How to leverage the global talent pool | Q&A with Geoff Ainsworth of Time Doctor
Geoff Ainsworth, Time Doctor’s VP of Engineering, has been on a journey of recruitment enlightenment. In the past, he’d only hired for local candidates in restricted talent pools with lots of competition for the same talent. Since joining Time Doctor, his eyes have been opened to how much more effective it is to recruit globally. In this article, we’ll chat to Geoff on his experience and shift in hiring mindset. Thinking about going fully remote? Here’s everything you need to know…
Could you tell us about your experience hiring at a startup prior to launching Time Doctor?
I’ve led engineering teams for around 15 years in startups and global enterprises, having to hire in quite remote, local talent pools to the most competitive areas like London. So I’ve been exposed to different ways of hiring and the associated challenges.
Hiring outside of a tech-hub like London means that you are generally recruiting from the same, small pool of talent as everyone else. This was especially evident for me when hiring in Cheltenham and Worcester. Once we’d attracted the best in the local area (within 20 miles), we’d need to get people to commute from Bristol and Birmingham, which meant long commutes and competition with tech companies closer to them.
Hiring in London gave access to engineers of a much higher calibre that had previously worked in startups, and we hired some amazing people. But in a tech-hub you are in competition with other tech companies, so you need to pay a lot or have a very strong recruitment brand when scaling.
We’d love to hear how you got started with Time Doctor, please could you give us an overview of the company?
I was looking for a new challenge which was global and believe that remote tech companies are the future. You get the opportunity to work with the best technical minds in the world, and live where you want to live. That’s what made Time Doctor really appeal to me.
Time Doctor are a remote-first company and have c120 team members situated across 40 different countries. Product Engineering is around 40 people, located in 19 separate countries. What I loved about this was that the Founders, Rob Rawson and Liam Martin, have managed to take a bootstrapped startup to hypergrowth over the last couple of years with no additional VC funding. The key to this has been the ability to hire from a global talent pool. We’ve managed to hire incredible people but avoid the inflated London costs, we’ve also created a much more diverse team which is proven to be more productive.
Then when you think about the product, Time Doctor is accelerating the world’s transition to remote work. Our products help companies change to a productive remote working situation by understanding where time is spent and generating work insights to improve productivity. We also run the world’s largest conference on remote working which has speakers from other remote-first companies such as Basecamp and GitLab.
What have you found to be the key differences in hiring remotely?
One of the critical differences in remote hiring is the sheer number of applicants, so you need an effective and efficient screening process. The challenges when hiring locally or even UK wide are still based on candidate attraction and getting people to the table. By hiring globally you nullify that challenge and the focus pivots to filtering a higher volume of inbound candidates.
However, the calibre is excellent and it’s far easier to locate specific skills and experience given the broader pool of talent. Although I would still not say it’s easy, you definitely have less need to compromise. The most important thing for us, to begin with, is that the candidate fits the culture and values. I. they must love remote work (obviously) and be determined, generous and adaptable.
The downsides...complexity does exist in the HR and administration side of things, so you need a great People Ops team to help you with that!
What’s your process for attracting and screening candidates from around the world?
There are two aspects to how we attract candidates to Time Doctor. Tech and People.
In terms of tech, it’s important you have a great ATS. We use BreezyHR which allows us to manage our entire workflow, but also advertise our roles across multiple platforms globally. Remotive.io is a great place to advertise for globally remote roles. The internal recruitment team then use Stack Overflow and LinkedIn recruiter to supplement this for any outbound activities.
In terms of people, this wouldn’t work without having an experienced internal recruiter that is able to effectively filter the applicants. We’ve also used UpWork to hire contract internal recruiters to focus outbound efforts in specific locations i.e. Ukraine. These recruiters are engaged on an hourly/daily rate for a fixed period of time.
Screening and hiring process:
We use a combination of BreezyHR and Asana (which include a detailed check list on what needs to happen in the process and assigns jobs to different people ensuring accountability) to manage the process. This helps us manage the process across multiple time zones, which works well.
- CV / Github review.
- Values-based interview with our recruiter.
- Online technical test (Hackerrank) to ensure a level of technical competency, the output of which is used later at interview stage as a discussion point.
- Competence-based interview with VP of Engineering and one of the engineering team.
- Final discussion with our CTO.
- Offer, onboarding and the usual reference checks etc.
What does your offer process look like now?
We have a set budget for the hire regardless of location and hire the candidate that best fits our culture, values and the most relevant technical skills. We’ve gone through a process of salary benchmarking over the last 12 months to ensure everyone is paid fairly irrelevant of location.
Even though we are recruiting from a larger talent pool, most candidates will still have multiple opportunities in play, so offering a fair salary is one part to being competitive. The other is speed of process. On average, we look to complete an interview process with a candidate within a week.
How do you successfully onboard your new starters?
This is a tough part of the process - as mentioned before you need an experienced People Ops team to make this work! That’s one key bit of advice I’d give, from day one Time Doctor hired a HR expert in recruiting and employing people from around the world. It’s also important you have a legal advisor that can navigate the different countries and employment laws.
The key here is flexibility, we have a number of ways to engage new workers depending on their location and preferences. A lot of countries outside of the UK favour the use of long-term contractors. There are also some great third-party companies, such as Globalization Partners, that can take this headache away.
There are more logistical elements like their hardware and equipment. We make sure every team member has their own Time Doctor equipment that is for work purposes only. Those devices are then fully compliant with all data privacy and security regulations (end point encryption, mobile device management and full disk encryption). Again, there are some great companies that can handle this for you, First Base HQ is the one we’ve been looking at recently.
As the Time Doctor team has grown, how has the (remote) culture evolved?
Time Doctor is a remote-first company and therefore remote is its culture which is of course driven by Rob and Liam. Recently, we have gone through an exercise to identify the values that got the company to where it is and use them to hire so we ensure we can scale with the right people.
Tools: To ensure the team is working together properly, we use a number of usual engineering collaboration tools, (Slack, Github, Jira, LinearB) as well as Time Doctor of course, and many others.
Process: We are gradually moving towards more an async delivery model which really works well with engineering depts in multiple time zones
What’s one thing you would change about remote hiring and working?
The fact that everyone else is now waking up to the benefits, so the competition is increasing! - but I wouldn’t change anything else.
What’s the best thing about remote hiring and working?
Personally, it’s getting the opportunity to work with and learn from many different people’s cultures and background whilst retaining the flexibility of being where you want to be, whether that is watching your family grow up, or living in Mauritius or Macedonia! It’s something that I think that everyone at Time Doctor (and in a remote role) is grateful for.
From a Time Doctor perspective, the biggest impact has been allowing us to scale rapidly without needing to seek further investment. Because we’ve been able to hire top people from around the world at reasonable costs (lower salaries than London and no recruiter fees), at pace and at scale, we’ve been able to build the product quickly and effectively and drive customer acquisition.
In summary, what are your top tips for any company considering going fully remote:
Have the right foundations in place:
- Invest in a HR / People Leader that has experience in recruiting a remote workforce globally.
- Hire an internal recruiter that is great at screening candidates.
- Supplement that team with flexible, on-demand part-time resources.
- Invest in an ATS that will allow you to attract people from anywhere in the world.
- Make sure you have the right stack of internal communication tools to enable your workforce.
- Have a clearly defined workflow, both for the hiring process and onboarding process.
- Shift to asynchronous communication.
- Make sure your company culture and values align with the remote working ethos. A core value of our business is people that love remote working!