Async interview stage: better candidate experience aligned with how we work

Head of Talent
Nitin Moorjani

Being a distributed company, we at Fonoa learned the importance of written and verbal communication, and understand how these should complement each other to reach optimal efficiency in our everyday work. When we introduced the async interview stage to our hiring process, our vision was to allow our candidates to express themselves in a way that is aligned with how our employees communicate, cooperate and solve problems every day. It's a quick glimpse of what they can expect being in a company that promotes asynchronous working.

So what does an async interview stage look like?

  • We follow up with people over an email with questions we’d like to ask people to learn more about them.
  • Candidates respond back to those questions in writing when convenient for them which is part of asynchronous working. When we receive answers, our team evaluates the candidates' responses, trying to understand how they express themselves in writing, the relevancy of the content they’ve decided to share, and how they think about solving problems. Depending on the outcome, whether positive or negative, our goal is to always give candidates feedback within a few days, and share snippets of things they can use as learnings. We have all been on the other side of the coin, and know the value this can add to people’s experience in any recruiting process. After all, it doesn’t take much to deliver constructive feedback.

As a distributed company, we spend a large part of our day on written communication, whether it’s over slack, email, or cross-functional documents.

We've realised over the course of 2021 that it's really key for people to be clear, succinct, and be able to express themselves and articulate in a way that allows the flow of information to be effective. With an asynchronous style of working, our thoughts and ideas can be understood in a deeper sense, it enables us to force ourselves to write, and use meetings when they truly matter, which is when we want to make decisions.

Adopting async work practices has allowed us to truly operate like a remote company across time zones, and more effectively to work on the things that are important as we build Fonoa. 

Meet when it matters

Meetings are expensive to run, in terms of time and money. In a typical hiring process, you test for verbal communication but not for written communication, which is equally as important and often overlooked. 

We implemented the async stage in August 2021 within our Engineering hiring loop, as a way to get additional information on candidates, and their ability to explain a problem they solved in writing. We can learn quickly how people think when writing, and what behaviours they demonstrate within their answers. It helped us to identify earlier signals on someone's fit without compromising our team's time as well. This also helped us manage the increase in volumes given we started to see a significant influx of people interested in joining Fonoa. For us, this made a lot of strategic sense for us to roll out as part of our hiring practices, and we’re now applying this across other teams having seen the success initially from our Engineering efforts.

Inside the process

It's a pretty simple stage; we ask 3 questions and leave it to the candidate to think about examples they think are relevant and important for them to talk about. We don't put any time pressure or expect people to send it within 24 hours. That's part of async as well, not everything has to be responded to immediately. It's better to take time to think through something, write it down, come back to it, write again. Our team then reviews the answers and comments on the overall communication style and quality of the examples. 

We find that candidates actually do enjoy and embrace this stage. Particularly for engineering, as this term and trend are well known if you look at larger tech companies who initially coined async. At first, it sparks curiosity, and we've received some really interesting responses to date.

At Fonoa we like to keep things streamlined. Our recruitment approach ensures that we hire the right people and provide the best candidate experience possible along the way. 

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