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All-Remote Hiring

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Introduction

On this page, we're detailing how to properly, efficiently, and effectively hire in an all-remote environment.

How do you hire in an all-remote organization?

"How do you handle hiring in an all-remote company?" is a question we at GitLab hear often. Many companies hire only within one country or region, and even multinational corporations typically hire into specific offices.

GitLab envisions a world where talented, driven individuals can find roles and seek employment based on business needs, rather than an oftentimes arbitrary location.

For organizations struggling to find, recruit, retain, and compensate employees in locales such as San Francisco, New York City, London, Singapore, and Sydney, imagine the influx of highly qualfied applicants if the location requirement were removed from all job descriptions. For a glimpse at what this looks like, please browse GitLab's vacancies.

You can hear from our geographically diverse team in the video above, filmed at our all-employee gathering — Contribute.

We want to state up front that one of the advantages of being an all-remote company is that we can hire talent from a global pool. We are not restricted to the usual job centers, which gives us access to a tremendous amount of talent that many other companies will not consider for employment. It may take more effort to find talent in more diverse places, but that is an effort we are willing to make.

You can learn more in the Principles of Hiring section of our Handbook.

Why do you hire from anywhere?

GitLab's six values are Collaboration, Results, Efficiency, Diversity & Inclusion, Iteration, and Transparency, and together they spell CREDIT.

True to those values, GitLab strives to hire team members who are passionate, empathetic, kind, tenacious, and ambitious, regardless of their location. By opening the recruiting funnel to as broad a swath of the world as we can, we create a more inclusive hiring environment, lean on tight collaboration to drive progress across time zones, and focus our hiring decisions on results rather than location.

Hiring an all-remote team from across the globe allows GitLab to pay local rates, which you can learn more about on the company blog. By hiring brilliant minds in locations with lower costs of living, GitLab is able to save money to hire even more people as we scale our business.

For now, this gives GitLab a tremendous competitive advantage. We are sourcing talent from places that most companies overlook, and we're creating a more diverse team all the while. We hope that this advantage fades, as more companies embrace all-remote and widen their recruiting funnel beyond the usual talent centers.

We've published our hiring process, including example screening questions, in our handbook. While this may be unique, we see it as simply staying true to our transparency value. The process shouldn't be a mystery.

Letting candidates know what to expect allows them to focus on whether the role and the company are right for them, while we evaluate that too.

Where do you not hire?

Each country has unique and complex rules, laws and regulations, which can affect us to conduct business, as well as the employability of the citizens of those countries.

We are growing rapidly and continuously expanding our hiring capabilities in other geographies. In countries listed in our contract_factors.yml file, we have a payroll and can employ you as an employee. In all other countries, we can hire you as a contractor.

Learn more at our Country Hiring Guidelines page.

What qualities do you look for in remote hires?

In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, GitLab's Head of Remote speaks with Remotefit co-founder Javier on what to look for when considering a remote role, as well as what qualities to seek when hiring for a remote role.

There are nuances to loving remote work, and being a great remote worker. A sub-value at GitLab that encapsulates that is manager of one.

Another element to consider is communication. GitLab is an asynchronous company. Much of what we do is communicated through text. For people with long in-office careers, who are used to verbal communication as the default, they may be uncomfortable at first communicating information via text.

From the employer side, you may wonder how to screen for this. Most people have worked remotely even if they don't know it. If you come from a colocated company which had multiple headquarters — for example, someone based in Seattle with colleagues in Singapore or London — you probably worked with people outside of your office.

Even if your company didn't admit it, those offices were remote to one another. You had to deal with Zoom calls, time zone differences, etc. What was that like? Asking applicants to dive into those situations is a great way to uncover how they view remote work.

Almost everyone has accomplished work while not in an office, even if it wasn't defined as remote work. — Darren M., Head of Remote at GitLab

Put simply, we look for candidates that align with our values and inform us that said values resonate with them.

Having prior experience working remotely is appreciated, but by and large we look for the same attributes that a colocated company would. Qualities such as timeliness, dependability, respect, a heart of collaboration, perseverance, empathy, kindness, and ambition are valued.

