How to hire remote engineers like inVision, GitLab and Automattic do?

Spoiler: there is no word about the virus here.

6 min readApr 1, 2020


Maybe now is the time to take your mind off of the virus and read something that will be useful after the quarantine, too? If you are one of those who have not frozen hiring now (keep it up!), we will be happy to be useful to you with our research right now. And if your company has temporarily frozen all processes (we are very sorry), we may be able to force you to look at the hiring differently, rather than stop it.

In the research, we selected 9768 software engineers of established remote companies list and analyzed the available data about them.
It turned out, for example, that:
— 41.4% of these developers live and work in the United States and 58.6% are scattered around other parts of the world.
— As for founders, 76% of them live in the US.
— And only 3 companies on the list don’t hire engineers outside the US.

While processing data, we came across a lot of findings, interesting for both employers and engineers, as potential employees of the analyzed companies, and tried to answer questions like:
— What affects the hiring?
— Which hub countries have become favorable hiring locations?
— Is there any correlation between the origin of founders and the region of their hiring?
— Whether the US developers are still indispensable in our globalized world.
And many others.

Here we are going to talk briefly about the main observations.

What are the important priorities to consider when hiring employees from other countries?

А. Time zones: Most of the established remote companies work asynchronously

Time zones and their spread affect the management style and communication system. Therefore, first of all, you have to decide: do you prefer synchronous work or are you ready to move to a new level and build asynchronous communication in the company. This means committing to being timezone-sacral or timezone-agnostic. Both approaches have their pros and cons and your choice should be based on the needs of your company and its characteristics.

B. The average salary in the region: If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys

We want to warn you against delusions: do not think that hiring remote employees is just about extreme cost cutting. As The Remote Work ROI Calculator V0.95 can obviously show you, it does cut costs, however, getting a qualified developer from a country with a low cost of living for their average local salary is no longer possible. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. PayScale data shows that remote workers actually earn more than their physical commuter counterparts.

C. Cultural aspect: Mono or multi, Trello or Toggl?

In the process of communication with our clients, we found that even distributed leading companies, who have noted concern when it comes to the small number of women in the IT-sphere, underrepresented groups, and unequal opportunities are willing to hire only American engineers. Surprisingly, there are just 3 companies that hire only in the United States on the established remote companies list.

Trello engineer recruitment chart
Toggl engineer recruitment chart

Some may think that ‘The bigger you are, the braver, and more distributed you are’. There is no such rule. As you can see from many examples in the research, the spread of a company’s geography has nothing to do with the company size.

D. Level of English proficiency in different countries: Low or fluent?

Since development teams communicate in English (as the vast majority of founders come from the United States), then English levels also become a critical factor in hiring. Regardless of synchronous or asynchronous communication, mutual understanding is necessary.

However, becoming a programmer means knowing English better than the national average, listed in the EF English Proficiency Index. We have seen this as a result of many interviews with candidates from different countries on our platform.

E. The origin of the company founder: Immigrants’ hiring superpower

76% of the founders from the list live in the United States with 56.4% of the founders being American born. Immigrant founders are predictably more successful at hiring outside of the States.

It is quite logical that everyone, first of all, hires employees in the market they know best — Americans in America and Indians in India — in the country, where founders have their own network, understanding of the peculiarities of hiring and its legalities. This knowledge allows immigrants to hire people outside the USA confidently and bypass their competitors.

F. The competitive environment within the country

The level of competition for specialists speaks volumes for the hiring side. If the competition is strong, it will be difficult and expensive to hire a specialist, if there is no competition at all, then most likely the IT market in the country is quite weak.

The idea of the level of maturity and competitiveness of the internal IT market can be formed on the basis of several indicators:
— Presence of large local IT and Internet companies
— Concentration of remote-jobs
— Representation of branches and offices of world IT leaders in the country
— Number of developers in the country

Where should you hire from?

We can not give an exact answer, just like we can’t guarantee that you will become as successful as other companies. However, you can use the collected data to make a decision for yourself.

India & Bangladesh

Western Europe: United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France

Latin America: Brazil & Argentina

Eastern Europe: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Serbia

How to legally hire remote employees outside USA?

How to deal with the legal aspect of hiring from abroad, you decide for yourself. We will only give two opinions, two ways to solve this issue. Though, there is no other way. Hire full-time employees or hire full-time contractors. That is all.

We certainly don’t consider freelancing or outsourcing and do not advise you to do it.

Bonus: Portrait of a remote developer

After we compiled our research, we tried to use it to create a “portrait” of a remote developer. We analyzed the profiles of employees of the companies from the list and found:
— the average age of technical specialists is 34.3 years,
— 83% of them are men,
— 17% are women.

Digging a little deeper, we analyzed the universities where the developers from our sample studied. For the skeptics out there, who believe that remote work is suitable just for unskilled non-core staff, here is a worthwhile statistic: 23% of engineers from established remote companies studied in the top-100 universities.

Read the full version here to look at all these graphs and numbers yourself and draw your own conclusions. You can adapt the main hiring principles or consciously do it your own way. But аnyway we hope that the knowledge we have gathered and structured will help you make decisions or even build your own remote hiring process.

By the way, we would be glad to receive your feedback!
Maybe you work in one of these companies and see that we are wrong in our conclusions somewhere? Be sure to write to us (lbaltaeva@ and we will share updates with others.



6nomads — a new kind of recruitment service focusing on remote tech companies.