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WFH? How to Hire the Best Remote Employees

Remote work is on the rise and it's beneficial to both employees and businesses. It's also changing the way companies recruit workers.

By: Erik J. Martin, Contributor
 Woman in home office
Finding workers who can be productive when not in the office requires a different way of hiring. — Getty Images/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

The number of U.S. employees working from home is on the rise. The good news is that a remote work arrangement can be a win-win for employers and employees alike. The challenge is in recruiting people you can trust to get the job done off-site.

Out of sight, top of mind

Consider that, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24% of full-time employed workers spent some time working from home in 2017, up from 22% in 2016. A more recent study by IWG shows that, globally, seven out of 10 employees work a minimum of one day a week somewhere other than the office, and 11% work outside their company's main office site five times a week. Hiring managers polled by Upwork last year predict that 38% of their full-time, permanent employees will primarily work remotely over the next decade.

Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, says hiring remote employees makes good business sense.

“Companies with remote workforces see reduced turnover, improved productivity, reduced real estate and operating costs, a lowered carbon footprint, and more satisfied workers,” says Reynolds. “And, for small businesses, hiring at-home workers allows them to expand into new territories without opening up expensive offices and tap into new candidate pools to find the best talent, regardless of location.”

David Reischer, attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com, can vouch for the effectiveness of employing remote workers. He’s hired 18 of them since 2014 and has no regrets.

“As a small business owner in New York City, where commercial real estate is super expensive, it makes a lot of sense to hire workers who don’t take up a significant amount of office space. A sales team of 15 people in a crowded office in a big city is a huge expense, but a sales team that works remotely provides the same benefit at virtually no cost,” notes Reischer. “Plus, a remote worker can be much more productive if they’re given the proper leadership.”

Companies with remote workforces see reduced turnover, improved productivity, and more satisfied workers.

Casting your net

Make no mistake: Attracting qualified candidates can be tricky.

“A big challenge is where to find high-quality remote talent,” says Reynolds. “Small businesses need to know how and where to pinpoint those hires. Rather than spending hours sifting through hundreds of applications from traditional job boards, you may find a higher yield of candidates on smaller and more niche sites.”

Among the most popular are Remote.co, WorkingNomads, Outsourcely, and FlexJobs.

Before posting a remote employee job listing, carefully scrutinize the skills and qualities you strongly value for this position, and underscore the benefits.

“Stress that the person needs a strong work ethic, even when not supervised,” says Reischer.

Vladimir Gendelman, founder/CEO of Company Folders, says it’s crucial that your job posting is detailed so the applicant has a clear understanding of what the position entails and the perks of working for you.

“Be sure to include highlights about your company to entice them to work for you. Offer benefits appealing to remote employees, such as flexible hours, too,” says Gendelman.

To further appeal to worthy talent, suggest how your remote work position can lead to better job satisfaction. For example, play up the findings of a recent FlexJobs survey, which show that an employee’s top benefits of working remotely are:

  • Fewer distractions (chosen by 75% of respondents)
  • Fewer interruptions from colleagues (74%)
  • Reduced stress from commuting (71%)
  • Minimal office politics (65%)
  • Quieter noise level (60%)

In addition, don’t shortchange your remote employee compensation package just because they’re saving you overhead dollars.

“Remote labor should not equal cheap labor. Expect to do your market research to pay a fair wage,” says Melissa Smith, a remote work consultant and author of the book “Hire the Right Virtual Assistant.”

Making the cut

To winnow your list of prospects, give partiality to those with previous remote work experience and who can demonstrate off-site productivity.

“Be sure to screen candidates not just for their ability to do a job but their ability to do it remotely,” Reynolds advises. “Also, look for candidates who are excellent digital communicators via email, chat and videoconferencing and who have strong skills with independent work, time management and organization.”

When you’re ready to interview, be flexible with aspirants living far afield from your base of operations.

“The expense of flying people around the country or even the world can be too high for many small businesses to pay,” says Tamica Sears, senior human resources business partner for USA Today and owner of Sears Coaching.

Instead, she recommends conducting video interviews with worthy prospects whenever possible. “If you feel that you can trust this person to work outside of your office and have impactful working relationships, isn’t it sending a counterproductive message to say that they need to visit the office to meet you before they are hired?”

Many experts advocate a multi-step interview process.

“Have three to four steps, including a test and a second interview. This will make potential employees feel more vested in the company, and it opens up communication between all parties,” says Gendelman.

To help seal the deal with your top choice, assure the finalist that he or she will be a prized member of your team.

“Accentuate that you treat all your employees equally. Demonstrate how you’ll give them ownership of their work and make them feel valued,” Gendelman added, “and make sure your company culture inspires collaboration between in-house and remote workers to emphasize that everyone is part of the same squad and working toward a common goal.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published February 25, 2019

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