Screening Candidates

5 Steps to an Effective Remote Employee Selection Process

employee selection process

There’s no denying it – working remotely is the future. At the time of writing, there are almost 4 million people working (partly) remotely in the USA alone. However, hiring remote workers demands different methods than more traditional work environments. Here is a 5-step process to create and implement an effective remote employee selection process and hire great people to work for you, from anywhere in the world.

One of the biggest benefits of hiring remotely is that you are no longer restricted to local talent. You get to hire the best person for the job, no matter where in the world they are.

Unfortunately, this also means that the gates are open to anyone out there to apply. And as with any kind of position, there is always a large number of people who don’t tick any of the boxes but apply anyway. If you don’t have an effective employee selection process in place, these applications can slow down your recruitment efforts.

Here are 5 steps you can implement to make your employee selection process more effective and better-suited to remote hiring.

Step 1: Attract the right kind of candidates

The first step to building an effective remote employee selection process is drafting up a great job ad that will attract the right kind of candidates. There are slight differences to a traditional job ad – first and foremost, it needs to be performance-based.

You can start out with major job boards, such as LinkedIn, Monster, Careerbuilder and others. However, bear in mind that these are not remote-specific, so you need to clearly stress that the position is remote and what working remotely entails. This is especially important for those applicants who never worked remotely before.

The second option is remote specific job boards and websites. These sites don’t tend to get as much traffic as bigger websites such as LinkedIn, but the visitors they do get are looking for remote work specifically. Examples include, Letsworkremotely, Hubstaff Talent,, FlexJobs, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, Upwork, Remotive and many others. 

Finally, you can get right in front of your candidates through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. You can hire technical talent such as developers using platforms like GitHub and Stack Overflow.

Related: How to Source Passive Candidates on Facebook

Step 2: Screening candidate skills

When you got your mind set on buying a new car, it’s perfectly reasonable to make sure it works properly – engine, steering, brakes, suspension, no weird warning lights popping up… Similarly, you absolutely need to make sure your remote worker knows how to do their job before employing them.

If you’ve ever had to hire someone, at any position, you know that the bulk of applications sent in are not a good fit for the job. There’s a multitude of reasons for this, ranging from unrelated work experience to simply ignoring the instructions to apply. Traditional job openings get their fair share of bad applicants, but as a remote company, you’ll get quite a lot more, since there are no physical limitations to apply in terms of location.

For more traditional, office-based roles, the average position gets around 250 applicants. According to Toggl, you’ll get about 500-1500 applicants for a single remote role. Out of that number, 80% won’t be a fit right off the bat.

If you sigh at the image of yourself wading through 1500 resumes to find someone who will be a good fit, we feel your pain. In traditional terms, the stats say that a recruiter takes an average of 5-7 seconds viewing a single resume. This means that going through 1500 of them should be an afternoon’s work, right?

Not really. If you’re looking to hire the best talent out there, you need to make sure you get the best people and not the best-looking resume.

Assessing remote-specific skills

Just because somebody is a great employee and knows their job like the back of their hand, it does not mean that they will function well in a remote environment. While some employees thrive as they work from their home or local coffee shop, others need the human touch and communication you can only get in an office.

Besides testing for skills related to the position, it’s crucial to test potential employees and see if they can function as remote workers.

Testing communication

Because you won’t be able to chat around the water cooler and drink coffee together, the bulk of communication will be done through text. Your ideal remote employee should be able to communicate their thoughts clearly, concisely and most importantly, in a timely manner.

social interaction described by oatmeal
Source: Oatmeal

Writing is often times a rather poor medium for conveying emotion, and a well-meant message can turn into a conflict in no time. This is why you need to see how your candidate communicates, including the tone, language, and style they use.

Furthermore, this means knowing how to use Skype, Slack, Zoom, and other tools for communication. Ideally, the candidate should be familiar with these tools before they start.

You can get a pretty good feel for how the candidate communicates as you write back and forth to schedule their interview, as well as during the interview itself. It’s vital that the candidate is proficient in the language you’re using in your team – most international teams use English. If their language skills are lacking, communication will be extremely difficult.

Assessing productivity

If you ask business owners around the globe about their biggest fear with working remotely, most will say that it’s the lack of control. After all, it’s only reasonable. If you’re in the office, you can tell if someone is doing their job or not. At the very least, you can tell if they’re IN the office, and not outside running errands or grabbing a mocha from Starbucks. You need to know the employee will be productive in a remote environment and that they will do the tasks they’re assigned.

If the candidate has worked remotely before, this task is fairly straightforward. Here are some of the questions you can ask:

  1. Tell me how you manage your workload and tasks
  2. How do you make sure you respect deadlines as a remote worker?
  3. How do you motivate yourself to reach your goals?
  4. Do you consider yourself proactive?

Of course, you can always call or email the previous employers to ask about the candidate’s performance working remotely. You can assess productivity as part of the overall skills test by assigning the candidate with a more complex task and letting them set their own deadline. As long as the deadline is reasonable, you can let the candidate go with it. If they can’t stick to their own deadlines, it’s not very likely that they will stick to yours.