Great self-awareness and expert communication skills are necessary to thrive in an all-remote setting.

Even if someone has not worked in a remote environment before, chances are high that they have spent time on work while outside of their office. Consider asking candidates for examples of how they managed those instances (e.g. working while traveling, advancing a university project while away from campus, etc.), looking specifically for how they embrace autonomy and blameless problem solving.

Qualities that may be considered unique to a remote workplace are listed below.

  1. Appreciation for self-learning and self-service
  2. Appreciation for documentation
  3. Proven ability to be a manager of one
  4. Proven ability to work asynchronously

When asked during an INSEAD case study interview if anyone could learn to work well in an all-remote setting, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij provided the following reply.

What's really important in all-remote is that you are a manager of one.

You're not going to have someone expecting you at the office. You're not going to have hour-to-hour hand-holding, so you have to be able to work independently and manage yourself.

For asynchronous communication, which is essential to bridge time zones, it is important that you can write well — that you're concise and precise in your written communication. — GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij

Make your strategy public

In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, GitLab's Head of Remote speaks with Remotefit co-founder Javier on building and sustaining culture while being open about processes in the recruiting and hiring process.

In the effort of transparency, we showcase our culture in advance. There's a section on our Jobs FAQ entitled "What's it like to work at GitLab?"

This is the core question that anyone would have before they even apply to GitLab. It's not your typical corporation. The people who come here do so because it's different, and it gives them permission to drop prior organizational baggage at the door and operate differently.

The only way they'll know that before they get down the interview funnel is if you tell them that in advance. I'd encourage other organizations to do this, too.

It's silly to think that a company should withhold its strategy, its culture, its way of working, until someone gets hired. These elements determine whether or not a team member will thrive. Why would you hold that back? — Darren M., Head of Remote at GitLab

You cannot expect to hire people who are passionate about executing your strategy if you only share the strategy after they are onboard.

Make your strategy public and ensure that applicants are aware of it, along with your values, during the interview process. You can hire someone with excellent attributes, but if they are not aligned with your strategy and values, it may be difficult for that person to thrive within your organization.

In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij discusses hiring (amongst other topics) with researchers from INSEAD.

It's not about having the best strategy. The strategy tends to be obvious. It's about executing the best.

To execute the best, it needs to be super clear. Nothing is clearer than writing it down explicitly and having the whole world be able to amend it.

People need to be aligned to it. How can you have people aligned to your strategy if you only tell it after you hire them?

You may hear something akin to: 'Our strategy is very important, and you need to be aligned to it! We'll only tell you after you join the company.'

I think that's bananas. That's what every company in the world does. If your strategy is really important, you want to make sure people buy in before they join, and people that don't buy in don't actually join the company.

Execution depends on people, and this allows us to attract the best people because we are public about what we do. — GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij

Using video calls to interview and engage

At GitLab, we do not rely on in-person interviews. Instead, we utilize Zoom to connect with candidates via video calls.

In the GitLab Unfiltered video above, Nicole Schwartz and Jeremy Watson, product managers at GitLab, walk through the Deep Dive portion of the product management interview process. For more, watch Shane Bouchard, UX Manager, and Jeremy Watson, Senior Product Manager, discuss interviewing and finding great designers.

This approach reinforces several of GitLab's values.

Learn more in the Interviewing section of GitLab's Handbook.

Above, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandi sits down for an interview with Sunil Kowlgi, founder of Outklip, on the topic of using video for effective collaboration. You can read more on their discussion — which covers remote hiring, management, customer support, and more — on GitLab's blog.

It's important for candidates to become comfortable with video calls, as they are a primary medium for communication within GitLab. Because we are an all-remote organization with no offices, meetings and informal coffee chats occur using video calls.

Learn more in the Meetings section of our All-Remote section on company culture.

Handling local regulations, risks, entities, etc.

Hiring across the globe isn't without its challenges. There are local regulations and risks unique to countries and regions around the globe.

Rather than attempting to incorporate in every country where an all-remote company has even a single employee, organizations must weigh the benefits of creating a legal entity with other options. There are four means of engagement with GitLab. These are commonly used arranagements that can be considered by other all-remote companies.

