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With technology making it easier for startups to go virtual and decrease overheads, many entrepreneurs are opting to have their teams telecommute. A recent study by Stanford University found a company can save approximately US$2 000 per employee just by allowing them to work from home. For startup companies without deep pockets, running a virtual team can be a great way to keep overhead low while the company grows.
Still, virtual workers can present challenges in the hiring process, especially when it comes to finding the best people. You need someone who is not only right for your startup, but right for the telecommuting lifestyle. But in the end, it doesn’t matter whether your employees wear suits or pajamas, as long as you hire the best people for your startup.
Don’t be afraid of the telecommuter
For startups, hiring a virtual team can seem stressful, yet it’s a savvy move. You might assume members of your startup team need to be in the same room burning the midnight oil, but with new technology and social tools, constant communication is now simple. This is probably why nearly 34 million Americans at least occasionally work remotely. By 2016, this number is expected to rise to nearly 63 million, compromising about 43 percent of the U.S. workforce.
The other major concern employers have about virtual teams involves employee productivity. What if you hire someone great just to discover they’ve been spending most of their day at home playing Candy Crush instead of crushing their projects?
This is where your role as startup founder and business leader comes into play. The Stanford University study found stay-at-home workers were actually more productive, with 8.5 percent putting in more hours than in-office employees. What you need to do is find candidates with the right drive and determination to add real value to your team as a telecommuter. Not every candidate who looks good on paper will actually make a great virtual employee though…
So here are three tips to ensure you hire the best virtual team for your startup:
1. Tap Into Talent Communities
Talent communities are online destinations where great candidates spend time. These could be LinkedIn discussion groups, Twitter chats, Facebook groups, or blog posts. You know your industry, so you probably know the online destinations frequented by people who want to talk trends and debate challenges.
Go to these places and become a valuable member of the community. Don’t just lurk — share advice and thought leadership with the community. This is a great place to publicise your job openings, but it’s an even better place to get to know candidates in a more personal fashion. The candidate with an industry-related blog or the person with an outside-the-box idea is probably the candidate who is dedicated, motivated, and passionate enough to become your ideal virtual superstar.
2. Connect Using Video Interviews
The roadblock to virtual hiring is the perceived lack of personal connection. Especially in a startup environment, you need to get people on board who truly believe in your company mission statement. Finding out if someone has the right talent to grow your company means more than a quick look at their work history.
Video interviews are one way to get up close and personal with talent, even if you’ll never share the same office. With a one-way video interview, candidates can answer your written questions on video. This allows you to quickly weed through the wrong people. Once you’ve zeroed in on the people who seem like a good fit, it’s time to connect in real-time.
The live video interview allows startup founders building a virtual team to make a personal connection, just as if the hiring manager were sitting in the same room as a candidate. A candidate might be across the country instead of across the desk, but you can still evaluate nonverbal behavior and get a feel for personality in real-time.
3. Ask The Right Questions
As a virtual team, you may never get to sit across from your company’s talent. But this doesn’t mean you should skimp on connecting personally in the interview process. In fact, it’s even more important you connect in a personal fashion and ask the right questions.
Some candidates might have great credentials, but they’re just not cut out for the virtual lifestyle. Other candidates could have just the self-sufficiency, internal motivation, and team spirit required to become great new hires.
Make sure to ask questions about candidates’ ability to work alone and in a team setting. Ask for concrete examples of past work performance, including their brightest moments on the job. If they set the bar low in the interview, it might be because they don’t have much value to offer.
You’ll also want to ask them about how they handle stresses and challenges. Since it’s a virtual environment, you won’t be able to hold an employee’s hand if things get rough. You’ll need to find someone resilient and with the ability to communicate effectively. Long-distance communication is different from popping into a manager’s office to clarify, so make sure the “superior communication skills” listed on their resume shine through in the video interview.
Hiring a virtual team can be a great way to focus on your startup’s profit margins instead of overhead costs. Just don’t forget to use technological tools and a little detective work to ensure you hire employees with the right stuff to become virtual all-stars.
What do you think? How do you hire for your virtual startup? Share in the comments!
Image: Blake Patterson via Flickr.