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How to Hire a Remote Employee Sight Unseen
Originally published as a Forbes Council Post by Chris Ronzio.
I’ve hired contractors around the world — that’s nothing new. But when you hire someone who lives in your city, you typically meet them face to face. At least, I always have.
But last week, we hired a vice president of customer experience for Trainual. It’s a huge role, and one for which we have spent months carefully recruiting, conducting phone screenings and checking references.
But by the time we found the right fit and were ready to meet him in person, our office had moved to Zoom. Believe me, it’s a strange thing to hire a department leader who I’ve never met. But looking back on the last few months, we have put a process in place that made this transition seamless. Here it is:
Build a hiring team.
Assemble a cross-functional group to clarify what skills and traits the role you’re hiring needs. By putting the work in upfront, you’ll save tons of time later. At my company, we use an applicant tracking system (ATS) called Lever to track all our applicants, quickly disqualify those who don’t meet our needs and make informed decisions on who moves on.
Phone screen first.
For any candidate who looks good on paper, hop on a casual 15-minute call. It doesn’t have to be elaborate — just a quick introduction to your business, values and cultures to see if they’re still a good match.
Do a sample project.
For whatever skills they claim to have, test! There’s no better way to see how someone will do a job than by asking them to do it. Assign a project they would actually do in the role — such as a strategy presentation — that can be done remotely and on their own. Then, wait to see how much research they put in. Does their work match your branding? How’s their quality?
Additionally, we ask candidates to talk through their thought process and finished project before we provide any feedback.
Ask for a video introduction.
If they made it this far in the process, realize they’ve probably told their life story a few times — so save the redundancy. Ask them to introduce themselves virtually using a tool like Loom. Then, share it with everyone on the team who hasn’t met them yet. This will keep them from answering the same question over and over.
Conduct a few team interviews.
Will they be managing people? Get the entire team together — this is group one. Will they be collaborating with other departments? Get a few of those team members together as well — this is group two. Have each group interview the candidate over Zoom so you can have a couple of opinions from different perspectives on whether this candidate should move forward.
When evaluating different candidates, you need some way to quantitatively measure them against one another. So, use a simple scoring system, like 1 to 4, for how excited you would be to hire this person. We also rank candidates 0 to 3 on each of our core values.
Go beyond reference checks.
This is your last chance to dig for red flags before you hire them. Yes, you could reach out to references. But remember, those will always be great (otherwise, the candidate would have put someone else).
On top of checking their references, we do due diligence and dig a little more. We reach out to mutual contacts on LinkedIn, and we Google them and search for them on social media. It never hurts to see what comes up.
Extend an online offer.
When you find the perfect candidate, streamline your signing process with a digital signature tool like DocuSign or HelloSign. In one swoop, send your offer letter, confidentiality, proprietary rights, media release and whatever other documents are required for your company or your local jurisdiction. (Your payroll company might provide a lot of this.)
Training and onboarding a new employee when you can’t roll your chair to their desk and look over their shoulder takes a bit more preparation. You still need to introduce your company and explain how you do what you do. We use videos and screen recordings to share our policies, best practices and step-by-step processes to make sure they are up to speed. We, of course, use our platform, but the most important thing is to be organized and consistent.
If you asked me two months ago if I would hire someone I had never met in person for a critical role in my business, I would have said no. I wouldn’t have thought twice about my answer. But now that it’s the only way to hire, it’s not so bad as long as you have the right processes and tools in place. And hey, we will meet him in person eventually.