Hiring a remote employee can be a nerve-racking experience, especially if it's the first time you've added a remote member to your team. You may be well-versed in traditional interview strategies, but what happens when you're hundreds of miles away from your top prospect?
Below, six entrepreneurs share their top tips for making sure a remote job candidate will be an ideal fit for your team -- before you make the commitment of extending a job offer.
1. Consider whether the potential hire has been successful before
Remote work isn't a good fit for everyone, so Andy Karuza, founder of wireless parking sensor and app maker FenSens, recommends seeking out someone with a strong record of achievement in remote work situations.
"It's always good to hire remote workers who have demonstrable experience and success working remotely in the past," he says. "Some people simply can't handle working in an unstructured environment, so you need to get a clear idea of whether they have been able to do so before. When interviewing, focus on asking questions about their results and experience working remotely."
2. Understand how the candidate communicates
"Communication is not a new idea, but I don't see enough managers talking about communication style," says Nick Eubanks, founder and CEO of digital marketing and technical SEO agency I'm From the Future. Staying informed and engaged can be extra tough with a remote team, so it's crucial to evaluate the way your potential hire communicates.
"Understanding the style of your team's internal communication, and using this to create a rubric to define what an effective remote hire will look like, has been instrumental in scaling our offshore teams for research and data gathering," says Eubanks.
3. Use behavioral interviewing
Even if you conduct an interview through video chat, it can be hard to get a feel for how a potential employee will respond to real-life situations when you've never seen him or her in action. That's why Arian Radmand, CEO and president of concierge photo printing service TurnGram, suggests using behavioral questions in your interview.
"Behavioral interviewing is the best way I know to ensure good hires," he says. "This technique involves asking situation-based questions and having candidates give concrete examples of how they behaved in certain situations. It is next to impossible to fabricate a story from your past, especially when you drill down deep to get to the bottom of the situation. It's never failed me."
4. Consider a freelance contract first
If you're nervous about adding a team member you've never met in person, you may be able to put your concerns at ease by bringing on your prospect as a freelancer before offering a permanent position.
"I find one of the best ways to assess the qualities of a remote candidate is to hire them on a freelance basis," says Vik Patel, CEO of VPS hosting service Future Hosting. "Give them a substantial 'audition' project to complete. It will help you assess how reliable they are and how well they communicate. Afterward, you're free to hire them full time or go in a different direction."
5. Schedule a jam session
If hiring a remote employee on a trial basis doesn't feel like the right move, consider how you can loop your prospect in with the team to simulate a typical work environment. "We've found scheduling 'jam sessions' where multiple team members are working on the same project at once is a great way to strengthen our relationships and tackle work collaboratively," says Ross Beyeler, CEO of e-commerce consultancy Growth Spark.
"These are typically video calls where members are working at the same time but not necessarily on the same issue. A test session like this with a potential hire could be a great way to vet them," says Beyeler.
6. Stay true to your company culture
"While a remote employee may not contribute to daily interactions, their fit with the company's culture is just as critical," notes Amanda Elms, CEO and founder of genetic counseling solution Metis Genetics. After all, a strong culture has a huge impact on your team's overall success.
"Because remote employees don't have interoffice accountability, a strong cultural fit will naturally help maintain the team's synergy," adds Elms. "Require qualified candidates to speak with the existing team to obtain employee insight and gain team buy-in on the right candidate."