More requirements, not required

​The​ ​hiring​ ​process​ ​most​ ​of us​ ​are​ ​using​ ​these​ ​days​ ​is​ ​built​ ​on​ ​the​ ​premise that​, ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​quickly hire the best candidate,​ ​we​ ​need​ ​to​ ​narrow​ ​down​ ​our​ ​pool​ ​of​ ​applicants as much as possible.​ And it assumes​ ​that​ ​the​ ​best way​ ​to​ ​do​ ​​that​​ ​is​ ​to​ ​put​ ​up​ ​barriers​ ​for​ ​applicants​ ​at​ ​the​ ​very​ ​beginning, which often leads to us​ ​writing​ ​wish​ ​lists​ ​longer​ ​than​ a kid’s ​Christmas​ ​list​ ​and​ calling ​them​ ​“requirements” for the job.​

​​I​ understand​ ​why—we’re​ ​all​ ​busy,; ​we’re​ ​all​ ​sick​ ​of​ ​wading​ ​through​ applications from ​spammy candidates​ ​who​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​read​ ​the​ posting,; ​and​ ​we​ all ​need​ ​help​ ​RIGHT​ ​NOW OMG​. ​And the​ ​truth​ ​is,​ ​we​ ​can​ sometimes ​hire​ ​some​ ​good​ ​people​ ​this​ ​way. But​ ​if​ ​we​ keep doing ​what​ ​we’ve​ ​always​ ​done,​ ​we’ll​ continue getting what ​we’ve​ ​always​ ​gotten:​ ​a toxic​ ​industry​ with a​ real diversity​ ​problem. We​ ​can​ ​and should do​ ​better,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​good​ ​news​ ​is that our job postings are an easy place to start.

A​ ​job​ ​posting​ ​is​ ​often a candidate’s​ ​first​ ​touchpoint​ ​with​ your ​company, and ​the​ ​gatekeeper​ ​that​ ​decides​ who will ​be​ ​in​ ​your​ ​candidate​ ​pool​. So, you should make sure your job posting isn’t throwing up unnecessary roadblocks that deter good candidates from applying.

Those roadblocks might look something like this:

  • 5-7 years of experience required
  • Bachelor’s degree in x or y required

If you aren’t hiring a doctor, lawyer, architect, or another professional required by your jurisdiction to have a degree, I urge you to think about whether or not requirements like these should make it into your job description. Especially if you work in tech.

Here’s why.

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How We Build Company Culture as a Remote Team

Skillcrush is a completely distributed company, meaning that we have no central office and are located all over the world, spanning languages, continents, and timezones. With the exception of a few clusters (several of us live in New York City and we have a bustling Florida contingent), most of rarely see each other IRL—if ever. The entirety of the Skillcrush team has never physically been in one place together, leaving us to guess at each other’s heights. Instead, we do everything digitally, from meetings over Google Hangouts to daily chatter on Hipchat.

You might think that working in your house or coworking space—far away from your coworkers—is lonely. In fact, we recently talked about fighting isolation as a remote team on the first episode of our podcast, Hit Refresh. In the episode, our producer Haele commented that most of our institutional solutions for building culture on the team fall to me, our Director of Operations.

I’m embarrassed to admit that the thought had never really occurred to me. At least. . . not really. There are times where I feel like the team mom—the one who makes sure everyone gets a gif party on their birthday—but, honestly, I think that has less to do with my job and more to do with my personality. So the episode got me thinking about culture-building and how it really has to be a team effort instead of a top-down initiative instituted by managers or executives.

I often encounter skepticism from people who assume we couldn’t possibly know each other the way co-located teams do, and that a bland company culture must be the price we pay for flexibility. But we are anything but boring! In fact, in a recent anonymous survey, the five words most used by our team to describe our culture were fun, friendly, empowering, supportive, and welcoming.

On a day-to-day basis, we make a point to talk about (and celebrate!) things other than work, and to let team members take the lead on team-building activities. We chat about our weekends, our kids, and our lives just like any other coworkers. We have real friendships over our computer screens—both in one-on-one chats and in group settings.

Just as critical to our daily interactions are the special events and clubs we make happen to foster our company culture and relationships. Here’s a look at some of the things you might recognize from your own office, just moved online.

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Paying it forward

I already mentioned that Skillcrush recently launched Hit Refresh, a podcast about the other tech industry—the one that doesn’t require computer science degrees or a wardrobe full of hoodies.

This week’s episode (our third) is all about tech companies adopting a practice of radical transparency. I’m interviewed about the salary tiers that I developed with our CEO. I talk about why and how we made the switch, and the results we’ve seen since.

You can listen to the episode (or read the transcript) on the Skillcrush Blog.

Supporting mental health at work

One of the big projects I’ve been working on at Skillcrush this year is improving our benefits package. Some we immediately improved or started offering, others are going on our long-term benefits roadmap.

One of the ideas that came up recently was a desire to support team members in taking care of their mental health.

Our company insurance plans cover mental health services, but not everyone has insurance with us – our provider won’t cover anyone working less than 20 hours a week, for example. (We also have a number of independent contractors, international team members, and employees who are covered under their partner’s plan instead.)

We started looking into mental health benefits that would work for our remote team – stipends, remote subscriptions, or some combination thereof. We’re still figuring out what makes the most sense and when we could start offering such a thing, but realized some of our research could be helpful on its own.

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Small talk isn’t small

Small talk isn’t always small. It can be a really big deal, especially on a remote team.

When you share a physical space, there are opportunities to learn about each other while you wait for the elevator or walk to your favorite lunch spot. In a remote environment, you have to create those opportunities.

The good news is that the remote equivalent of these spaces probably already exist on your team. You just have to know where to look – in the two minutes you spend waiting for people to trickle into your Zoom call, or responding to someone’s musing in the #random room.

Small talk is a great place to start.

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