How to Hire Remote Employees for Your Virtual Team

Illustration of a woman chatting with four other people within a video call through her desktop

The world of work is changing.

Even long before COVID-19 took hold, more and more companies were moving to a remote workforce, largely because it’s more cost-effective, it provides access to a global talent pool, and it leads to happier, more productive employees.

And the thing is: people want to work from home. In fact, 99% of respondents in Buffer’s 2019 ‘State of Remote Work’ survey said they’d like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.

Remote work, as Buffer boldly states, isn’t a trend. It’s here to stay.

This means one thing: companies need to adapt their business models if they don’t want to risk losing top talent to competitors.

Whether your company has decided to shift to a virtual team, or you simply need a refresher course on the basics, this guide will walk you through the steps you need to take to successfully recruit and hire remote workers.

1. Determine the type of remote situation you’re hiring for

First things first, you need to determine the type of remote situation you’re hiring for.

Will your team be fully remote, working from the comfort of their homes on a permanent basis? Or will they have a flexible work-from-home schedule and have to visit the office a couple of days a week?

Understanding the company’s goals here will help you sieve through applications and filter out those that don’t fit the job requirements. For example, if employees will need to visit the office regularly, even if it’s just to meet clients, then you’ll want to search for talent locally – after all, it will be unreasonable to expect employees who live abroad to fly back and forth every few days, not to mention it will be a logistical nightmare.

2. Figure out what time zones you’ll be hiring in

The beauty of hiring remote employees is that you can access a global pool of talent, which is particularly useful if there’s a local skills shortage. However, this does present a bit of a problem in that applicants will come from different time zones.

If you hire someone in the same or similar time zone your company is based in, it will make cross-team collaboration easier, whether it’s arranging a video call, sharing work documents, using your in-house communication software or sending an email that requires an urgent response. Things become more complex, however, when your remote workforce is located in different time zones around the globe.

If this isn’t an issue, though, and if employees will be given a more flexible work schedule and won’t need to be online at the same time, then hiring across different time zones will be more of a blessing than a curse. Not only will your company benefit from a global talent pool, but there will also be a steadier output of work.

3. Create a candidate profile

The next step is figuring out the specific characteristics and skills you want potential remote employees to possess, and then creating a candidate profile (essentially a list of must-haves and good-to-haves), which will come in handy when writing the job description (more on that next).

Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for someone to do the job – you’re looking for someone who can do the job remotely. This means they need an additional skillset that proves they’ll succeed in a virtual position.

Some things to look out for include:

  • Good time management skills
  • The ability to work autonomously
  • Excellent teamwork skills
  • Tech-savviness
  • Excellent communication skills
  • A keen sense of organisation
  • Previous remote work experience

4. Write an effective job description

Now that you have a clear picture of what the ideal candidate should look like, it’s time to put pen to paper (or, rather, hand to keyboard) and craft a job description that will get noticed by the right candidates.

A good place to start is to look at job descriptions for similar remote positions at other companies and figure out what differentiates your company from the competition. With this at the back of your mind, you’ll be able to put together a description that not only stands out from the crowd but also integrates the company’s vision, brand messaging and tone of voice.

The job description should provide a clear outline of the position’s responsibilities and a list of requirements so that applicants know exactly what to expect. It’s a good idea to involve the people who are directly related to the job (like the manager that the new employee will be reporting to) in preparing the job description, as they will be able to offer a more insightful look into the position you’re hiring for.

5. Post your ad in all the right places

You naturally want your ad seen by the right people. And the best way to achieve this is by posting your vacancy in all the right places - specifically, job boards dedicated to remote job opportunities.

Some of the best websites to advertise your remote job opening include:

Meanwhile, you could post your ad on job boards dedicated to remote working in specific niches. This ensures only candidates with the right skills, experience and qualifications apply for the job, saving you valuable time sifting through unsuitable applications.

Here are a few niche remote job boards to try out:

6. Invite the best candidates to a video interview

With the help of ATS software, your applicant pool will be quite shallow, and all that’s left to do now is invite the shortlisted candidates to a video interview, whether it’s on Skype, Zoom or whatever video conferencing software you prefer. That said, don’t discount in-person interviews entirely. If at all possible, you should still try to arrange a face-to-face meeting with local candidates.

Meanwhile, make sure you ask candidates the right questions, whether you conduct an in-person or a video interview. Out of the thousands of interview questions you could ask potential hires, there are a few that you may want to add to your repertoire when interviewing remote candidates, including:

  • Do you have experience working remotely?
  • How do you work alone?
  • Will you be able to stay motivated without an in-person supervisor?
  • How do you manage your time and stay organised?
  • What’s the key to making sure a project is successful when working remotely?

7. Administer a test

You, of course, want to make sure you’re hiring the right people - whether it’s for a remote or an on-site position. A bad hire, after all, can be expensive, with an estimated price tag of $14,900.

A great way to avoid wasting resources is to ask candidates to complete a test. This will help you assess their ability to not only do the job but also how they’ll handle working remotely, and ultimately make a more informed hiring decision.

The test you give potential employees can be done before or after an interview, or even during the interview (just make sure to inform candidates beforehand). For example, if you’re hiring a coder, you could use screen-sharing software to test applicants, giving you the unique opportunity to gauge their coding skills and probe their thought process in real-time.

Whether you pay candidates to complete the test is entirely up to you and your company’s budget, though they will certainly appreciate being compensated for their time, particularly if it’s a complex task.

8. Check references

Checking references is a crucial part of an effective hiring process. After all, you want to be certain that candidates tick all the right boxes, beyond an impressive CV and a successful interview, before making a job offer. And a gleaming testimonial from managers, colleagues and even clients vouching for the candidate’s skills and work ethic can go a long way when you’re tasked with making a hiring decision.

That said, don’t solely rely on written references. Although they do offer insights into a candidate’s suitability for the role and fitness within the company’s culture, as well as act as a written record, they’re usually generic (often starting with ‘To whom it may concern’) and quite easy for jobseekers to fabricate. As such, always make it a point to personally call the references that candidates provide you – it’s one thing to read about how fantastic a candidate is, and quite another to actually hear it.

When checking references, be sure to ask remote work-specific questions, as this will help you determine how well a candidate will perform on the job. If the candidate doesn’t have any remote experience, though, it’s a good idea to probe their soft skills, like communication and collaboration, that are essential for any remote job.

The process of hiring remote employees is quite different from that of hiring on-site employees, but your goal is the same: finding the right candidate. And these tips will help you do just that, whether you’re hiring a single employee or an entire virtual team.

What is your process for hiring remote employees? Got a question or want to share your thoughts and experiences? Join the conversation below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!