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How to hire remote workers

We talked in a previous section about how important it is to hire good remote workers rather than just good workers, but didn’t dive too deep into what makes a good remote worker or how to hire them. Did you think we were going to leave you hanging? Here are some tactics for both finding an excellent remote hire, and then hiring them.

Find people that are self-starters or have already worked remotely before

Working remotely gives people a lot of freedom. If you give that much freedom to someone who isn’t used to having it or isn’t good at motivating themselves, you’ll end up with an unproductive hire that doesn’t actually contribute anything back to your company. So, when hiring someone for a remote role, it’s good to look for someone who shows signs of being or talks a lot about self-starting. Other great things to look for are people that have worked remotely before successfully or people that have run their own businesses. Both of those types of people will likely have the skills that they need to set boundaries and routines that are so important for a healthy remote working lifestyle.

They are extraordinarily communicative

The person that you hire should almost be annoyingly communicative in how much they want to talk and share. Remote employees can often be isolated and it’s important for whoever works for you to be able to advocate for themselves and speak up about the things they care about. Otherwise, amazing perspectives may just be drowned out or lost in the noise because they didn’t feel like they were able to communicate about it. That’s no good!

When interviewing, ask questions about communication and try to dig deep on why they make the communication choices that they make. There are some great examples for questions that you can ask in the sections below.

Where to find people?

Inbound marketing, as Hubspot writes, is one of the best ways to get amazing candidates to apply at your company. 75% of job seekers start their search on Google, and it’s best to meet people where they are if you want them to apply. So, create excellent content. On social media, market yourself as a remote-first company who has employees that love to work there, and has awesome benefits. For example, if you do host an annual retreat, make sure that you take lots of pictures and have employees use a specific hashtag when sharing about it. This kind of inbound attraction to potential new employees is an excellent way to find people with similar values to your own.

Referrals are another excellent way to get people interested in your company. If you have employees that love working for you, ask them to refer their friends, family members, or other people that they think might be a great fit. You’ve already got at least a little bit of the vetting done if you have your employees do a little bit of the work of sifting through candidates for you.

Lastly, posting in specific industry channels or on job sites can be a helpful way to get candidates. Many of the applicant management systems now, like Lever and Google Hire, offer the ability to push automatically to the main sites where people go to look for jobs. Beyond that, though, large Slack channels like Support Driven are helpful, as well as sites like remotive.io or weworkremotely.com. Making yourself as present as possible on the internet if someone searches for you is the best tactic.

What are the best questions to ask in a remote interview?

Once you’ve had individuals apply, you’re finally at the interview stage and ready to talk to them. But what are the best questions to ask and how should you, as the interviewer, interpret the answer? We’ve got a few ideas for you:

  • What attracts you to working remotely and how long have you been doing it? This gets a little bit into the space of figuring out whether someone is looking for this job for personal or professional benefits. Many people see working remotely as an opportunity to sit around at home and do nothing with their day, while others see it as a way to get themselves ahead professionally while still living close to family or other things that they want and need. Listen carefully to what the person you are interviewing says here because it’s likely very indicative of the type of remote worker they would be on your team.
  • What was the last thing that you taught yourself and why? This question helps you discern how much of a self-starter your potential future employee is. If they can’t think of anything that they’ve taught themselves recently, it’s pretty unlikely that they’re going to be a good fit for a remote role — if they can’t drive themselves to learn through curiosity, how are they going to push themselves to succeed in a fairly free-form role? Listen, also, to their incentives to learn: what pushed them to learn the thing? Was it someone else telling them what to do, or did they take the initiatives themselves? It’s important to find someone who learns things because they want to and see the value in learning, not because a job or partner asked them to.
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with another team. What was your role and how did it go? The main thing that this question is testing for is what the applicant’s inter-team communication skills look like. Remote employees have to work with most other teams within a company, just like everyone else, so, anyone working remotely will need to be able to work well with team members with all different styles of communication. They have the added challenge of having to communicate without always having the benefit of facial expressions or vocal intonations. So, when communication goes awry for them, it goes deeply awry. Listen to if they speak about overcoming hurdles between communication styles, what they did to be receptive, and how successful the overall outcome was.
  • Tell me about a time where you had an interaction that you thought was resolved, but actually snowballed and became a much bigger issue. How did you resolve it? This goes back to the communication piece above. It is super important to make sure that the person you hire is excellent at communication. This interview question does a bit of digging around de-escalation and the potential hire’s skills around it. In the event that communication goes awry in a remote role, which it can often do in chat or any written, rather than spoken, communication, it’s valuable to be able to understand how to repair the damage and deescalate the situation. Listen, especially, to if the person puts the blame on the other person in the disagreement, or if they claim any ownership for the problems in communication. If they do claim ownership, rather than attempting to place blame on the other person, they would likely be a good fit for a remote role. Introspection and personal understanding are incredibly important!
  • If you were given a puzzle (set of legos, or anything else like that), how would you go about putting it together? This is, clearly, a question about problem-solving. Listen to see how the candidate goes about thinking about something they need to solve (or put back together), and then how they actually take action to make it happen. For example, if they say that they separate out the legos and spread them out across the floor so they can see all of them, that might mean they are more a big-picture thinker that needs to have the lay of the land. If they say that they would follow every instruction in order to avoid messing up the final product, that might signal that they’re a bit of a perfectionist or afraid of failure. See what you can take from this question, and how it applies to the culture that you’re trying to build at your company.