Learn more about employee types and hiring partners across countries in the Contracts section of GitLab's Handbook.

It is not always practical to understand the nuances of local regulations in-house. Wherever GitLab has an entity or contractor, we have external counsel to advise and ensure that we are compliant.

In countries where GitLab utilizes a professional employer organization (PEO), counsel within the PEO advises us to ensure hiring compliance.

Deciding between entity and PEO

Generally speaking, it becomes feasible to consider creating an entity within a country once a company reaches 20+ team members in that country. While total costs vary significantly from country to country, creating an entity within a country can cost as little as a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

A company must also hire skilled team members to oversee compliance with local taxes, laws, benefits, etc. in each country where there is an entity.

For countries where a company is not already incorporated or has a local entity, consider the below as a guide.

  1. Fewer than 5 team members: Utilize a contractor arrangement
  2. Between 5 and 20 team members: Leverage a Professional Employer Organization (PEO)
  3. 20+ team members: Consider establishing a local entity

Impact of nonuniform hiring on employee experience

Beyond the administrative challenges associated with using various vehicles (entities, PEOs, contractors, etc.) to hire team members, companies should be proactive in recognizing how this will impact culture and morale.

While GitLab believes that there are far more pros than cons to hiring globally — creating a geographically diverse team, finding the world's best talent, hiring in underserved areas and connecting with people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds — it's wise to evaluate how nonuniform hiring mechanisms may conflict with a company's values.

When leveraging a third-party to hire, it is difficult to ensure that they will treat your employees how you would ideally like to see them treated. Third-party companies are under no obligation to understand or implement your values.

It is imperative that the hiring team communicate this in advance, ideally during the interview phase, to manage expectations of employees who are hired by a third-party firm that may not always act in accordance to your values.

Moreover, one should aim to leverage a single Professional Employer Organization (PEO) over the long term. Switching PEOs is disruptive to team members and creates mental and administrative burden. A growing company should pay particular attention to feedback from employees who rely on PEOs, and plan beyond current hiring needs.

Is there a single PEO that covers the globe?

This is a common question from remote-first and all-remote companies who are understandably interested in streamlining the process of hiring talented team members from an array of countries. The short answer, for now, is "no."

Futhermore, some PEOs serve an array of regions, but offer varying levels of service and disperate experiences from country to country. Seek out advice where possible to gather country-level feedback.

Remote is a new company that intends to tackle this challenge over time.

Remote is working on solving global employment by allowing companies to employ people locally through Remote. That is, full employment local to each and every employee, but a single invoice for the employer. Remote manages payroll, benefits, and compliance, according to the standards of the employer.

Be intentional about due diligence when vetting PEOs. Some firms advertise global reach, but do not offer high-touch, reliable end-to-end service in every country. Instead, they leverage third-parties themselves in various countries, creating yet another layer in the process that may negatively impact employee experience.

Local sourcers

Even when the whole world is your talent pool, there will be roles that require deliberate involvement and proactive search.

For these purposes, GitLab built a Sourcing team focused on finding best passive talent and nurturing the candidate pipeline — a tactic that can be implemented by other all-remote companies.

While GitLab is location-agnostic, we work to ensure that we have local sourcers based in every macro-region (e.g. Americas, APAC and EMEA) so they can bring their market expertise and leverage our presence in these territories.

We also consider our sourcing effort extremely important for bringing diverse talent onboard. Our sourcers are aligned with recruiters and business verticals to ensure that they can apply their unique knowledge of specific areas.

Driven by our Collaboration value, we organize source-a-thons, which become a place where everyone can share their market insights and contribute to hiring. We find these sessions extremely productive as they help sourcers partner with their hiring managers and calibrate their expectations.

Learn more on how GitLab's Sourcing team operates here.

Contribute your lessons

Streamlining the global hiring process is something that remote-first and all-remote companies are grappling with. If you or your company has an experience that would benefit the greater world, consider creating a merge request and adding a contribution to this page.


Return to the main all-remote page.