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Hiring Remote Employees: A Step-By-Step Guide

A black woman wearing an orange shirt is working on the computer in her home office.

As remote work becomes more common, employers are learning that evaluating remote job brings unique challenges compared to hiring in-office employees.

This step-by-step guide to hiring remote employees will help you develop a remote hiring process, including finding, interviewing, and assessing remote work candidates; conducting background checks; and making a job offer.

For employers big and small, the coronavirus pandemic created an immediate need to establish or fine-tune policies surrounding remote work. Over the long term, though, hiring remote employees likely will become more routine than it ever has been. Given the challenges surrounding the hiring of remote workers, we’re providing some much-needed guidance.

What are the benefits of hiring remote workers? Many employers see that productivity has remained steady even as many or all employees were telecommuting amid the pandemic shutdown. Furthermore, employee demand for permanent remote work capabilities has grown. Also, some employers realize they can cut costs by having fewer employees work in expensive office space.

Other benefits of hiring remote employees include:

  • Greater access to global talent
  • Drop in employee turnover
  • Decrease in stressful and costly commutes
  • Improvement in work-life balance

In one survey, more than three-fourths of HR professionals anticipate that in the post-pandemic era, the number of their employees working remotely at least three days a week will rise. Employers are learning, however, that hiring remote workers comes with special challenges.

During the pandemic, social-distancing guidelines and other health and safety measures have complicated the normal hiring process, resulting in fewer in-person interviews and more video interviews. And in the long run, recruiting and hiring remote workers will involve its own stumbling blocks. To help you overcome those stumbling blocks, we’ve assembled a step-by-step guide to hiring remote employees.

A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Hire Remote Employees

Step 1: How To Write A Remote Worker Job Description

When writing a remote worker job description, you should begin by envisioning who your ideal candidate is. What skills and traits do you want this person to have? How do you see this remote employee fitting into your workplace culture and adhering to your company’s values?

Your remote worker job description should:

  • Specify how the employee will work remotely. Will they be able to work remotely 100% of the time? Or will they be required to spend some time in the office? Will they be asked to work from a home office, or can they work from any location with reliable internet service? It’s important to be upfront about the expectations so that there are no surprises on the employer or employee side once the worker has been hired.
  • Spell out the tech requirements. Will the remote worker be required to have a certain kind of computer or a minimum level of internet speed? What other types of office equipment will the employee need to use? In addition, will the worker be expected to pay all or part of the tech and equipment costs, or will your company cover these expenses?
  • Indicate how the employee will fit into your culture. While a remote employee typically won’t be in the office, you don’t want them to be out of touch with the team. Therefore, it’s critical to explain your company’s commitment to ensuring remote workers are as much of a part of the company culture as in-office employees are. Highlight any tools you’ve installed that boost teamwork among remote and in-office workers, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.
  • Include references to “remote work.” Terms like “remote work,” “remote job,” “virtual job” and “telecommute” will help attract candidates who are seeking remote jobs.

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Step 2: How To Find Candidates For Remote Work

First, start by advertising the remote job. Your ad should feature the key points in the remote work job description so that you’re targeting the right candidates. You don’t want a lot of folks applying for the job who are unwilling to accept a remote position.

Fortunately, a number of job websites spotlight remote positions. One of the most prominent ones is FlexJobs, which promotes remote positions. Other job sites to consider include:

Step 3: How To Use Video To Interview Remote Candidates

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, video interviews were gaining ground among recruiters and hiring managers as a way to save time and boost efficiency. Now, out of necessity, even more employers are embracing video interviews.

But as you’re aware, video interviews aren’t the same as in-person interviews. So, how can you best use video to interview remote candidates? Here are four tips.

  1. Nail down the time. You might work in the Central Time Zone, but a candidate for a remote job might live in the Pacific Time Zone. To avoid any confusion, send a calendar invite with the time, date, and other details to ensure both the employer and prospective employee are clear about when the interview will be conducted. 
  2. Pick the right environment. Before you hop on a video interview, give thought to where you’ll be situated. The wrong setting could send the wrong message to a job candidate. Sitting on a living room chair with your dirty laundry clearly visible in the background is far less appealing than sitting at the tidy desk in your office.
  3. Test the tech. Technical problems can easily turn a good video interview into a bad video interview. Ahead of the interview, test the camera and microphone on your computer, and check to see that your video technology, such as Zoom, is downloaded and working properly.
  4. Do your homework. You certainly want the interview to be conversational and friendly. But you also should focus on learning about the candidate’s background, skills, work style and other factors that will help you make a hiring decision. Therefore, it’s smart to prepare a list of questions in advance so that you keep the interview on a professional track.
  5. Dress the part. If you’re expecting professionalism from the job candidate, then you should come across as a professional. This means wearing work-appropriate clothing during the interview, rather than an old T-shirt.

