How to Hire Remote Workers – A Guide for Small and Medium-Sized​ Businesses

The process of hiring remote workers is different from traditional hiring in several respects. There are more variables and more strategies you can use to find the best candidate. We’ve interviewed different business owners and hiring managers to find the best strategies. This article provides a practical four-step guide for sourcing and hiring the best remote talent.

There are many proven business benefits to having a remote workforce if you have a small to medium-sized company. Many solopreneurs find that once their business grows, it becomes difficult to cope with their tasks, so they start thinking about hiring staff to help them. But the traditional hiring process can be tedious, and it often limits you to local talent. Hiring remote workers is the easiest way to grow your company from solo to team.

This article is packed with tips and ideas to help you grow from a solo entrepreneur to a remote team manager. It’s not a definitive process, and you don’t need to follow it step by step but can use the ideas to streamline your operations.

Why Hire a Remote Team Instead of a Traditional One? 

Traditional hiring usually follows a tried and trusted method, even if you accept its limitations. To hire remote workers, you should adopt a more specific mode of recruitment. Why? Primarily because you will get a lot more applicants, and these applications will be far more varied.

One major benefit of hiring remotely is access to a much wider talent pool. You’re not limited by geography, and the applicants can come from anywhere. That means a broader spectrum of perspectives, skills, experiences, attitudes, and expectations (including salary expectations). It’s easy to picture the best fit for a fixed office environment, but distributed teams are advantageous because there is no definitive archetype.

More applicants are a good thing, but make sure you also have time-saving strategies to separate the possible candidates from the ones you definitely want to eliminate. Try to use avenues that can get your job post out to the right candidates. While you have access to a broader talent pool, this talent pool has access to a wider and greater volume of jobs. Move through the steps in this article, and you’ll see how subtleties can have a significant influence on the hiring process.

Step 1 – Define Your Offer

Defining what you offer and what you want is the essential first step in hiring anyone. Hire remote workers, and you need to provide more information.

Define Your Exact Needs

Remember, access to a wider talent pool means access to more varied skills, experiences, and expectations. So what do you really need? Fine-tune the job requirements and be specific as much as you can, either in terms of the skills the job demands or the previous experience you seek. Dig into the job specification, and don’t be afraid to get technical. Specific job details will also make it easier for you to sift applications later on.

Focus on Remote Skills

Specific skills are essential for remote working, and these will probably be front and central to what you need. Focus on these skills in the job specification as they separate what makes a great office worker and a great remote worker. Make sure the applicant has excellent:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Organisation
  • Accountability

Describe Your Company and Remote Working Culture

Every job post provides some information about the employer, but in the case of remote working, you have to offer candidates details about your remote working culture instead of presenting the company’s offices. Where are the team members based? How do you communicate and collaborate? Are the working hours fixed or flexible? Answer all these questions clearly in the job description.

Providing more information will help the candidates decide if the job is right for them. Showcasing your remote culture helps candidates see how they will fit in. Zapier is a 100% remote company and has some great resource examples that you can use for inspiration.

Step 2 – Get Strong Remote Candidates to Apply

There’s a global talent pool, but how do you access them? Have a good online presence to attract strong candidates. However, like with any job posting, you need a mechanism for broadening your scope.

Post a Job on Search Remotely

Search Remotely is a leading platform for remote jobs. It’s almost unique in having an absolute focus on remote jobs. Candidates use Search Remotely because they don’t need to filter or search for remote jobs – they trust that everything on the job board is remote. The platform is used by the likes of Zapier, Red Hat, Shopify, and Oracle to find remote workers.

Posting a job on Search Remotely will give you access to candidates who specifically seek remote work, not just candidates who like the idea of working remotely. You’re more likely to find candidates with the necessary core skills and experience working in remote teams.

Target Your Search

A Search Remotely job post will reach over 250k+ talented remote workers, be emailed to over 50k+ remote job seekers, and be shared on Search Remotely’s social media pages. This is already a highly targeted mode of recruitment, as you’re reaching out to a global audience of remote job seekers.

A basic job post costs US $69, and monthly subscriptions are available. This fee will make your job a featured job on the homepage and in the job alerts newsletter. You can also make use of copywriting support to improve the job listing.

Search Remotely is not the only method you can use. Consider targeting your job post on specific social media groups. For example, if you want a remote designer, you can find a Facebook group for remote designers. You can also use your existing remote team to share your job – with a distributed team, you can already reach many potential candidates.

