talented developers discover challenging and well-paying remote work.

Hubstaff Talent

Hire Freelancers & Remote Workers For Free - Hubstaff Talent - Google Chrome 2016-09-01 12.10.54

Hubstaff Talent is our 100% free website, that we started with the sole aim of connecting the best talent in the world with the most exciting and challenging projects. Aimed at businesses, agencies, and freelancers, we keep Talent completely free to all parties involved in order to give remote workers and agencies a chance to showcase their work, and business owners a place to find great people to work with.

Find great remote contractors

Hubstaff Talent is completely FREE!

Toptal

How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

Founded with the specific intention of helping only the best designers and developers find work, Toptal should be high up on your list of places to post jobs. The platform is used as a recruitment tool by companies like AirBnB and J.P. Morgan and offers a rigorous testing process which creates a high barrier to entry that ensures only the top 3% of designers and developers are able to apply for positions.

We Work Remotely

How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

Created by 37Signals, the team behind the best-selling book Remote, We Work Remotely was established specifically to offer remote work positions to talented people across the world. The jobs board does not have a sophisticated testing system like Toptal, but it does attract great talent. The site typically attracts technical candidates, so it is a perfect choice for someone looking for a remote developer.

Gun.io

Gunio

Gun.io is a website that focuses solely on connecting businesses with the best freelance developers. They pride themselves on handpicking only the most skilled and experienced professionals and offering a concierge service to their customers. The team has already applied their model for companies like Amazon.com, Zappos, and Lonely Planet.

FlexJobs

How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

Used by companies like Apple, Uber, Hilton, and Amazon, FlexJobs is a large jobs site (there are currently over 30,000 vacancies) that caters specifically to remote and flexible job opportunities. Posting here will place your job vacancy in front of thousands of talented developers specifically looking for remote work opportunities. Unlike Toptal though, FlexJobs does not have a barrier to entry, so you may receive some applications from unsuitable applicants.

Working Nomads

Working Nomads Jobs - How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

Curating the best remote work positions from around the internet, Working Nomads is a tech-focussed remote work jobs board that should also be considered as part of your recruitment plan. Typically visited by those looking for remote work positions in technology and development, Working Nomads is a perfect place to attract a quality remote developer.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow - How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

This site is integral to the role of a developer and provides a place for programmers and developers to help each other out with problems and issues they come across during their work. Because it is such a well-respected and well-visited resource for developers of all abilities, Stack Overflow is a perfect place to advertise your remote developer position and is likely to lead to high-quality applications from qualified and experienced developers.

RemoteOK

Remote OK Jobs - How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

With a reach of over 400,000 remote workers a month, RemoteOK is a remote work-specific jobs board that leans heavily towards tech and development positions. The majority of its positions are well-paid vacancies for experienced developers, and this has meant that its visitors are talented and knowledgeable.

Authentic Jobs

Authentic Jobs How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

Connecting talent and companies since 2005, Authentic Jobs describes itself as ‘a job board for designers, hackers, and creative pros’. The site leans heavily towards technical positions, and because of this, a large number of its visitors are good remote developers looking for challenging and rewarding opportunities.

Hired

Hired.com How to Find Quality Remote Developers - A Guide

This rising Silicon Valley startup’s hiring marketplace works unlike traditional jobs boards in that companies approach talented people, not the other way around. This means that you can actively seek out the right remote developer for your position and make sure that you get candidates with the qualifications, experience, and expertise that you need for your role. Hired is a more expensive option than other platforms which charge only for job listings, they currently take up to 2% of a candidate’s monthly salary for 24 months, so this option is only viable if you are willing to pay this fee.

UpWork

In direct contrast to Hired is UpWork, a freelancer platform that has many millions of users around the world, who work across a huge number of industries. While UpWork does have a very broad reach, this platform can suffer from low-quality candidates, so any posting here (while worthwhile just for the sheer scale of the platform) should bear this in mind.

