How to Hire Remote Employees for Your Virtual Team (2024)

A global talent pool is at your fingertips.

Chris Leitch
Chris Leitch

Editor-in-Chief & Résumé Expert

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

A female managing learning how to hire remote employees for her virtual team

The world of work is changing.

Even long before COVID-19 took hold, more and more companies were moving to a remote workforce, largely because it’s more cost-effective, it provides access to a global talent pool, and it leads to happier, more productive employees.

And the thing is: people want to work from home. In fact, 98% of respondents in Buffer’s 2023 “State of Remote Work” survey said they’d like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.

Remote work, as Buffer boldly states, isn’t a trend. It’s here to stay.

This means one thing: companies need to adapt their business models if they don’t want to risk losing top talent to competitors.

Whether your company has decided to shift to a virtual team, or you simply need a refresher course on the basics, this guide will walk you through the steps you need to take to successfully recruit and hire remote workers.

Tips for hiring remote employees

Even if you have experience interviewing and hiring people in person, there are certain things you must pay attention to when hiring remotely. Let’s look at 10 tips that can improve your process.

1. Determine the type of remote situation you’re hiring for

First things first, you need to determine the type of remote situation you’re hiring for.

Will your team be fully remote, working from the comfort of their homes on a permanent basis? Or will they have a flexible work-from-home schedule and have to visit the office a couple of days a week?

Understanding the company’s goals here will help you sieve through applications and filter out those that don’t fit the job requirements. For example, if employees will need to visit the office regularly, even if it’s just to meet clients, then you’ll want to search for talent locally — after all, it will be unreasonable to expect employees who live abroad to fly back and forth every few days, not to mention it will be a logistical nightmare.

2. Create digital interview and pre-work guides

Meeting someone in person is vastly different to meeting them virtually, relying — to a large extent — on webcams, software and your internet connection to make a good impression.

Although video calls and phone calls can be a little more personal than emails and instant messages, a lot of your communication with candidates and new hires is bound to be done in writing, a medium that allows more room for misinterpretation of your tone and intent.

That’s why it’s imperative to give extra emphasis to the materials you’ll provide jobseekers and new hires with. In an office setting, if a new employee has a question, they’ll simply turn to the person next to them and ask.

When someone works from home, however, and their new team members (including their manager) take on the form of icons and avatars on a screen, it can create a sense of disconnectedness and isolation, resulting in added confusion.

3. Consider potential time zone differences

The beauty of hiring remote employees is that you can access a wider pool of talent, which is particularly useful if there’s a local skills shortage. However, this does present a bit of a problem in that applicants will sometimes come from different time zones.

If you hire someone in the same time zone your company is based in, it will make cross-team collaboration easier, whether it’s arranging a video call, sharing work documents, using your in-house communication software or sending an email that requires an urgent response. Things become more complex, however, when your remote workforce is located in different time zones around the country (or beyond).

If this isn’t an issue, though, and if employees will be given a more flexible work schedule and won’t need to be online at the same time, then hiring across different time zones will be more of a blessing than a curse. Not only will your company benefit from a global talent pool, but there will also be a steadier output of work.

4. Create a candidate profile

The next step is figuring out the specific characteristics and skills you want potential remote employees to possess, and then creating a candidate profile (essentially a list of must-haves and good-to-haves), which will come in handy when writing the job description (more on that next).

Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for someone to do the job — you’re looking for someone who can do the job remotely. This means they need an additional skill set that proves they’ll succeed in a virtual position.

Some things to look out for include:

  • Good time management skills
  • The ability to work autonomously
  • Excellent teamwork skills
  • Tech-savviness
  • Excellent communication skills
  • A keen sense of organization
  • Previous remote work experience

5. Write an effective job description

Now that you have a clear picture of what the ideal candidate should look like, it’s time to put pen to paper (or, rather, hand to keyboard) and craft a job description that will get noticed by the right candidates.

A good place to start is to look at job descriptions for similar remote positions at other companies and figure out what differentiates your company from the competition. With this at the back of your mind, you’ll be able to put together a description that not only stands out from the crowd but also integrates the company’s vision, brand messaging and tone of voice.

The job description should provide a clear outline of the position’s responsibilities and a list of requirements so that applicants know exactly what to expect. It’s a good idea to involve the people who are directly related to the job (like the manager that the new employee will be reporting to) in preparing the job description, as they will be able to offer a more insightful look into the position you’re hiring for.

6. Post your ad in all the right places

You naturally want your ad seen by the right people. And the best way to achieve this is by posting your vacancy in all the right places — specifically: job boards dedicated to remote job opportunities.

Some of the best websites to advertise your remote job opening include:

Meanwhile, you could post your ad on job boards dedicated to remote working in specific niches. This ensures only candidates with the right skills, experience and qualifications apply for the job, saving you valuable time sifting through unsuitable applications.

Here are a few niche remote job boards to try out:

7. Be as communicative and transparent as possible

When the human factor is removed from work-related interactions, it can contribute to candidates and new hires feeling additional confusion about their next steps or what is expected of them. That is why frequent and clear communication is essential in making a positive impression during the hiring process and providing a smooth onboarding experience for successful candidates.

