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5 Tips for Finding and Hiring Awesome Remote Workers

Adam Seabrook
Mar 07, 2017

How to find the best members for your team

Despite some continued resistance to it by a few big companies, remote distributed teams are still providing amazing results.

Remote employees are more productive, happier, perform better, are less stressed and have higher morale than their office-bound counterparts.

Hiring remotely also gives companies a huge advantage in finding employees. For example, trying to hire for a tech job in Silicon Valley right now is a tough task because there’s so much local competition.

If you suddenly expand your search to include the world, it’s going to get much easier.

Despite this, a lot of companies that could be going remote are still resisting it. I think this is in part because of hiring fears. If you’ve never hired remote workers before, how can you make sure to get good ones?

I’ve worked remotely for a long time, and have hired many remote workers over the years. Here’s what I’ve learned that can help you hire a great remote team.

1. Know where to look

While it’s possible to find remote employees on the bigger job boards, it’s also worth noting that there are several websites that are remote specific, where you’ll be more likely to find people with the desire and skills to work remotely.

Here are some places you’ll want to look.

  • WeWorkRemotely – A well-known board just for remote work. Cost is $200 to post.

  • Upwork – Hire remote freelancers around the world. Cost will depend on what the freelancer charges. Great way to try remote employees out before hiring.

  • Angellist Jobs – This site, more known for its platform that connects startups with investors, also has a great job board that fits well with people looking for remote work.

  • Flexjobs – This job board, focused broadly on flexible jobs, boasts hand screened postings to attract better applicants.

You can also post jobs on Craigslist in different cities. I’ve had luck in places popular with expats, such as Buenos Aires and Ecuador.

2. Create job posts that attract remote workers

Knowing where to post isn’t quite enough. You need to write posts that get top remote workers excited to apply. This is especially important if you want them to stick through a rigorous screening process that helps you choose the best applicants.

First, you need to make sure you establish legitimacy in your job posting. This is especially important if your company hasn’t established a well-known employer brand.

Do this by adding links to your website, links to articles that mention your company, information about founders or owners, and anything else that will bolster your reputation. Also, make it clear how they’ll be paid – is it a salaried position or hourly? Remote workers may be wary if they suspect the job is commission only or a multi-level marketing scheme.

Ok, so that should help you avoid scaring applicants away. Now to attract them.

Here’s how you can do research that shows you exactly what remote employees want in a job.

Go to Glassdoor and type in the position you’re hiring for. Front end developer, for instance. Search with the location blank, and click on a company in the left column, then click “Reviews.”

Now look for complaints that come up consistently in the “Cons” section of the reviews.

Can you respond to these with a pro?

For instance, if everyone is complaining about lack of work/life balance, and you really offer a better balance, feature that prominently in the job posting.

Put as many of these pros into your job postings, along with other reasons to work for your company. Tell them what’s great about your product/service, any accolades your company or employees have received, any interesting projects they’ll be working on or people they’ll be working with.

Keep the qualifications and requirements down to the absolutely necessary.

If you’ve been flooded with applications from totally unqualified people before, you might be getting a little worried about this approach now.

Don’t worry though, the next step will take care of that.

3. An Initial Screening Process to Find the Great Ones Fast

Ok, so before you freak out about a huge pile of incoming applications, write out an email that introduces your company a bit more, and then asks applicants to answer 5 questions.

Most of these questions should pertain to how they would tackle a specific task that’s common to the job.

For instance, if you were hiring someone to do search engine marketing, you might ask them to suggest a keyword to target, and their strategy for creating content and building links to rank for that keyword.

The task should ideally take 20 minutes, and should require them to really think about their answer. This will do a few things to help in your screening.

First off, people who aren’t very motivated to get the job probably won’t do the task, and if they do, they won’t spend a lot of time on it. So there’s a pile of applications you can screen out.

What you’re really looking for are candidates who show they put thought and effort into their answers. And, of course, you’re looking for good answers.

When you’re done with this part of the process, you should have narrowed down your candidates considerably.

4. The Best Way to Get to Know an Employee

Some people are great at putting together resumes (or paying people to do it for them).

Some are really good at interviewing.

A few are actually really good at their job.

Obviously, unless you’re hiring a writer for a resume service, you want someone in the third category. You’ve already taken the first step toward screening for their ability to do the job with the email questions. Now you’re going to take it a step further with a more involved test.

What you want is a test that has them do a typical day’s work.

One of the great things about remote work is that most of the jobs lend themselves well to this kind of test. They can often be done on the candidate’s own time, with equipment they already have, wherever they happen to live.

In order to get the best candidates to do this, you’ll need to pay for this day of work. Your best candidates know their time is valuable, and won’t feel good doing a day’s work unpaid.

The results of this day of work will give you a very concrete idea of how they do their job, and the quality of the work they produce.

After this, I’d be ready to start doing interviews.

5. The Quality All Remote Workers Need

There’s one key ability that pretty much all remote workers need to have. The ability to focus in a very distracting world.

Working without supervision can make people prone to distraction in the first place, but when you add hours of sitting in front of the internet, staying focused can be nearly impossible.

The questions and test that you did above should give you some idea of their ability to focus, but anyone can concentrate for a day.

Look for people who have been successful in the past with jobs where they spent a lot of unsupervised time in front of a computer. When you finally get to the interview phase, ask them about times they’ve had to work with little supervision and a lot of potential for distraction.

Also, ask them if they have any strategies for staying focused.

Of course, it’s possible that the best person may not have this kind of experience.

If so, be sure to talk to them about strategies and offer guidance for staying focused when they start.

That should get you off to a good start. If you’re really nervous about going remote or are hiring remotely for the first time, try a service like Upwork or Fiverr, where you can try a remote employee for a one-off task and see how it goes.

Image from Shutterstock.

Adam Seabrook
Adam Seabrook is Co-Founder of Betterteam. Before Betterteam Adam spent 10 years recruiting for companies like Google, Atlassian, Dell, Symantec, Coca-Cola, Bigcommerce, and Oracle. He lives in Sydney, Australia.