We’re all starting to realize that remote work is more than just a nice-to-have work perk. Hiring remote employees—whether as a part of an all-remote team or not—can bring unique perspectives and learning experiences to the table.
The real perk is for these smart and agile companies that have tapped into the immensely talented global workforce of remote employees. In fact, whether you have a vision impairment (me ✋) or you’re just an average Joe (my husband 😍), there are a million reasons why an employee would want, or even need, to work remotely.
Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom conducted a recent study finding that employees who work from home are benefiting from the convenience of remote work. To add, remote work led to a significant increase in productivity, fewer distractions, and fewer sick days. Remote employees even took less vacation time.
There’s a surplus of professionals that are looking for remote work. This is great news for you, but word travels fast. Here’s what you need to know so that you can attract, hire, and manage the world’s best remote employees.
How to find great remote talent
Remote talent is absolutely everywhere. Still, finding the most skilled and compatible person for your role will be a challenge.
You’ll need to answer three key questions to find your just-right candidates:
Where do I look?
There are hundreds of remote-specific job sites popping up that are all great contenders for posting your opening.
We created and shared a list for job seekers on how to find remote jobs; you might want to check those out and post there. It’s also smart to post to known and trusted job sites, like LinkedIn, where job seekers gather. You can work with a recruiter to go out and source profiles that list a remote preference, too, although we recommend this as a last resort (because hey, they can get pricey).
What should I require?
When you ask your candidates to apply, keep it simple.
If all you need is a resume, don’t ask for more—resumes are a great place to start. If you’d like to ask a few screening questions or require a portfolio, snap up a quick Google form or link to a form on your website. Don’t expect people to fill out a 21-page application form or repeat history details from a resume they’ve already attached. Instead, try to be mindful of the time your candidates take to source opportunities, personalize their cover letters, and keep up with existing work. By keeping your hiring process lean, you’ll retain more candidates and fill roles more succinctly.
How do I triage my options?
Look for people with prior remote experience on top of the skills and background the role will demand.
Be open to people with freelance experience, entrepreneurial stints, and employment gaps, for they’ll likely have the best stories. Most importantly, make sure to read between the lines, check out profiles and websites to get a real feel, and prepare you to cater your interview questions to your applicants.
How to interview remote candidates
You’ve found some impressive talent in your search and things are looking up. Now, it’s time to chat with them and determine the best person for the role.
Interviewing candidates is always a challenge and selecting one can be the hardest part. Here’s how we’d do it:
Determine your priorities in advance.
Don’t wait until you’re on the Zoom call to decide what to ask or how to navigate the interview. While it definitely shouldn’t feel scripted, it’s important to have an idea of what the interview sets out to accomplish.
What’s truly important for you to see in this person, and what are the clearest, most effective ways to identify those key qualities in your candidates? Define this for yourself: “How will I know when I’ve found the right one?”
Remote candidates are just as busy as their in-house counterparts. Don’t assume their schedule is wide open or that they’re available for surprise correspondence. Mind your time zones and dates when scheduling calls. Shorten your candidate journey to three interviews or fewer and make sure all steps are necessary. Make sure not to skimp on your online video conferencing software to eliminate technical barriers as much as possible, too.
Don’t weed out, find out.
Instead of asking questions looking for the first deal-breaker, consider optimism. You’ll learn more by assuming all candidates are amazing and letting them express why. Make sure to ask questions that allow your candidates to show up, show off, and tell a story. Yes or no questions need not apply!
Involve the experts.
If you’re interviewing for a particularly technical or high-level job, it’s wise to make sure at least one interview is with people in the organization who understand the key competencies of that role.
Map their intentions.
What your candidate wants to do is almost more important than what they’ve already accomplished. Ask them for their ideas on how to make the role their own, what they love about what they’ve done up until now, and how this role plays into that journey.
Understand how they think, what work environment suits them best, and how they collaborate. Offer as much of that as you can.
Just like with in-house hires, you want to make sure everything lines up. Ask for references. Check out their website. Get a portfolio link. Assign a *PAID* test project. Choosing a few of these should cover your bases.
Make a great offer.
The joy of choosing between all of your remote candidates across the globe comes with a caveat: they can pursue a wider smorgasbord of work opportunities… and they will.
Since your sweet office with the killer view won’t be roping them in, what will? Don’t take their remoteness as an opportunity to pay them less than they deserve, force them to use all of their own resources, or miss out on the perks afforded to their in-house counterparts. Make them an offer they wouldn’t want to refuse.
Onboarding a remote employee
Congratulations to you and your new hire! Now, it’s time to get to work.
As with in-house employees, your remote worker will need to go through a few stages of onboarding: logistics, orientation, and training.
