The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies across industries to “go remote” almost overnight. It was a challenging transition for many. But now, most of these businesses have adjusted to having all or most of their employees working remotely at least part of the time. They’re also seeing clear benefits from these arrangements, from increased worker productivity to reduced capital expenditures.

Many employers have been hiring workers remotely during the crisis, as well. Forty-four per cent of senior managers responding to a recent Robert Half survey said their organization had hired new full-time or temporary staff remotely during the pandemic. And 63% said their companies had conducted remote interviews and onboarding sessions.

If your business is new to hiring remote workers, how should you approach the process? First, where do you find these professionals? What types of skills should you look for in these workers? Also, when conducting interviews remotely, what types of questions should you ask candidates to assess whether they will thrive in a remote work situation?

Here’s some information on how to hire remote employees that can help you answer those questions:

Where to find remote workers

Job search websites are one of the go-to places for employers to post open positions and attract new employees. But a downside of this approach — in any economy — is the risk of being inundated with applications from job seekers who lack the skills you are seeking.

For a more strategic and efficient approach that is likely to help you connect with promising candidates for remote jobs faster, consider tapping the following resources:

Specialized staffing agencies

A specialized staffing firm like Robert Half can help you find job candidates whose skills and experience align with the criteria for your open role. Our talent pool includes millions of highly skilled professionals who are capable of working remotely from anywhere. And we have solutions, including the use of secure virtual workspaces, that enable remote workers to access necessary data and applications regardless of a company’s particular setup. 

Boomerang hires

Have you considered reaching out to employees who left your company on good terms? These are people you know are disciplined and organized enough to work off-site and have the skill set you seek. They are also familiar with your company’s mission and values, and other key elements that shape your unique corporate culture and drive how you operate.

It never hurts to call those past employees or send them a personalized email telling them about an enticing job opening. For those individuals who are currently employed elsewhere, consider making your offer a step up from their current position. And don’t overlook recent retirees: They can bring valuable skills and expertise to the table that can be hard to find elsewhere.

Your current team

Employee referrals can be a strong hiring tool for your business — whether you’re hiring workers for remote or on-site positions. It’s doubtful your team members would recommend people who aren’t likely to perform well at your firm, as a disappointing hire will reflect poorly on them.

Also, an employee’s endorsement of your company can be extra enticement for that person’s friend or former colleague to accept your job offer. That’s a big benefit when competing for in-demand talent.

Ideal skills and attributes for remote workers

Not everyone is cut out to work from home. You want to hire people for remote jobs who won’t need a lot of handholding or direct supervision. So, when considering how to hire remote workers for your business, be sure to think about the skills and attributes essential to success for those working virtually.

For example, look for candidates with initiative. You want self-starters who can see a need and then take the appropriate actions without having to be told what to do.

Related to that is a knack for problem solving. Your business should provide the appropriate resources to off-site workers to help them be successful, of course. But these employees should also be inclined to troubleshoot issues on their own.

Communication and collaboration abilities are musts for remote workers as well. These employees will need to use a range of tools to interact with their colleagues, including video, email, phone and instant messaging. So, look for candidates who can speak clearly, write unambiguously and listen attentively. And they must be able to work effectively with colleagues, no matter where they’re located, to deliver high-quality projects on time.

It almost goes without saying that your process for how to hire remote workers includes identifying professionals who are technically savvy. They should be very comfortable with using common cloud-based software and collaboration tools and audio and video conferencing platforms. They should also understand the importance of using virtual private networks (VPNs), two-step/multifactor authentication, and other best practices to help protect data and systems.

Interview questions for remote workers

After reviewing resumes and narrowing your list of candidates, your next step is to set up video interviews. Meeting candidates by video will allow you to see how they present themselves. You can also gauge whether they are set up with the basic equipment and connectivity to work from home seamlessly.

As for interview questions, consider asking potential remote hires some or all of the following:

  • What is your history of working remotely?
  • How do you stay focused and on-task when working from home?
  • How do you stay engaged and motivated over long periods without in-person interaction with coworkers?
  • Tell me about the platforms you use (or have used) to collaborate with off-site colleagues.
  • What do you do to minimize miscommunication in emails and instant messages?
  • What are the three attributes that make you an effective remote worker?
  • What are the greatest challenges of working off-site?
  • What is your approach to work-life balance when your job is remote?

The process for how to hire remote workers is likely different from what you may have done in the past to hire on-site team members. You will need to adjust your onboarding process for these workers, too. But overall, your hiring goals are the same. You want to recruit talented workers with the skills, attributes, experience and positive attitude to do their job well and add value to your organization. You also want to make sure they are set up for success.