By 
Yoshitaka Shiotsu
 | 
July 24, 2020
 | 
6 Min Read

Hiring Remote Developers? Here’s What to Look For

If businesses have learned anything about the constantly changing realities of workplace dynamics, it’s that the future of work is remote. A remote workforce can give your business the agility it needs to maintain its competitive edge through times of uncertainty. This is especially true for developers whose job functions aren’t tied to a physical location like an office. 

As changing market dynamics push companies to digitize their products, it's important that you have the development skills needed to deliver an engaging product experience. Upskilling can be expensive, and it’s worth considering if it’s more practical to bring in a specialist to fill a particular talent gap within your organization. Your product’s competitive advantage is directly tied to the ability of your developers to keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. 

Finding a high quality remote developer can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Particularly in markets where competition for top development talent is steep. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure you identify the right developer for your business. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics you need to know about hiring remote developers.

Why hire remote developers?

Remote work touts many benefits for both developers and companies. Here are some examples:

For businesses

  • Reduced costs: Businesses can save thousands on physical office space, utilities, and overhead costs associated with a standard employee. Businesses can also save on benefits and other expenses when engaging independent contractors and agencies.
  • Global talent pool: Access developers all around the world with specialized skills and versatile backgrounds. Out of an estimated 18 to 21 million developers across the globe, only 1 million (5%) are in the United States.
  • On-demand talent: Save time and money on employee upskilling by filling talent gaps within your organization with remote developers.
  • Business agility through a mobile workforce: Build a scalable mobile workforce of remote developers that can be hired as needed on a per-project basis.

For remote developers 

  • Work-life balance: Remote developers are empowered to manage their own schedules and report greater satisfaction with their work-life balance.
  • Autonomy: Software development is about advanced problem solving, and a results-driven remote work arrangement gives developers the space they need to think outside the box.
  • No commute: The lack of a commute gives time back to remote developers, empowering them to optimize their work schedules around tangible project goals. 
  • Distraction-free work environment: Successful remote developers can optimize their home work environments to eliminate distractions while maximizing job satisfaction and performance. 

What are the primary obstacles of hiring remote developers? 

While the benefits of building a remote team of developers are easy to understand, there’s a reason even savvy software development companies can be hesitant to do so. Common challenges businesses face when recruiting remote developers include: 

Once onboarded, managing a remote team of developers also comes with its unique challenges:

  • Communicating with team members across time zones
  • Tracking and managing development hours across multiple projects
  • Protecting intellectual property and other sensitive information

While these obstacles may appear daunting at first, a little planning and research can go a long way towards helping you set up your first remote team and many companies report that doing so was well-worth the result. In the following sections, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take to overcome these obstacles and hire a remote developer.

Step 1: Clarify your project scope

Before you can begin the hiring process, you’ll need to define the project scope of the role you’re trying to fill. 

Don the cap of a project manager and ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How much are you willing to pay?
  • Is this a long-term or short-term role?
  • Are you seeking remote employees or independent contractors/agencies? 
  • How are you going to pay—project-based, hourly, retainer—and how often? 
  • What programming languages, technologies, and experience are required for the role?
  • Which skills are must-have and which skills are nice-to-have?

Since we’re talking about software development, it’s especially important to pay attention to the specific technical skills or expertise you’re looking to add to your existing team. Are you seeking a remote web developer to create a custom plugin for your WordPress site? Or do you need a software engineer to help manage the entire SLDC (software development lifecycle) of your project? The cost and scope of your project will depend on the specific skills needed to bring your project to life. 

Answer these questions fully and you’ll be able to compose your answers into a detailed and concise job description that you can post on Upwork. 

Step 2: Screen remote developers on their communication skills

One mistake hiring managers often make when onboarding remote developers is focusing too much on hard skills and neglecting the importance of soft skills. When you work with a remote contractor, you need someone who is an effective communicator, a team player, and is familiar with the project management and communication tools used within your organization. 

When it comes to finding the best developer for your project, remember to factor in experience with project management tools, issue trackers, and code collaboration platforms. Here are some examples:

  • Git repositories: Look for basic familiarity with Git version control systems and good commenting habits. Even better if they are already familiar with your preferred Git repository hosting service (e.g., GitHub, Bitbucket, GitLab).
  • Team collaboration tools: Whether you prefer Slack, Twist, or good-old-fashioned email, make sure this is someone who can communicate complex ideas effectively via writing. 
  • Project management tools: It’s a big plus if they are familiar with your preferred project management/issue tracking system (e.g., Jira, Asana). 

It will also be helpful to you if the person you bring onto the team  doesn’t require hand-holding. The best candidate will not only check all the technical boxes but also be well-equipped to work autonomously with little guidance.

Step 3: Consider taking your remote hire for a test-drive

Once your job post is up, you should be able to narrow down your applicant pool into a short list of the best developers for your project. Consider creating a small paid test-project or administering a code test to evaluate your short list for:

  • Technical skills. You can judge their effectiveness as a developer based on the speed, accuracy, and success of the project.
  • Communication skills. Screen candidates for professionalism, code documentation, and their ability to present and articulate the final outcome.
  • Troubleshooting skills. Software development is about problem solving, were there any issues that occurred during development, how did they resolve them?
  • Independence. How much hand-holding, if any, did the candidate need?

Starting out with smaller, paid projects are a great way to screen remote talent to determine who you would like to use for bigger roles you want to fill. Once the small project completes, you can onboard the best talent on a longer-term project should you desire. You also have the flexibility to keep them on your roster of on-demand talent you can use in the future on a per-project basis to keep your remote workforce agile enough to respond to changes in budget and demand. 


Ready to start building your own remote team? Hire the best remote developers on Upwork today!

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