Each year June marks the month when a new cohort of students move their tassels from left to right, walk across their university's stage, and finally hold a fresh diploma in their hands. And with this piece of paper comes a daunting responsibility—finding employment. As a Class of 2017 graduate myself, I went through my own job search process. And while I now sit at a desk in my company’s headquarters, many of my peers will land jobs that won’t offer an in-office experience. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, over 50 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that allows for at least some remote work, and 25-30 percent telecommute regularly. As these numbers continue to rise, remote workers truly are becoming the workplace of the future.
Now, it’s important to note that these remote workers are not individuals who are self-employed or dabbling with the gig economy; these are people who are employed full-time at a company, but use the internet, phone, and other forms of technology to collaborate with, and contribute to, the greater organization.
These employees, often separated from their teams by physical distance and time zones, need to be excellent communicators, self-starters, and resourceful. To find the right fit, recruiters often need to make adjustments to the process they typically use for in-office employees.
Aleck Franceschini, Senior Recruiter at Zendesk, is no stranger to the remote versus in-office distinction. Franceschini spends the majority of his time recruiting for Zendesk’s U.S. sales team, a department that has grown beyond the borders of physical offices. For Franceschini, this means that many of his open requisitions are remote. As such, he’s developed a number of unique practices that help him make successful hires, no matter the location.
Getting creative with brand awareness
When it comes to recruiting remote employees, efforts start far before initial phone screens. “It can definitely be challenging to recruit in remote regions for a number of reasons,” said Franceschini. “There may not be good brand awareness in the region, making it less likely that the candidates would be able to find our openings or know who we are.” To improve local reputation, recruiters might consider hosting happy hours, mixers, and meet and greets to get face-to-face time with potential candidates. Advertising these events on local job sites or on Eventbrite can help increase visibility and improve local attendance.
Recruiters also lean heavily on referrals in unfamiliar regions. Calling attention to remote listings on all-company communication channels like Slack can help raise awareness about open roles (there has to be someone who knows someone who knows someone who is looking for a sales role in Miami).
Calling attention to remote listings on all-company communication channels like Slack can help raise awareness about open roles (there has to be someone who knows someone who knows someone who is looking for a sales role in Miami).
Get your webcam warmed up
Once you start collecting a pool of candidates, it’s time to get to know them on an individual level. And during the interview process, flexibility is key. “For remote-based candidates, you have to be more flexible and ultimately adjust the whos, whats, and whens of interviews to times that are mutually beneficial for the internal team members and the candidate,” said Franceschini. “Oftentimes I’ll have them do several video screens with different team members that they would interact with regularly on the role... but this may happen on separate days rather than all in a row.” Moreover, adding additional communication channels can help smooth out this process, and reduce the delays that are typically associated with email. “I've added text to my communication channels for remote employees as it speeds up the communication, and makes for a more personalized touch,” said Franceschini.
These conversations not only create a steady dialogue and ensure the candidate feels like they're getting a great experience, but also help the team observe the candidate’s level of comfort interacting over video or the phone, channels they would likely use to communicate with teammates if offered the job.
Even though remote employees are, by name, not working in the office, they still need to feel like they are a part of the greater organization. When it comes down to the final round of interviews, online career source The Muse suggests bringing all candidates, remote or not, into the office for an onsite interview. Meeting the candidates in person allows the team to get a feel for their energy, personality, and cultural fit.
The obvious and not-so-obvious questions
Because remote employees have to be self-starters, The Muse recommends crafting inquiries to measure a candidate's self-direction. For example, asking a candidate to describe a time where they had to make their own decisions or spearhead their own project. This will help you determine whether or not they are comfortable working independently.
In addition to getting a feel for an interviewee’s attitude and work style, it’s also necessary to zero in on the crucial facts. If the role is location-based, does the candidate actually live in the region you’re recruiting for? Are they comfortable with frequent travel and trips to headquarters? How soon are they able to onboard? While not all of these answers would be deal-breakers one way or the other, it’s important that the hiring manager be presented with all of these details at the forefront of the recruiting timeline.
Finish off the offer with a little sparkle
The job offer is not the end, it’s actually a new beginning—for both the employee and for their team. So make sure you do it well. When presenting an offer, and with the administrative steps that immediately follow, it’s important to make an extended effort to assure the remote hire that they’ve made the right decision. Working outside of the office means potential feelings of disconnection, so Franceschini recommends introducing the new employee to multiple points of contact across the HR team.
As an out-of-office worker, one’s benefit breakdown and onboarding process may be confusing (and not like their in-office peers), so it’s essential that he or she knows who to contact with any questions.
And what makes someone feel more welcome than a welcome gift? Sending a personalized congratulatory email is an easy, but thoughtful touch. Even better: a bundle of company swag delivered to the new hire’s doorstep. Franceschini shared that he’s even sent chocolate chip cookies from a local bakery to make a new hire feel right at home. These small actions don’t take much on the part of the internal team, but can make a major impact on the new hire’s experience.
Sending a personalized congratulatory email is an easy, but thoughtful touch. Even better: a bundle of company swag delivered to the new hire’s doorstep.
A candidate is but a candidate
At the end of the day, a candidate is a candidate. He or she should have the capacity to do the job, be a great addition to the team, and aid in the company’s success—whether they’re in the office or not. So while the recruiting process does need to be altered slightly to ensure an out-of-office employee’s success and comfort, your company’s goals and values should always be top of mind when combing through a pool of applicants. Because whether through a computer or at the desk next to you, this person deserves to make a positive difference in your organization.
Sara Lighthall is a content marketer at Zendesk and a student of life. When she’s not demystifying the Millennial generation on Relate, you can find her with her toes in the sand and a latte in her hand. See what she’s up to on Twitter: @saralighthall.