Keeping Culture Alive: What Recruiters Can Do While Hiring Remotely

company culture - remote - hiring - hackerearth

Up till the beginning of this year, if anyone asked about the best restaurants in town we’d redirect them to the team handling reimbursements. You see, at HackerEarth we match new employees with a buddy, and the buddy gets a ‘buddy bonus’ for taking their fellow Hackster out on their first day of work. Coffee and bonding, right? The bills told us which restaurant in town was the flavor of the month, and which was past-a it’s prime cut.

That stopped in March. With COVID came a new crisis – the inability to showcase our company culture the way we were used to. No more in-person interviews. No more candidates walking around our office and soaking in the ‘vibe’ that we have spent years perfecting.

The Vibe. How we miss thee!


The ping-pong table with its loud laughter. The shared lunches and team hangouts. The wall with HackerEarth’s values plastered in big bold letters.

A company’s culture is way more than games and funny graffiti. However, these elements of our everyday work life speak way more about us than a carefully crafted presentation could. One of the many facts about HackerEarth which continues to impress me is seeing how the leadership sends heartfelt mails with shoutouts to team members for every big achievement. Our Slack channel is full of kudos and appreciation. These are the things that don’t make it to any company presentation but make our 9-5 worth the grind.

Leaves and perks can be quantified, but how do you document intangibles that form the core of who you are as a brand, and a workplace?

Bringing us back to the vibe, and how it translates to our new normal.


Many think that company culture takes effect only when an employee joins work. I disagree, and so does this survey from the Addison group which says that 70% of candidates leave midway during the hiring process because it’s too slow, or the recruiter wasn’t easy to communicate with.

Culture begins with the first ‘Hello’ (such Jerry Maguire feels!), and the onus is on us recruiters to be the torchbearers for our brands. Given that everyone is dealing with so much during this pandemic, it’s an added responsibility for recruiters to ensure that every new member, and their butterflies, feel included and welcomed from the get-go.

Included. Welcomed. Appreciated. 

When the talent acquisition team at HackerEarth sat down to discuss what changes we needed to bring into our processes amid this pandemic, we narrowed it down to these three feelings. If every new hire felt this way on their first day, we would know we had done our jobs well.

Remote hacking the Vibe.


Once we had the goals set out, we sat down to hack out a plan. Coffees are banned currently, but communication isn’t. The first step was ensuring every communication sent to a prospect underlined what the values propositions we needed to highlight.

Step 1: Re-craft the EVP to answer the most important questions candidates have in this new normal


In 2016, PathMotion – a recruitment tech company – set out to find out what candidates were asking of employers via its platforms. Four years; 20,116 conversations, and 2.9 million candidate questions later, they figured that since 2016 (source):

  • The number of candidates viewing culture-related content has increased by three times
  • Readership for diversity-related content has increased by four times
  • Viewership for content related to work-life balance has tripled

EVP, or the Employee Value Proposition, is an important tool in a recruiter’s arsenal. We rejigged ours to put more emphasis on work-life balance, diversity, and company culture. When you are working remotely, you probably do not care as much about the number of annual leaves as you do about being expected to be available 24*7, or slog extra on weekends because what else are you going to do in a lockdown?

Our EVP makes it very clear that we value our employees’ time, and are cognizant of the added pressure that many are living under. Our mental health and insurance policies, wellness leaves, structured working hours form an important part of the EVP now – probably even more than before.

At the same time, we did not want to come across as a company that does not know how to have fun. We added the video from our GPTW win to the presentation to give prospects a feel of what our normal day-to-day looks like. The Friday games and ‘happy hours’ got a mention. As did the upskilling and personal growth initiatives taken up by the HR team.


Step 2: Regular communication that makes employees feel included


One of the best feelings in the world is to feel wanted and valued. Funny thing, it doesn’t take much to make someone feel so.

Our plan to keep a new hire engaged and included begins the moment they accept an offer. The first ‘welcome’ email that they get is a .gif of the HR team. We don’t do formal at HackerEarth, and this email really sets the tone for our future communications.

HR Team - HackerEarth - Company Culture

In the days that follow, we send out regular emails with the subject line ‘Did You Know’, each comprising a factoid about the company or the team that the employee will be working with. When there is a long gap between the candidate accepting the offer and their official first day, mails like this can go a long way in making them feel like they belong.

If the said employee has any direct reports, we make sure to schedule meetings so that the team can get to know each other. Breaking the ice is tricky any day and more so over a virtual call, hence why we like to get any awkwardness out of the way sooner than later. We also like to invite new employees to team huddles and other team activities. All with consent, of course.


Waiting for the ‘first day’ to do all this can make the remote onboarding process a tad overwhelming for candidates. Instead, we choose to schedule these at regular intervals over the garden leave period. I think it also helps them absorb their work expectations better so that they come in to work prepped and ready to hit the ground running.

Step 3: Help the employee through the onboarding and acclimatizing process


In recent months I have seen firsthand how the time taken for hand-off from recruiting to onboarding has increased. Since the recruiter or TA is the first point of contact for candidates, they are comfortable coming back to us with issues they face during their ‘settling-in’ phase.

In a non-COVID world, I might have redirected them to the onboarding team for said issues. It’s a possibility even today, but one that I prefer not to indulge in. Reports show that 25% of new hires leave a job within the first 90 days. But the same reports also say that when they go through a structured onboarding process, 58% of new hires are likely to stay in the same job for 3 years or more.

None of us wants to make remote onboarding a game of chess for our new hires. So, instead, we choose to go that extra step and resolve employee queries on our own, until they get a hang of how things work. Goes back to what I said earlier about making them feel included and welcome.


Final Thoughts.


If you too have been wondering how you can call attention to the best bits of your company’s culture when hiring, I hope the above tips will help you.

Many say that COVID will end up killing the need for company culture. The argument is that when everyone’s working remotely, culture doesn’t come into play. That is simply untrue.

Culture isn’t defined by the number of hours you spend at an office desk or limited to the number of WFHs an employee can take. Just like the ping-pong table and coffee-with-a-buddy, flexi-working hours and WFH bonuses are add ons. Culture has, and always will manifest in what you do and how you do it when you are together as a team, and as a brand. In the way you communicate and collaborate, or listen to every voice at the table. In how you enable teammates who are aching to break the monotony and come back to the office while honoring the wishes of those who think they are safer home. Culture has always been about creating a judgment-less, supportive work environment where ideas can find appreciation. Remote work is not going to kill that even if it tried.

Viva la vibe! 

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