Hiring people who live far away from the office may seem like a questionable choice. After all, management isn't able to visibly watch their progress or build personal connections in the way they can with in-house employees. The benefits of hiring remote talent, however, more than outweigh the drawbacks. Most notably, hiring only locals who must commute to the office every day limits companies to a geographically defined candidate pool. But technology enables organizations to employ the best talent in the world.
Some companies try to use the same hiring process for remote employees that they use for local hires. This is rarely effective, because the two talent pools differ wildly in many areas. In order to engage well with remote workers, organizations must make adjustments to their usual recruiting strategies.
Clearly define the requirements
Before taking on the challenge of hiring someone who may be located as far away as the other side of the world, hiring managers should determine exactly what skills and qualifications are required for a position, as well as the traits and characteristics of someone who would be the ideal fit for the company. After all, many people would like to work from home, but not all of them are well suited for it. Although a remote worker must have the same sense of dedication as an in-house employee, he or she must also have other specific traits.
CommunicationBecause working offsite requires employees to keep in touch with their peers and superiors, a remote worker must be able to express his or her thoughts clearly in any medium—whether it’s e-mail, chat, phone, video, or something else. If language barriers make communication difficult or if the candidate has a tendency to be unresponsive, find someone else.
Self-motivationThe ideal remote employee is someone who can follow directions well but is also capable of pursuing objectives independently and with minimal 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.
Ability to cooperateRemote 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 knowledgeAll new hires must be able to adapt well to the organization’s tools and systems and should be quick to grasp new applications so they can become productive as soon as possible. Remote employees should also know how to configure software and hardware to ensure stable connections with their colleagues, managers, and clients.
TrustworthinessTrust is essential to a good working relation- ship. An unscrupulous person might steal company data or intellectual property, and negligence could expose an organization and its customers to cyber criminals or malware.
To avoid hiring the wrong person, keep these guidelines in mind both when creating job listings and when vetting applicants. As with any hire, look for character recommendations and testimonials from reputable and qualified sources.
Because visual cues such as facial expressions and body language can reveal a great deal about a candidate, a face-to-face interview should be part of the hiring process. When the time or costs involved make it impractical to have someone drive or fly to the office for an in-person interview, a video chat is the next best thing.
During any interview, keep in mind that even the most highly qualified and experienced people may not be the best fit for remote work. (Someone who needs a lot of social interaction, for example, may struggle to be productive in a relatively isolated environment.) The interview should cover topics that shed light on a candidate’s ability to be a good worker—and especially to be a good remote worker.
- Challenges that the candidate has faced and how he or she over- came them
- Professional and personal accomplishments
- Experience working independently
- Experience working in virtual environments
- What tools and applications the candidate has used
- Time-management skills
- Ability to communicate and collaborate with different coworkers and in different situations
Good candidates have not only the right skills but also the right character. To get a sense of how people function with minimal super- vision, ask about their organizational abilities and find out how they keep themselves motivated to meet deadlines and maintain focus.
Be sure to discuss with candidates the specifics of the actual work environment, too. Do they feel isolated or anxious when working by themselves over a long day? How do 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 eventually plan to return to onsite office work.
Before hiring remote employees, ensure that the resources they will need are ready to go. Without access to the tools that the rest of the company is using, remote employees won’t be able to hit the ground running and will find it more difficult to coordinate their efforts and information with the rest of their teams.
Put candidates to the test
Ideally, organizations hire people who possess the skills needed for the position. Administering online skills-assessment tests during the interview process can help hiring managers get a good sense of a candidate's skill levels. Sometimes, though, it may be preferable to prioritize choosing someone who’s a great fit for the company culture or has excellent character, even if he or she doesn’t quite have the desired skillset. After all, it’s always possible to provide a new hire with the training and resources he or she needs through outlets such as on- line learning and mentorship programs. And whether an organization decides to hire someone who’s fully skilled or someone who needs more training, having clear expectations about skill requirements and development can save everyone (the new hire, his or her team, and the organization) from some uncomfortable situations.
The challenges associated with hiring remote employees can be ad- dressed through careful planning—and the extra effort can definitely pay off for employers. With good talent being harder and harder to find, companies are increasingly realizing that remote hiring gives them an opportunity to find great employees by drawing from a worldwide pool. By paying attention to the required skills and work conditions that are particular to remote employees, companies can ensure that their offsite workers are as successful as their onsite ones.
This piece originally appeared in Advanced Resources HR Insights Magazine.