Proven Strategies to Hire a Remote Developer

Finding tech talent is difficult these days. Hiring managers are currently facing a candidate’s job market.  At the same time they need to scale up their tech team quickly to meet the demands of their projects.

One of the difficulties hiring managers face is that working remotely is now mandatory to attract candidates. This is in part an outgrowth of the pandemic where 98.6% of developers worked remotely.  Even as the worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us and more and more employers are bringing their workforce back into the office, the culture of working from home appears to be here to stay.

According to our 2022 Tech HIring Survey, 70% of developers want to work remotely.  Developers are reluctant to return to the office with 33% preferring to work remotely full time.  Moreover, 33% of those asked to return full time are “not very happy” or “not at all happy.”

As a result, hiring a remote developer team is a must for software development companies and you will need to up your remote hiring game.

The Pros and Cons of Remote Employees

The switch to the new paradigm of remote work can be intimidating to those of us who have spent our adult lives working in offices and may find the idea of being disconnected from our employer and our co-workers a bit intimidating if not suspect.  In truth, there are both advantages and disadvantages from an employer’s perspective.

The Advantages of Hiring Remote Workers

One of the most notable advantages of hiring remote workers is that it can be a significant source of cost savings.  The most immediate reduction is on the sort of general infrastructure costs that come from co-locating your employees in one place — things such as office space, office supplies, furniture, and janitorial services.

There is also the potential to realize significant savings when you are no longer tied to the salary requirements of the region you are in, especially for employers located in North America.  Countries with higher-quality of life and costs of living such as the US, Australia, Western Europe, Israel can have development costs where the average hourly rate is as much as 2-3 times higher than those found in less developed regions such as Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.  

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Remote Worker? 

According to our CodinGame & CoderPad tech survey, 44% of developers in the USA make 100k or more while in India over 75% make less than 20k.  Exact hourly rate estimates can vary significantly, but the overall trend is quite clear — being able to hire developers from other parts of the world can be a significant cost savings.  

Moreover, even if you hire domestically, you do not need to worry about relocation costs and potentially needing to provide a new hire with a stipend to move across the country.  Hiring remote workers greatly widens the talent pool overall — you will have access to developers from all over the world.

Higher Productivity and Limited Turnover

There are other costs that are less easy to measure, but may have a significant impact on your bottom line.  

While inevitably issues come up that may impact an employee’s availability regardless of whether they are onsite or remote, certain issues, such as handling childcare when a child is too sick to attend school, can be better managed by an employee when they are working from home and will therefore have a more limited impact on their productivity. 

There are many reasons that workers prefer working from home. This means they are likely to be happier overall if they are given the opportunity to work remotely and as a result there will be less employee turnover.  Estimates indicate that to replace an employee making $50,000 per year will cost your business 20% of their salary, so taking steps to increase your desirability as a workplace may pay dividends in the long run.

Workers who can work remotely feel more productive, less stressed, and can save money.  They spend less time and money commuting, for instance.  

According to a ConnectSolutions survey, the average remote worker surveyed said that they save approximately $4,600 per year by working from home — the equivalent of a couple of months in mortgage payments. 

Additionally workers may suffer fewer distractions than they may encounter in the office.  Instead of impromptu meetings that can interrupt the flow of what they are doing, workers can be more judicious about when they choose to engage with their co-workers and can more effectively multi-task when they are interacting through messaging tools.

The Drawbacks of Remote Workers

This isn’t to say that there are not negative aspects to having a remote workforce.  The remote work environment presents its own challenges both in terms of the workers you need to hire and the sort of work culture you need to foster.

Remote Culture Means Autonomy and Self-Discipline

The sort of workers that will thrive in a remote work environment are those that are able to manage their time effectively and have the discipline to complete their deliverables without requiring supervision. They must be able to work independently and have the communication skills to make their needs known effectively. If they encounter technical issues with their work set up, being able to troubleshoot and handle IT issues on their own may be necessary.

Fortunately, many of the skills that make developers effective as developers (such as good problem solving skills) also make them likely to possess these sorts of “soft” skills.  Nonetheless you will need to be careful to assess those capabilities as you interview candidates for remote positions.

Providing the Right Tools for Remote Working and Hiring

In addition to having workers who are able to be effective as remote employees, you need to make sure your company’s communication style lends itself well to including the remote workforce.  This means encouraging the use of online messaging tools such as Slack or Discord in addition to more traditional tools such as email. You will also need to make sure you hire managers and team leads who demonstrate an ability to manage remote developers effectively.

Furthermore you will need to furbish conference rooms with online conferencing equipment so you can effectively include remote employees in meetings being held on-site.  You will also want to do team building exercises such as online escape games, virtual developer summits, and “lunch and learns” to make sure your developers feel a sense of community and that knowledge gets shared to other development team members.

See our article The 5 Best Remote Team Building Activities for Tech Squads

Finally you will need additional tools to help screen candidates so you can adequately assess their skills in an efficient manner.  A wider talent pool will mean you have more candidates to screen and you will have to change how and where you look for candidates.  In our 2022 employment survey we found that assessing a candidate’s technical skills online was the number one pain point when it came to online hiring.