If you need more information about where to look for top quality remote developers, there are plenty of detailed guides on the internet that can provide you with more information.

Job Posting Tips

To make sure that your job posting is as successful as possible, and that you attract the right candidates from the very beginning, make sure that your posting is as comprehensive as possible. Try free job posting site like Hubstaff Talent to work on the best job posting format without paying any fees.

Cover all of the bases and try to think like a job hunter – that means including all of the relevant details like salary, your company’s website, a summary of the type of work they will be doing, and details of any benefits or equity your hire will receive.

Postings that lack information are the ones that attract low-quality applications, so make sure your’s is well filled-out.

We’ve put together a sample job posting to help guide you through creating your own. Feel free to adapt this one, or create your own entirely

Free job posting sites for remote developers

How to Filter Applications, And Identify Top Remote Developers

find good remote developers

The art of hiring a good remote developer is in good filtering.

Filtering and processing are so important, that it’s almost impossible to get a good remote developer without having a good system in place.

Think about it:

If you have a pile of 50 applications, but no filtering and processing system, you’re going to go through those applications slowly, you’re going to treat them unequally (because you won’t be applying the same criteria to each), and you’re going to miss things that could have a big impact in the long run.

This means you’re going to end up missing quality candidates through human error, and that you’ll end up with a suboptimal sea of interviewees – neither of these things makes for success.

To make sure that you don’t end up with a sea of poor interviewees, you need to establish a clear and rigid system for dealing with your applications.

A very straightforward way of keeping track of your applications, where they sit in your process, and what actions you need to make, is to create a Trello board that integrates with Zapier, and automatically adds new candidates to the flow – so you never lose track of anyone.

This is similar to a process we use at Hubstaff, and we’ve created a sample Trello board (you can find a link to it in our bundle) for you to take a look at.

job applications tracking exmple

To learn more about how to automate the process using Zapier, check out their quick guide.

This way of managing your applications means that you never lose track of anything and that you can make sure that you have applied the same process to each candidate.

Another easy way to process applications is by creating a checklist of your requirements, and then use this checklist to grade each candidate’s application.

If you have a lot of applications, pick out the must-have criteria that you can use to clearly separate out candidates. These criteria could be a specialist degree, a certain number of years experience, or relevant domain experience.

Once you have gone through all of the applications in search of these must-have criteria and eliminated any applications that don’t meet the standard, you can then go back again and grade each application on the finer details.

After you’ve gone through each application thoroughly, contact all of the unsuccessful candidates to let them know that they haven’t made it through to the next round.

Getting in touch with applicants to let them know that the process has ended for them is incredibly important for a number of reasons:

  • It stops you from being inundated with emails chasing up applications
  • It gives applicants closure and helps them know to move on to other vacancies elsewhere
  • It sets your company out as a place that cares about relationships – there is nothing worse in a job applicant’s mind than an employer who they never hear back from
    • In the internet-age bad word spreads fast, and you don’t want people discouraged from applying to future vacancies at your company because you have a reputation for never getting back in touch with applicants

Dealing with successful applicants

After you have dealt with the unsuccessful applicants, take some time to vet your potential hires more carefully.

Check their social media accounts, look closely at their personal websites and portfolios, contact their references, Google them, try to track down information about their previous experience.

Time spent here will save you time and money in the long run.

It’s at this stage that you should gain a more detailed understanding of each candidate: look for any comments about their previous workplaces or employers on social media (good and bad), try to judge their professionalism from their online persona (Instagram photos and Facebook profiles can be helpful here).

A clear warning sign that a candidate may be trouble in the long run is any negative comments made about work or employers on social media – seeing this should be a major red signal.

Once you have gone through and researched each candidate in more detail, invite those who passed the screening to a video interview.

How to Interview Remote Developers

interviewing remote developers

The interview stage is an incredibly important part of the process, as it is where you can truly discover which candidates are perfect for your company: both in terms of technical and professional ability and in their personal culture-fit.

