How to Hire Remote Employees

If you want to hire remote employees, there are a few key steps you need to take.

First, decide what you want, in terms of education and experience.  Next, write up a job description.  Then, decide where to look for candidates.  Finally, screen and interview candidates so that you can make a final decision.

Read on to learn about the steps you should take when you hire remote employees.

Decide What You Want

Before you start posting jobs or interviewing people, you need to decide what you want!  You should specify factors such as education, experience, and skills that are important to you.  Also, think about factors like personality that will contribute to company fit and success in remote work.  Finally, think long-term and evaluate what kind of potential this person should have.


Many employers only care about results, not pedigree.  For some jobs, you can require as much or as little education as you want.  However, for certain roles, you cannot hire someone without the proper credentials.

For example, only an actuary can sign statements of actuarial opinion.  Becoming an actuary requires a bachelor’s degree.  It also requires you to pass a series of grueling exams.  The pass rates for these exams are below 50%, even after candidates study for hundreds of hours.  There is a distinct advantage to hiring someone with credentials.  You know that the candidate works hard and knows his stuff.

In your job description, you can specify an education requirement, such as Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D.  You can also specify a major area of study, such as Mathematics, English, Chemistry, Finance, or Business.

Keep in mind that an employee with a higher level of education expects a higher level of pay.  Also remember that certain majors, such as STEM disciplines, command higher salaries than English or Art majors.  You will need to balance your desire for educated workers against your ability to make payroll.


A candidate’s experience is more important to many employers than education.  Often, you learn more in one year on the job than you did in four years of college.  Thus, requiring at least 1-2 years of experience is wise.

However, requiring an arbitrary amount of experience will turn away otherwise qualified candidates.  Think about it: is there really a huge difference between someone with 10 and 15 years of experience?  Shouldn’t you know everything about the job after 10 years (or less)?

A better metric is to see what projects a remote candidate has completed, and what results he has achieved.  For instance, let’s say you are looking for someone who can improve the conversion rate on your website.  In that case, look for someone with experience in improving web copy, along with results to match.

For a remote job, one year of successful remote work should outweigh several years of in-person work.  After you find someone who can do the work, you need to make sure the candidate will do the work.

You may decide to take a chance on a candidate who has never worked remotely.  If so, start off the work on a trial or contract basis, and see how it goes.


In addition to education and experience, skills are important to consider when hiring remote workers.  You should list the skills that you desire, and think about how you will test for them.

For hard or technical skills, certification courses can tell you all you need to know.  However, you should also make sure to have some type of skills assessment for candidates.  You can create one yourself, or ask a company to do it for you.  More on this further below.

To evaluate soft skills, such as communication, simply observe the candidate during application process.  How does he word his initial email, resume, and cover letter?  Does he write well?  Does he speak well during a phone and video interview?  For collaboration skills, ask him to work with one of your current employees to solve a business problem.  (Hint: the problem could be made-up!)

The skill of self-discipline is more difficult to gauge.  However, it is the most important skill for a remote role.  Even a very talented candidate who can’t get down to business at home will be worthless as a remote employee.  If the candidate worked remotely in the past, you can ask previous employers about work ethic.  If not, ask him about work habits and schedules, and pay close attention during the application.

Side Projects

Having a side project proves that a candidate is truly passionate about his industry.  Many employers will not hire someone who only does the work for pay.  If this is you, consider what type of side projects would indicate a good, creative candidate.

For instance, many companies hiring for programmers or software engineers want to see side projects involving technology.  This could include personal websites created by the candidate.  It could also include code samples and projects on a repository like GitHub.

It should go without saying that a candidate for a web design job should have his own website.  That is his biggest opportunity to show off his skills! For a candidate who wants to teach remotely,  look for a blog about online education.  It might even be enough to see some posts on LinkedIn about the candidate’s experiences with online teaching.

The Undefinable

You might call this passion for the job, company, or industry.  You might also call it a desire to make the world a better place.  The candidate might have the goal of proving himself to family and friends.

No matter what you call it, you need to listen to your gut instincts.  Will this person improve the company, or drag you and your team down?

If  you feel that the person is not a good fit for the role, remove him from the pool.  If you think the person would not work well with the team, forget it.  A remote role could make a bad fit even worse.

Write Up a Job Description

Now that you know what you want in a candidate, it is time to write up the job description.  The education, experience, and skills will make up most of the requirements. However, you will also need to decide on job responsibilities for this candidate.  You should also specify the type of work and the schedule, as well as compensation and terms of employment.


Your requirements should include the education, experience, and skills that you outlined above.  Keep in mind that some candidates will disqualify themselves if they do not meet every requirement.  You might want this if you expect candidates to flood your inbox with applications.

However, if the candidates you seek are few and far between, you might want to separate requirements into two categories.  One would be “must-haves”, which are non-negotiable.  An example is a Master’s Degree, which you cannot really give to a candidate.

Another category is “nice-to-haves”, which are desirable but not necessary.  An example is knowledge of a specific programming language.  You can always teach the candidate what he needs to know about the language after you hire him.

