Hiring remote employees isn’t dramatically different to hiring in-house staff, but there are a few nuances that only come with experience.
At Memory, 50% of our team now works remotely and we couldn’t be a happier bunch. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing; after a few false starts, we had to adjust our remote employee recruitment process to make sure we only took on those who could actually hack remote life. Here are a few pointers for other teams looking to do the same.
How to structure a remote interview
While you will probably hold most of your interviews over the phone and via Zoom, you’ll likely still follow a traditional interview structure:
- Screen for experience
- Interview for skills, personal background and motivations
- Set an evaluation task to demonstrate expertise and approach
- Interview for cultural fit and team compatibility
- Get your team’s feedback
- Come to a decision
However, you should always try to meet as many serious contenders in-person as possible, to get a good gauge of how they interact and approach communication. We’ve found lunch meetings with remote candidates to be really useful for this; they provide a relaxed, neutral setting to talk and interact with the team.
NOTE: interview tasks for remote candidates act as mini examples of how you might actually work together in real life. Take note of how the candidate understands the task, presents their work and communicates throughout. If they’re unsure of something but choose to just shoot off in the wrong direction anyway, they might not be a natural fit for remote work.
Qualities we look for in remote workers
Being great at what you do on its own doesn’t cut it in the remote world. To be certain a candidate is actually ready for remote working, we always screen for these ancillary skills:
Good remote communication isn’t just about understanding the appropriate for a specific communication. To work effectively with the rest of your team, remote workers need to be intentional and active with their communication. It may seem transactional, but those who clearly communicate what they know, what they need and when they can deliver will likely thrive.
Initiative and flexibility
Remote workers need to have tenacious initiative to overcome the visibility issues that come with distance. If you’re based in another time zone from the bulk of your team, you’ll frequently need to problem solve alone and build creatively in the absence of certain pieces of information. You simply can’t stay involved, fill informational blanks or work to priorities without good initiative and a flexible approach to task management.
Motivated by your company
Sustained motivation is an important quality for every remote employee. We often think of this in terms of a productive work ethic, but it’s also really important to ensure remote workers are actually motivated to work for your company. Remote working isn’t just about enabling people to create their ideal lifestyle set-up; they should also want to invest deeply in what you do and have ideas to help build its future.
Interview questions for remote workers
Always tailor interview questions to reflect the specific nature of your team and company set-up. As a guide, here are a few of the interview questions we use to work out if they have the necessary skills for remote work.
1. Experience with remote environments
How do you like to work best? What does “remote work” look like for you? What do you do outside of work? What worries you about remote work?
WHY? To see if they are suited for an independent, self-directed and often lonely work set-up.
2. Self-management & collaboration
How would you schedule your day? What are the most important tools for remote working? Do you prefer to work independently and then sync with others, or work back-and-forth together?
WHY? To understand how they would structure their work and integrate into team workflows.
How do you stay motivated and on-task? Why do you want to work remotely? What excites you about working with us?
WHY? To make sure they’re actually into YOU, not just the freedom of the remote lifestyle.
How would you deal with a problem that arose while your team was offline? How do you like to work with teams on tasks? How would you get the information you needed for your work?
WHY? To understand how they like to process and organise information in the absence of direct contact.
Do you think communication is any different when working remotely? How would you handle not having face-to-face communication? How would you stay engaged with the rest of the team?
WHY? To see if they’ve considered the implications of indirect team contact and how they would communicate to overcome them.