Dimitar Vouldjeff, Co-founder and CEO at Sofia-based Enhancv spoke to Jack Drury, Principal at Erevena about the challenges and opportunities of remote hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Enhancv is an online career platform resume builder that allows people to create their own resume using predefined templates. They are backed by Eleven, an early-stage VC investing in technology companies in Southeast Europe. They’ve experienced rapid growth with 500,000+ users and have been recognized by Forbes, Glassdoor and Business Insider. Their team of 10 is based in Sofia and across Europe, and they have plans underway to expand their team and product base

What hiring are you doing currently?

We have continued to hire throughout the global pandemic and are currently in the process of hiring a Growth Product Manager, with the assistance of Erevena. We’re well positioned to continue hiring as we work digitally, so can react very quickly to the changing circumstances. Currently we recruit engineers from Bulgaria, but the less developed business ecosystem means that we have had to look to more developed places, such as Berlin to hire more senior product and marketing roles.

How has your process changed since the lockdown?

We have all the systems in place, such as Slack, as we have remote team members and are used to remote task management and communication. The main challenge we’ve found since the lockdown started two months ago is communication amongst the Bulgarian team, which is ironic as we’re all based locally in Sofia. I think we underestimated how long we would be working remotely for and didn’t put in place the formal communication structures that we have with our more remote team members.

“Ironically the distance apart has been more for the team that I’m physically located the nearest to.”

The challenge for us has been because we had the split between the remote and local teams, if everyone was in one situation it would have been easier, but we’ve all adapted quickly.

Our hiring process has historically been pretty much all remote, apart from engineer roles, so this is nothing new. The difference will really be with the onboarding, more of that later.

What process has worked for you hiring remotely?

We always schedule as many people as possible from across the company to talk to candidates; as a small team it’s really important that everyone gets along, where-ever they’re based. Initially I have an initial screening call, which is typically a shorter call; we then set an assignment for the candidate to present back in a 90- minute call; and follow this with at least two more in-depth interviews, one of which will be with my co-founder. For more senior roles we will also engage our investor in the process.

The assignment we set is designed to explore how the candidate will work within the company; we make it as realistic as possible to see how they can collaborate with the team, which is particularly important with a remote candidate.

What changes have you made to this process?

We’ve learnt to be more prescriptive about what we’re expecting from the candidate when they present back on the assignment set, in terms of what our expectations are and how much time we expect them to put into preparation. This makes it a fairer process for the candidates and also easier for us to evaluate their experience and real potential.

Any tips on how to establish rapport with a candidate remotely?

I always make sure that I have an extra 30 minutes put aside as a buffer so that I can continue the conversation in a more casual vein if necessary. I’m very explicit about the company and what we are and are not, and what we can offer, and what the role is and is not so that it’s really clear. If I’m hesitant about a candidate I spend time directly exploring things as I would rather that they say it’s not for them.

“I try to be transparent. I want candidates to really get to know me and the company better.”

How about assessing cultural fit?

We discuss in detail past experience and current projects, but however much you do this it’s often a more indirect feel for things, rather than a scientific process. We’ve found that once a candidate has met 3 or 4 people there is typically a consensus, which indicates that they’re a potential good fit. However, there have been times when we’ve purposefully hired people who don’t fully match our culture, because we want to be pushed beyond our current boundaries. Luckily, this has been a successful decision for us in the past!

“It’s a balance of 3 or 4 subjective opinions, which helps you make an objective decision.”

What are the advantages that you’ve found hiring remotely?

When we hire engineers locally, I find it’s much more complex trying to schedule a time for them to come into the office, logistically it’s definitely easier to carry out the early stage screening stages remotely. I also find it much easier to ask for some sort of deliverable online.

It also a less stressful experience for the candidate, particularly in the early stages, cutting out a lot of the anxiety of the interview process, such as having to travel to the office and meet a number of people at once. Once lockdown is over, we will continue with the process remotely as it’s working for us.

How will you effectively onboard people when they are remote?

We’ve onboarded every new hire differently; some have been flown over early on and spent a few days with us. We’ve emptied our calendars to spend time together and put together a plan for the next few months.

Previously with other remote hires, my co-founder and I have visited them, and then scheduled calls with team members throughout their first few weeks setting the topics for discussion. We’ve found that the more structure that we have in place, the easier it is. One thing we’ve found to work well is to give people access to various documents and rather than just read them we’ve asked them to prepare a deliverable, such as a month’s plan. This helps to give new starters a focus and gets them to proactively set up calls and ask questions.

The challenge is to make sure that they don’t feel isolated and are involved with the team. Some new hires manage this really well and for others it’s more challenging depending on their personality and how integrated their role is with the rest of the team. It’s up to me to make sure that this process works well for all new joiners, regardless of where they are located.

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