To get the most out of an interview, prepare your candidates ahead of time:

Send out an email beforehand explaining what will be covered in the interview, what is expected of them, and who they will be interviewed by.

If possible, have multiple people interview the candidate – this way, you will be able to aggregate feelings and perspectives and make an informed decision about each person.

As you are looking to hire a remote developer, you will have to rely on a series of internet-based interview sessions to make sure that you cover all of the bases you would look to cover if you were interviewing the candidate in-house.

Ways to Interview Remote Developers

Phone or VoIP Screening call

A low-level voice interview is great at determining whether a potential candidate is a good fit for your company. During this type of interview, try to gain an understanding of what the candidate knows and thinks about the position, your company, and the area of business you work in. You can also use this as an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about their resumé or their application.

On the call, ask them if they have any questions about your business, and try to gain a better understanding of how they worked at their previous job: ask them about how they interact with teammates, how they manage their time, and what their relationships were like with their superiors.

Here you are looking to see if they are a right character fit for your business, as you will have already established that they have some of the right technical and professional criteria you are looking for.

Aim to keep this call short, try for no longer than 30 minutes, and feel free to end it sooner if you feel the candidate isn’t right for you.

Video Interview

This level of interview requires more time investment, so should only be reserved for promising candidates.

Using Skype, Google Hangouts, or Interview Zen, schedule a further 40-60 minute interview with the candidates who passed the phone screening round.

Prepare them with a short email describing roughly what areas you will cover in the interview, and who will be present on the call.

The video interview is your opportunity to ask your candidates more specific questions about their technical experience, their ability, and how they will work in your organization.

Being able to see your candidates also allows you to make judgements about their personality and whether they would be a good culture fit for your business.

Code Challenge

This can be combined with the video interview to make an all-encompassing interview process that touches every base and leaves you with a firm understanding of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

A coding challenge is where you set your candidate a live development task and they then aim to complete it in a time limit while guiding you through their thought process.

This type of interview is perfect for helping you understand how a candidate approaches problems, how they work, and whether they have the necessary skills needed to fulfil the role.

How to Interview If You Are Non-Technical

If you are non-technical, ask questions about previous roles, aim to discover how well they work in dispersed teams, what their ability to communicate and work with team members is like, as well as how well they understand the intricacies of your business.

Attempt to gauge how well they execute – how rapidly they can make changes, whether they are able to deal with fundamental scope and project changes, and whether they are able to call on existing knowledge to help overcome challenges.

To assess how the remote developer will work with other non-technical teammates, have the developer explain a previous project’s technology stack and processes to you in plain-English. If they are unable to do this or explain things in a way you understand, they might not work well with other teammates who do not have technical skills.

If you need more information to help you fully master this part of the process, take a look at this helpful guide – ‘The Non-Technical Persons Guide on How to Hire a Remote Developer’.

Grading the Interview Process

During the interview process, score each candidate based on a specific set of criteria and make notes based on a candidate’s responses.

These could be:

  • Background knowledge
  • Understanding of our business/marketplace
  • Relevant experience
  • Technical knowledge
  • Personality/Culture-fit
  • Ability to work well remotely
  • Ability to work well with other non-technical teammates

After the interview, go through your notes and checklist, grade each candidate, and assemble a ranking.

The top 2 or 3 candidates are then yours to decide between based on your feeling and the knowledge you have about them.

What you do next is very important:

Follow up with all candidates as soon as you have made your decision – you do not want your top candidate accepting another offer before you’ve had a chance to make yours.

Similarly, let the unsuccessful candidates know that they have been unsuccessful, it helps to give candidates closure and keeps your company’s reputation in good stead.

If you need more information about how to interview remote developers, there are plenty of infographics, guides, and resources that can help you fully understand the process.

How to Manage Remote Developers

A team managing a remote developer

Successfully managing a remote developer is made infinitely easier by hiring the right person to work with in the first place.

This means that if you went through the recruitment and hiring process effectively, your job as a leader and manager will be much easier.