Make sure your remote employee has virtual access to all of the necessary HR paperwork and payment processing information.
Ideally, you’re moving away from a paper-based system for all employees if you haven’t already. Help them find, access, and complete all legal and financial docs and ensure they can access their particulars digitally at any time. Make sure they’ve received any equipment you’ll be sending to their home office and that they receive IT support to set up, if needed.
Make sure your remote employee knows everyone they’ll be directly working with by name, face, and title. Facilitate key introductions or encourage your veteran team members to lead the charge. Give them the insider details on how you communicate, what to expect in certain types of meetings, and how things flow.
This is also a good time to make sure they have all the documents, logins, and tools they need to be successful. (Tip: Before hiring new employees, make sure these docs are up to date!) (Another tip: make sure to set expectations around which tools you will and will not provide for them.)
If your employees require any skill trainings, vocational support, or tutorials for the tools and processes you use, go digital! Record a live session and make sure it’s always digitally accessible. This doesn’t just benefit your remote teams—it saves time for future in-house hires and might be a nice refresher for even your most veteran employees.
Once you feel confident to set them loose, PAUSE. Don’t forget that your brand new remote hire might be feeling less confident at first. Make sure their manager or a veteran colleague is available consistently for the first month or so to take extra questions, facilitate additional training, or just provide 1:1 support and coaching. Investing in one month of flail-prevention could help you avoid doing this process all over again in six weeks.
How to manage your virtual team
Managing a remote team is different from managing in-house employees, but it’s also the same in a few notable ways.
The tips below are good advice for managing any type of team, but we’ll specify how to make it work for your remote workers:
Keep remote employees accountable.
It’s important that any employee gets their work done well and on time. You might think this is easier with in-house teams you can see hard at work, but what looks like work and what actually drives results can be different!
The best way to make accountability happen is to establish clear deadlines and expectations for results, and then follow-up. For any type of employee, this looks like making judicious use of project management software, prioritizing 1:1 check-ins with managers, and keeping stand-up meetings quick and useful.
Keep remote employees productive.
You know they’ll get the work done, but how are they using their time? Could they be doing more? Could they be achieving more by doing less? In-house it might be easier to spot distractions, lag times, or overwhelm.
Keeping your teams productive isn’t really about harping on them to produce more. Instead, protect their headspace and the time they need to work. Trim unnecessary meetings or calls, keep Slack functional, and develop a rapport with your off-site workers. Tap into what makes them want to work twice as hard and what sharpens their focus. Then, provide or remove as necessary.
Keep remote employees engaged.
One big argument for “keeping it all in-house” is the myth that people collaborate better in person. We might infer that facial expressions, voice tonality, and sharing an “ethos” is at the helm of that creativity and teamwork. The good news is, you can recreate that in-house “ethos” and extend it to your virtual team with ease.
Make sure you’ve got the tech to keep everyone working together. At Zestful we use Slack to chat 1:1 and in groups. You might also try Zoom, (that’s what we use), so everyone can see and hear each other. Next, make sure everyone is working in shared spaces like a mutual Google Doc or use virtual visuals like Stormboard or Mural.
Keep remote employees connected.
The word remote literally means “distant from the main populace”. The implication that remote workers are in a faraway land and unreachable by the in-house masses is a false one.
Remote employees want to be included in your company-wide raffle, mentor program, gift exchange, or yoga pose competition and they CAN be! Make sure to include them in what your in-house team already does together when possible or make up new traditions and rituals that can be shared virtually.
Seek feedback from remote employees.
The surest way to know what your employees want is to ask them. However, you must first establish a solid amount of rapport that makes employees feel safe to share honest feedback. As you build that trust, it may be more effective to collect feedback blindly with an anonymous Typeform, Google form, or a tool like 15Five.
Most importantly, the key to great feedback is taking action on it. Therefore, make sure your remote employees feel just as heard as the team members you sit next to every day.
Invest in them.
Part of garnering loyalty from your off-site teams is to treat them the same as your in-house staff. In that vein, it’s wise to make sure to discuss career aspirations with your team. You can help your employees set up a plan for growth in areas they identify. Host a remote lunch and learn.
Also, if you have perks like catered meals, free snacks, or other fun things in-house make sure those extend to your virtual team in some way. Zestful makes work perks really easy for every type of team. However, there are plenty of ways you can surprise and delight your people beyond set programs.
Bringing remote employees into your organization doesn’t have to feel daunting, even if you’re new. Most of the steps to finding them, hiring them, and keeping them happy will feel just like the other hires you’ve made. Lean into the parts that feel different, seek and heed feedback, and make sure to put comfort and flexibility first.