How to hire your first remote employee

By Ashley Wilson

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Hiring a person who may live thousands of miles away may seem like a questionable choice for your company. You won't be able to watch their progress or build a personal connection the way you would with an in-house employee. However, there are benefits to hiring remote talent that more than make up for the drawbacks.

For starters, hiring locals who need to commute to the office every day limits you to the pool of candidates in your local area. On the other hand, technology gives you the ability to employ anyone in the world and work with the best talent there is.

Some companies try to use the same hiring process for remote employees as they do for local hires. This is rarely effective. You need to make adjustments to your recruiting strategies in order to onboard and engage well with remote workers.

If you haven't gone through the process before, hiring your first remote employee will be a very different experience. Below you'll find some suggestions to ensure everything goes smoothly.

CLEARLY DEFINE WHAT SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR

Before you take on the challenge of hiring someone who may be on the other side of the world, you should determine exactly what skills and qualifications are required. You should also outline the traits and characters of the person who would be the ideal fit for the position and your company.

To avoid hiring the wrong person, follow these guidelines in both your job listings and when vetting applicants. Start with the essential abilities and experience a suitable candidate should have in order to eliminate those who don't meet your standards.

Many people would like to work from home, but not all of them are up to the task. While a remote worker has to have the same sense of dedication as an in-house employee, there are also some specific traits that are a must:

 

  • Communication Skills: Working offsite requires the employee to keep in touch with his peers and superiors. Whether the medium used is email, chat, phone or video, a remote worker has to be able to express his/her thoughts clearly. If there are language barriers or a tendency to be unresponsive, find another candidate.

 

  • Self-Motivated: The ideal remote employee is someone who can follow directions but pursue objectives independently with minimal supervision. Remote workers must possess the motivation to meet deadlines and avoid personal distraction during work hours. The best virtual employee is self-disciplined and willing to take the initiative.

 

  • Cooperative: Remote hires should also see themselves as team members and be comfortable working within a group. They should be willing to ask for or provide support to others as needed.
  • Technical Knowledge: A new hire must be capable of adapting well to the tools and systems you have in place. This should also include the skills to make software or hardware configurations to ensure stable connections. Remote employees should be quick to grasp new applications so they can become productive as soon as possible.

 

Home Office

 

  • Trustworthy: Having confidence in the trustworthiness of your virtual employee is essential to a good working relationship. An unscrupulous person might steal your data or intellectual property, while negligence could expose you and your customers to cyber criminals or malware. You need to ascertain that your remote worker will behave responsibly.

 

KNOW WHERE TO LOOK

You may be able to find a qualified individual living in any spot on the globe. This can give you a wealth of candidates, but discovering the right one for your company could be complex. There is any number of channels you could use to connect with the appropriate prospects.

Those who would be comfortable working from home are comfortable using the Internet, so that's where you should focus your search. Social media will likely be the most powerful platform you could use. Major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and particularly LinkedIn have millions of users with the backgrounds or connections to share your job opportunities with others who might be a good fit.

 

Social Media

 

Use your own social profiles to let audiences know you are seeking candidates for a telecommuting position. Be sure to include your expectations on the skills and characteristics the position requires. It might be a good idea to share a link to a page on your company website where you explain at length what you want from a remote worker, the applications used, and your policies and procedures in onboarding remote employees.

Don't forget that your first remote hire must be someone dependable and honest. Look for character recommendations and testimonials from people you respect.

SCHEDULE A VIDEO INTERVIEW

A face-to-face interview should be part of the onboarding process. Visual information like expressions and body mannerisms can tell you a great deal about your potential hire.

 

At times it might be practical to have the person drive or fly into your office for a formal sit-down interview. However, when that isn't a realistic possibility due to the time or costs involved, video chat is the next best thing. Real-time communication will enable you to make more effective hiring choices.

Keep your candidate notes handy to be sure you cover the topics that set remote workers apart from local candidates. Even the most highly qualified and experienced people may not be the best fit for remote work. For instance, being productive in a relatively isolated environment can be a challenge for people who need lots of social interaction.

Inquire about each candidate's experience with working independently and in a virtual environment. Ask them about the challenges they faced and how they overcame them, their accomplishments, and the tools and applications they worked with. Learn about their time management skills and their ability to communicate and collaborate with different coworkers and in different situations.

 

Interview

 

Before hiring a good remote candidate, ensure you have the right tools and software ready for the remote worker to use. If they don’t have access to the applications your company is using, they'll find it more difficult to coordinate their efforts and information with the rest of the team.

Finding someone with the right skills and ability to communicate well is important, but you also have to understand the character of the person you're dealing with. To ensure you getting an employee who can function with minimal supervision, ask about their organizational abilities. Find out how they keep themselves motivated to meet deadlines and maintain focus.

You'll also want to establish what their work environment will be like, and if they feel isolated or anxious working by themselves over a long day. Inquire about how they handle pressure, deal with problems, and manage to stay focused day after day. Also, be sure to learn how long they intend to work remotely and whether they plan to return to regular office work.

PUT THE BEST CANDIDATES TO TEST

You may prefer to focus on someone who's primarily a great fit for your company culture, even if they don't quite have the skillset you were looking for. It's always a possibility to provide this person with the training and resources they need to reach a competent level. Options like online learning and mentorship programs could improve their abilities.

You may adopt a strategy of finding someone with excellent character and then teaching the specific skills you require. This way you can nurture their development. In most cases, however, you'll want to start with someone who at least possesses the essential core skills.

You can establish this by having them take skills assessment tests. You can arrange for this with online services during the interview process. This way you'll get a good estimate of where the remote candidate's skill level actually is. Ensuring that your first remote hire meets your expectations will save you and your team from some uncomfortable situations.

CONCLUSION

Hiring your first remote employee may seem daunting, but it's your opportunity to find the best talent from a worldwide pool. You can start by drawing up a list of the skills and characteristics a remote employee needs to have, such as being dependable and able to communicate effectively. Connect with candidates through your online networks, and try to arrange for skills assessment and face-to-face interviews to narrow the field. If your first remote hire is successful, it's a viable option going forward.

 

About the Author:

Ashley Wilson is a freelance writer interested in business, marketing, and tech topics. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can reach Ashley on Twitter @ashleygwilson.

 

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