Still, there are things that you need to do to make sure that you manage your remote developer effectively.

How to Approach Managing a Remote Developer

Managing technical employees is unlike managing any other worker.

With other workers, be they admin, sales, or PR, you will focus on time spent working so that you are sure that they are working efficiently and effectively and getting the job done. With developers and other technical employees, this type of management does not work well.

Instead, focus on results and goals, and ignore the time implications for every piece of work.

Development work can be tricky and problematic, your employee is solving complex problems that take research, trial and error, and refinement to solve. What’s more, making changes to one part of a system can lead to errors springing up in another. This means that what seems like a simple problem could take days or even weeks to fix. Because of this, the only successful way to manage a remote developer is to establish clear goals and milestones that you can use to track progress.

To ensure that you successfully manage your remote developer properly, allow them flexible hours, and set them clear deadlines and milestones that they should look to achieve as quickly and as efficiently as possible – but be clear with them that if they need to take the time to fix a problem properly, they are able to.

Track your remote developer’s tasks, goals, and milestones in a project management app like Asana or Trello, so you can keep an eye on how things are progressing.

If you feel that you want more information about how your remote developer is working on a daily basis, consider using a time tracking app like Hubstaff to monitor your employee’s productivity. Time tracking apps help you to better understand where your employee is spending their time, and whether they are wasting it on apps like Spotify or websites like Facebook when they should be working.

Time tracking apps also help to build trust between you and your remote developer, as you are able to see that they are working on impartial data. Good time tracking apps also capture your employees’ screens at regular intervals, and this can help to build more trust as you are able to clearly see what they are working on at any given moment.

To learn about managing remote developers from other people’s experiences, check out ‘What I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Remote Team Management’, or for more actionable tips, take a look at ‘Everything You Need to Get Started With Remote Team Management

Bonus: Alternative Methods for Finding Quality Developers

If you’re still struggling to find a good remote developer, there are other ways of discovering top developers that don’t rely on jobs boards or platforms.

Google searches can be a great way to find top talent. Using a variety of search queries, specific to your need, you can find the developers with the highest ranking websites, who have had articles written about them, or who have been credited with working on other challenging projects.

Occasionally, you will find posts that roundup the top developers in any given sector, such as ‘the best freelance WordPress developers’. These posts can be incredibly helpful, and can give you a much-needed second opinion that you can use in your hiring process.

Tech recruiters can also be a great way to discover top talent. While taking this route is usually more expensive, it can lead to great results and may help to save you time in the long run. If you have a preference for where your candidate lives (for example you’re looking for a developer who lives in Manila), you can search for the top tech recruiters in this area and then call on them to find you top talent.

Referrals are also a great way to discover quality remote developers who have proven themselves through previous projects. Speaking to other founders, executives, and hiring managers about who works well, and who they would recommend you approach, can be a fantastic way to discover the right remote developer for you.

Social Media is an often overlooked way to discover candidates, as people tend to look at services like Twitter and Google Plus as places solely for personal things. If you have a good-sized social following, try sharing posts that let your followers know you are looking to hire a remote developer, and call on your followers to either recommend themselves or someone they know.

Are You Ready to Hire a Great Remote Developer?

Hiring a good remote developer can be really tough, there is a sea of poor-quality developers out there that can trip you over on your road to success.

But as long as you follow the process carefully, and make sure that your interview and recruitment processes are methodical and considered, you will find that discovering top talent is easier than you could have imagined.

If at any point in the process, you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, don’t be afraid to step back, reset, and start again: taking extra time to find the right developer first time may seem impossible at the beginning, but it will often save you time and money in the long run.

Once you’ve hired your remote developer, start a 14-day free trial of Hubstaff to monitor them efficiently and effectively, and make sure that they are working productively.

For more information on hiring remote developers, check out the huge number of guides and resources available on the internet, or for more help managing developers after they have been hired check out comprehensive guides and strategies.

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