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Hiring telecommuters for your remote team

distractions during telecommutingSo you’ve decided to develop a mobile workforce and you need to hire some telecommuters.

Telecommuting is expected to become mainstream practice in 2014. Dan Schawbel, a contributor and founder of research and management consulting firm Millennial Branding, says companies are starting to realize the cost savings and productivity increase that comes with letting employees work from home.

“One of the best examples is Aetna,” Schawbel writes. “Forty-seven per cent of their 35,000 employees work from home and they have saved an estimated 15% to 25% on real estate costs at an annual savings of about $80 million.”

You may find yourself in uncharted waters as you try to build your virtual team.

You may tempted to run your job candidates through the old list of tried and true interview questions, but we have suggestions for questions that may help give you a better picture. OnConference, a conference calling and web conferencing service provider, also has the tools that allow you to communicate with candidates and your telecommuting team.

The right questions to ask telecommuters

As a hiring manager, you want to make sure your telecommuters can do the job. You should ask the usual questions about their experience with the job tasks, and whether they’re familiar with your product or service.

Do they have the technological know-how to help you achieve your business goals and improve the bottom line?

But you should also look at questions that give you a peek into their work style, their methods for working from home without direct supervision.

Here are some questions to ask:

Do you have any telecommuting experience?

You might be taking a big risk if you hire someone who has no experience working from home. You want to be assured that your new hire is accustomed to the culture that comes with telecommuting: the communication, reporting structure, deadlines, etc.

Could you describe your home office?

This may not be a big deal if you’re hiring someone who doesn’t have direct contact with clients or customers, like a copywriter or a software developer. However, if you’re hiring for customer service or technical support, you want to know your candidate has an office with a door where they can be sequestered from any noise distractions, like family or a dog. Phone calls and video calls – even those for weekly team meetings – must be undisturbed.

What type of internet connection and computer equipment do you have?

You need to know that not only will your new telecommuter be reliable, but so will his connection and equipment. You may have the resources to ship equipment to your team, and that’s great. If you’re expecting your team to work on their own equipment, you have to make clear that you expect computer gear to not be an excuse for lack of productivity.
You may also want to ask what the backup plan is, in the event the telecommuter’s system goes out for an extended period. You should hear the candidate tell you where the nearest public library or coffee shop is, and whether he can complete his tasks at that location.

How do you schedule your day?

A good, dedicated telecommuter keeps a routine as if he’s heading to the office for the day. He gets up, has breakfast, showers and gets dressed, and then heads for his desk. Maybe he takes the kids to school or walks the dog. Then you want to hear how he breaks down his day at the “office,” like handling communication, working around virtual meetings, scheduling calls and checking emails. As a hiring manager or remote team supervisor, you want to have some expectations around the task s that needs to be completed on a daily basis.

What are your top challenges communicating with your team?

Telecommuting absolutely brings communication challenges. Tone and intent are sometimes missed in emails or on video conferences. Your team may be scattered around the globe, with team members working in different time zones. You want to hear from your job candidate how he overcomes any challenges that can arise by not being in the same physical space as his teammates. You want to ensure he has better-than-average problem-solving skills while working independently.

Your turn

When you’re hiring to staff your telecommuting team, you need to find job candidates who are trustworthy, responsible and dedicated to the work.

You may never meet these employees in person, yet you have to build a relationship with them, just as they have to build relationships with each other.

You should address all these issues in the questions you ask during the job interview to ensure you’re picking the right team.

Do you have any questions you ask during an interview with candidates for a remote position? Tell us in the comments.

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