Whether it’s allowing remote work on certain days every week, opening up a few roles to remote working, or setting up 100% remote teams, companies of all sizes are exploring the “remote work” style.
Access to better talents, a cut on costs, and improved productivity make building a remote workforce appealing to employers. And candidates, on the other hand, love the flexibility, autonomy, and the better work-life balance that comes with remote working.
You’ll be surprised to know that about 43% of U.S. workers are already working remotely to some degree (with the number only expected to grow!), and a whopping 86% of people believe they’d be less stressed in a flexible job.
But hiring remote employees — it doesn’t matter if it’s for a single role or a full workforce — needs a different approach. You’re not just looking for the right job skills, but also for the overall suitability in a remote working environment.
So if you are looking at remote hiring, here are seven tips to equip you for making great remote hires! But first, let’s quickly tip into some of the top pros and cons of remote work:
|Higher productivity: Many case studies show how remote teams that stick to a schedule are more productive than in-house teams.||Distractions: While even offices aren’t free of distractions, remote work can be full of them. In fact, it’s one of the top complaints remote employees report.|
|Bigger talent pool: Not being bound by a geographical location means your talent search is virtually worldwide, giving you access to talent a traditional in-house role would never get you.||Potential security issues: Right from the safety of the devices your remote workers use to the wifi networks they connect to, security and access can be a problem.|
|Lower costs: With a remote team, there are some obvious savings such as the money you’d have to spend on maintaining office infrastructure. Hiring remotely also means you can somewhat adjust the salaries according to the cost-of-living standards of the candidates’ cities/countries.||Limited facetime: Managing the physical and cultural distances among your remote employees can be challenging given that you all get only limited facetime with each other.|
The many advantages of remote hiring clearly outweigh the negatives and are the reason why so many companies rely on talent in so many different parts of the world for even their most critical business operations. From sales, marketing, accounts, and development to customer service, businesses are looking at remote hiring for every imaginable role.
So let’s now see how you can perfect the art of hiring great remote employees and build winning remote-first teams.
Hear everything about hiring remote employees in our podcast
- Fine-tuning your hiring process
- Defining what you’re looking for in the ideal candidate
- Sourcing right
- Helping candidates self-decide if they’re a fit in a remote setup
- Determining a fit for culture and values
- Interviewing for a remote role
- Offering a paid work trial
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1. Fine-tuning your hiring process
Hiring for a remote team essentially means hiring for a certain set of skills needed to excel at remote working.
A few of these remote working skills are:
- Great communication skills
- Powerful collaboration skills
- Strong organizational skills
- Good time management skills
Unless a candidate has these, it’s no use taking them further in your hiring process because without these they’d inevitably be a bad fit. Evaluating your candidates for these skills is even more important because unlike technical skills, you can’t just upskill or train your candidates on these skills. They’ve got to have them already.
There are many ways to test for these.
Pre-employment tests, for example, are a great evaluation tool for such skills.
So if you wanted to learn if a candidate is a natural communicator, you could ask them to evaluate themselves on questions like these:
With a pre-employment assessment solution, you can test your candidates for all the skills they need to succeed in their remote roles. These pre-interview assessment tests might look deceptively simple, but they can unlock invaluable insights to help you make shortlisting decisions.
Another thing you’d want to look for when hiring a remote employee is their comfort level with video chatting as a lot of the meetings and workplace collaboration in remote teams happens via video calls. So testing for this sort of “video compatibility” is a crucial part of the remote hiring and working mix.
Sometimes, you might also want your candidates to have an internet connection with a certain speed or a Brand X laptop with a certain OS running and so on (especially for roles in customer support). While none of these are grounds for rejection (as you can fund them), knowing what all might need upgrading during the pre-selection stage already can help you later on.
2. Defining what you’re looking for in the ideal candidate
Writing about who’d make an “ideal candidate” is important for any job listing, whether it’s for an in-office position or a remote one. But it plays a bigger role in remote hiring because it specifies the key remote working traits that candidates must have.
So if you believe a certain personality type will work best with you for a certain remote role, write that in your listing. In fact, encourage your applicants to take up a personality test and then consider applying. Maybe even recommend a personality test tool you like.
This way, a lot of potential candidates might deselect themselves if they don’t feel like a good fit. This is a good thing because it’s not the quantity of applicants that apply that matter, but the quality.
So whether it’s a personality test or some trait you’ve particularly identified for success in a role, write it out in your ideal candidate description.
Additionally, sometimes, remote jobs might need specific time zone and location requirements. This usually happens when you try to have some minimum “hours of overlap” between all your team members, or if you’re trying to cover hours for support or service for a particular region where you currently have only limited availability. If this is the case, you must clearly list these out as candidates that can’t accommodate them won’t apply.
…and 40% of companies are hybrid. That means that they offer both remote and in-office options.
3. Sourcing right
Because so many candidates are actively looking for remote work opportunities already, they know their “top go-to places”. And these don’t include traditional job boards like Monster and Indeed or the LinkedIn platform.
So, if you post your remote jobs on these, you might miss out on a large group of actively searching candidates who want to work remotely. Instead of posting and promoting your jobs on these channels, try job boards that are popular with remote workers. Such as:
- WeWorkRemotely: With categories spanning across Design, Sales, and Marketing, DevOps and others, this job board is one of the top places for finding world-class remote talent.