For remote roles, it is wise to list technical requirements for the job.  You should require a candidate to have reliable internet access.  Also, you should make sure that candidate has the proper tools, such as a computer, phone, fax/scanner, and so forth.  Note: a contractor would generally supply these items for himself, whereas an employee might expect them from the company.


You should make a list of what the candidate will need to do for the job: daily, weekly, monthly, etc.  It is a mistake to leave out the less glamorous tasks.  If you do, it seems like a bait and switch, and you risk a high rate of turnover.  Make sure that candidates know what is in store for them.

The best approach is to list responsibilities at a high level, and then drill down to job tasks and details.


The purpose of this role is to help us to bolster our web presence.  Job responsibilities include writing copy, tracking conversion, and updating website.

  • Writing Copy – this involves brainstorming ideas for new web content, testing user demand for content, deciding on what to write, outlining articles, researching topics, and writing compelling content.
  • Tracking Conversion – this involves using tools such as Google Analytics, monitoring changes, exporting data to Excel, writing macros to automate routine tasks, creating graphs and reports, and presenting weekly results to management.
  • Updating Website – this involves posting articles to website, checking and correcting for typos, updating information, fixing broken links, and maintaining security standards.

Also, make it very clear how a candidate will work.  If it is mostly a solo gig, make sure to state that in the requirements.  If the job requires close collaboration with multiple team members, include that information!  Also make sure that the candidate will have rapport with those employees.  More on this further below.


You should tell candidates whether the job is full time or part time.  You should also include information about hours.  Is the job flexible, allowing the candidate to work from midnight to 8am if he so chooses?  Perhaps the job is a normal 40 hour per week job.  It might also be 70 hours per week while your company is in startup mode.  Either way, let a candidate know up front.  Don’t do the bait and switch!

In addition, are there core hours that the employee must observe?  Make sure to tell the candidate if you will require nights or weekends.  Finally, will the job be a contract, temp to perm, or permanent?


You may not want to state an exact compensation figure, since this is negotiable depending on education and experience.  However, you should try to offer a range, to keep expectations realistic.  This has the added benefit of ensuring that you and job candidates do not waste each other’s time.

You should also make it clear how compensation will work.  Will you pay the employee biweekly?  Will you use direct deposit?  Will you pay a contractor in installments of 25%, or all at once?  Only you can decide these things.

Finally, decide on fringe benefits that you will offer.  For instance, you could help to defray the cost of setting up a home office for a first-time telecommuter.  You can also offer flexible hours, so long as the candidate completes his work.

In addition, many employees will love the opportunity to attend seminars and professional development conferences.  This is especially true if they want to see their remote coworkers once in a while!

One last possibility is equity in the company.  Let’s say you have a startup, and you find an employee that you simply must hire.  Offering equity can make the difference between hiring him and losing out.  It can also retain the employee and make him work that much harder.  The reason is that he will benefit even more if the company succeeds!


You also need to decide if you will require a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement.  Keep in mind that many  non-compete agreements are so broad or vague that they are not enforceable.  Also remember that many courts are loath to enforce a non-compete if it prevents a person from earning living.

Finally, keep in mind that many contractors and freelancers will scoff at non-compete agreements.  The reason is that they make their living by working for various clients.  A non-disclosure may work, but make sure to have your lawyer draft it or at least read it.  Whatever you decide to require, make it clear to candidates up front.

Decide Where to Look

At this point, you know who you are looking for and you have the job description to find them.  Now, you need to decide where to look to find your ideal candidates.

Generic Job Boards

Generic job boards include LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, and the jobs section of Craigslist.  These boards are not specific to any one industry, and so you might find broader exposure to the job market.  However, you might receive more applications that are nowhere close to a match for your job.

Your best bet is to include keywords specific to your industry and the job in question.  That way, you will at least attract some of the right people to apply for your job.

Industry Specific Job Boards

Some job boards are specific to a certain industry or job type.  For example, Stackoverflow is a site that helps people with technical and computer programming questions.  Stackoverflow also has a job board, which you can check out here.  These jobs are specific to the tech industry.  As a result, you will find candidates who are a closer match for these types of roles.

Contract & Gig Sites

Check out these sites to hire skilled freelancers, contractors, or gig workers.

These sites allow you to hire workers piecemeal, without offering benefits or going through the hassles of traditional payroll.  As I hinted above, these sites are a good opportunity to test out freelancers.  With time, you can hire the best candidates for more long-term contracts or permanent roles as your business grows.

Your Network

Don’t overlook your network when hiring for remote jobs.  Ask everyone you know if they know of any remote workers with the skills you need.  You could also look into hiring stay-at-home parents who have the education, experience, and skills you need.  As long as they come highly recommended and demonstrate self-discipline, you should consider them a part of your applicant pool.

Campus Recruiting

If you are a college alumnus, you might have connections that allow you to do campus recruiting.  Even if you are not a college graduate, don’t fret.  You can call up professors and ask if they know good students who want work experience.  Make sure to send along your contact information, along with a job description.

Most professors want to see their students land a good summer job or internship.  As a result, you will soon have plenty of hungry undergraduates sending you applications.  An advantage of this approach is that you are targeting specific students, such as Math or History majors.

