After the pandemic, when a lot of people were forced into remote working, some organizations and employees realised that suits them just fine!
Orgs can save on office space spending and employees can enjoy the flexibility and more time at home (not commuting).
Sounds idyllic, but how to keep this remote setup and expand it to a global setting—spreading the reach of your company’s employer brand and tapping into a global workforce?
In this article, I’ll go over how to hire remote employees and set them up for success.
- Why Remote?
- Are You Ready For Remote?
- How To Hire Remote Employees
- Setting Remote Employees Up For Success
Before we go into the operational guidance for hiring remote employees, a few words on why you may consider going through this exercise altogether.
A lot of press has come out talking about how people are leaving companies in droves, especially ones that do not embrace at least hybrid, if not fully remote, after the pandemic.
Therefore, looking into changing your work set-up can be a really effective employee retention strategy—especially in the world of tech.
However, hiring a remote workforce has more benefits too, chief of which are the lower overhead spending (office, utilities etc) and access to more talent.
I vividly remember having to search for an iOS engineer in Grimsby, UK because that is where our office was and, I can tell you, no one was having a great time. Not us, not the team, and not the candidates.
On a separate note, you also have the opportunity to refocus efforts on your company values and what brings people together—regardless of the location.
If you panicked that you will lose “company culture” when you lost an office location, I’m sorry you didn’t have a company culture, you had an office culture.
Are You Ready For Remote?
Let’s face it, while a fully remote job may sound ideal to some, it is not possible or advisable for every job.
Here are a couple of things you need to consider when thinking about your own remote journey:
Is your team ready for it?
Perhaps the pandemic made you ready, or maybe it didn’t. Either way, it’s a good thing to check with your teams.
Conduct an employee survey and see how they feel about moving to hybrid/remote. Make sure you also ask about how they feel about colleagues joining who are fully remote—how ready do your teams feel to be collaborative and productive with remote new joiners?
I’ve seen some companies switch to remote fairly swiftly—especially if they already had a suitable business (e.g. it’s a pure SaaS product with agile and feature-specific teams). Others need to either go to hybrid or make the transition in stages (e.g. companies that have a large operational arm, supply chain can’t happen from home!).
Another thing to think about is the overlap in work times and timezones. Perhaps you’re not ready to hire all over the globe as you’d like to have some overlap time for your teams.
If so, I’d advise limiting your hiring to +/- 3hrs to start with, and then move towards a more global distribution.
So, after all that, now comes the fun part.
How To Hire Remote Employees?
When hiring remote workers, it means taking a look at the entire candidate/employee journey and tweaking it to make it suitable for global or remote hiring.
Here’s what to focus on:
One of the first steps is to review your job descriptions to ensure that they’re easy to understand for a global audience. This means that they’re written in accessible language without any colloquialisms.
For example, try to avoid using cliches like “go-getter” or make something like “good sense of humor” a requirement. People may speak great English without necessarily understanding colloquialisms and no one should be reading your job description with a dictionary.
Make sure that if you have any sort of limitations, like salary, timezone, or shifts, they're prominently displayed in the job description.
Additionally, I always like mentioning the kind of mentality we’re looking for—someone who is quite entrepreneurial and proactive.
Being remote comes with less micromanagement (usually), but that means there’s a lot of work to be done under your own supervision.
The potential candidate should be ready for that, and be able to demonstrate it in an interview, by showing examples of where they were proactive in seeing issues and solving problems, or where they communicated effectively with multiple stakeholders to deliver a complex project remotely.
For more on writing job descriptions, check out my article: how to write zinger job descriptions.
While some of the standard job boards have been trying to accommodate for more remote positions, you may want to take a look at remote-specific job boards.
Most are paid but there are some free ones. My suggestions are:
Remote interviews can require a bit more prep from you and from anyone in your team who will be conducting them.
You need to make sure that you are prepared both in equipment and in mindset.
Make sure that you have a good setup for remote interviewing. You don’t need a 4K camera and a streamer/Youtuber-level equipment, but make sure you’re well visible on camera and there are few distractions when you’re conducting interviews.
Ideally, you’re at a desk—avoid taking interviews in a car or on your way somewhere, you’ll be distracted and it’s disrespectful of the person’s time.
