Your Next Superstar Employee Could Be 1,000 Miles Away, And That’s No Problem.

Building A Sustainable Remote Workforce.

Not long ago, a maturing internet gave hiring managers the luxury of looking beyond a 60-mile radius to find top talent. Today that practice isn’t a luxury, it’s a competitive necessity. High-speed connections, robust collaboration tools and mobile devices have expanded the hiring pool nearly as far as you’re willing to look.

How’s This For An Office Meeting?

How do you hire the right people?

Here are a few things to look for — and avoid — when hiring remote workers. With some attention and care, you can assemble a sustainable, productive and reliable remote workforce.

Know where to look

Often times, a top remote candidate is looking for the right company as eagerly as you’re after them. For that reason, your company’s blog is a fantastic place to start. Post about your product or service, sure, but also share glimpses of your work culture. Why is your company a great place to work, especially for those who’d like to do so from home? Note who leaves comments or engages with all of your social efforts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). They know what you do and are interested in what you’re saying.

Also, browse services that these people use to find work:

Craigslist is free and a good start, but not as sharply focused as FlexJobs, We Work Remotely, Indeed, Outsourcely or Remote OK.

Know what to look for

A candidate who’s looking to work remotely will likely describe themselves as a self-starter, motivated and full of that entrepreneurial spirit. Words are cheap, of course, so look for evidence of this on their resume or CV: have they started a business, launched a website or produced a podcast? Have they taken a chance with a startup or moved throughout a company? These are all examples of someone who seeks out challenges.

Conducting the interview

Get a feel for a candidate’s responsiveness and familiarity with the tools they’ll use while in your employ. Have them write something and share it via Google Docs.

Definitely conduct a video interview via Skype. It’s a real oversight to not conduct a face-to-face conversation. Aside from assessing a candidate’s ability to use this service as well as their equipment, a video interview gives you a feel for their personality and likelihood to fit with your culture, which is very hard to surmise via email. You can also read body language, facial expressions and their willingness to make eye contact.

If you can’t arrange a live, face-to-face video call, have the interviewee record a short video of themselves answering a few questions. Sure, they have a chance to “try again” if they want another take, but even that’s better than avoiding this crucial step all together.

Getting down to work

A person who has chosen to work remotely — either as a freelancer or a full-time telecommuter — is an autonomous individual. Let your management style reflect that.

Once he or she has accepted your offer, make expectations very clear. Define what you expect in terms of productivity, communication, equipment and so on. After that, step back a bit and honor the autonomy that this new person values so much. He does not want to be micro managed, no matter if his supervisor is 12 feet away or 12 states. Doing so also projects a sense of confidence in your new hire’s abilities and motivations.

What to watch out for

The “starstruck.”

There is a subset of would-be employees who are merely starstruck at the idea of working from home. While you’re after a solid worker, they’re more concerned with using Starbucks as an office.

In this instance, inquire about the candidate’s history with managing their own time, working independently or while unsupervised. Follow up on concrete examples.

Years ago, an attractive relocation package was the best we could offer a desirable employee who lived far from HQ. Today those costs are gone, and the benefits are there to both sides of the interview process. With some planning, clear communication and thoughtful assessments, you can make an offer — and a successful relationship — with that worker in Boston, Barcelona or Basel.

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