What are the key issues for recruiting a remote workforce?

TL:DR
Many of these key issues can be addressed based on how you recruit your global workforce and how you structure the interview for the position:

🌎 Do they have remote work experience?
💪 Are they self-motivated?
👀 Are they truly interested in remote work?
📱 Can they communicate with remote tools?
🔍 Finding the right candidates: there are dedicated websites for remote work.
🕒Recruiting takes time.

In many ways, a global workforce working remotely has to be assembled just like any other team of workers.  You define the skills needed, write the job descriptions, and find appropriate candidates.

Remote work, however, comes with very specific requirements.  It’s important for you to be aware of these so that you can find talent which is suitable for your company’s needs. Many of these key issues can be addressed based on how you recruit your global workforce and how you structure the interview for the position.

Do they have remote work experience?

The most critical indicator of success for a potential team member on a global workforce is prior experience with remote work. If a candidate does not have this it does not automatically rule them out, particularly if they have unique talents, but it does require much more intensive interviewing to be sure that this candidate is right for you.

Why is this?  A study by Sandy Staples published in the Journal of Organizational and End User Computing in 2001 showed that remote workers who are successful have very different expectations.  They are 27% more likely to be happy with end-goal based communication and rewards than workers who have constant contact with management on a daily basis.  They are also more likely to build trust with their coworkers through demonstrations of cognition and competency rather than more typical interpersonal skills.

A lack of such experience can be overcome, however. But it does place an added emphasis on the other key issues for a suitable candidate.

Are they self-motivated?

One of the key differences with remote workers is that they are highly self-motivated.  This is best shown in a very comprehensive study of the characteristics of successful remote workers conducted by Hubspot from 2015-16.  Some key findings about remote workers include:

  • Many are happiest working seven days a week, with shorter days.
  • They prefer highly directed and limited communication.
  • They require little direction from supervisors.

All of these point to workers who as individuals have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.    Any worker who has been a freelancer or has worked short, project-based contracts may have the most important skills to be a successful remote worker.

Asking questions about such experience is critical in an interview, particularly for good candidates with no remote work experience.  In many cases, a short test conducted either during the interview or immediately afterwards can help to determine how much your candidate is motivated by challenges and is thus a suitable self-starter who can meet a deadline.

Are they truly interested in remote work?

One potential problem for recruiting remote workers is that it sounds great at first, but it isn’t really for everyone.  Some of the candidates you will encounter with exception skills may be interested in remote work for a variety of reasons, most of them related to the image of being free from an office.  

That doesn’t mean they are interested in remote work once they find out what it really is.

Whether they have experience as a remote worker or not, it is vital to ask them what is most appealing about remote work to them personally.  If they worked remotely only part of the week, for example, they may still not fit with a global workforce that is operating entirely remotely.  

In all cases, particularly with candidates who have limited remote work experience, it is vital to understand why remote work is appealing to them.  If their main motivation is a work and family balance, this has to be well understood up front.

Can they communicate with remote tools?

There are some specific communications skills which are necessary for remote workers to be successful.  These must be checked with every candidate as part of an interview.  They are best illustrated by the specific ways which they can be tested in an interview.

For example, it is important to conduct an interview with video chat.  A video call will demonstrate important characteristics of your candidate, including:

  • Familiarity and comfort with technology,
  • Possession of the equipment necessary to work remotely, and
  • A good attitude based on flexibility and problem-solving.

Another important thing to require during an interview is a text-based chat, ideally during the video call.  The ability to communicate in real-time with text is critical for any member of a global workforce. Candidates who are not familiar with such systems or do not have the skills will struggle when it comes time to communicate with other team members across a large distance.

Finding the right candidates

Before you even get to the interview, however, you have to find suitable candidates for your team.  This is placed at the end because it is important to understand the key issues before you go forward and search the globe for your team.  

Once you understand your requirements and the specific needs of a global workforce, it becomes important to know where to look.

There are dedicated websites for remote work, and the candidates you will find there are already self-selected for the structure of your company.  That can be very helpful in many ways, even though it does potentially limit the size of your talent pool.

For many reasons, a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) can be very helpful.  It is critical, however, that they have experience recruiting team members for a global workforce.  This is often not a problem outside the United States, especially in India, but it needs to be both asked and checked generally in the developed world.  Not every headhunter knows how to recruit remote workers.

No matter how you recruit talent, however, it is critical that you place remote work front and center as both a requirement and a potential benefit.  The skills necessary are too critical to ever ignore.

Recruiting takes time

Lastly, never forget that recruiting the global workforce you can depend on takes time. Given that remote work is not for everyone, you have to be selective and careful. You want a team that can perform the moment they are in place, especially if you are a new start-up.

The more you are organized and have these key issues in mind at every step of the process, the faster and better your experience will be.

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