Recruiting From the Couch: Tips for Hiring Remote Staff

By Ryan Ayers

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Our world is changing—fast. Fortunately, many people no longer have to sit in tangled gridlocks for two hours a day just to get to and from work. Remote work is on the rise. While many companies still have a traditional office, some staff are often allowed to work from home part time when meetings aren’t an issue. Other companies operate completely with remote work—they don’t care where employees are as long as the work gets done. If your company is thinking of hiring a few remote employees or contractors, then you may be concerned about the process: what do you look for, and how do you choose the right people to fill the positions? As with anything, it just takes practice. Recruiters know the costs of a poor hiring decision, however, which is why it’s good to pick up a few tips to help you get started. We’ve put together some helpful hints for hiring productive and happy remote workers.

1. Schedule Some Face Time

With video chat, it’s very easy to schedule some live face time with a remote candidate, yet many recruiters just stick to phone and email screenings. Since you likely won’t have an in-person interview with your candidates, it’s crucial to set up a video interview, or have candidates record video answers to your questions. This way, you can get a feel for each candidate’s personality and body language, key to finding the right cultural fit.

2. Prioritize Different Qualities for Remote Staff

Chances are, if you’re hiring a remote worker to complement your in-house staff, your company is looking for a specific technical skill that’s been hard to come by. Startups often prioritize soft skills and mindset over technical know-how, which works well in an office setting, but not so well remotely. It’s easy to develop the skills needed to succeed when you’ve got mentors close at hand for questions—it’s much harder from the couch or a coffee shop. In hiring remote employees, it’s often better to focus on their skills and degree, rather than whether or not they’re a cultural fit.

3. Change Your Interview Questions

Think about it—your standard interview questions aren’t going to do the trick in this context. Your questions should be more focused on communication, motivation, and organization, as these qualities are necessary for remote work success. Sample questions to ask might include:

  • How do you manage your time and prioritize?
  • What motivates you?
  • Where do you work? Describe your remote workspace.
  • How do you manage multiple deadlines and projects?
  • How would you make an effort to fit into our culture while working remotely?

4. Consider a Test Run

Sometimes, requesting a test project can be a great way to test the waters, especially if you’re hiring for a freelance or contract role. Assigning a project similar to what your new worker will be expected to produce is an ideal skills test and allows you to get a feel for their style. You’ll need to pay for this work, however, so make sure it’s in the budget before you proceed.

5. Discuss Their Remote Work Background

Fact is, not everyone is a good fit for remote work. It’s always safer to choose a candidate who has proven that they can focus when left unsupervised. Ask about past projects and positions—you don’t need to find a candidate who has worked full time from home, just someone who has successfully completed projects on a deadline. Be sure to discuss the parameters of the arrangement up front: will there be required working hours? A required number of hours, or just completed work? These discussions will help you find the right fit for the position.

Benefits of Hiring Remote Workers

The good news? There are a lot of great candidates out there. Currently, 53 million people freelance full or part time, and still more work full time as employees remotely. If you can find the right remote workers, there are many benefits to this arrangement, including savings to the company and a more engaged workforce. Employees who are able to enjoy flexibility through remote work are often more productive than their peers, and can add a lot of value to an organization. During your search for remote employees, you may just end up finding your next superstar candidate. 


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