How Startups Can Succeed at Virtual Hiring

A startup’s hiring process is the only component they can fully control when trying to fill a leadership role. Hiring involves working with people, who can’t really be controlled. Managing the process tightly is as close as we’re ever going to get in really being in control of hiring. In today’s world with COVID remote workforces, and hiring virtually, controlling the hiring process becomes even more difficult for startups but also even more important. So many companies are trying to solve for remote hiring, we’re all in it.

At Guild Talent we are seeing that since the remote hiring process is more difficult, startups are putting off hiring or delaying it. For startups that are already behind in hiring, given the delays from quarantines and COVID, this can be very problematic for a company trying to grow and scale during these challenging times. Instead, a better approach is to follow this three-part hiring plan with a working virtual final interview.

3-Part Virtual Hiring Plan for Startups

  • Part 1 – Bring the entire leadership team to a consensus on the ideal candidate profile
  • Part 2 – Bring the entire leadership team to a consensus on the process – and that as a company we’re ready to hire remotely
  • Part 3 – Fill the pipeline with candidates, and work the process

Bring the Leadership Team to a Consensus

As an executive search firm, we help in both shepherding the leadership team to a consensus around the role and ideal candidate profile and then by building a strong candidate pipeline. We have found getting the leadership team on the same page is critical, and frankly, it’s a show-stopper if we’re not able to do so. Interviewing the interviewers individually (say that 5 times fast!) on the team separately to hear what they consider the responsibilities of the role and the must-haves for candidates is imperative. Many times the team has very different ideas around both, and one of our first priorities is bringing the team to a consensus on the role and ideal candidate profile.

In the last few months we have talked with a number of startups that say they are ready to hire remote, but after digging in, it becomes apparent that the leadership team is not all on the same page. We had a client that had two stakeholders for the new leadership hire on completely different pages, one said this was a countrywide search and the other said it was only Bay Area. Before we start, obviously this needs to get addressed!

With virtual hiring, it’s even more imperative that your entire leadership team is on the same page. Having a virtual whiteboard session where you brainstorm and then finalize a description of the role and the ideal candidate together is a critical first step in your process.

Fill the Pipeline with Candidates

Once we know the profile and the process, we start reviewing candidates. This is where virtual hiring causes a major impact. Many startups don’t know how to adjust their hiring process for a remote workforce. How do you assess a candidate virtually? How can you tell if a candidate will be a cultural fit but will also produce the results you need in a remote environment?

How do you assess a candidate virtually?

Try “Working” Interviews

One virtual hiring assessment we have found works really well for startups is to add a lengthy virtual final “working” interview into their process. I’ve seen more and more candidates in final interview rounds go through a 2-3 hour virtual session. First presenting something to the CEO from their past role/previous company (a financial model, sales strategy, marketing plan, etc). Next, a working session with the hiring CEO to talk through a current issue at the hiring company. This helps the CEO assess the candidate on the spot. What is this new employee going to be like as a remote coworker? What are the working sessions going to be like with him/her? This virtual brainstorming session helps convey how well the candidate can work with someone in a remote environment. As a last step in the final interview, (the equivalent to the “Airport Interview Test” that’s popular in hiring for culture), the entire leadership team joins the call and the candidate presents to them the entire session – what was gained, learned, and discussed.

We’re trying to solve for: 1. how is this person at working virtually?, 2. how are they working with the CEO?, 3. how are they presenting to the team?, and 4. will they be a culture fit?. This is a lot, but we can’t extend the interview process into a 10+ step process. And this is all above and beyond the simple ‘do they have the technical skills to do the fundamentals of the job itself.’ We have to cover a lot of ground here and be efficient.

By adding this virtual session as a final interview, and by following our 3-step process, we have found the startups we work with have been able to make excellent hires virtually. They feel confident to move into the final stage and close on a candidate. Instead of trying to operate with holes on their leadership team, they are able to bring on needed talent and can focus on growing their business.



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