Hiring new remote team members

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One of the big challenges of remote and virtual teams is that the team seldom stays intact from beginning to end. People get shifted in and out, they leave and new people are brought on board. If you're lucky enough to be in charge of the hiring, how can you find people who are prepared to work in a remote/virtual environment?

Interviewing is tough, because you often are doing that remotely as well, and you largely base hiring decisions on the answers to the questions you ask. The problem is, your interviewee is programmed to give you the answer they think you want to hear.

If you ask "have you worked remotely before?" they are likely to say they have, even if it's only the occasional Friday. It's not that they're dishonest, it's just that the definition of the truth stretches the longer you've been out work.

Here are some things to ask prospective remote workers:

What has been your experience working as part of a remote team? (Shut up at that point and let them answer. Keep the question open. They may tell you about technology challenges, they may tell you about working relationships, let them start where they are most comfortable then you can drill down.)

What technology have you used in the past as part of working remotely? This is a good question for several reasons. You'll get a sense of their comfort level (listen carefully to tone of voice. Does their tongue drip with venom when discussion firewalls and connection speeds?)

You may also learn about other tools they've used that can be of value to your existing team. New hires are often thought of as blank slates, but people bring valuable experience to your group.

Based on past experience, what concerns do they have or challenges have they experienced that they'd like to avoid when working with you and your team? This might be a subset of the first question, or it might be a completely different topic. It may also help you prioritize training and onboarding.

What is their work environment like? Are they working in a home office? Specifically, what does it look like? We all know (again, definitions become more elastic as the unemployment benefits are closer to expiring) that a home office might be a secure location with great connection, a door with a lock and a comfy chair. Or the person could be working with a cell phone from the north end of the dining room table.

What is their work style? What you're trying to determine here is, how this person likes to work. Are they a loner? Do they like frequent interaction? If they know their Myers Briggs type, or their DISC profile, terrific (and you may have an assessment you give all your team members).

The key is to find out what they'll be like to work with. If you're the kind of manager who likes frequent contact, will they view you as micromanaging? If you're the type that thinks "no news is good news", will they think they're being neglected? How proactive will they be reaching out to other team members?

Remember that the past is the best indicator of the future. Ask what they have done or experienced, not what they think should happen. Who tells you they expect to melt down when faced with a deadline or that proactive team communication isn't important. The question shouldn't reflect what they think or know should happen, it's been what their experience has been and how they've responded to it. History has an annoying way of repeating itself.

Resumes are fine for screening, but as a leader you have to get a sense of how the person will respond when they are on the job, not just looking for one.

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