Always strive to be on video so you can connect with the person more and, wherever possible, ask the person to be on video at least once during the process.
You’ll have to glean a lot from a video call, which can be a lot more difficult, and that means that you’ll probably need to spend more time with each candidate.
And, just as you may need more time to get an understanding and replace the face-to-face contact, they may need the same to understand more about you and your company. Focus on spending time with each candidate to help them to understand the culture and aims of the team/company.
Often they'll be very far away, and from a different culture, so you need to make sure that they understand expectations and norms and are OK with those.
For example, if you’re a very collaborative team, but perhaps they’ve been a contractor who just gets given a project to deliver without much communication, make sure you explain the difference to them and that they’re OK with it.
Additionally, if you are interviewing remote people from an office, be prepared to answer questions on how your company is balancing office-based vs remote employees in terms of opportunities or exposure.
A note on interviewing across cultures. If you open your candidate pipeline to the world, you better be prepared for all sorts of communication styles.
I recommend The Culture Map by Erin Meyer as a good primer in cross-cultural communications.
For more advice on better interviewing in general, check out my article the key to focused, engaging interviews, where I go over structured standardised interviews (which are even more important to have in remote recruitment).
As always, make sure that you are well informed and properly equipped to make an offer before you are anywhere near this stage.
An offer may require a bit more back-and-forth with remote candidates, and perhaps a bit more hand-holding to guide people through your process, as this may be the first time a candidate has engaged with a company from your country.
Arm yourself with patience.
For more on making an offer, check out my article: how to make a job offer.
A note on salaries
To offer a competitive salary in each market you may have to research more. There are some freely available resources like Glassdoor or Payscale, but there are also bigger paid databases like Pave or Figures.
While there are quite stark salary differences across borders, there is now a more “global” talent marketplace forming, with its own salary expectations and brackets, so make sure you engage with candidates well and have frank discussions about your budget and their expectations.
Equally, keep Finance and your CEO appraised of what is happening in the market out there.
Using a contractor or Employer of Record
These are the two main ways you can hire remotely without opening a new office in each location you have a candidate.
This could either be taking them on as a contractor or through an Employer of Record.
Taking on remote contractors provides flexibility and may be more affordable as you won’t be paying employee taxes and contributions.
However, you may want to give the candidates a heads up if that’s how you’ll be employing them because not everyone knows how to be a self-employed contractor and, in some jurisdictions, it can take a while to register.
Employer of Record (EOR)
This is a benefit to candidates because they’ll be classed as an employee with the full contributions paid.
This obviously adds an expense on top of a salary, depending on the jurisdiction. Somewhere like Spain, for example, you may be looking to add around 20%, but in France it’s almost 50%.
Additionally, the EOR provider is the actual direct employer so most things, like terminations and any changes, have to go through them. The candidate is still a contractor to you.
A lot of solutions for an Employer of Record have spun up recently to help with remote hiring. Deel, Remote.com, Globalisation Partners, Workmotion, and Oyster, spring to mind, and check out this list of the Best Employer of Record Services.
Make sure that you understand your own country’s laws, and any embargos, so that you are not employing people whom you legally cannot pay. This is something you will have to review regularly as things change all the time.
Additionally, it’s always good to be aware of what the requirements are for people to set up a self-employed entity (if you are employing contractors) and the tax situations in a few key countries where you are finding the most talent.
What I usually do, if I see a candidate is getting through to the final stage, is go ahead and research their location so that I’m more equipped for any offer negotiation. This will help you support them and ensure that you can negotiate well and suss out any bad faith actors.
Ensuring you’re compliant
While it may be easy to pass off compliance to the candidate if they are a contractor, you still have to be mindful of these:
While contractors will be responsible for their taxation, and EOR providers should guide you about any monetary requirements from you, you still have to make sure that you understand how the contractor is at least registered in their country.
One example I had recently was a candidate asking me if we can split his monthly rate into two invoices to two different companies so he can pay less tax. I immediately said “No thank you” because now you have notified me that you are committing potential tax fraud so we won’t be proceeding.
Employee relationship and establishment risk
We want to make sure that we give remote employees (in reality contractors) all the benefits that your local employees get.
