How to Hire a Distributed Team

Hiring the right candidates with the skills, experience and mindset needed to succeed in a given role is a top priority for HR professionals. However, hiring a distributed workforce makes this process especially challenging since HR and hiring managers may not have the opportunity to meet applicants in-person prior to extending an offer. But, with the right communication tools in place and a strategic interviewing process, you can find and hire qualified candidates that will add value to your distributed teams and make lasting contributions to your company.

7 Steps for Hiring a Distributed Team

1. Define your ideal candidate

When hiring distributed teams, your company has access to job seekers all over the world. The number of potential candidates is astronomical, and sorting through large numbers of applicants can be overwhelming for frontline HR professionals and hiring managers. Before starting the hiring process, it’s important you know exactly what you’re looking for and clearly define the qualifications your ideal candidate needs to have in order to succeed in a specific role. You can create a candidate profile that functions as a blueprint for your ideal candidate. This helps your recruiting team map out the desired personality traits and skills needed for the position. For example, a candidate profile might include characteristics like self-motivated, tech-savvy, sales background as well as other traits and skills you’d ultimately like to see in the candidate you hire. Your candidate profile should include “must-have” traits, as well as “nice-to-have” traits. Establishing the traits and qualifications of the ideal candidate upfront can help you narrow your search and find someone that is the right fit for the job.

2. Find the best places to recruit talent

After you have defined your ideal candidate and written a detailed job description, it’s time to find the best places to recruit top talent. Instead of wasting time and money posting on a number of different job boards and finding unqualified candidates, do a little recruiting homework and narrow your focus to a few recruiting sites that have the right audience for your industry.

  • Large, international job sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and Monster can be effective for finding talent globally as long as you clearly state in the job title and description what you are looking for and requirements for the job. If you want to recruit talent in a specific city, region or country, make sure you include that in your job requirements or advertise your open position on local job boards.
  • Social media-based platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Glassdoor can increase your job posting visibility and help screen prospective candidates. These sites may give you a more in-depth view of a candidate’s personality and insight into their interests and ambitions to see if they are a right fit for your company. The greatest value of social media-based platforms is the opportunity to solicit assistance from others in your network. You can ask your contacts if they are aware of any job seekers who have relevant work experience and skills related to your open position.
  • Finding qualified remote talent that do not need to work in a specific location can be a little tricky. Fortunately, there are a number of job sites that focus specifically on remote positions. These are the go-to sites for candidates actively looking for remote work opportunities:
    • WeWorkRemotely: With categories spanning design, sales, marketing, DevOps and more, this job board is one of the top places for finding remote talent globally.
    • Hubstaff Talent: One of the few 100% free resources for companies looking to find remote talent across the globe. No fees, markups or middlemen.
    • AngelList: A top place for startups to find and hire remote talent for all industries.
    • Stack Overflow: This is the go-to job board for hiring developers looking for work-from-home opportunities.
    • Remotive: A popular job board with remote workers looking for roles in Customer Support, Software Dev, Product, Sales, Marketing and more.

3. Fine-tune the search process

The candidate pool for remote positions is enormous since you are effectively looking for talent worldwide. You need an efficient way of filtering out the mass number of applicants who are not qualified to find people that are worth interviewing. Recruitment tools like Applicant Tracking System help streamline the recruiting process by including filtering questions on applications to pinpoint standout candidates. You can ask simple “yes” or “no” questions based on job qualifications and easily filter out candidates who don’t meet the baseline criteria. Additionally, you can include open-ended questions that allow applicants to elaborate on their background and personality to see if they not only qualify for the job but if their character aligns with your company’s culture and values.

Take advantage of video conferencing

Using video conferencing to conduct face-to-face interviews with standout applicants is a cost-effective way to learn more about a candidate and see if the fit is right. Even if the candidate lives in the same city as the company’s headquarters, video conferencing lets you quickly conduct a first-round interview and determine if you want to continue the interviewing process. Unlike phone interviews, video conferencing interviews allow you to have more of an “in-person” interaction and pick up on non-verbal cues a candidate expresses while answering your questions. Things like facial expressions, posture, gestures and tone of voice help you determine the credibility and trustworthiness of the person you’re interviewing.