As an added benefit, students in technical disciplines often have knowledge of the latest technology.  You can hire the most creative Art and English majors before they start looking for a job.  You could even hire a few students on a contract, and extend job offers to the best candidates.

This gives you the chance to review their work for a semester or academic year.  It also gives you a chance to know students on a more personal level.  This makes it easier to decide if you have good fit for your company.

Screen and Interview Candidates

You have posted the job, and applications are flowing in.  It is time to screen candidates and invite some of them to interview!  There are many factors to consider, including interest level, presentation of materials, communication skills, and technical ability.

How Does the Candidate Express Interest?

This is extremely important.  As I mentioned before, you will probably find a few candidates who can do the job.  You need to find someone who will do the job.  Self-discipline and interest in the job will largely determine this.  Look at the candidate’s application package, and think about the following questions.

  • Did the candidate write the email well?
  • Did the candidate include all attachments in the proper format?
  • Is the resume generic, or is it specific to your job and company?
  • Does the cover letter mention your company and goals, or is it all about the candidate?
  • Do the documents convey courtesy in communication?

A candidate is not interested in your company if he sends an email with a generic resume.  He is also likely to do the least amount of work possible if you hire him.  If the job hinges on outcomes rather than hours worked, then you might not care.  However, keep in mind the presentation of the application materials as you move forward.

Reply with a Request for a Work Sample

After reviewing resumes and cover letters, you will have no trouble in culling your list of applications.  After this first round, reply to the remaining candidates with requests for work samples.  This will indicate the quality and style of their work.

You likely will not receive a reply from all of the applicants you contact.  Look over the samples you do receive, and cull your list further before moving on to the next step.

In some cases, the size of the candidate list is truly staggering.  If so, cull the list repeatedly with requests for work samples and skills testing.

Ask for a Phone Interview

You should contact the remaining candidates with a request for a phone interview.  At this stage, you will want to see how the applicant communicates verbally.  You will also want to find out how he works remotely.  Ask how the candidate structures his day.  Also ask about his remote office setup.  If he has no structure and no remote office setup, you might want to reconsider.

The phone interview is also a chance for you to learn more about the candidate’s previous work experience.  Ask for details about a project he has done, preferably the sample he sent you before.

The results of the phone interview should help you to cull your list of candidates even further.

Ask for a Video Interview

At this point, you know the candidate by his qualifications, his work history, and his voice.  However, there are a few good reasons to ask for a video interview.

First, a video conference will give you a chance to see how it is to work with this person online.  For companies with remote workers, this is an important way to collaborate.  Before the call, come up with a challenge question or business problem to solve.  During the call, ask the candidate to work through it with you and other team members.  Pay attention to his ideas, the questions he asks, and how he responds to others.

A video conference will also give you the chance to test the candidate’s technical abilities.  You might provide a computer programming problem to solve, a piece of copy to write, or a document to proofread.  Then, you can see how the candidate works, how he reacts to challenges, and how he reacts to criticism.

Make a Decision

Before making your final decision, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First, review all application materials and notes from the beginning, so you don’t forget any impressions you had.  Then, ask your team if they are comfortable bringing this person on board.  Then, compare the finalists, make your decision, and extend an offer!

Review Application Materials

Look back at the email application, work sample, and interview notes.  This will remind you of any reservations you had, as well as any strong points about a candidate.  You should have all of this in a separate file for each candidate.  Make any additional notes, and score each candidate.  You might use your intuition or gut, or you might have a numerical rating system.  Either way, have a method!

Ask the Team

In addition to using your own judgment, ask your team what they think.  If one or more people get bad vibes, then consider very strongly whether you want to hire this person.  Also, take into account your team’s impressions of the candidate’s technical and soft skills.

Compare Finalists

Once you compile this information, you might have only a few candidates left.  Compare the finalists side-by-side, and decide who would make the best addition to your team.  If you are stuck, think long-term and decide who has the best potential to grow in the company.  This could mean either a leadership position or a more advanced technical role.

Extend an Offer

Once you decide on a candidate, make an offer official with a letter mailed to him.  Also send an email stating the same information.  Include information about job title, compensation, responsibilities, and supervisor.  Make your expectations clear regarding schedule and availability for this remote role.  Be sure to include the date when you would like to receive a response.

Treat All Applicants Well

Finally, remember to treat all applicants with respect.  This includes communicating offers and denials promptly.  If a candidate took the time to interview, thank them and keep their information handy.  You might end up hiring him down the road, so be kind!


There are many factors to consider when hiring remote employees.  The most important factor is self-discipline, so the employee can motivate himself to work.

Remember to take these steps in order.  It is tempting to throw together a job posting and put it up.  However, you need to make sure you know what you want, and look in the right places.  This will save you time and effort in the long run.

If you are successful in finding a good remote hire, make sure that they have the right tools for the job.  To find out more, check out my post on the best tools for telecommuting.  You will also want to make sure that there are no technical issues with the equipment you choose.  For more information, check out my article on technical support for remote workers.

I hope that this article is helpful to you in hiring remote employees.  If you can think of any steps that I missed, please leave a comment below.

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