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March 8, 2011
Simple Strategies for Managing the Remote Hire Relationship

Finding, trusting, and working with a new remote hire is always a little nerve-wracking. Are you going to get the right quality? Did you pick the right person? Will they meet your deadlines? Are they going to rip you off? In truth, you won’t always know the answers to all these concerns, but working with remote hires doesn't have to be scary if you focus on finding the right person and getting to know each other early.
As a recruitment director at Solvate.com, an online platform that connects independent professionals and businesses in remote working relationships, I've had a lot of experience working with people I've never met face-to-face. Not only do I see people connecting with one another on our platform every day, I also use remote professionals to grow our business here at Solvate. There are always things to consider when working in remote situations to make sure things go smoothly.
Solvate works to solve a lot of the challenges of finding and connecting with remote hires. But if you’re going at it alone, check out some of my tips for getting it right and avoiding common pitfalls.
Decide who you need. Figuring out who you need is often the hardest step to hiring someone remotely, particularly if you're looking for help with work that's outside of your expertise. Before looking for a new remote hire, outline exactly who you need and what services, skills, and experiences are required for your perfect match. If you're not exactly sure who you need, start by doing some research. At Solvate, when I'm looking to fill a position with a skill set that I don't know much about, I always follow the steps below.

  • Take a first stab at describing what you need done. Be as specific as possible, even if you're not familiar with the technical language of the industry.
  • Reach out to your personal network to see if anyone can help you better define who you need or can suggest skill sets that might be helpful.
  • Look at job boards and see what similar positions are looking for in applicants. You don't have to match your descriptions exactly, but others’ ads will give you a sense of the technical skills that might be required from your new hire.
  • If there are agencies that offer the services you need, don't be afraid to reach out to them and ask them more about what they provide. This is a little sneaky, but usually the skills and services that agencies emphasize as part of “their sell” are the things you should be asking of your new hire.
  • Revise your job description and requirements with the information that you've learned.

Once you know who you need, make your search about finding the perfect person with the right combination of services, skills, and experiences.
Be strategic about where you look. Casting a wide net isn't always the best policy. A huge response from the wrong applicants is a lot less valuable than a few responses from the right ones. Avoid getting a tsunami of resumes by posting strategically. If there are smaller job boards that specialize in a specific community of remote workers, you're probably better off. For example, if you're looking for a graphic designer, sites like coroflot and krop, which specialize in design, tend to attract higher quality responses than huge job boards like craigslist. Sometimes reaching out to your personal networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for recommendations and referrals is also the best way to get great candidates.
Get to know your prospective hires. When hiring a remote worker, you may never meet them. This makes it tougher to feel like you really know each other so take your time communicating early in the relationship. Spend some time talking about your needs and your project and get a good sense of each other's goals. Don't underestimate the value of getting on the phone, exchanging instant messages, and setting up a video chat. The more comfortable you are with the person and the more freely you can communicate, the better your working relationship will be. While you're at it, keep a look out for the following crucial skills:

  • Quick, attentive response to your messages
  • Clear communication style
  • A focus on goals and expectations

Set up expectations in advance. Make sure that you and your remote hire start with a clear statement of work. Set up well-defined goals with deadlines and milestones. Each milestone should have a check-in where you affirm work is going well. The easiest way to avoid getting unsatisfactory work out of your remote hire and to avoid billing disputes later is to take extra time setting everyone's expectations in advance.
Communicate regularly. Because you don't run into your remote hire every day, making time to communicate and check in with them is crucial to staying on the same page. The loss of time by the water cooler means you have to put a little more effort to keep in touch. Being available on your remote hire's instant messenger list and speed dial is good start. Finally, be sure to respond to questions as quickly as possible. Delayed responses can delay your work and waste your remote hire's time.
Let the relationship evolve. People sometimes think of their remote work as single-project deals—and that can be true. However, working together over the long term is often the most rewarding and effective approach to building a great remote workforce. Once you've worked on a few projects together, you don't have to spend as much time setting expectations and you already know each other's working styles and strengths. People you've never technically met in person can become close colleagues.

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Meghan Paul is the Director of Talent at Solvate.com, a platform that helps employers find, meet, and work with independent professionals in the cloud. Here she oversees talent acquisition, onboarding, and community. 
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