"Video conferencing is helping companies like Tangerine Bank compete for top talent by deploying pop-up banks using mall kiosks and other access points outside of its brick-and-mortar offices to interview local candidates using Lifesize well before their new locations are opened to the public. “We have more time to attract the right people compared to when we had to wait to actually be on site,” says Giancarlo Palleschi, telecommunications analyst for the bank. “Now, the candidates we’re interested in can click a link for HR to interview them. Interviewers use the face-to-face conversations to assess the person’s demeanor when interacting with customers.”

4. Involve the future hire’s team in the interview process

One misconception about distributed teams is that employees work on their own. This is true to an extent, but collaboration and communication among distributed teams are especially crucial. That’s why it’s important to involve the future hire’s immediate coworkers in the interview process after a recruiter or HR manager has conducted a first-round interview. The collaborative interviewing process lets you take a deep dive into a candidate’s skills, experience and job-related knowledge since everyone on the team will be involved in asking questions and conversing with the candidate during the interview. More importantly, this gives future teammates the opportunity to assess, evaluate and get to know a potential hire’s personality and character in the recruitment process to determine if the candidate is the right fit for the team.

5. Ask the right questions

In addition to involving the future hire’s team, there are a few screening questions you may want to include in the interviewing process. Most distributed teams’ interactions happen through chat apps, email and video conferencing, so you want to ensure the candidate can effectively communicate through these methods. Additional core competencies you’ll want to look for include time management, self-discipline, consistency and proactivity, among others. Kevin Sheridan, author of The Virtual Manager, shares his favorite open-ended questions to add to the interview process:

  • To test autonomous working: What did you do when a manager was absent and you had to make a decision?
  • To test personal drive: What three things have you done within the last 12 months to improve yourself?
  • To test resourcefulness: If you have a problem and don’t know the solution, what do you do?
  •  To test team collaboration: How do you manage working for more than one supervisor?
  •  To test communication preferences: How do you stay in touch with coworkers, supervisors?
  •  To uncover their routines and environment: Describe your remote office and virtual job trial.
  •  To test time management: How do you prioritize projects?
  •  To test dedication to personal development: How do you stay current?

6. Determine if the fit is right

Determining if a candidate you have in the pipeline is a good fit for your company’s culture and values is challenging for any company, even if you have met the candidate in-person multiple times. For remote interviews, this evaluation gets even tougher since all the interactions happen virtually. So how do you evaluate someone for intangible concepts like culture and values? The first step is to clearly identify and define your company’s culture and values and then translate those ideas into an assessment test or behavioral interview. This type of assessment helps you discover how a candidate approached a variety of work situations in the past and tells you if their work ethic and character are a strong match for your organization’s culture.

7. Point out the perks

Job seekers want more than a good salary; they also want great perks. For remote team members, you can’t offer a cool office with a fully stocked kitchen, of course, but you can attract top talent with other incentives and perks. In addition to the advantages of working remotely, here are some perks innovative companies are using to attract remote employees:

  • Professional development - Like most employees, remote workers want to grow professionally, so include them when designing employee development programs. This may include online courses or tickets to educational industry conferences.
  • Generous paid time off - It’s common for remote employees to work longer hours than traditional office employees, so reward them with generous paid time off or even unlimited vacation days.
  • Vacation credit - In addition to having a generous vacation policy, some companies offer $1,000 or more to help fund employee's vacation.
  • Fitness tracking device - Giving employees free fitness devices like FitBit or Samsung Galaxy Fit contributes to the remote worker’s overall health and happiness. Remote teams can set up private communities through the device’s app to host team fitness competitions and encourage each other to be more active.
  • Memberships to coworking spaces – Some employees work better in a shared office environment, so offer a membership to a local coworker center. If an employee prefers to work from a local coffee shop or library, offer them gift cards for their daily beverages and snacks.

6 Qualities to Look for in a Remote Worker

Remote work isn’t for everyone. While some find working remotely freeing and productive, others find it lonely and challenging. Remote employees require a different set of skills and even personality traits than the average in-office worker. Before you begin hiring for remote positions, you'll need to consider what it takes for employees to be successful in a remote work environment. Here are six qualities to look for when hiring remote employees.