How to Hire Remote Developers

While there are many similarities between hiring remote and onsite employees, there are a number of tools and techniques that will better enable you to deal with the volume of remote candidates, effectively evaluate their skills, and eventually onboard them.

Using an Application Tracking System (ATS)

An Application Trackings System (ATS) is an essential tool for remote hiring.  It will centralize and organize resumes in a searchable manner, as well as help you comply with regulations such as EEOC.  Such a system will save time by automatically filtering large numbers of applications while surfacing and highlighting top candidates.  

There are many ATS options available with different capabilities:

  • SmartRecruiters is the best enterprise-grade talent acquisition suite
  • Greenhouse has automation capabilities for recruiting and hiring tasks
  • Workable allows for customization according to specific needs
  • Lever has a top rated candidate/customer portal
  • is also highly customizable
  • Pinpoint is best for in-house talent acquisition
  • iCIMS is best for advertising job postings

For a review of the 10 best ATS options for 2022 see this list from the G2 website.

Where Can I Find the Best Full-time Remote Developers? 

Finding candidates for remote software developer positions may require you to augment your recruitment process beyond simply posting to job boards and indicating that position is remote in the job description.  Your hiring process should include additional virtual recruitment activities such as coding competitions, career fairs, and webinars.

For more ideas, see our post on How to Source Developers Remotely

You may also want to reconsider the type of working relationship you want to have with your remote workers — do you want them to be full time or do you want them to work as freelancers? 

You may find it easier to recruit specialists for short term projects if you choose to work with freelancers, who will also likely be very familiar with working remotely.  However, this will change where you target your postings — for full time workers you might stick with more traditional job sites like GlassDoor, whereas you might use Upwork to target freelancers.

Screening Candidates Remotely

When it comes to screening potential candidates for remote interviews, there are a few different methods that you can use.  

A typical methodology would be to start with an online technical test to assess their skills. 

This would be followed by a “take home” assignment that can be a more complex problem that allows the candidate to demonstrate their coding skills and allows you to assess not only their ability to complete the assignment, but the legibility and adherence of best practices of their code. 

Technical Assessment tools such as CodinGame Assessment will help you get started with the initial coding assessment. It includes test wizards to create an assessment campaign tailored to your needs. When your candidate completes their exam CodinGame generates easy to understand assessment reports designed to be read by both hiring managers and non-technical recruiters. Additionally, you will be provided with an automated scoring and ranking assessment of candidates to help you create a short list.

More tips to improve your online screening process in our post How to Screen Developers Remotely.

After that you will want to do a more interactive, small team task to see how well they are likely to work with their peers.

Interviewing Candidates Remotely

Once candidates have completed your initial exam and take home assignment, it will be time to conduct an interview.

We discuss some of the challenges of remote interviewing, such as the choice between live and pre-recorded interviews in our post “Remote Hiring: How to Interview Developers Remotely

You will need to assess both “soft” skills as well as technical skills. This can be a challenge as our 2022 survey reveals that 30% of developers find it difficult to demonstrate their personalities and soft skills remotely. In addition to assessing typical soft skills such as their personality, attitude, and value system you will need to assess the candidate’s ability to work remotely effectively. As we discussed previously, this requires the ability to self manage and troubleshoot technical issues by themselves — and just as importantly be able to disconnect and engage in self-care when necessary.

Here is a sample question you might ask about remote work: Have you ever worked remotely previously and what did you think you could have improved in this work experience?

For the technical portion of the interview, CodinGame is an excellent source for potential interview questions. For example you can find interview questions for Java, C++, and JavaScript.

Rather than simply using a series of questions, it is usually better to develop your technical interview so that it can be interactive. One technique is to use a problem solving type question that will force the candidate to think on their feet. This can take the form of a logic puzzle that lends itself to being modeled easily and turned into programming examples (we find river crossing problems are excellent for this purpose).  

Alternatively you could use a real world example that your own team encountered recently. 

This can also be helpful for giving the candidate a sense of the sort of work they are likely to be doing and that can help to entice them and make them more interested in the position.  It also allows you to see if they can readily understand concepts in the problem domain in which they will be working.

CoderPad is an excellent tool to use for this interactive portion of the interview. It will help the candidate easily share their skills by writing, executing, and debugging code in a live collaborative environment. And because it is collaborative, you will get a sense as to how well you and other members of your team conducting the interview will be able to work with the candidate.

Onboarding Your Remote Hires

Even once you’ve selected your candidate and they’ve accepted, the challenges that come with hiring remote workers aren’t over. Remote onboarding presents its own challenges and requires you to adapt your processes to deal with employees who may never set foot in your offices. Communicating pre-arrival, ensuring training is delivered, overseeing introductions, integrating developers into the team as covered in our post Onboard Developers Remotely.


There’s a better way to test coding skills.

Eric Philips

Eric Philips

Eric Phillips has worked has a software engineer and architect doing full stack development as well as creating integration frameworks and APIs for enterprise software. He actually has degree in geography (of all things) from the University of Minnesota, though these days much of his focus and passion is songwriting.