Onsite vs. Remote

Typically, the large part of the interview process happens onsite, but this is changing as more companies build remote teams or wish to accommodate candidates who are not local. You can use many interview formats either in person or remotely; this includes even live coding challenges. A company’s resources and the candidate’s availability usually determine whether a particular part of the process will be conducted remotely or onsite.

Remote interviews have a few specific use cases:

  • Typically (but by no means universally), remote interviews are concentrated earlier in the funnel and may include:

    • Online challenges and take-homes.

    • Phone screens, both general and technical.

    • Technical screening questions, questions where the candidate can code in the browser during a screen share, and light behavioral questions. Note that while you may encounter binary decision points or spikes in the signal during remote interviews, this is not a useful format for making more fine-grained decisions.

  • You can conduct assessments of candidate portfolios or previous work remotely and asynchronously, but portfolio reviews can also be an onsite activity where the candidate takes the interviewer through a work sample.

  • Remote post-onsite follow-up interviews can be used to clarify anything that came up during the onsite and to talk about next steps.

The hiring team will likely build into the pipeline some kind of remote assessment, from technical screens to post-onsite follow-ups, so it’s important to understand the possible constraints as well as the benefits.

Confidence in what signal you’re extracting will be weaker over the phone, so it may be preferable to ask questions with clearer signals, like questions with a right or wrong answer. It’s also important to ensure that every candidate, to the extent possible, goes through the same loop when it comes to remote vs. onsite.

story “The signal isn’t weaker or stronger with remote interviews, it just manifests differently. If I talk to some people onsite and others remote, I’m going to perceive the phone signal to be weaker, because humans just have stronger attachment to in-person experiences and can gather signal from a variety of different cues in person.” —Scott Woody, former Director of Engineering, Dropbox

confusion If you’re hiring for a remote position, should candidates still be brought in for an onsite? Onsite interviews are enormously important for selling candidates on the role, team, and company. If the position is remote or remote optional, have everyone go through the same process, because you’re comparing people, not remote performance compared to onsite performance. If a candidate cannot come onsite because of family obligations, a current job, or other concerns,* put your best, most senior interviewers on that person.

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