The ten laws of due diligence when hiring a remote employee/contractor
Do not hire anyone who you have not conducted a video interview with online.
A video interview will allow you to check for many of the same things that you would check for in an in-person interview. It will also let you check if the individual is who they say they are in their application and Linkedin profile. Check what you would check if you were doing an in-person interview. If the individual will be dealing with your clients or answering the phone for you, are they polite, pleasant, and friendly? How’s their English, Spanish, French, or whatever language you need them to communicate in regularly? These are things that a video interview will allow you to check. If the potential employee/contractor gives an excuse for not doing an interview, or asks for an audio-only interview, begin looking for another employee/contractor.
Ensure that the potential employee/contractor has the computer equipment and software required for the job and that the computer is in good working order.
Standard software requirements include Microsoft Office, a video conferencing program like Skype or Zoom, and a microphone. For labor-intensive work like video editing, check the speed of the computer and the speed of the employee/contractor’s internet connection. For these types of jobs, a computer that is fast and can handle large files without taking hours to download or upload is necessary.
Ensure that the necessary security measures have been implemented.
This means, at the very least, that the employee/contractor has a good antivirus program installed. If the employee/contractor informs you that they have a free antivirus program installed and you don’t feel comfortable with it, check if your own antivirus program comes with any extra seats and send them the code to install your antivirus program. If your business has multiple touchpoints that require security for regulatory reasons and your other employees/contractors are connected to a network, take steps to set up the same secure environment for the employee/contractor. If this is an employee/contractor that will be working with you long term, in some cases, it may be necessary to loan the employee/contractor a laptop as you would any other employee/contractor.
Checking that the employee can work securely also means protecting your data and the data of your customers. Plan ahead to determine who should and should not have access to sensitive customer data. For example, on WordPress sites, it is possible to purchase a plugin where you can assign roles that give users access to specific areas of the website. Bitrix recently rolled out a system where employees could see most customer information but not, for example, the size of the deal, or for high wealth clients, the customer’s address. Before handing over sensitive customer data, implement a screening system to determine which employees can have access to that data.
Test the employee/contractor’s skills before you hire them.
This is what you would be doing if you hired an employee/contractor in the traditional way, and it is also necessary when you hire online. Anyone can post on their profile that they have a particular skill. Check. This is especially important when you are hiring anyone for a coding or computer programming position. There are many programs online that allow you to test an employee/contractor’s skills. An excellent tool for testing coding skills online is Coderpad. If you want to watch while the coder is taking the test and recreate the feeling of an in-person test, another useful tool is Adaface. Some other good tools for testing remote clients include Central Test, Class Marker, Eskill, Test Partnership, and Test Dome.
If you are hiring for a creative position such as a graphic designer, ask for samples of their work and ask about previous clients.
A capable graphic designer or creative will have a profile on Behance or even Googe drive/One drive. This kind of check is what you would do with an in-person employee/contractor, and it is also necessary when you hire online.
Monitor the employee/contractor’s work as needed.
This is necessary for two types of employers. 1) It is advisable if the employee/contractor is working on a set schedule, for example, 9:00-5:00. 2) It is also a good idea if you are a small business and on a limited budget. If you have hired a full-time employee/contractor and are paying for 8 hours a day, you should have some way of ensuring that you have received 8 hours of work or at least 7.5. Keep in mind that this may only be necessary initially. If, after three months, the employee/contractor has confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are doing 8 hours work every day, then it may no longer be necessary to use monitoring software. Also, keep in mind that it is possible to monitor an employee/contractor and still respect their privacy at the same time. You don’t need to watch things that don’t concern you. You need to monitor productivity and nothing else. An example of a tool that helps with this is Time Doctor.
Find out how many other jobs the employee/contractor is doing concurrently.
The reality of the matter is that someone you hire may be a freelancer who is working for several companies. Be clear about what you need from them in terms of a time commitment. If it is OK for the employee/contractor to work for several people as long as they get your work done, then this is not an issue. However, if you need the employee/contractor to do work and be available to you at specific times, state this upfront. If you need the employee/contractor to be available to you one day per week for 8 hours, make sure that they will only be working for you at this time. Also, if the employee/contractor is in another time-zone, organize ahead of time how you will coordinate this difference and how deadlines will be handled.
Use checklists to be clear about what is expected ahead of time.
If you are working on a project with the employee/contractor, either you or the employee/contractor should create a specific set of tasks that must be completed for the project to be considered complete. Don’t waste time later, scrambling around to check if everything was done. Simply refer to the list, and you will know if everything that was required was done. This applies not only to projects but to performance evaluation. If you have a list of things you want the employee/contractor to be able to do successfully, state them upfront so that the employee/contractor has a clear picture of what success looks like. When it is time for a performance evaluation, refer back to the list, and you will know if the employee/contractor is meeting your expectations.
Be on the alert for dishonesty and excuses during the interview process.
There is a proverb that says, “If you want to know the end, look at the beginning.” An employee /contractor who appears to be dishonest during some portion of the interview process or always has excuses for something not working will likely be dishonest and make excuses later on after they’ve been hired. This is the kind of employee/contractor who will disappear for hours, then come back and tell you there was a power outage. Pay attention to the employee/contractor’s reliability and level of ownership for their actions during the interview stage. Quite often, it can be indicative of what is to come later.
Hire for talent and potential to grow your business, never out of pity.
Do not hire anyone simply because they’ve told you that they really need a job. Hire an employee/contractor only because they are talented and have skills that could help you to grow your business. There are times when there will be a learning curve. The employee/contractor may need a little time to adapt to the needs of your organization or improve specific skills to function at a high level. The interview process and the testing should tell you which category the employee/contractor falls into. They can fall into one of three categories:
Very talented and will be a great asset to your business
Does not have 100% of what you want but is very intelligent and highly motivated. With training, in a few weeks, they will be able to do what you need them to do.
Has failed to demonstrate that they have what I need to grow my business during the interview stage and the testing phase. However, they really need a job.
Even if it is very tempting to be nice, never hire anyone who falls into category three. You will end up doing so much work that it will end up negating any benefits of hiring an employee/contractor. Remember, the entire point of hiring someone for your startup is because they add value to your business and free up your time to focus on other activities that grow the business.
When hiring online, you have to be smart about it and be mindful of some of the potential pitfalls. However, it is possible to find great candidates when hiring remotely. So enjoy the process, be diligent, and keep these l0 laws in mind for the next time you hire a remote staff member online.