For some companies, moving to a 100% remote model has been a necessity over the past few months. For others, it’s been a matter of preference. And for another handful of companies, it started as a necessity and grew into a matter of preference.
But no matter how or why your company has decided to go remote, you probably also know (or are realizing) that it involves overcoming a learning curve when it comes to best practices for running a remote company, maintaining a great remote culture, and hiring for remote roles. And if you’re an HR or hiring professional, the latter might be keeping you up at night — this article is for you.
Hiring someone you’ve never met in person can be scary— unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. Boldly has been conducting remote interviews and hiring for completely remote roles since 2012, and along the way, we’ve learned some great tips and tricks for how to spot incredible remote candidates and how to successfully implement a remote hiring process.
We’re big advocates in the remote space, and we want to see companies who use remote resources (like yours) succeed. So in this article, we’ll share our best tips for interviewing and hiring remote candidates.
(Just to build some street cred as a source: Boldly’s team tenure is around 5 years, we only hire .0001% of our applicants, and we’ve acquired consistent accolades on our team’s happiness and the strength of our culture.)
Here’s how we’ve found candidates that are both talented remote professionals, and great culture fits, and how you can do the same for your company.
Perfecting your remote interview process
Remote jobs are popular. You might be surprised just how much your application numbers increase when you are listing remote roles vs. local roles, not to mention the fact that you’ve opened up your geographic area quite substantially.
So while the remote interview process definitely needs to get personal and be unique down the road, you can start it as you would almost any other hiring process: by filtering out applications that don’t meet your initial mandatory criteria within an ATS (application tracking system).
Use automated video interview software
Once you’ve narrowed down the applications to everyone who meets your basic qualifications, many companies will start holding in-person interviews. However, because your application numbers have likely increased, (which in turn means you’d be performing many more interviews) we’d suggest implementing an automated video interview first.
By holding video interviews as the second stage of your process, you get a sense early on about how candidates compose themselves in a remote environment — after all video calls are likely to be a frequent part of your remote work culture. You can more quickly identify candidates who are not only a skill fit but potentially a personality and culture fit, as well as eliminating candidates you don’t believe are quite as good of a fit — which means ultimately less one-to-one interviews that you need to conduct.
Some of the initial things to look out for are:
- Have they made an effort to record the video interview in a professional-looking space and are they dressed appropriately for an interview – ie. are they taking this seriously?
- Are they able to communicate articulately?
- Do they answer the questions you have actually asked, and do they provide answers that are neither curt nor feature-length!?
There’s a variety of different software available for these automated interviews, so you’ll have to research to find which works best for your requirements and budget. In many of the programs, you can input your own unique questions for candidates, so be sure to spend some time identifying which questions in your interview process might work best to draw out a candidate’s personality.
Hold at least 2 person-to-person or person-to-team video interviews
Because you’re lacking some non-verbal communication, when conducting remote interviews it may be beneficial to implement one or two more rounds of interviews than you’d normally do. For example, if your top candidates usually only meet with you (HR) and then leadership, add an extra interview step where they meet with their potential team members. If they normally only meet with HR, introduce them to leadership on a call as well.
Because your candidates are remote, you want as many opportunities as possible to get to know them, and observe the way they present themselves. With remote candidates, it’s helpful to have as many opinions as possible from people within your organization that agree (or disagree) this candidate would be a good fit.
Checking references helps you to know whether or not your candidate can really perform at the level you believe they can, and whether or not they hold the personality traits and attributes you want in your remote employees (which we’ll dive into further in the sections below).
This leads us to our next important point.
Finding out their ‘why’ for wanting a remote position
One of the things we’ve discovered to be a big indicator of who will be a successful remote candidate is that they have a strong why behind why they’re seeking a remote position.
For example, many of our team members at Boldly are mothers, fathers, military spouses, caregivers, professionals trying to ditch their 3-hour round-trip commute, etc. They have some personal need for seeking remote work that indicates they have thoroughly thought through their decision to go remote, and also are more likely to appreciate a remote role and be more easily retained.
So, when conducting remote interviews simply ask the candidate: Why do you want to work remotely?
If it’s obvious your candidate hasn’t given serious thought to what it means to work 100% remote and hasn’t thoroughly contemplated whether or not it will be a good move for them, be wary. If you get answers such as:
- I just want to ‘try remote work’ because it sounds cool
- I don’t want to put my children in daycare (for full-time roles)
- I like working in my pajamas
- I want a laid-back job
Then it’s possibly not going to be a great long-term fit. Many professionals who go remote without any strong why can end up missing the camaraderie and socialization of an office, and ultimately look to go back.
Look for these personality traits/attributes
You might be wondering, are there certain personality traits that make a great remote candidate? In our experience, the answer is yes. Being successful in a remote role takes a certain set of unique skills and traits that are easily identifiable in potential candidates.
Here are our top skills to look for:
Strong time management, focus, and efficiency
Remote work comes with its share of distractions. Sometimes it’s the mailman (or the dog barking at the mailman) sometimes it’s snacks in the kitchen 3 feet away or the laundry that needs to be folded or the dishwasher that needs to be unloaded.
