February 11, 2015
Hiring remote workers, whether full-time, part-time or contract, is becoming a popular way to outsource work or expand a company team.
Remote hiring allows companies to tap into a global talent pool, which means better qualified candidates and options. Remote work is becoming more and more popular as local hiring options dry up and companies need to expand quicker.
One of the biggest challenges with remote work is hiring the right people. After all, the person won’t be showing up to the office every day, so you need someone who is self-motivated, trustworthy and skilled.
Once you receive applicants for your job, the first thing to do is ask questions…lots of them. You want to hire people who are going to be reliable, diligent, productive and a good fit for the culture of your company. By asking questions that are relevant to your company, you can immediately assess if the candidate is a viable option to move forward with.
The questions below go beyond the basics (location, rate, availability, etc.) to help you understand an applicant’s skills, working behaviors, commitment and mindset. This is by no means a definitive list of remote hiring questions, but rather a guide to get you started. (You’ll also want to ask the candidate job specific questions, but I won’t be covering these since they will vary from job to job.)
The questions below should also be tweaked to fit the position or job you’re hiring for.
1. Tell me about yourself and your working experience?
This is a basic starting question, to learn about who the candidate is and what or where they’ve worked in the past.
2. Can you explain your working process for X?
We’re trying to understand how the applicant normally gets a job done. This is their working process, or how they complete projects, tasks and/or solve problems.
3. What are your best skills and what do you like doing most?
We want to find out what the applicant is best at, especially for applicant’s who have a lot of skills or experience on their application. It’s also good to know what an applicant likes to do the most, that way they can be as productive as possible for your company.
4. What are your weaknesses?
The focus of this question is to uncover any weaknesses, especially for candidates who seems to be “jack of all trades”.
5. Tell me about a big achievement in your working career?
We want the applicant to brag here. Did they build an application that handled millions of users? Did they launch a marketing campaign that had an amazing ROI? This question helps separate good candidates from great.
6. What tools do you use to communicate throughout the day?
Communication is so important in remote working and you’ll want to make sure the candidate already has experience using communication tools.
7. How do you collaborate when working on projects and/or in a team?
Another question to uncover their communication and collaborative skills. Just like working in-person, remote work requires collaboration from different team members or working together for success.
8. What does a normal day look like for you? What are your working hours?
We’re trying to understand how an applicant values their work and what their normal schedule is like. Are they someone who works at night or a normal 9-5? Do they only work a few days a week? Are they traveling often? What a candidate does each day will greatly impact your business operations, scheduling and decision.
9. What is your work environment like? How do you eliminate distractions?
Remember, remote work means no central office, so you’ll want to find out where “work” takes place for the applicant and how they stay focused. Do they have a separate, quiet home office? Do they co-work? Work at a local coffee shop? The applicant’s work environment may be an important part of your hiring decision.
10. Have you ever worked remotely before?
If the applicant hasn’t worked remotely before, you might want to consider how the transition will be for them. Will they be able to stay focused, hit deadlines, and get work done? Or will the transition to working from home impact their productivity and concentration? Successful remote working is a skill, so past experience with remote work is important.
11. Can you provide me with 3 references?
References can be hit or miss. Most applicants won’t give you a bad reference, but these are good to follow up on to find out how the applicant worked at a previous company. You can also find out some of the questions above to see if they hold true, especially for applicants who’ve worked remotely.
Send these questions to your candidates via email or phone. I prefer email because I can keep a record of what everyone says, analyze, then choose the candidates to pursue further with a phone call. If you don’t ask these questions, you’ll likely end up hiring someone that won’t be a fit for your company due to their schedule, environment, work preferences or some other factor.
With no office to show up to each day, remote work also also means no in-person contact or shoulder taps. If you have certain work expectations, like daily standups, weekly meetings, set hours, protocols, rules or something else, it’s important to present these to the candidate as early as possible, before hiring.
Give each applicant an idea of how your company operates and what a normal day is like. Are they required to work 9-5? Should they be available for a 9AM check-in or meeting each day? Should they be connected to Slack or Skype during the working day? Do they need to post updates every hour?
Every business has processes, rules and guidelines that employees, contractors or workers need to follow. Make sure you communicate these early on, so applicants understand that working remotely for your company is serious and not a free-for-all. (If you don’t, then you’ll probably end up like me at some point, being left high and dry by contractors!)
Here are some starter ground rules to cover with candidates:
- Daily routine and working hours
- How the person fits into the business and what they are expected to do on a day-to-day basis
- How your company communicates each day
- The software, applications and other tools that are required for work
- How meetings, standups, check-ins or progress reports work and when
- How issues, problems or concerns are addressed and handled (from both the company and candidate)
- How goals, requirements and working tasks are set and achieved
- What the ideal work environment should be (quiet office, fast internet, etc.)
- How collaboration and teamwork is achieved
- Explain where you want the business to be and how the applicant fits in
Instead of hiring someone right on the spot, consider giving them a small working task. This will allow you to minimize risk when hiring remotely and to truly see if the person is right for your company.
A task should be paid and also relate to the work the applicant would be doing if hired. You’ll be able to determine the person’s working ability, communication skills, productivity and if they sync well with your team.
Working on a task is also a great way to give candidates a feel for what it’s like to work with your company. If the person doesn’t enjoy the task or working experience, then it’s probably not a mutual fit and you’ve saved yourself lots of time and money.
I’ve hired people on the spot in the past and it’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made with remote hiring. Doing a small task allows you to evaluate how a person works and reduces all of the risk associated with hiring on the spot (onboarding, payroll, overhead, etc). Most remote workers also like starting small too — after all, they’ll be working with your company so it’s important there is a good fit for them as well.
This remote hiring process should help you identify and hire the right remote workers for your company. Remember to ask lots of questions, manage expectations and always start small with a task (think of it like dating vs. marriage).
Hiring remotely is an amazing way to expand your team, reduce overhead and tap into talent wherever it exists. However, without a solid hiring process in place, it can be a chaotic experience. Use the tips above for your next hire and you’ll see right away how effective it is at filtering through the noise and finding the right people to hire.
What is your remote hiring process? Have additional questions to share? Think remote hiring is a bad idea? Post in the comments and I’ll reply back.