You’re looking to add extra employees to your growing firm. While most of your staff works in-house, you wouldn’t be opposed to hiring a telecommuting employee—if he exhibited the skills, experience and knowledge to get the job done. But hiring a telecommuting employee is far different than hiring a worker who comes into the office every day. Here are the top questions you need to ask a potential telecommuting employee before hiring him.
“Do you have previous telecommuting experience?”
Ideally, you want to hire a seasoned telecommuter as opposed to someone who is just dipping their toes into the world of remote work. Depending on the person’s past work experiences and skill level, you might want to take a chance on someone who exhibits the potential to work well from home. For example, the applicant might have a proven track record for meeting deadlines while working mostly independently.
“Do you have a home office? How is your work environment structured?”
With this question, you are essentially asking the prospective employee how he or she plans to work from home. While some telecommuters choose to work strictly from their home office, others like to take advantage of working remotely to set up shop at a nearby Starbucks, or even the park. Although you can’t fault someone for wanting to work outdoors, it is always in your employee’s—and your—best interest if he has an office set up in his home, whether it’s in a separate room or even a converted garage or attic. Having a home office to come back to can significantly help your employee streamline his workload.
“How do you prefer to communicate with colleagues?”
Some people are email mavens. Others opt to reach out and touch someone by phone. Or you may have someone who is an incessant IM-er. The style of communication is not nearly as important as how often the potential telecommuting employee will communicate. For some panicky bosses who believe that out of sight equals out of mind, having a telecommuting employee who regularly checks in (via email, IM or phone) can assuage a nervous employer who wants to have open and direct contact with him.
“What challenges do you foresee as a telecommuting employee and how do you plan to address them?”
In any job, there is always a learning curve. By asking what issues the employee can predict might happen, you are trying to discover the employee’s ability to be objective about working from home. Maybe your employee sees a potential problem working from 9-5 when the other staffers are in a different time zone—and across the globe. This is your opportunity to clarify any issues—and solve them together—before they become bigger problems.
“How have you handled problems in the past?”
When you telecommute, things happen. Your computer crashes. You lose important files. You dashed off a quick email to a fellow co-worker, who then misinterpreted it and is now not speaking to you. Finding out how an employee has handled himself in the past when things have gone wrong will give you insight into how quick-thinking and independent he is, along with his ability to problem-solve.
Hiring a remote worker can bring big benefits to a company. It’s important, though, to know the right kinds of questions to ask to ensure that you hire an employee who can not only handle the position but be an asset to your organization—no matter where she works from.