Some of the most popular videoconferencing platforms are:

  • Cisco Webex Meetings
  • Google Hangouts
  • GoToMeeting
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Skype
  • Zoom

Step 4: How To Assess Remote Worker Skills

Once you’ve got the right candidates lined up for a remote job, you’ve got to assess their remote worker skills. Anyone who’s worked remotely knows that a virtual job differs in a number of ways from an in-office job. As such, it’s vital to assess whether a job candidate’s skills align with those you’re seeking for a remote position.

Among the skills you should review when you’re weighing a person for a remote role are:

  • Self-motivation. How disciplined is the job candidate? Remote workers must be self-driven, as they often don’t receive as much day-to-day feedback as their in-office counterparts do. Plus, they must combat distractions at home and resist temptations like watching TV or running errands. Bottom line: Not everyone is cut out for remote work.
  • Communication. What is the job candidate’s digital communication style? Do they maintain regular contact via email, instant messaging or other tools? It’s too easy for a remote worker to remain out of contact when they’re physically out of sight.
  • Tech know-how. A remote worker might need to cope with technology on their own rather than relying on IT support. So, how comfortable are they with installing, using and perhaps even fixing technology like videoconferencing platforms, messaging tools and business software?
  • Self-reliance. In many cases, remote workers are isolated. When they’re not in the physical presence of co-workers and no one else is around them during the workday, they might feel lonely or disconnected from the rest of the company. How will the job candidate respond to a lack of in-person interaction?

For more advice, visit the remote work information center on the website of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Step 5: How To Do A Background Check On A Remote Employee

After you’ve chosen the right candidate for the remote position, it’s time to do a background check for your new remote employee. To start, it’s a good idea to add an identity verification check to add an extra layer of security to the process.

A pre-employment background check provides information about a job candidate that might inform your hiring decision. This screening can turn up criminal convictions, vehicular violations, a bad credit history, or misrepresentation of work history or educational background, any of which could be disqualifying for your role, depending on your screening policy. Conducting a professional reference check as part of your screening program may provide valuable information about your candidate’s character and work experience as well.

When doing a pre-employment screening for a remote work position, be sure to follow all applicable laws and compliance best practices, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and any ban-the-box laws in your and your applicant’s local jurisdictions (state, county and city) that require eliminating questions about criminal history from job applications, among other provisions.

Step 6: How To Make An Offer To Hire A Remote Employee

After you’ve conducted a background check on your remote worker, you may be ready to make an offer to hire the remote employee. To ensure you’re picking the right person, consider instituting a probationary period, offering a paid trial period, or assigning a paid project as a way to further assess your candidate.

In addition, it’s wise to ask the job candidate to visit, by videoconference or phone, with people who’ll be working with that person. This will help determine whether the candidate is a good fit.

Furthermore, keep in mind that a remote worker normally enjoys more career options than a traditional worker does if their skills are in high demand. Why? They’re not tied down geographically. As such, you might need to beef up the salary, sweeten the benefits, or tweak the perks to entice the candidate to join your company.

Putting It All Together

The coronavirus pandemic has heightened interest in remote work among employers and employees. Going forward, more job candidates are bound to inquire during the interview process about a potential employer’s remote work policies. Those policies could tip the balance in terms of attracting and retaining talent.

As remote work becomes more mainstream, it’s imperative for employers to realize that hiring a remote worker isn’t the same as hiring an in-office worker. Therefore, employers should consider developing or revisiting policies about how they hire remote workers. Those policies should include guidelines about pre-employment screenings and remote onboarding, offered by companies like GoodHire. Plus, GoodHire’s mobile-optimized, candidate-friendly workflow provides a positive, respectful experience, makes it easy for applicants, and gives a good impression from the start. 

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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.