- AngelList: A top place for startups to find and hire remote talent for all possible roles!
- Stack Overflow: A go-to job board for hiring developers looking for work-from-home opportunities.
- Remote.co: Just like WeWorkRemotely, this job board also hosts jobs across many different teams and roles.
- Remotive: Remotive is also a popular job board with remote workers looking for roles in Customer Support, Software Dev, Product, Sales, Marketing and other teams.
Additionally, try these three things to get exposure as a remote company/employer, so you can build your remote talent pool and source better remote candidates over time:
- Get listed in remote startup directories.
- Get placed in roundups like “X companies or startups that hire remotely”
- Get mentions/traction in remote working communities, for example, Facebook groups of remote workers.
4. Helping candidates self-decide if they’re a fit in a remote setup
Because remote working isn’t for everyone, you can help your future candidates self-decide and rule themselves out if they feel so.
The best way to go about this is to give your potential candidates an insider look into how you work remotely.
For example, Zapier (a fully remote company right from the start) has many helpful resources describing its remote work culture. This content can be useful to anyone who’s considering a job with them. The good fits will feel encouraged to apply while others may realize otherwise.
Zapier creates useful resources to help their potential candidates learn how it is to work for them.
Your content doesn’t just have to discuss the logistics of working remotely. Personal stories can also help connect with the right candidates. So if you’ve stories of your employees who’ve made their personal dreams or passions come true (for example, traveling — which many remote workers have!) while working remotely for you, share those.
So create educational resources that show how you work remotely and how you’ve given remote work your own unique spin. Talk about the tools you use, your processes, your review and feedback mechanisms, and more.
Also, place all such content prominently on your jobs page and link to it from your listings.
5. Determining a fit for culture and values
Determining a candidate’s fit for your company’s culture and values is challenging for any company, even if they meet their candidates face-to-face.
But this evaluation gets tougher for remote teams as all the interaction is only virtual.
That said, such evaluation is still critical for making quality remote hires that stay with you.
So how do evaluate someone for an intangible concept like culture and values?
The first step is to define your culture and values.
And then translating these ideas into assessment tests, surveys or interview questions that you can actually score your candidates on.
For instance, for the remote startup Hotjar, one of their eight culture values is “always be learning” So, to evaluate candidates on that, they ask this specific question: “What have you learned in the last year?”
So start by clearly identifying and defining your culture and values. It’s only after you do this that you’ll be able to evaluate your candidates on them.
6. Interviewing for a remote role
Different remote companies approach interviews differently. But most hold at least three interviews.
Here’s how Buffer, a company with remote workforce, conducts three interviews to spot the best candidates:
Culture and Values Interview. This interview focuses on finding how aligned a candidate is with Buffer’s culture. Buffer follows a structured interview here by asking the same questions in the same order to each candidate. And they know (and have documented) what elements they seek in the answers.
Experience Interview. This interview round also includes a brief exercise so that Buffer can assess the candidates on “a true work product as well“.
Final Interview. This last interview focuses on the key element of the role that Buffer believes “might need extra time and attention”. For example, a code walkthrough if the role is that of a developer.
Taking multiple interviews also means you have a fairly long hiring period, which might not necessarily mean a bad thing in a remote hiring setup. Some remote companies are actually a little intentional about keeping hiring cycles this way and spacing out the interviews so they get to interact more with the candidates.
7. Offering a paid work trial
Once you’ve found your top candidate, it’s time — not to extend an offer letter but — to extend a contract for a trial period, or a job tryout at pre-agreed conditions.
Many remote companies use trial periods to be double-sure before making an offer. A trial lets you see how skilled a candidate is for a job, how well they can learn, and how seamlessly they fit into your “remote work”.
Automattic, a remote company, offers all its candidates a trial process that pays $25/hour as a “mutual tryout”. So that both the candidate and the company are sure about it being a good fit.
“During the trials, we give the applicants actual work. If you’re applying to work in customer support, you’ll answer tickets. If you’re an engineer, you’ll work on engineering problems. If you’re a designer, you’ll design.” — Matt Mullenweg of Automattic
To make the trial period easy for your candidates, you can even allow them to work on weekends or in their free time, just like Automattic does.
Paid trial is an opportunity to see if the candidate and the company match. Make sure to set clear conditions for the job trial. How long is the trial going to take? How are the candidates going to be compensated? Agree on this before the trial starts to avoid misunderstandings.
Wrapping it up
When hiring remote employees, unless a candidate can thrive in a remote working environment, it doesn’t matter how skilled or “perfect” they might be for a role.
That’s why when you hire remote employees, at every step, use messaging that helps candidates self-decide if they’re considering or pursuing a job opportunity where they can shine. You should also use pre-employment tests and thoughtful interviews to find the best matches — candidates who have what it takes to work remotely. These are your best tools because in remote hiring, you don’t have the privilege to meet your candidates in-person.
Hiring remote employees isn’t the same as hiring on-site employees. But following the above remote hiring tips will help you hire the perfect remote employees, no matter what role you’re hiring for!