1. Independent and self-motivated

While it’s relatively easy to manage on-site employees, it’s much more challenging to stay on top of remote workers and ensure they are completing their tasks on time. That’s why it’s so important for remote workers to be able to work independently and be self-motivated. A successful remote worker should be able to stay on task, solve problems and take action without being told what to do.

2. Focused and disciplined

Although remote workers may not have to deal with typical office-related distractions, they will still be exposed to their own unique distractions, especially if they work from home. They will need to be self-disciplined with an unparalleled ability to focus on their work and manage their time wisely to complete tasks on time and be successful in their remote position.

3. Previous experience working remotely

While not a requirement, remote experience is a good credential to look for in a remote candidate to ensure they already have a basic understanding of what it’s like to work independently. The last thing you want to do is invest the time and money onboarding a new employee and then they realize within six months remote work is not for them. Chances are, if a candidate has successfully worked remotely at a previous company, then they can also successfully work remotely for your company.

4. Strong communication skills

Remote employees should be able to communicate quickly, directly and on topic. They will need to be proficient in both written and verbal skills since most of their communication with their team will take place through email and chat apps as well as video conferencing. A person who wastes valuable time by taking too long to deliver a simple message or is not precise and clear in their correspondence could interfere with your team’s productivity and efficiency.

5. Adaptable

In a remote setting, there’s no time to coach an employee through shifts in priorities or changes to a project. Having a candidate who welcomes the challenge of figuring out solutions to obstacles and can quickly adapt to changes in projects will be an asset to your team. During the interview process, assess an applicant’s responses to questions about adjustments in work protocols and project goals. If the candidate finds it difficult to adapt to frequent changes, they may not be a good fit for your distributed team.

6. Tech-savvy

Finally, remote workers have to be tech-savvy since they’ll spend the majority of their time working on computers and other work-related devices. They will need to be able to quickly learn how to use job-specific software and tools on their own. Prior experience with these tools is a plus. Look for IT skills and software expertise on their resume and ask the candidate to elaborate on projects that required those skills. Additionally, since the employee will have limited access to IT support, they will need to be able to problem-solve and quickly figure out technical issues on their own.

How Distributed Work Differs from “Working from Home”

Distributed work refers to companies that have one or more employees who work in different physical locations. This blended work model may comprise on-site teams at one or more office locations as well as remote employees who work from home, coworker spaces or public spaces or on the go. Employees who work from a home office are just one part of a geographically distributed team.

What You’ll Learn in This Guide

1. Why distributed work is the future of the workforce

We’ve put together a compelling list of statistics and trends that are driving the remote work revolution. We also outline the top advantages of distributed work for enterprise companies.

2. How to hire a distributed team

Hiring a distributed workforce is especially challenging since you may not have the opportunity to meet the jobseeker in-person during the interview process. We provide seven useful steps to help you find and hire the right candidate for your company. Additionally, we outline six qualities to look for when hiring a remote worker.

3. How to run a distributed enterprise team

As the manager, your job is to make sure your distributed team is communicating effectively and working together efficiently to accomplish team goals. With the right people, processes and tools in place, it's possible to build a productive and engaged team. We outline eight steps for successfully managing a distributed team and provide management tips from industry leaders.

4. How to promote company culture across distributed teams

Since distributed teams interact and communicate inside digital communication tools rather than inside a physical office, your company culture has to go beyond ping pong tables and happy hours. We show you why company culture, especially for remote teams, is so important and provide useful strategies to help build your company culture playbook.

5. Productivity for distributed teams

Distractions at home, communication issues, poor time management and accountability issues among other challenges can all affect how much each employee accomplishes in a workday. A highly productive distributed workforce doesn’t just happen on its own. It requires the use of the right tools and smart strategies to ensure everyone is contributing and actively working together as a team. We provide useful tips to help increase the productivity of your distributed team.

6. Challenges with distributed operations

Even with all the advancements in technology related to communication, collaboration and productivity for distributed operations, effectively managing and running a distributed workforce is still challenging. We outline some of the common challenges for distributed teams and provide useful tips to help overcome each obstacle.

