Remote hiring can be a challenge as well as a deviation from the norm. Many of us are more comfortable with an in-person, intimate setting in which we can assess a candidate’s suitability for a position. When hiring remotely, you broaden your talent pool in a way that can be hugely beneficial for your company, but you are also required to be much more selective and careful in the hiring process.
This is a balance I’ve become very familiar with in my years as CEO of SaleHoo. Our company employs a team of 29 employees, 24 of whom are remote workers. Remote hiring has allowed me to create an excellent team without geographical considerations, which means I can literally seek out the world’s best. Each of our remote employees was hired using a carefully crafted process — a process that was far more important because I wasn’t able to be in the same room with the candidates.
Interested in hiring remote employees but not sure how to go about it? Below are my tips for successful remote hiring.
Always be “hiring”
Hiring the right remote candidate requires consistent proactivity. Don’t wait until a spot on your team opens up to start looking for new talent.
Your talent pool is much larger when you hire remotely. That pool needs to be monitored, even when your team is stable and there aren’t any current openings.
Consider using LinkedIn Recruiter to discover and connect with potential staff. Don’t hesitate to contact a solid potential candidate, even if they’re already employed. You never know when someone’s circumstances will change and there might come a time when your talent search and their employment search coincide. If you have a network of candidates at the ready, you won’t be scrambling when your team has an opening.
A trial period (or project) is imperative
Often, freelancers we’ve hired for a single project end up being our ongoing remote employees after we have had a great experience with the person. Trial projects (or at the very least, a trial period before fully hiring a person) allow for issues to come to light before either party is deeply invested.
Ideally, a trial project should represent the responsibilities a candidate will be entrusted with and include some type of problem to solve. Probationary hires should be able to showcase their abilities and skills, as well as their demeanor and reliability. It’ll certainly help to show them how they fit within the larger team, too.
Regardless of the nature of this trial period or project, a candidate should be paid for his or her time. If the job isn’t completed to your satisfaction, or you find the remote arrangement with this particular candidate isn’t working, it’s still less costly to sever ties at that point than after officially hiring someone and paying him or her to complete your on-boarding process.
Use the application process as a test
Your job posting presents an excellent opportunity for you to test someone’s remote work abilities. Many candidates fail to follow job application instructions, especially ones that require extensive attachments or ask specific questions. To test our applicants’ attention to detail and scale down the applicant pool, we list five instructions for completing any application. Many overlook small instructions, such as “attach CV as a PDF,” and instead submit their curriculum vitae or resumes as Word documents. While this is a minor error, it displays an important quality, namely a lack of attention to detail. Being able to follow instructions is important to any job, so we practice this strategy in all hiring opportunities.
Ask the right questions
When interviewing a remote candidate, the nature of their remote employment should be an explicit topic of conversation. Ask about the things that relate to a remote worker: where do they work from? What hours do they prefer to work? What is their experience with project management and time-tracking software? With a remote arrangement, it’s particularly important to know what motivates the candidate to pursue this type of work, because some motivations are better than others. Don’t be afraid to confront your apprehensions (and theirs) head on.
Be patient and thorough
Hiring a new team member, especially if they work remotely, is not a process that can be rushed, nor can it be done via a single online channel. Give candidates multiple opportunities to display their talents. Just because a candidate nailed a Skype interview doesn’t mean they’ll be an excellent remote employee. Try interviews via email and phone, too, as it’s unlikely that most of your communication will be through a video chat. Take the time to do several interviews, and don’t hesitate to go back to the original candidate pool if you’re not finding what you’re looking for.
The more you can document your hiring and onboarding process, the easier this process will become. Take notes on your search process. What worked, what didn’t? Where are you finding your highest-quality employees? What do you wish you had known before you hired a certain employee? This information will help you identify weaknesses in your hiring process and make it more foolproof. Having all of this documented will also help you to streamline the remote hiring process in case it ever becomes necessary (or just practical) for you to hand it over to another person.
There will be failures. We’ve all made a bad hire at one point or another. These experiences are invaluable because knowing what a “bad hire” looks like will help you better identify the great ones. It’s also worth considering that remote hiring might not be the most effective choice for your business, but you can’t decide that until you’ve given it an honest try. Follow these tips to give remote hiring the best chance at benefiting your business.