by Wayne Turmel

What should you look for in hiring your next remote team member?

Want to hear a secret? The most stressful thing for managers isn’t making sure the work gets done, or that you’re not on Facebook when you should be on that conference call. In their heart of hearts, most managers fear hiring a new team member above all else.

Finding and bringing the right person onboard is incredibly anxiety-producing. A million questions ricochet around our brains.  Are they amazing in real life as they are in the resume? Can that person really do the job? What happens if she fails and you have to start all over?

Here are   things you should ask yourself when bringing a new person onto your team.

Have they worked remotely before? 

If someone has experience working from home, it may seem like that’s one less thing you need to worry about. If they’ve been successful in working this way in the past, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to fit right in, right? Just because they’ve worked remotely before doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit with your team. (If they’re so good, why were they available, huh? Ever think of that?) Be sure to ask about their last remote working experience and concerns. Just because they commuted to their last job doesn’t mean they can’t succeed away from the office You’ll have to probe for their assumptions and concerns. It’s fair to ask what’s changed in their life. Are they changing jobs because of life circumstances that require them to be home? (Think childcare or family health issues. Any accommodations shouldn’t be deal breakers but should be part of the discussion.) Asking why they do or don’t like to work from home is a really good way to begin.

Do they have what they need to be successful? 

You know the job that needs to be done and the people involved. Filling a specific need for your team is more important than past experience working away from everyone else. Watch for the way they interact during the recruitment and interview process. Do they struggle with technology, or not have basic equipment? Do they seem uncomfortable during phone or webcam interviews? Finally, do they have a track record of getting work done regardless of location?

What is their work style and preference?

Leaders need to be comfortable that people are able to work well on their own, but also blend with the remote team. A work style assessment like DISC is a good way to get a snapshot of someone’s preferred way of getting things done. While there is no single type that would mean hire them immediately or exclude them on sight, you want to watch for the way they communicate with others. Do they like working alone and uninterrupted? That sounds ideal unless it also means they won’t reach out to other remote team members or respond unless absolutely necessary. Are they outgoing people-pleasers? This may create feelings of isolation or neediness over time. The trick is to learn how their style fits with the work to be done, and identify potential obstacles that can be addressed.

Will they blend and work well with the existing team members? 

Creating a sense of common purpose and “esprit de corps” is one of the biggest challenges for remote teams in general. Look for people who will fill skill and knowledge gaps in the existing team. One great way to assess how they’ll do is to include remote team members in the interview/hiring process. One on one communication with various team members will give you a good idea of how they interact and connect with their future teammates.

How can you get them up to speed as quickly and efficiently as possible? 

Let’s face it, you’re only going through the hassle of hiring someone because work needs to get done. Once you’ve made your selection, you want them working, rather than going through an endless “onboarding” process.  You can move things along by offering a mix of training opportunities. E-learning and on-demand will help people get what they need when they need it. Peer coaching is a great way to get your experienced folks interacting with the newbie as soon and constructively as possible. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

Hiring a new remote team member can be stressful, but if you are thoughtful and keep in mind the challenges of remote work, it won’t induce any more sweat than hiring someone to sit a desk away.

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