Step 3 – Filter and Pre-Screening

The good news is that you will receive a lot of applications. If you don’t, then you probably haven’t followed step one or two. Tech giant Stripe recently created a new engineering hub that is 100% remote so that it can tap into the “99.74% of talented engineers living outside our first four hubs.” Your remote job is potentially suitable to 1000x more people than the same job based in one of your offices. This can mean 1000x more applicants, so try to separate the very good from the average quickly.

Reject Unqualified Candidates Quickly

If you don’t reply, you’ll only be bombarded with requests for updates and information. Write a simple rejection email and fire it out to all the unqualified candidates. In any hiring scenario, a candidate has very little time to impress you. This is magnified when you hire a remote worker.

As with any job application, you need some basic criteria to help you compare candidates objectively. You will only have time to glance at applications, and yes, some may slip through the net. In some cases, you will need to go with your gut to separate applicants. You can dig deeper into their experience and skills later in the process; for now, it’s just a yes or no.

Screen Potential Candidates With Tasks

Most hiring managers and business managers now add a job-related task. This should not be overly time-consuming for the applicant. Make it evident that this isn’t your way of getting work for free, and be realistic about how much time you have to judge these tasks. It’s often the simplest of tasks that can best illustrate skills and character.

A task can be a specific question via email. It can be a technical task based on job requirements. You can also ask screening questions that enable candidates to provide specific examples of their previous work. Another option is to use pre-employment assessment software, such as that provided by Harver. These are short questionnaires that can evaluate essential skills, such as communication.

Screening Potential Candidates For Your Culture and Values

As an alternative or complementary strategy, consider screening candidates based on your company and remote working culture. To do this, translate your culture and values into a set of assessment questions. Even make it a big scary long survey, because unsuitable applicants should be turned off now, so you don’t waste your time interviewing somebody who isn’t fully vested in joining.

Usually, it’s not about whether a candidate is right or not, but if they’re an excellent fit for your organisation. So if part of your culture is always be learning, ask a question like, “what have you learned in the last year?” Include one key question that you assess first, even if the questionnaire is a long one. This make-or-break question will be a rapid method for filtering applicants.

Step 4 – Interviews and Final Steps

Hopefully, you’re now down to a selection of strong candidates. Conducting interviews can be really time-consuming, so when the shortlist remains a long-list, you may need to revisit step 3 and filter applicants a little further.

Video Interviews – Tips and Tricks

Remote working means video interviews, and this has several benefits. By using an application such as Zoom, you can record interviews. This saves you from taking lots of notes, and the ability to rewatch an interview may be the difference between a bad and good hire.

Good internet connection, webcam, and microphone are essential tools for working remotely, so an interview gives you the chance to see how the candidate operates them. If an applicant can’t be professional and presentable on a video interview, they are not suitable for a remote team.

When interviewing candidates, limit background noise and have good connectivity, just like you would do with any virtual meeting. Be proactive in making the candidate feel at home (even though they are actually at home).

  • Speak a little slower than usual – tone and pace will help to calm nervous candidates.
  • Turn off background apps and alerts – a candidate will see when your eyes start darting around or be put off by the sound of any alert.
  • Sit still – it can be daunting speaking to a screen, but it’s even more daunting speaking to a figure that continually shifts around.
  • Take more time to introduce yourself and any other interviewer – candidates can’t get an impression from your office, so help them along by being transparent about who you are.
  • Explain the interview process before you start – this is best practice for any interview but can easily be missed in a video context.
  • Be professional and personable – this is also easy to forget in a video context. A good interviewee remembers to smile, sustains eye contact, and nods to show they’re following.

Consider a Paid Test Week

After interviewing, you may be down to a couple of candidates. Hire remote workers, and you have more flexibility with what to do next. The candidate doesn’t need to relocate. If the candidate is available, they can start working from wherever they are. So consider a paid test week.

This is the best way to ascertain if the candidate is both good for the job and good for your organisation. Taking this time to onboard a new employee can cost a week in salary, but that’s a lot less than the challenge of hiring the wrong person.

It may not be possible for applicants to accept a paid test week due to their existing work requirements. You can also consider a paid freelance project, a small project that can help you judge the candidate’s suitability.

Final Interview

Before signing contracts, be honest and open about any conditions. It’s best to do this face to face, via a final interview. The candidate will have questions and expectations, plus you need to start collaborating from day one, so another interview is great for becoming better acquainted. 


Article in Partnership with Search Remotely