Hiring remotely? Start here

Hiring a remote team member?

We look at key traits, writing remote into the job spec, remote interviewing and more.

Hiring a new team member who will be working remotely takes just a little bit of extra thought. In addition to all your usual interview considerations, you’ll need to look at how comfortable and effective candidates will be in a remote role. We’ve shared some tips from other remote teams to get you started.

Start with the job spec

You might want to include details about the remote aspects of the vacancy from the very beginning, when you’re drafting the job description and starting to advertise. Some top issues you might want to cover include:

  • Is the job fully remote, or just partially (ie will some in-office hours be expected, and if so, where and how often?)
  • Is the remote role unusual in your team (with most of your team working in-office), or is your team mostly (or entirely) remote? This will help prospective candidates get a flavour for whether remote working is a central part of your office culture, or more of a nice perk for some roles.
  • Are you looking for previous experience of remote work, or experience using particular remote tools?
  • Make clear if some of the interview process will be carried out remotely, and if so, explain which video or other tools will be used.
  • Do you have a remote working policy?
  • Do you offer perks such as membership of a coworking space, or help setting up a home office?

Hire with remote traits in mind

While many people happily adapt to working remotely, you might want to consider which traits you think will be useful at the job description and interview stages, alongside the specific skills you’re looking at for the role. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Motivation and independence: Remote staff need to be happy working with a considerable degree of independence. They will ideally be willing to take the initiative in managing their time and seeking help, if they need it.
  • Team player: Ironically, someone who isn’t in the office much actually needs to be more concerned with being a good team player. Ideally, they will really value being part of a team, and make lots of effort to stay in touch with colleagues.
  • Strong communicator: The image of the lone homeworker is misleading. Remote team members need to be strong communicators, with plenty of tact (it’s easier to get crossed wires when you’re not communicating face-to-face.)
  • Trustworthy: You won’t be watching over them 24/7, so you need someone who enjoys their work, and takes responsibility for delivering results.

Check out our article Six traits to look for in remote candidates for more ideas.

Build ‘remote’ into the process

Carrying out at least some of the hiring process remotely is a great way to see how candidates respond. You can make the hiring process fit with your team. For example, if your team communications are heavily text-based in a tool such as Slack, it’s a good idea to include some written communications as part of the selection process. But some face-to-face time (either real or virtual) will help you get to know the candidate better and see how they respond in person. Some smaller remote companies like to have a ‘whole team’ virtual chat in the later stages of the hiring process, so that everyone can get to know the potential new remote team member.

In an article on remote hiring, Zapier CEO Wade Foster points out that the little details also matter: an organised candidate who is flexible about time zone differences and happy to communicate over a number of channels is likely to be someone who is not phased by working in a very distributed, remote team.

But we all have to start somewhere. A remote, video interview could be a new experience for many candidates, so cut them some slack, and take some extra time at the start to put them at ease. The same goes for everyone on your company’s interviewing panel. If this is your first time hiring remotely, it’s really worth making sure everyone involved is comfortable with the tools you’ll be using, whether that’s a free tool such as Google Hangouts or a paid video interviewing service such Sparkhire. It’s worth getting everything set up and tested well before the interviews are scheduled.

Look for clues they will thrive on remote

If a candidate hasn’t worked remotely before, look for clues that they will enjoy it, and be a good fit. A number of all-remote companies report that many of their hires have come from a freelance, consulting or startup background, or have worked on short-term projects with the company before coming on board. Having taken a course online could also show initiative and self-motivation.

If the world of remote work is totally new to the candidate, you can still look for other signs that they’ll adapt well. For example, can they describe a time when they had to work fairly autonomously, such as on a long work trip or on a personal project? Have they ever collaborated on a project with colleagues or consultants who were not based in the same office? What did they like/dislike about this, and how did they communicate with others in the team?  Do they use tools such as Skype or Facetime to keep in touch with friends and family, and if so, what do they see as the pros and cons of this type of communication?

Talk about your work culture and policies

You might want to include plenty of time during the interview process to talk about your remote team culture, and how your remote teams function on a day-today level. What is your induction (onboarding) process for remote team members? What does your daily and weekly routine look like? What tools do you use for communicating, task management and meetings? Do you have a remote working policy, and if so, what does it cover? What do you do when there are conflicts within the team, or technical problems with the IT setup? What are your expectations about issues such as working hours, and data protection? What are the candidate’s expectations and concerns, particularly about issues such as training, career development, and being made to feel part of the team?

Not got a homeworking policy? Not sure where to start? If you need help, in the UK the independent advice organisation ACAS can provide guidance. Have a look at their homeworking page, and their detailed Guide to Homeworking for Employers and Employees, which includes a sample homeworking policy.

Cover the practicalities

It’s also a good idea to talk about the practicalities of working remotely by the later stages of the hiring process, if you haven’t covered this earlier. Does the candidate have a suitable work space at home, or are they planning to use a coworking venue? What are the costs of setting up a home office – and who will pay for which items? Does the candidate need information on navigating tax and insurance issues? Do they have a reliable mobile phone and high-speed internet connection? If it’s unreliable, what can be done to improve things? What are the options for local IT support?

For more on hiring remotely, check out this excellent guide from Zapier, a remote company. myworkhive’s Checklist for new homeworkers includes UK-specific information and links on issues such as health and safety, IT, tax and insurance.

If you have other tips on remote hiring, or you’d like to write a guest article on this or similar topics, drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you. Contact us or say hello on social media. 

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