7 Steps to hiring the best work from home employee

7 Steps to hiring the best work from home employee

Working from home is easy but finding the best telecommute candidates isn't

80% of the professional world thinks the can telecommute but only 20% can hack it for longer than 6 months. I made up those numbers but it reflects my experience and I’d lay money that I’m close. As a telecommute employer, your job is to find that 20% as efficiently as possible. We used to lose 2 out of 3 remote workers in the first year. Now we average less than 1 out of 3 (can you really lose less than a whole person without an industrial accident?). Here’s how I did it.

Be clear in your job ad

It’s a telecommute job. It’s a 100% telecommute job. It’s a salaried full-time 100% telecommute job open to qualified candidates who speak and write business English and live within any time zone comprising the Western Hemisphere who can legally work for a company operating out of the United States. If that applies, did you say all that in your last work from home job posting? If you skipped most of it you are hurting yourself in two ways. One, you risk wading through dozens and sometimes hundreds of candidates who waste your time because they don’t fit the criteria that you failed to lay out for them. Two, you may be missing out on the fantastic candidates who can legally and temporally work for you from Canada, Belize, Brazil, etc. Clarifying your criteria is the easiest way to weed out the unqualified and cast a wide enough net that will bring in the gems from places you were unaware of.

Ask for more than a resume

Your job posting should make your life easier. Do you really want to hire someone who can’t read to the end, follow instructions or notice (OBVIOUS!!!) details? Then include a steps that automatically get rid of those who can’t or can’t be bothered. It can be as simple as asking clearly for a resume and cover letter. Raise the bar and tell them that they have to be in one PDF. Raise the bar even further and tell them that the email should act as a letter of introduction and include a single PDF of their cover letter, resume and 3 professional references. For whichever bar you choose, if an applicant doesn’t reach it, delete them.

Reflect your company at all stages

How does a candidate get an idea of your company’s culture if there isn’t a building to tour and dozens of random worker bees to run into them and explain how awesomely fabulous it is to work HERE!!!! It comes from you and the people you include on the interviews. We call it “THE SHOW”. The people I invite on interviews have a great rapor and engaging banter. Just by the way we joke around and talk about what we take seriously, we are imparting our company’s culture. Why is this important? It can be a selling point. You may not be offering the most interesting, high-paying, executive elevator job but if you can show a candidate how positively they will be treated and valued then you may have won the battle that wins the war.

Thin the herd with money talk

In my company, we call it “THE EMAIL”. If a candidate survives THE EMAIL we take them seriously. The text lays out the benefits, what makes our company special, the salary range and mention some of the reasons why they’ll do better financially to telecommute.

Recommended Read: 5 reasons why working from home really pays more (opens in a new tab for later)

We don’t wait for someone to ask but we also don’t publish it in the job ad. I’d rather someone put in some effort to research our company before making a decision based on money. It should come as no surprise that telecommute jobs typically pay less than office jobs with the same title and responsibilities. By dropping this bomb now, we only get the candidates who not only saw themselves in the position once they thought about it and researched us but also convinced themselves that they could work with that salary. Additionally, it avoids any last minute financial brinkmanship which some employees think makes them seem more professional. I’d rather lose a few good candidates now then spend hours interviewing, discussing and considering candidates who were going to demand a salary that was well out of our ballpark.

Talk A LOT about working from home

The obvious-o-meter just hit the red zone but in your desperation to find candidates who best meet the job requirements it’s easy to forget or gloss over a discussion of how they know they can work from home and if you believe them. 25% of every conversation you spend with a work at home candidate should be about telecommuting. What do they like? What do they hate? What have they found that works? What’s their home office environment like. Keep an ear open for the warning signs.

Make at least one stage a video conference

Remote workforce companies use video conferencing to a greater or lesser degree but they all use it. When you include it in your hiring process you are testing out 3 important qualities of a work at home employee. First, is their bandwidth and system they intend to work on capable of quality video conferencing? In the video conference invitation I explicitly tell the candidate to test their system and network in the days before the video conference interview. I also tell them that video is required. For the positions I hire for, I don’t care if the candidates dress up or down, if they have missing ears or tattoos on their face. If I can’t hear them, see them, or the line keeps breaking up it’s a hint that they may not be taking their work from home position very seriously. Second, by agreeing to the video conference it shows that they are willing to do it (yes, some people refuse to show themselves through a video camera) and that they are comfortable talking through a camera. This leads to the most important reason. Third, I have had candidates for a work at home job hit home run after home run during phone interviews. Frankly, I think my team and I put them at ease during calls which encourages the interviewee to be one of the gang. But, something strange happens during a video conference: they falter, hesitate and quickly lose their train of thought. Is there some freaky threatening vibe that happens when one or more people stare back at you through a screen? Maybe it’s the focus on a face devoid of the body gestures. Regardless, it happens to some people. Fortunately for them, we give the benefit of the doubt and follow up with another conference call in which we discuss any major problems we saw. If the problems were technical, we get a commitment that they will be addressed. If there was a human communication issue, we mildly bring it up and look for signs that in other ways they are very strong.

Give the best candidates at least 3 chances

As I mentioned above, at my company at least one interview is a video conference. No candidate gets hired in fewer than 3 interviews. Typically the first interview is via phone and lasts 30 minutes. Survivors then join us on a conference call via Google Hangouts. That interview usually lasts an hour but can go longer if the interviewee really stands out or if we already have more than one fantastic top candidate. The third interview is back to the phone. The voice conference call typically lasts about an hour, but if the interviewee wants to extend it, I give them that courtesy. It’s typically the last chance they will have to sway me and the other person I bring in from my side (I always include a second pair of ears in case I missed something). Periodically, I’ll call a final candidate for a fourth quick interview if they and another candidate are really that equal. This process has worked well and efficiently through many hiring cycles. It can’t catch everything nor see into people’s future decisions and twists of fate. However, it’s a process that has shown great results with good balance of time. Tell me how your process differs and what’s better about it. I’m all ears.

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Gregory Sherrow


Entrepreneur, nutjob runner and remote employment advisor/trainer for individuals, managers and entrepreneurs.

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