Your mistakes might cost you a lot, but you will learn more than at any expensive university.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Sharon Koifman.
Sharon Koifman believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to the world’s top talent. That’s why he used over 15 years of experience in the tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob. His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s client to get exceptional better fitting talents at an incredible value.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, first I ran a Web Hosting and outsourcing company. I discovered 20 years ago that if you look offshore, you can get educated people for literally a tenth of the salary… Which I was hoping would give me a big advantage. Of course, that changed a while ago. Running that business taught me about all the benefits and many of the challenges that the offshore world had to offer and led me to understand the best ways to manage people.
Once I sold my first company, I realized that wherever I would go next, I would benefit from managing my own employees remotely, instead of hiring an outsourcing company like my own. I believe this to be the case for most businesses.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know how it is for a regular recruitment agency but working with remote people brings up the most interesting characters. Too often I simply get messages like: “Hey there you guys provide a remote job, I would love a remote job, could I apply?” And nothing else.
Even worse, I get people applying who start telling me how excited they would love to travel and sit on the beach again without actually telling me what they are good at or how they would do a great job.
It really shows that way too many people haven’t the slightest idea that a remote job is really a serious job. You might enjoy some benefits and flexibility but structure and focus is really key to make it a success. Hiring freelance-type characters to work full-time but with the same mentality will never generate the same experience as having actual employees.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share the top techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example of each idea.
1. Before you do anything, try to define your culture. Outside the usual technical core requirements, being able to define your culture would help find someone you like to work with. In our case, we define ourselves as a group of social nerds. We bond over music, movies, video games, and cooking and we are deeply passionate about working remotely. In terms of structure we believe in constructive conflict, and empowering people to let us know what’s on their minds.
2. Because we are focused on remote, we really need to pay attention to the person’s enthusiasm about working remotely. There is something very powerful about people who see it as a huge benefit and excited to work remotely. The best people to hire are the ones excited about the fact they get to work from home; not the ones who most want to travel.
3. So saying that, pay attention to where the enthusiasm comes from. A remote job should be approached with the same mentality as a real in-office job. It’s not outsourcing; nor is it a freelancer gig; a lot of people don’t use those terms but they still come with the mentality that they are providing you with a service. You want an employee, not a service provider. I remember I interviewed this lady for a marketing position that had been juggling several projects. I asked her: “Why are you looking for a job?” She answered that she was looking for stability, which is a great answer, so my follow up was: “What are you going to do with your current clients?” Her answer was that I would be her top priority. That was an automatic fail.
4. Don’t make excuses and trust your instincts… For years I have had this bad habit of having false optimism for candidates who looked truly awesome but ended behaving unprofessionally. Their CV is amazing, they have all the right skills, they are fluent in English and ask for a reasonable salary, but then they miss the first interview or show up late. “Oh, he missed the interview because he was sick, oh, maybe his internet did not work.” The reality is that an awesome person who needs a job will show up even if they were hospitalized the day before. They would come in his scrubs to interview if they must. Don’t persist with someone who doesn’t show true engagement and commitment from the start.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
1. The best way by far to attract people — especially in the tech world — is to let them work remotely.
2. Giving remote workers the same benefits as regular workers get. The people that I hire as contractors, they are often blown away that we give them the same vacation time and holidays as a regular job.
3. Show them that while it’s a remote job, it’s still a socially interactive job, where you are not just a number somewhere far away, but an actual part of a team that has fun and grows together.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Did I mention remote already? The environmental effect is obvious. The happiness level will go up to the roof. Not only do you let people work in their own self-tailored spaces, but you also don’t uproot them from their community and families.
Because of the global aspect, you will be able to find a more ideal fit, and of course, hiring abroad reflects on salaries. You save money, but you are also paying salaries that in certain countries (or even in rural communities in your own country) allow for a much higher quality of life. How do you think this influences productivity?
We are leading a revolution to get people to work remotely.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
– Richard Branson
Your mistakes might cost you a lot, but you will learn more than any expensive university. I have always believed in learning by grinding through mistakes — I learned much more from doing and failing than from any mentor.
We are blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
It would have to be Richard Branson. Because not only did he change the face of several industries, he has also spoken in support of remote work in the past. I would love the opportunity to get him fully on board and supporting this revolution in the way only a radically respected personality like him can do.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!