Recruiting talented professionals in one thing.

Finding and hiring qualified professionals who can work in a remote environment is another.

However, trying to recruit remote workers when you are working in a remote space can be the ultimate challenge for many organisations today. What does hiring look like when many companies are moving their staff off-site to comply with shelter-in-place orders? Are there different criteria to look for in remote workers as opposed to those who are on-site? And how can managers welcome new employees when everyone is staying home.

Here’s a quick guide to finding and hiring remote staff without meeting them in-person.

Where to find remote workers

Job search websites are one of the go-to places for posting open positions and attracting new employees. But this broad approach often results in too many resumes from less-than-stellar applicants. You also need to consider suitability for remote work and your corporate culture, which isn’t always easy to determine, even when you can spend time in the same room with candidates.

When you need remote workers quickly, try these other methods as well:

Specialised recruitment agencies

Contact a specialised recruitment company such as Robert Half. Finding the right fit, fast, for your open role — including remote positions — is our area of expertise, after all. Our talent pool includes highly skilled professionals who are capable of working remotely from anywhere.

Boomerang hires

Reach out to top talent who’ve left your company on good terms — people you know are disciplined and organised enough to work off-site and have the skill set you seek. It never hurts to call those past employees or send them a personalised email telling them about an enticing job opening. For those who have retired from your firm, it could be a good chance to busy themselves while at home for a long period. For those employed elsewhere, consider making your offer a step up from their current position.

Staff recommendations

Employee referrals are excellent ways of recruiting people who’d be a good fit for your organisation and for remote work. What’s more, a team member’s endorsement of your company is extra enticement for their friend or former colleague to accept your job offer.

Ideal skill set for virtual workers

Not everyone is cut out to work from home. You want employees who won’t need a lot of hand-holding or direct supervision. Here are six attributes of a solid remote employee:

Technical savvy — Obviously, your new hire should be very comfortable with common cloud-based software, as well as audio/video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting.

Digital security — They should also understand the importance of VPNs (virtual private networks), two-step/multi-factor authentication and other best practices for data privacy. Don’t let online security be a casualty of moving your team off-site.

Initiative — When reviewing applications and during interviews, look for self-starters. These are individuals who can see a need and then take the appropriate actions without having to be told what to do.

Problem solving — While working from home isn’t an every-person-for-themselves scenario, remote employees do need to take care of many things on their own. The ideal off-site worker knows how to troubleshoot an issue before escalating it.

Communication — In-person conversations have the advantages of body language and visual cues. Since so much communication while teleworking occurs via email, phone and instant message, look to hire those who can speak clearly, write unambiguously and listen carefully.

Collaboration — Even though everyone is off-site, your department and company still need to work together well and coalesce as a unit. In fact, a sense of collegiality is more important now than ever.

Practical interview questions for off-site staff

After reviewing resumes, you’re ready to meet with your short-listed candidates — virtually, of course.

It’s best to conduct interviews by video, not only so you can see how they present themselves, but also to gauge their equipment’s and bandwidth’s suitability for remote work. The following are possible additions to your list of interview questions:

  • 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 co-workers?
  • Tell me about the platforms you use (or have used) to collaborate with off-site colleagues.
  • What do you do to minimise 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?

Even though managing a remote workforce may not be what you had in mind for your company, this is the new normal for at least the short term.

Help your business overcome this latest challenge by hiring workers most likely to succeed in this environment and then fully integrating those new off-site employees into your team.