Transparency about your hiring timelines and salary ranges for different roles will also help attract the right candidates, ensuring that neither you nor the person on the other end begin the process with mismatched expectations.

8. Invite the best candidates to a video interview

With the help of ATS software, your applicant pool will be quite shallow, and all that’s left to do now is invite the shortlisted candidates to a video interview, whether it’s on Skype, Zoom or whatever video conferencing software you prefer.

That said, don’t discount in-person interviews entirely. If at all possible, you should still try to arrange a face-to-face meeting with local candidates.

Meanwhile, make sure you ask candidates the right questions, whether you conduct an in-person or a video interview. Out of the thousands of interview questions you could ask potential hires, there are a few that you may want to add to your repertoire when interviewing remote candidates, including:

  • “Do you have experience working remotely?”
  • “How do you work alone?”
  • “Will you be able to stay motivated without an in-person supervisor?”
  • “How do you manage your time and stay organized?”
  • “What’s the key to making sure a project is successful when working remotely?”

9. Administer a test

You, of course, want to make sure you’re hiring the right people — whether it’s for a remote or an on-site position. A bad hire, after all, can be expensive, with an estimated price tag of $14,900.

A great way to avoid wasting resources is to ask candidates to complete a test. This will help you assess their ability to not only do the job but also how they’ll handle working remotely, and ultimately make a more informed hiring decision.

The test you give potential employees can be done before or after an interview, or even during the interview (just make sure to inform candidates beforehand). For example, if you’re hiring a coder, you could use screen-sharing software to test applicants, giving you the unique opportunity to gauge their coding skills and probe their thought process in real time.

Whether you pay candidates to complete the test is entirely up to you and your company’s budget, though they will certainly appreciate being compensated for their time, particularly if it’s a complex task.

10. Check references

Checking references is a crucial part of an effective hiring process.

After all, you want to be certain that candidates tick all the right boxes, beyond an impressive résumé and a successful interview, before making a job offer. And a gleaming testimonial from managers, colleagues and even clients vouching for the candidate’s skills and work ethic can go a long way when you’re tasked with making a hiring decision.

That said, don’t solely rely on written references. Although they do offer insights into a candidate’s suitability for the role and fitness within the company’s culture, as well as act as a written record, they’re usually generic (often starting with “To whom it may concern”) and quite easy for jobseekers to fabricate.

As such, always make it a point to personally call the references that candidates provide you — it’s one thing to read about how fantastic a candidate is, and quite another to actually hear it.

When checking references, be sure to ask remote work-specific questions, as this will help you determine how well a candidate will perform on the job. If the candidate doesn’t have any remote experience, though, it’s a good idea to probe their soft skills, like communication and collaboration, that are essential for any remote job.

Hiring remote employees in another country

When looking to hire remote employees internationally, there are extra steps you must take to ensure that your prospective candidates have a smooth, positive experience from the moment they apply to after they have joined your team.

One of the most important things you must do is focus on increasing your team’s cultural awareness, as unaddressed cultural differences may lead to miscommunication and tension at best and employee conflict at worst.

When employees work across various time zones (some asleep while others are working), it’s also vital that everything gets documented, otherwise people can quickly fall behind. That’s where creating a culture of documentation can come in handy, as every little thing that occurs gets noted and can be seen by all.

Lastly, you must try to “localize” yourself as an employer as much as possible. Familiarizing yourself with local labor laws is imperative. Working with local recruiters can be helpful; the same goes for global Employers of Record (EORs) — these are third-party companies that take on the legal responsibilities of employing staff on your behalf, ensuring that you stay compliant with laws and regulations.

Mistakes to avoid

Hiring remotely comes with a unique set of challenges that managers and teams working from the office don’t have to grapple with. Let’s look at some of the common pitfalls of remote (or international) hiring:

Failing to identify and address barriers

Being proactive and coming up with a comprehensive list of the obstacles you might face in hiring remotely can help you prevent problems effectively or resolve them quickly should they occur. This refers to language barriers, cultural differences, differences in time zones and local labor laws, and the efficient sharing of information.

Omitting to invest in communication and documentation

When leading a remote team, you need to sometimes invest double and triple the effort in making sure that everyone is on the same page. If you have a file-sharing system, for example, even something silly such as forgetting to change permissions can cost your team precious time and needlessly create stress. That’s why you have to be meticulous and have frequent check-ins with everyone.

Having insufficient understanding of local labor laws

Ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations is essential when hiring employees from other countries or states. Even within the US, labor laws can vary across the map, and a lack of compliance can lead to significant legal repercussions.

Final thoughts

The process of hiring remote employees is quite different from that of hiring on-site employees, but your goal is the same: finding the right candidate. And these tips will help you do just that, whether you’re hiring a single employee or an entire virtual team.

What is your process for hiring remote employees? Got a question or want to share your thoughts and experiences? Join the conversation below and let us know — we’d love to hear from you!

This article is a partial update of an earlier version originally published on December 19, 2020, and contains contributions by Electra Michaelidou.