Hiring for your remote team? Don’t skip these interview questions

As a manager you may be willing to hire the best talent for your team no matter where they’re located, but how do you go about determining if a potential hire is, in fact, excellent? This is especially tough if you consider that being a great remote worker means not only being excellent at a particular job but also excellent at managing communicating at a distance and juggling priorities outside of the office.

Personal recommendations are great and, as with any job, past performance is a nice indication of a potential employees’ abilities, but the interview, as ever, is key. You’ll need to ask the usual questions to get at the candidate’s suitability for the work but you’ll also need to probe how the candidate will handle the remote team set-up. Handily, there are questions that can help.

The easiest way to gauge if a potential employee will thrive on a distributed team is to find out if they’ve worked this way before and how they handled being remote. Wayne Turmel, who writes the Connected Manager column for Management Issues suggests wording your question on this topic, this way:

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.

Finding out a little bit about their work setup (Do they work at a coworking space? A home office? What’s it like?) is also valuable. “Describe your remote office and virtual workday?” CIO Insight suggests asking in a recent slideshow on interviewing for remote posts. But even more important, according to Turmel, is understanding their approach to technology and communication. He advises asking:

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.

Sara Sutton Fell, the CEO and Founder of FlexJobs concurs, suggesting in an article covering the whole process of remote hiring, that interviewers ask: “What methods of communication do you prefer?” She also recommends asking candidates how they prioritize tasks and stay focused. CIO Insights also suggests asking directly about a potential hire’s ability to prioritize but also offers more specific questions to get at this sort of information, including:

  • What did you do when a manager was absent and you had to make a decision? To get at an employee’s ability to be independent in a virtual work environment.
  • How do you manage working for more than one supervisor? To get at their ability to juggle assignments for multiple parties.
  • How do you stay current? To get a sense of whether they’re proactive and keep up to date with your industry.

What other questions have you found to be effective when interviewing for a virtual team?

Image courtesy of Flickr user bpsusf.