7. The distributed team tech stack: 20+ apps and

There are a number of tools designed to improve employees’ productivity but building a tech stack for distributed teams isn’t just a matter of having a collection of great tools. It’s how you literally stack those tools and how they work together seamlessly that make them useful and effective for your employees. Here are 20+ apps and tools to keep your remote workforce productive and working together as one unit regardless of their physical location.

8. Distributed workforce security tips

By moving data outside the premises of a single physical office and across a global network of devices and access points, asset management and security has become a major challenge for enterprise companies. Organizations with a geographically distributed workforce have to take data security seriously and implement a comprehensive security plan to protect their employees and sensitive company data. We outline the top five security challenges and solutions for distributed teams and best practices to ensure data security.

9. Distributed work resources

We’ve put together a list of tools, blogs, guides and solutions to help you start or scale your distributed workforce. Use these resources to stay up to date on distributed work tips, best practices and remote work statistics. We’ve also included some of our favorite distributed work tools, best places to recruit remote workers, additional distributed work guides and communities for remote workers.

Common FAQs

How do I manage a distributed workforce?

Managing a distributed team can seem daunting but with the right procedures and tools in place, you can have an effective and engaged team. First, you must hire employees that you can trust since you will not have the option of micromanaging each team member. Outline procedures and clear expectations early on so everyone knows what is expected of them. In addition to your regular team meetings, one-on-one meeting with each member of your distributed team is just as important. This personal interaction helps employees feel valued and keeps you informed of any obstacles they are facing.

How do I effectively communicate with my remote team?

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any functioning team, and it is especially crucial for companies with a distributed workforce. Apps for instant messaging, chat and video conferencing make communicating, collaborating and problem-solving with your distributed team easier than ever before. Complement traditional emails and messaging apps with regular video conferences so team members can see each other. The face-to-face interaction allows you to read body language and pick up on nonverbal cues that are often missed in text-based messages and audio only calls. Additionally, video conferencing adds a human component to the conversation and allows team members to connect on a deeper level.

How do I keep my distributed team productive?

The fact that you don’t have direct, in-person access to your entire team and your team members work at different hours may encourage a relaxed attitude toward work. This is where task management tools like Jira, Monday and Asana come in handy. These tools help with time management and keep your team on track to avoid wasting time on distractors and nonproductive work. Project management tools coupled with regular team meetings to check in on the status of projects will ensure your team stays focused and productive.

How do I interview remote job candidates?

Video conferencing has made it remarkably simple and cost-effective to interview remote job candidates. The face-to-face interaction lets you pick up on nonverbal cues. Facial expressions, posture, gestures and tone of voice allow you to gage a job candidate’s trustworthiness.

How do I overcome cultural differences

Having a globally diverse workforce with different backgrounds, languages and cultures can be challenging. As part of a cross-cultural team-building exercise, have each member of your team share insights and stories about their native languages, cultures and food. You can also have team members learn how to say greetings or short phrases in their coworkers’ native languages. This will help reduce cultural-related misunderstandings, promote appreciation of different cultures and strengthen relationships among team members.

How do I schedule meetings with remote workers in different time zones?

For distributed teams scattered across multiple time zones, coordinating times to meet can be troublesome. Try to choose meeting times that are during everyone’s typical daytime work hours. For some, this might be in the morning, while for others, it’s the afternoon or early evening. For teams that are on opposite sides of the hemisphere, you need to get creative. Record the video conferencing meeting for those who couldn’t attend the live meeting so they can still view the meeting at a later time. Distributing meeting agendas and meeting notes in writing also helps colleagues get up to speed when they can’t be there in person.

How do I ensure data security for my distributed workforce?

The human element can undermine the strongest security systems in the world. That’s why it’s important for every employee to understand the risk of a data breach and strictly follow company-wide security protocols. Data security training should start during a new hire’s onboarding process. Emphasizing the importance of cyber security early on helps foster good security practices and makes employees aware of their actions. In addition, companies should educate all employees on new protocols, security risks and best practices on a regular basis by holding trainings, sending out informative memos and using online training modules.