Therefore, in order to be successful, a remote candidate really needs to prove they have advanced time management skills and can exercise the ability to focus and use their time efficiently in their own space.
You could look for clues from past projects or positions — did they finish projects on time? Did their references from other employers mention these traits? Were they frequently off-topic and long-winded during the interview process?
Spotting any red flags could mean that the candidate may not be their most successful working in a remote role, and would benefit from finding an in-person office position as well where they have more oversight and less distractions to help keep them on track.
A proactive attitude
Proactivity is potentially the most important trait you want to hire for in remote employees. For the most part, remote roles require an increased level of autonomy and there is less direct supervision day-to-day. You need to hire someone who will speak up if they’re experiencing any issues, if they see a better or more efficient way to do something, or if stuck on a project or task.
Professionalism and awareness of tone in online communications (email, chat, etc.)
Obviously, if you’re going to be working in a 100% remote capacity, you need to have excellent communication skills on remote platforms. Pay attention to your candidate’s emails, chats texts, or how they perform on video interviews. Are they clear and concise? Or when you’re conducting remote interviews, is their mood and tone obvious to you as a listener? Do you understand the intention behind what they say? These are all great things to look for to help you determine whether or not the candidate will be successful in communicating with clients, colleagues, or partners in their remote role.
Steadiness and dependability
At Boldly, we take the approach of hiring trustworthy, dependable reliable team members because we don’t believe in micromanagement or keeping our remote workers on a time clock. Instead of focusing on whether or not someone is active or quick to respond ‘online’ we focus on performance and results in one’s positions. We’ve found this approach to be more effective in that it fosters trust and allows our team space to do their jobs in a way that works best for them.
Of course, for this to work, you need to hire for dependability. Ask references, does this person have a dependable personality? Do they do what they say they’re going to do and deliver on their promises?
You also want to look at stability as it relates to your role. For example, because our team at Boldly normally works a set bucket of hours with their clients, they need to be available during those hours. Therefore (even though we’re fully remote) digital nomad professionals who are hopping continents every few weeks aren’t a good fit for our roles.
So, even though you’re going to be location-independent and perhaps even flexible with hours, if you have any constraints do divulge that information to your candidates and be sure they can meet them.
Quick to learn and grasp new concepts quickly
For almost every role that involves some aspect of remote work, there are probably close to 50 different online tools and software that can be used. For remote employees, it’s important that they can quickly learn and adapt to new software and technologies that your team might implement, and that they are aware of (and preferably proficient in) the most popular types of tools for their industry. When you’re conducting remote interviews, ask candidates which tools they already use.
Find out how the employee would structure their day
Any veteran remote employee will tell you the key to their success is: Structure.
Remote work without structure can become a disaster. Waking up every morning and ‘winging it’ doesn’t work well in basically any job role. Most roles require planning, organization, and strategy.
In a remote setting, this is especially relevant, as the structure of hours, location, etc. are swept away, and it’s up to each employee to create their own structure. It might be more flexible than one has in an office, and that’s totally fine, but there should be some set time blocks in place for when your employee will be working.
This works in two ways: it ensures the employee has a plan for working hours, and it also keeps them from potentially burning out. It can be tempting for remote employees to hop in their office after working hours are over to answer that one email or finish that one task when they normally would not have done so in the office. This, unfortunately, if repeated too much, can lead to burnout which will bring on lower productivity, focus, and a lack of engagement.
Ask your candidates to give you a timestamped overview about how (roughly) they would plan to spend their days, and (if the role is flexible) what hours they would plan to be online.
Try subscription staffing through a professional remote recruiting and staffing firm
If you’re trying to fill key roles in your newly-remote company, but you are hesitant about your ability to quickly find, hire and integrate remote employees, there is a simpler solution to hiring them yourself: Subscription Staffing.
Boldly has vast experience in vetting, screening, conducting remote interviews and hiring remote employees. Instead of posting jobs, sorting through resumes, and learning all the aspects of remote compliance and retainment strategies on your own, you simply tell Boldly what you’re looking for, and you are matched with someone with a matter of days who meets all of your qualifications and criteria (98% of our matches decide to work together after the first call).
You won’t just save time on the recruitment process either, as Boldly actually takes the pain out of hiring as well.
All of Boldly’s US-based team members are W2 employees and Boldly provides them with benefits, handles all HR, compliance, and nexus issues and focuses on retaining our talent, so you can enjoy working with them for the long term. When you decide to work with a member of the Boldly team, you’ll pay a simple monthly subscription that includes the pay for your team member, and all of the services mentioned above (there are no additional or startup costs).
Currently, the roles offered by Boldly’s subscription staffing solution are executive assistance, marketing, project management, bookkeeping, and legal assistance. So if you’re looking for remote candidates for any of those roles, click here for more information on how to get started.
There are great remote employees out there
As we’ve seen time and time again at Boldly, great remote employees are out there — you just have to know how to spot them, and how to go about conducting remote interviews effectively. It takes time and practice to hire successfully for remote roles, and if you need someone quickly and efficiently there are solutions like Boldly that can help.
So, be confident that the switch to remote work can be a positive one for everyone involved. We wish you the best of luck!
Updated on June 15th, 2020