Hiring and managing individuals who work remotely presents unique challenges that underscore the success or failure of a decentralized business. Today’s question comes from a business owner wondering how to hire better despite these potential issues.
I’d like to ask you a question from the other side of the desk – a hiring manager’s prospective. I run a home-based business and hire employees that are all over the US. My interviewing is done virtually by email and telephone. I’ve worked with several individuals for years I’ve never met in person. Can you give me any tips on how to more effectively hire and monitor success of these remote employees?
Technology has made it so that we can work daily with colleagues we never see face to face. It facilitates business activities but can make the process of screening and hiring talented individuals difficult.
My first suggestion is to make provisions so that you can, at the very least, video conference with the individuals you’re looking to hire. Reading an interviewee’s motions and physical reactions to your questions can often give you as much information as the inflection in their voice or the information they provide in their answers. It will also help to develop a rapport with the person you’re interviewing – they see your face and you see theirs. Questions, requests, answers all carry more weight when you maintain the ability to look someone in the eye while speaking with them.
I think your biggest challenge in trying to separate the mediocre candidates from those that are great lies in analyzing one’s ability to effectively manage their own time. Without direct supervision, you have no real way of knowing who is working and who isn’t. Consider making a deliverable a part of your hiring process or, even better, hiring employees initially under a temporary or contract basis for those that are not currently working. Either of these methods (and preferably the latter) can provide you with concrete evidence to base your hiring decision off. You’ll also establish upfront that while you support telecommuting, you are serious about ensuring that telecommuting doesn’t mean a lesser quality or quality of work output. Setting expectations about how these non-local individuals will be performing for you at the onset of the process will help to eliminate surprises down the road.
In terms of continuing to manage a remote staff, setting quantifiable results you expect from each of these employees will help you to keep a handle on their work and also provide you with fact-based reasons for probation and, if necessary, termination, if these individuals are unable to maintain the standard you set forth.