Step 3: Interviewing the candidates

In the best-case scenario, interviews should be left as the final part of the hiring process, before any decisions are made. If you’ve followed our guide, you should be familiar with the candidate and their skills at this point and no further testing should be necessary.

Some employers prefer leaving skills tests as the final part of the hiring process, but this approach could lead to massive time losses, as a candidate can look great on paper and seem amazing in the interview but turn out to lack the skills needed for the job. For this reason, we highly recommend starting the hiring process with a quick skills test using a tool like Toggl Hire

As their test is complete, you can discuss the candidate’s answers and see their line of reasoning. If they didn’t score 100%, you can ask them about the questions they answered incorrectly and see if they can get the answer right in the interview.

Furthermore, add in some open-ended questions and see how candidates respond. These work great to assess soft skills or a candidate’s preparedness for remote work. For example, you can ask the candidates about their biggest achievements, what they’re proud of, some projects they’re involved in.

Remote-specific interview questions

Besides the run-of-the-mill questions you can ask at the interview (check out our list of 100 not-so-conventional soft-skill interview questions if you’re interested), there are some specific to working remotely to see if the candidate will be a good fit.

  1. What is your previous experience working remotely? 
    This is as simple as it gets. Ideally, the candidate will tell you if they worked remotely, what their experience was, along with the good and bad aspects. You’ll be able to get a glimpse of how they feel about remote work.
  2. What tools have you used to manage to work remotely?
    It’s good to know if you candidate knows their way around Skype, Slack or project management tools such as Toggl Plan. It may not be a deciding factor, but will reduce onboarding time.
  3. What does your workspace look like as a remote worker?
    Not everyone has the funds (or the desire) for a full-blown home office. However, the type of working environment will tell you how seriously someone takes their work.
  4. How do you manage feedback and conflicts while working remotely?
    Not every day at the office will be spectacular. Conflicts happen, and ideally, they’re taken care of immediately. It’s much easier to talk it out in the office instead of a Slack window, so it’s crucial to know how your candidate will handle delicate situations as a remote worker.
  5. How do you manage your time working remotely?
    For many people working remotely, it’s hard to turn off and there’s a chance of overworking or wasting time on unproductive tasks. It’s also a good opportunity to ask them if they’re comfortable using time tracking software.

At this point, you should have a handful of the best candidates, which may or may not be enough to make a final decision. If you can’t make up your mind, then it may be time for step 4.

Step 4: (Paid) trial project

What better way to see how someone will perform and fit into your team than letting them join it for some time? Trial periods are a great way to get a sense of candidate performance and culture fit. At Toggl Hire, we give each candidate a trial project for a week before they’re brought on board. Here are some tips to make the best out of the trial period:

  • Make the task meaningful. Don’t simply assign potential candidates with a simple task to keep them busy. Make sure their trial period represents the work they would do if they get hired.
  • Be flexible. Lots of candidates are still employed at another position and they can’t be around for 8 hours a day. Let them set their own hours – as long as the assigned work is done.
  • If possible, pay for the trial project. Especially if the candidate is already employed, you’re taking their precious time and getting something in return. If they don’t get hired – they’ve contributed. This is yet another reason to make the test meaningful – to get the best return on investment.
  • Keep the candidates on the need-to-know basis. Depending on your industry, you may need to sign an NDA before the test week starts. Whether this is the case or not, make sure your candidates know just enough to get the work done, but not more.

Step 5: The final interview

Once you’ve found your ideal candidate, you can make them an offer and call it a day at this point. However, at Toggl Hire, we take it one step further. At the very end of our employee selection process, the best candidate has a final group interview with the company.

This entails the CEO, team leads, upper management, future colleagues from their department… Depending on the size of your team, you can get everyone from the company to sit down for a quick chat. Because you’ve already gone through the skills test, you can now figure out another important element – cultural fit.

primary characteristics looking into when interviewing an applicant
Source: Graduateland

This interview should be more relaxed in nature and your team can find out if they would click with their new colleague. On the other hand, the candidate can see if the company’s the right for them as well.

Finally, if you want to give yourself some room, you don’t have to immediately hire the candidate you’ve chosen. You can keep them employed part-time, as a freelancer or on a contractor basis. You can turn them into full-time employees later on – or even realize you don’t even need a full-time position.


Hiring remotely is pretty straightforward with the right employee selection process. According to Buffer’s research, 90% of those who work remotely already want to stay remote until the end of their careers – which means that there will be more great people in the candidate pool as time goes by.

By building an efficient and robust employee selection process, you can be sure to attract the right kind of remote candidates to your positions. Assess their relevant skills early in the process. Conduct interviews with remote-specific skills in mind, and finally, run a trial period to assess cultural fit. With these steps, you’ll ensure a steady pipeline of amazing remote candidates for the years to come.

Read more: The Toggl Guide to Working from Home

April 22, 2020