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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

3 Mistakes Not to Make When Hiring Remote Employees

It’s no secret why more companies are embracing the virtual environment. The cost savings in overhead is impressive, with a Stanford University study finding employers could save as much as $2,000 per employee just from letting them work from home. More intangibly, flexible work hours are also likely to aid in engagement, since two out of five working adults would be willing to take a salary cut if it meant their employer would provide better flexible time options.

When it comes to attracting the best and brightest, companies could do worse than employing a virtual workforce. The issue, however, is when employers assume hiring a great virtual worker is just like hiring an in-office superstar. Many recruiters and hiring managers are merely pasting old school strategies onto the virtual employee search—and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t always work out for the best.

It’s time to stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole—and start tailoring your recruitment efforts to the actual needs required by a virtual workforce. To learn more, consider these three huge mistakes when hiring remote employees.

Mistake #1: No Face-to-Face Contact

Hiring virtual talent means throwing out everything you know about nonverbal communication and body language, right? After all, it’s not like your candidate will ever be sitting across from your desk in an interview, fidgeting or failing to make eye contact.

This perspective could not be further from the truth, and it’s the reason many employers and staffing pros end up making the wrong hire. In fact, when hiring a virtual candidate, getting a personal and in-person feel for the talent involved might be even more essential than ever. You need to trust new hires to be self-motivated, productive, skilled, and able to get the job done. And, though it may surprise you, they also need to fit into the company culture, so their efforts are more likely to add positively to your organization. All of this requires a more personal touch than the standard phone interview or a few exchanged emails.

Instead, use video interviews and other technology to connect and really get a feel for personality, passion, and cultural fit. There are a couple ways to do this. The best is to do live video interviews where you actually get to talk face-to-face with your interviewee, but if for some reason that isn’t feasible, you can also have candidates record video answers to a list of questions you send them.

Mistake #2: Asking the Wrong Interview Questions

Virtual candidates need to have different attributes and strengths than in-office talent. A candidate with a high level of skill but a low level of self-direction might be fine if he’s in the cubicle down the hall, working closely with other team members to keep him on track. But if this candidate is located across the country instead of across the office floor, your all-star hire might quickly turn into a dud.

This is why it’s essential to ask the right questions during the video interview. Ask behavioral questions to determine not only candidates’ skill levels, but also their organizational skills, career passion, and self-direction. Ask for candidates to explain scenarios in which they worked independently and managed their own time. Look for more than canned answers, and seek out specific examples of organizational skills and internal motivation. Don’t focus wholly on productivity to the exclusion of everything else, though; it’s also important to make sure your top-notch candidates can work as a valuable member of your team. On that note:

Mistake #3: Skipping Skills Assessments

When hiring talent into your office, you can afford to step out on a limb and hire someone who is a perfect cultural fit, but maybe doesn’t have all the specific skills you need. In an office setting, it’s much easier to hook these talented candidates up with onboarding, training, and mentorship opportunities to get them up to speed. You can watch the right candidate grow from not-quite perfect into someone your company couldn’t live without.

This is also possible in a virtual environment, but mentorship across states and continents is much harder to achieve. Instead, you might want to search for someone who already has most, if not all, of the essential skills needed to excel in the position. This means including skill assessments and even talent tryouts in the interview process to ensure you’re getting the right people.

Before hiring new team members, think about giving them a skills-related test or even taking them into the company on a trial basis. For example, give a candidate for a communications-heavy job a writing test, or encourage an IT superstar to complete a project freelance for your company. These skills assessments can save you a lot of headaches down the line by proving beyond a doubt that your all-star candidate has the skills and talent required to succeed.

Hiring virtual talent is a whole new frontier, but if you want to get the best and brightest for your company, you need to avoid the pitfalls of this new virtual reality. By sidestepping these three huge mistakes, it’s possible to hire the best virtual employees.

What are some major virtual hiring mistakes you avoid? How? Share in the comments!

Photo of remote employee courtesy of Shutterstock.