Best Practices for Remote Onboarding and Hiring
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies to shift to a remote workforce, for many though it has been a growing trend for a while now. In fact, The State of Remote Work report by OwlLabs found that 16% of companies were fully remote, and another 40% offered both remote and in-office options in 2017.
Many companies, however, are still struggling to adjust their hiring and onboarding processes for fully remote positions. That’s why we’ve turned to industry leaders to learn their thoughts on interviewing for remote jobs, what they look for in candidates, and how to onboard remote employees effectively.
Getting the Remote Interview Right
“Hiring is a little different when you aren’t meeting candidates face-to-face,” said Ryan Sutton, district president for Robert Half Technology & The Creative Group, “but videoconferencing apps and clear communication can help businesses succeed in this new normal.” That’s why he recommends conducting interviews by video to get a better feel for who the candidate is and whether they have a suitable work environment for the position.
“You still need to do your due diligence pre-interview, by reading resumes and writing well thought out job descriptions,” added Paul Ronto, CMO & content director at RunRepeat. He also suggested a round of questions and even a small assignment to weed out candidates that aren’t serious. “There are a lot of applicants out there that just apply to everything out there, and when you ask them for more they don't want to put the effort in,” Ronto continued, “we don't want these applicants for obvious reasons.”
What Do You Look For?
“One thing you do have to remember in remote positions is that you need to really trust those you hire,” Ronto said, “so asking questions about time management, focus, distractions at home, need answers that maybe in-person positions don't have to worry about.” You’ll also want to assess what technologies they already have at home and how much you’ll need to invest in getting them up and running.
Along with some of the standard interview questions, Sutton recommends asking candidates about some skills and attributes specific to remote work. “Even the most technical roles require strong writing skills in remote employees,” he said. That’s why it’s crucial to ask about the candidate’s ability to communicate clearly in writing over email, text, or other mediums. “You’ll also want to ask some questions to gauge their experience with remote working,” Ronto added. While working remotely may seem enticing to a lot of employees, sometimes it’s not what they expect.
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Onboarding Remote Employees Effectively
“First off, we have an onboarding process we built into Trello,” Pronto revealed, “so new hires have a self-directed learning course which explains the company, the position, has handbooks, style guides, and anything they may need to know.” They also connect potential and new hires with existing employees to get a feel for things before accepting the job. “Starting at a remote position can be intimidating because there's no one at the desk next to you to walk you through things,” Pronto explained, “but this builds relationships and trust between employees.” It helps when new hires know someone is available to help them out.
“New employees hit the ground running faster when they’re brought into the fold,” agreed Sutton. That means scheduling virtual team meetings, daily check-ins, and other regular conversations with existing team members. But Sutton also says you need to ensure new hires get the necessary technology early on. “Your new hire will likely need a laptop and phone, as well as other equipment to set them up for success,” he said. It’s also a good idea to schedule time for them to work with the IT help desk or another team member that can help new hires set up their software and tools.
Victor Choudhary, HR evangelist at Whatfix sees remote onboarding as a real challenge for many organizations. “While developing and maintaining an onboarding plan and setting expectations is essential,” he explained, “it’s crucial that the new hire immediately feels welcomed and part of the family sooner rather than later.” Remote employees also face what he calls “technostress,” where they’re overwhelmed during their first few weeks and don’t know who to turn to for help. “Adding a human touch such as sending a company-wide email introducing the employee or adding them to relevant Slack channels,” he said, “can make all the difference in their experience.”
Hiring and onboarding remotely doesn’t have to be challenging, but many companies will need to make some adjustments to make it successful.