Today's smart entrepreneurs are tapping into an enormous source of labor potential--the remote worker.

The problem of obtaining top talent has always been a tough one. Persuading an exceptional worker to uproot from a distant locale and join your startup is time-consuming and expensive. Startups simply don't have the luxury of time or extra expenses.

Enter remote workers. Without the encumbrance of geographical proximity, you can get the exact type of worker for your specific need.

Remote working is one of the trends that is shaping the labor landscape. Companies are increasingly adopting a remote approach to their business, letting their employees work from home. Employees, on the other hand, are strategizing ways to work from home, land mobile gigs, and stay focused in the home office.

The wonder solution of remote workers has introduced a new conundrum. How do you find and hire these people?

1 Know where to find them.

Quick, what's the first thing you do to source a remote worker?

Many employers will draw a blank to this question. Some might reply "Craigslist!"

What's the right answer? In the first place, the "right answer" depends on what kind of worker you need.

Craigslist may indeed be the solution. Although it's free, it may not have the laser-like focus needed to find a specific worker in a narrow niche. Today's remote workers know where to find the best gigs, and the endless "work from home!" offers on Craigslist usually aren't the best.

Here are six of my go-to sourcing solutions:

  1. Your blog. Your readers often comprise your best candidate pool. They are familiar with your business or product, and interested in what you have to say.
  2. WeWorkRemotely.com requires a $200 posting fee, but features jobs that are 100% remote. Most of the jobs are for programmers, designers, and customer service.
  3. ProBlogger is for writing positions only. You can find great content writers, blog writers, and other qualified remote applicants to create copy.
  4. FlexJobs provides listings for part-time, contract, and freelance work.
  5. WorkingNomads services remote workers who have capitulated to wanderlust, but still need an income. You're likely to find highly-qualified workers, even if they are working from a South Pacific beachside cabana.
  6. SkiptheDrive.com allows you to list a wide variety of jobs in virtually any industry. Everything must be remote.

2. Understand and target the right behavioral issues.

As you interview potential candidates, it's important to understand their behavioral approach. It's particularly important to understand why they work remote, how they work remote, and their future plans.

Your specific needs will shape the type of questions you ask, but try to get an insight into their remote working habits. An experienced remote worker knows how to get work done effectively and on time. Someone who is merely starstruck by the prospect of working from home will not exhibit the same level of behavioral commitment.

3. Know exactly what you're looking for.

As with any job, you need to define what precisely it is you want from a remote worker. Remote workers, like any other employee, need a clear set of expectations and open communication.

The more explicit you are about your target candidate, the better you'll be able to find him.

4. Contracts, not employees.

Many remote workers aren't ready to take the plunge into full-fledged employeeship. They find that maintaining several work contracts is more engaging, more profitable, and more rewarding.

Not only are contracts often more appealing, but they are also less complicated and expensive. Hiring an employee requires more management, accounting, and HR load, whereas a contract employee is fairly straightforward. If you wish, you can take a hybrid approach such as contract-to-hire.

5. Offer perks.

Today's discerning remote worker easily distinguishes between a useless offer and a good one.

With more companies hiring remote workers, it's not enough of a draw to let them work from home. For the superstars, that's a given. Since working from home is not itself a perk, then what makes the offer more attractive?

I advise against offering a new computer as a perk. Chances are, the remote worker whom you're targeting has what she needs. Here are some perk ideas that innovative companies are using to attract location-independent employees

  • A nice office chair, such as an Aeron
  • Starbucks credit. Since remote workers are known to lurk for long hours in coffee shops, this is particularly appealing.
  • Book credit. Investing in your worker's knowledge is a win-win perk.
  • Health club membership or fitness tracking device (Jawbone Up, FitBit, etc.). Contributing toward your worker's health is a solution that dispenses benefits both ways.
  • Paid time off. Some companies don't provide PTO for remote workers, but this can be detrimental. Contract workers feel the need to be constantly logging billable hours, so giving them some valuable time off is a smart move.
  • Vacation credit. In addition to providing vacation time, some companies offer $1,000 or more to fund the employee's vacation.

A carefully chosen perk or two can invite more applicants from the ranks of experienced remote workers, which improves your hiring odds.

6. Use multiple interview methods.

There are several ways to conduct interviews in a virtual setting. You can do email interviews, phone interviews, or Skype interviews. I suggest all three.

Here's why. Differing approaches can highlight the candidate's different skillsets. An email, for example, showcases the worker's ability to respond in a timely way and to write coherent content. The phone call demonstrates verbal ability. The video interview can help transmit the candidate's personality and cultural fit.

Even though you are working with a remote worker, you need not make the interview feel distant. The more methods of contact that you use, the higher likelihood you have of making the right hiring decision.

Final thoughts

The right workers are out there. Finding them is the challenge.

The problem isn't that the candidates options are limited. In fact, it's the opposite issue. There are typically more candidates than there are positions, but fewer qualified candidates.

Developing a clear strategy for acquiring remote talent is the best way to get the right workers for your business.

What is your approach for hiring remote workers?

Published on: Aug 6, 2015