However, sometimes you have to be careful as that can impose an employee (in the legal sense) relationship and that will create issues with the country’s tax services because you are not an employer.
Some countries are catching up that foreign companies are coming in and hiring talent at higher rates than the local market salaries and are stifling the local employers. It’s been called “brain drain without the emigration”, so make sure you are on top of any risks and are not forced to create a subsidiary.
This is especially important for any businesses who have a goal to trade globally, as you may hit a snag if you try to trade in a country where you have become associated with a fraudster, for example.
Setting Remote Employees Up For Success
I’ve been managing a remote team for a few years now, so thought I’d share a couple of learnings to help you set your remote employees up for success.
Onboarding someone remotely is more difficult than welcoming them into an office as it often boils down to meeting after meeting and downtime between meetings where they either have to just rote read or wait for the next action.
A couple of things I focus on to make the remote onboarding process as smooth as possible:
Ensure that you’re prepared to send out all the information and equipment ahead of time. There are solutions, like Hofy, which can help equip your new starters all across the globe in a few clicks.
Making people feel welcome in advance is especially important if they’re far away from everyone else. Start inviting them into stand-ups and calls even before day 1, that way they can already recognise names and know who to potentially reach out to once they start.
If you have a company trip coming up close to the start date, ask if you can have your new starter join. Likewise, make sure that you’re respectful of the new starters’ time, they may not be able to join all meetings/trips as they may need to wrap up at their previous job.
Make it an open invitation, not compulsory attendance.
For more check out: 11 tips for onboarding remote employees
When you’re managing a remote team, oftentimes you’ll be relying on your team member’s own resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit.
As mentioned above, I like to add this to my job descriptions. But you have to make sure you’re still providing everyone with timely feedback and guidance
You may not have had the opportunity to build as close a relationship with your team members as they’re remote.
This is why it’s vital that you try to gain as much of an understanding of the situation and the person’s thinking before you deliver feedback.
Make sure you ask questions like “Where are we with this? What blockers do we foresee/what blockers do we have? What do you need from me to support you in delivering this?”.
I also like to discuss the goals I set for the coming quarter with my team to check against what is happening with each of them individually and then all of them as a group. The main goals I check and set once a quarter, and then we keep checking in every month against progress.
I also regularly check in on individual goals in our 1:1s every two weeks and also use this time to this time to check how the person is doing.
You don’t see people in real life so you don’t know if their kid is ill, or they’ve been having issues that may impact their work temporarily, so don’t jump to conclusions.
You can start meetings with red/yellow/green, or a #/10, to get a read on how your team is feeling. Make sure to follow up with people who are giving signals (low numbers or yellow/red)
Context is vital, but it’s more easily lost in a remote setting, so make sure you dedicate time to understand your team better and not just do surface level check-ins.
To build rapport, I like to dedicate time to informal and non-business interactions. This could be a team happy hour/tea time.
It could be a gaming session over lunch or creating a Discord server where people can pop into an audio-only room (combat video fatigue) and just interact as little or as much as they want while they are doing some work. People can also share multiple screens at the same time to make collaboration easier too.
Right now, while writing this, I’m in a Discord server after work with my friends, who’re playing some games, and I don’t feel tired at all after a full day of video calls.
Hiring remotely is a great way to make sure you get the best person for your role, rather than the best person within a certain radius.
Yes, it is a lot of work, but the rewards are great as you are able to get such a diversity of thought. In my company, we really relish hearing people’s different perspectives as we are looking to create a global product.
Remote work isn’t a fad, it’s not just for the few “digital nomads” anymore, it’s a shift in the paradigm of work.
Some further resources to help with hiring and managing remote workers:
- How To Create An Efficient, Sustainable Growth Hiring Plan
- How to create an attractive careers page
- Candidate sourcing tips to help you find the best talent
- Employer branding, where to start, and how to keep it authentic
- How Global HR Services Can Support International Teams
- Best applicant tracking systems to streamline your hiring process
- Why Honesty Is Important During Hiring Moments (with AJ Vaughan)
- How To Develop Cross-Cultural Skills As A Leader (with Dr. Rajesh Kumar)
- Best Recruiting Database Software for Hiring Teams
For more on hiring and other people and culture matters, subscribe to the people managing people newsletter, delivered weekly to your inbox.