When the COVID-19 pandemic sent countless workers home to work remotely, many business owners wondered what it meant for the future of workforces. As we now navigate a post-COVID world, businesses are figuring out the balance of in-person versus remote workers, with 74% of businesses surveyed by Gartner reporting that they will keep some portion of their workforce remote permanently.1 As a small business owner, this is your opportunity to decide if engaging remote workers is beneficial for your business. If it is, try following the tips outlined in this article to ensure you’re hiring the right remote workers for your small business.
Benefits of hiring remote workers
There are many benefits to hiring remotely. One of the most significant is the widening of your hiring net. When hiring remotely, you’re no longer limited to the talent in your market. For businesses located in smaller markets, it may be easier to find a more qualified remote employee who lives elsewhere. Additionally, it may help you increase the diversity of your hires by giving you easier access to more people.
It also has a positive effect on retention. Even pre-pandemic, employees reported flexible work options as a top benefit a company could offer. Allowing remote and flexible work as a perk may help you keep employees longer, reducing the tangible and intangible stressors associated with employee turnover.
Write a Comprehensive Job Description
The first step for hiring any employee is to write a job description. Good job descriptions are:
- Comprehensive: Give a detailed description of the role’s day-to-day responsibilities and activities.
- Clear: Be straightforward when outlining the qualifications necessary for success in the role.
- Realistic: Practice transparency when stating the expected hours and compensation.
It’s important to paint a realistic picture of what someone can expect if hired so that you and any interested applicants can be on the same page from the start. Being honest about your expectations for the role will help you attract candidates who are equipped for the job — and help you retain them down the road.
How to Attract Remote Candidates
There are several ways you can attract remote candidates to your company:
Post to Remote Job Boards
Online job boards are one of the easiest ways to reach remote-first employees. Popular options include Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter. In your job posting, be clear about your expectations for the role, the salary range and what success would look like for a candidate. Be sure to also include any perks your company offers to attract more applicants — including your remote work policy, PTO options and more.
Share with Your Network
Don’t be afraid to leverage your own personal and professional network. Whether through your LinkedIn profile or simply word of mouth, spread the word about your open position. You may be surprised who you’ll gain connections with. The extra bonus of hiring someone through your network is the added insight into a candidate before they work for you — typically, people will only recommend someone they know and trust.
Use Reliable Recruiters
Depending on the role, it may be appropriate to enlist a qualified recruiter to help you engage with the applicants you want. Recruiters can extend your talent pool beyond what may be immediately available to you — which is especially important when you’re posting a remote role. Some recruiters specialize in specific fields or qualifications, while others may be in-the-know about a geographic area. Recruiters can take the effort of finding applicants off your plate – so all you must do is interview and select the best person for the job.
Maintain Honest Communication with Remote Candidates
As you move through the hiring process, transparency and honest communication are key to finding applicants who will ultimately align well with your business’ mission and values. Establish trust from the beginning by displaying your expectations openly, even early in the interview process. Opening the door to transparency on both sides will result in more productive and honest conversations between you and your applicants. And it will set the tone for the quality and type of communication you will expect if they’re hired. Strong communication skills are key to any remote team, and it starts with aligning on expectations for the role early.
Checking references can be one of the best ways to ensure you’re hiring a great new employee. Taking a few minutes to speak to each of an applicant’s listed references can help you:
- Ensure their listed job history is accurate and truthful
- Double check their qualifications and achievements
- Receive anecdotes about their working style and personality
While it may seem time-consuming to contact references, it can be the defining factor that either affirms your decision to hire or raises necessary red flags that will help you avoid a candidate who may not be a good fit after all.
When verifying references, ask the candidate to provide references that are relevant to the role and their intended responsibilities. Direct colleagues or supervisors can give you the best perspective on the candidate’s skills and work style. Avoid personal references who are more likely to give you a biased account of the candidate’s qualifications.
Virtual Interviewing tips for Hiring Managers
Interviewing is often the first impression your company makes to an applicant — and their first impression of you is just as important as your impression of them. When hiring remote workers, the interview process is also the first glimpse into what working together from afar will be like. Do you have the tools in place to help them be successful? Are you able to connect with them easily through digital channels?
Host your virtual interview using the same tools they can expect to use on the job with you. Video conferencing tools such as Webex and Zoom can help you meet face-to-face — virtually. Be sure to turn your camera on, and ask the same of your interviewee, to help foster a more authentic connection. And of course, both the interviewer and interviewee should give a virtual interview the same undivided attention as a traditional interview. Keep your phone silenced and minimize any interruptions over the duration of the interview.
Use your interview time to determine the applicant’s qualifications for the role, including their relevant experience and any necessary certifications or skills. You should also ask open-ended questions that assess the candidate’s soft skills. Use “what-if” scenarios to assess how they would solve hypothetical problems; ask about their work style and how they expect a remote work situation to function; and ask about their professional goals. Be sure to leave time for the applicant to ask their own questions of you. It’s not only important for them to get the information they need about you and your business — the questions they ask can be telling for you as well.
Sample remote interview questions
In addition to the questions you would normally ask about a candidate’s experience and qualifications, you might incorporate some questions specifically about their remote working style and expectations. Examples include:
- Do you have previous experience working in a remote or hybrid setting?
- Why is remote work appealing to you?
- How do you approach working more independently?
- What is your virtual communication style, and how do you like to be communicated with?
These questions and other similar ones can help determine if your expectations and work styles are aligned. Just like working in person together, not everyone will match your virtual work style long-term.
Tips for Virtual Onboarding
Upon hiring, your job isn’t over yet. Onboarding remotely can be tricky and may require extra steps than onboarding in person. You will need to proactively communicate with your new hire to ensure they’re getting the guidance they need to get up to speed quickly with your processes and procedures. To make virtual onboarding as smooth as possible:
- Send any necessary technology ahead of time so they can get connected and set up before their first day starts
- Schedule virtual meetings to help your new team member get to know their colleagues
- Assign a mentor that can help them successfully learn and navigate your processes and software
Virtual onboarding puts more emphasis on making sure your new team member feels welcomed into the team. Give them the tools to succeed and a strong support network from the start and your new remote worker will be ready to hit the ground running.
Leverage Remote Workers in Your Small Business
Opening your candidate pool to remote workers gives you access to more talent than ever before, but it’s even more important to find someone who is all-in on your business and its mission. Remote workers can be a huge asset to your team if you take the time upfront to find the right person for the role. As you discover how your business fits into a digital-first working world, review Nationwide Business Solutions Center’s additional resources for operating in the digital space, including employee retention strategies, showing appreciation for your employees and motivating your team.
 “Gartner CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently.” https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-03-gartner-cfo-surey-reveals-74-percent-of-organizations-to-shift-some-employees-to-remote-work-permanently2 (Accessed June 2023)