2.15.11 – Hiring Virtual Employees

Would you ever hire someone you never met face-to-face or even seen?  Does that thought make you a bit nervous?  You may have grown up in an old-school, traditional office workplace and taught that you had to sit  across from a prospective employee to get a good read on him or her.  However, you can get accustomed to virtual hiring. 

If you are resistant to the idea of hiring sight unseen, what makes you uncomfortable?  Get beyond your initial hesitation for a second and think about how you will interact with that person if he or she gets the job.  Would the person be physically located with you or will it be virtual interactions or both? 

If you are hiring employees that you will deal with primarily in a virtual environment (online or over the phone), meeting in person can actually be a little misleading.  The normal paradigm is reversed: if someone interviews really well in person, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have a good virtual presence.  How do they communicate on the phone?  How do they communicate over email?  

I am not implying that no one in your organization should meet the candidate in person.  However, as the hiring manager, you can get a better idea of how the candidate will perform if your interview style and setting mimics the work environment the employee will be placed in. 

Here are a couple of ideas for hiring managers:

  1. Prepare for the interview.  Recognize that it is not only about job qualifications, but also about how a candidate will work with others.  In this case, how they will work in a virtual environment.  Has he or she done it before?  You might be able to tell from their resume based on their location.  If not, be sure to have those questions ready.
  2. Use video conferencing if available.  If you’re not comfortable without seeing someone you’re interviewing, then I recommend leveraging video conferencing when available.  High-end telepresence systems make you feel like you are in the room with the candidate, but simple webcams can do the trick too.  
  3. Listen to how they say things, not just what they say.  How is their verbal communication?  Is the person clear and concise?  Can they explain abstract ideas?  This is especially important if you expect the person to regularly interact with others over the phone.
  4. Monitor written communication.  It is still a good and common practice for a candidate to send a Thank You note after an interview.  Many people still prefer a hand written note because it’s perceived as more personal. I prefer an email.  Why?  It’s often the first glimpse of a person’s written email communication skills.  I sometimes intentionally contact a candidate after the interview via email with a follow up question or two to force an email from them.  Is it too informal?  Is it too wordy and not to the point?    
  5. If there are technical glitches, how does the candidate handle them?  I typically use a standard company conference call line for a phone interview.  I’ve had technical problems from time to time when the candidate had trouble calling in.  I had a candidate once that had trouble calling in (for whatever reason) and dropped after 5 minutes.  He sent an email to the recruiter asking to reschedule.  He had my cell phone and office phone lines as a backup as well as the recruiter’s.   Working virtually often means that you have to be somewhat resourceful and self-reliant to work through the numerous challenges that are bound to rise.  If a candidate can’t work through issues for an interview, how well do you think they’ll do it on the job?

 Happy hiring!

 -Jason

P.S. For those of looking for a virtual job (specifically, legitimate work-from-home jobs), you can check out one site I found useful:  www.ratracerebellion.com

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