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Tips for Interviewing and Hiring Remote Employees

In Company Culture — by Dave Anderson

We recently published an article on the business advantages of hiring a remote staff. Not only are there plenty of good reasons to let employees work from home. All indications point to remote work becoming far more common in the coming years so it makes sense for organizations to prepare for the transition sooner than later.

You always need to make great hires but it’s even more important when you’re trusting the employee to be successful from far away. In this article, we provide a few tips for sourcing, interviewing, and ultimately hiring remote employees.

Use application questions to uncover great candidates

Like hiring for any job, the candidate pool for a remote position will span the spectrum from completely unqualified people to those who are the exact right fit for the position. But you’ll get A LOT more applicants when you open your jobs up to be worldwide. And that means you’ll need an efficient way to sort through the mass of applications to find the people worth interviewing.

A solid Applicant Tracking System (ATS) allows you to include questions on your applications that help you pinpoint the standout candidates. You can include simple “yes” or “no” questions based on job requirements and easily filter out applicants who don’t meet the baseline criteria. For example, you can ask applicants if they have a required skill, a necessary license or certification, or if they’re available to work the hours needed.

You can also ask open-ended questions to identify the best-of-the-best qualified candidates. These type of questions allow applicants to elaborate on their background and tell you what they’re capable of. For example, you can ask why they’re interested in the job, what they would do if hired, and even include a problem-solving question related to the role.

Take advantage of the video format

Interviews are often where you find that one great candidate who stands out among the rest. Even though you’re already familiar with everyone’s skills and experience, what someone says in an interview—and the way they say it—can tip the scales in their favor.

It’s tough to get a sense for a candidate’s enthusiasm when hiring for a remote position since you can’t sit in the same room with them during the interview. However, meeting someone face-to-face through video chat software is a nice alternative. Unlike a phone interview, you can pick up the non-verbal cues they express while answering your questions.

Additionally, video cover letters are becoming a popular way to learn about candidates before speaking with them. Some say the practice is too burdensome for applicants and can deter talented people from applying. But video cover letters can make sense for remote roles since you only want people who are excited about the opportunity to apply.

Involve the future hire’s team in the interview process

One misconception about remote employees is they work on their own. That’s true to an extent but most still collaborate and communicate with their colleagues like any other job.

You can argue that it’s actually more important to make a hire who works well with their team when the position is remote. Everyone needs to work together as if they’re in the same place, even though they obviously aren’t. They need to effectively keep in touch using the right tools and make an effort to build a rapport with their colleagues.

That means you should involve each of the future hire’s immediate colleagues in the interview process. We usually promote an efficient interview process but with remote jobs, it’s okay to take your time and allow each team member to speak with the finalists. It won’t be much of a hassle for the candidates since they’ll just need to jump on calls as opposed to going through the effort of going into an office. And everyone will get acquainted before making the commitment to work together.

Assess the little things during interviews

When hiring for a non-remote job, you basically look for someone who has the necessary professional background, will work hard, and be a great team member.

There is a lot more that goes into being an effective remote employee. The future hire needs to work with little direction and structure. They need to be motivated to get their work done, even when nobody is watching them.

Most importantly, anyone you hire should be truly interested in what your company does. If they believe in what your organization is trying to accomplish, the drive to do great work will come naturally.

Be sure everyone on the interview team comes prepared and asks smart questions that lead to a qualified, well-rounded candidate standing out.

A few extras

Those are the biggies for finding the right person for a remote job. Before you go, we’ll leave you with a few more small points to keep in mind.

  • Have consistent compensation – Even if you find a great candidate somewhere with a low cost of living, you should pay them fair compensation that was determined at the start of the hiring process. Paying employees based on where they live will lead to income inequality throughout your organization and that’s a big problem.  
  • Highlight remote work as a job perk – Today’s job seekers want more than a salary, they also want great perks. You of course can’t offer a cool office but you can attract talented candidates by letting them know they can work from anywhere in the world.
  • Source from remote-focused job boards – Searching for remote roles on popular job boards can be done but it’s a bit of a clunky experience. Fortunately, there are a number of job boards that focus specifically on remote positions.
  • Company culture still matters – Company culture often comes to life in the workplace. However, you should still have a culture built on shared values when you have a remote team.  
  • Take advantage of the diversity a remote staff offers – Many companies struggle to build a diverse team but it can come naturally for remote teams. Embrace the opportunity and hire people from different walks of life.

Hiring great remote employees can be a challenge. However, with the right approach, you’ll successfully build a team of people from all over who do great work for your organization.