A research by Stanford University did a study with 503 call center employees of travel agency CTrip. They were divided in half: one group worked from home four days out of five per week, and the other half worked full-time at the office. After nine months, the remote working group saw an increase of 13% in performance and 9% in their overall work calling time compared to the office group. A big part of the reason was that the former group needed less breaks and had less sick days.
How about the employers’ side? An informal research by Recruitee amongst our users sees a struggle in attracting candidates locally. Often companies locate at hot spots where many other companies also locate. Hiring quickly becomes a tug of war within a tiny pool of candidates. Many start considering remote workers as a legit choice. It doesn’t only erase geographical limit, but also underlines the truth that the best is not always the closest.
Undeniably, remote working becomes the first choice for any employees and employers who can afford it. If you’re thinking about hiring remote workers, take the below advice into account. These nuggets come from the trial and error of some of the most successful companies with the most remote workforce out there.
“I think job boards can be pretty useful, but not the really big ones like monster.com or Indeed. Usually the quality of applicants coming from those is pretty low. Even job boards from Stack Overflow and GitHub have typically not worked out that well. But I think that’s got a lot to do with our focus on hiring people who are good at working remotely. Basecamp has their own job board weworkremotely.com and it’s great. The quality is pretty high there, and it’s from people who are familiar with remote working. It’s a skill set. You have to know how to work remotely.”
—Josh Pigford, Founder and CEO of Baremetrics, in “Hiring @Baremetrics – A talk with founder Josh Pigford”
“Let’s say a candidate has breezed through the basic tests, has an amazing portfolio, is an excellent cultural fit, and also passed the phone screen with flying colors. Time to get them in for a face-to-face interview, right?
I’ve seen candidates nail all of the above, join the company, and utterly fail to get things done once they’re in the role. Judging work ethic and commitment is incredibly hard, even if you’re meeting with someone in person.
If you want to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt whether someone’s going to be a great hire, give them an audition project — even before having them speak to other employees on your team. I’m not talking about a generic, abstract problem. I’m talking about a real world, honest-to-God unit of work that you need done right now today on your actual product. It should be something you would give to a current employee, if they weren’t all so busy.”
—Jeff Atwood, Founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse, in “Here’s Why You’re Not Hiring the Best and the Brightest”
“The most significant shift we’ve made is requiring every final candidate to work with us for three to eight weeks on a contract basis. Candidates do real tasks alongside the people they would actually be working with if they had the job. They can work at night or on weekends, so they don’t have to leave their current jobs; most spend 10 to 20 hours a week working with Automattic, although that’s flexible. (Some people take a week’s vacation in order to focus on the tryout, which is another viable option.) The goal is not to have them finish a product or do a set amount of work; it’s to allow us to quickly and efficiently assess whether this would be a mutually beneficial relationship. They can size up Automattic while we evaluate them.
Paying them for their efforts is important; this isn’t about getting work done free. Originally we tried to set hourly pay rates based on what they might earn if they were hired, but that became too complicated. We were almost negotiating what we would pay someone who hadn’t yet received an offer, which didn’t make any sense. To keep it simple, we decided to pay a standard $25 an hour, whether the candidate was hoping to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.”
—Matt Mullenweg, Founder and CEO of Automattic, in “The CEO of Automatic on Holding “Auditions” to Build a Strong Team”
What did you do when a manager was absent and you had to make a decision?
(Why it’s important: Virtual employees must be independent to handle the remote work environment.)
What three things have you done within the last 12 months to improve yourself?
(Why it’s important: This speaks to a required drive toward continuous, professional development.)
If you have a problem and don’t know the solution, what do you do?
(Why it’s important: This should reveal potential for independent research and resourcefulness.)
How do you manage working for more than one supervisor?
(Why it’s important: Virtual professionals often must deliver for more than one leader.)
How do you stay in touch with co-workers, supervisors?
(Why it’s important: Constant contact and providing frequent project updates eliminate dangers of the “MIA” remote employee.)
Describe your remote office, and virtual workday.
(Why it’s important: Work environment and routines should align with those of your department and an overall professional existence.)
If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
(Why it’s important: A strong remote-office candidate isn’t the type who counts the days to retirement.)
How do you prioritize projects?
(Why it’s important: Remote employees must effectively assess the importance of tasks along with availability of resources to meet multiple deadlines.)
How do you stay current?
(Why it’s important: A virtual work arrangement shouldn’t translate to decreased awareness and command of industry trends.)
Tell me when you chose NOT to do a particular task?
(Why it’s important: There is nothing wrong with saying “no.” But were the reasons beneficial to the organization, or self-serving?)
—Kevin Sheridan, Author of “The Virtual Manager: Cutting Edge Solutions for Hiring, Managing, ...
“There are definitely a few things that stand out to me as being key for anyone to be effective as a remote employee:
• Written communication. The importance of this cannot be overstated. When you’re remote, a majority of the way you interface with the world will be through written word, so it’s critical that you can articulate complex concepts and subtleties. Giant walls of text aren’t fun either, so it’s important to keep things concise.
• Discipline. Some people work best with lots of structure and external pressure, but working well autonomously is a big part of our culture at GitHub. We need people to be self-motivated enough to stay productive without someone looking over their shoulder and checking up on them all the time.
• Decisiveness. Timezones are tricky, and it’s often necessary for remote employees to make decisions with imperfect information, even if the right person isn’t around in the moment to make the decision themselves. Most decisions are temporary, especially in a growing company with a rapidly evolving product, so what’s important is that a reasonably sound decision gets made so that work can move forward.
• Interests outside work. If someone is going to be working from home, then it’s really important that they have hobbies, friendships, and things to do outside of work. Without something else to help them switch off and decompress, it’s much easier to end up burning out.”
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Hagi Trinh is an avid recruitment writer at Recruitee. The team is working on the greatest hiring platform of all time. You can sign up at recruitee.com to try it out and follow us on Twitter @recruiteeHR.